|The First Art Newspaper on the Net
||Established in 1996
|| Saturday, March 24, 2018
|Finland's 'Moomins', a group of bulky, white creatures resembling hippos, conquer the world|
This undated Handout photo shows a group of performers dressed up as characters from the Moomin book series posing at Moomin World, a theme park in the city of Naantali in southern Finland. Besides saunas and Nokia cellphones, it may very well be Finland's most successful export item ever: the Moomin universe, peopled by a group of bulky, white creatures resembling hippos. AFP PHOTO / HO / MOOMIN WORLD / JENNI VIRTA.
By: Raine Tiessalo
HELSINKI (AFP).- Besides saunas and Nokia cellphones, it may very well be Finland's most successful export item ever: the Moomin universe, peopled by a group of bulky, white creatures resembling hippos.
A century after the birth of their creator, the late Tove Jansson, the odd charm of the quirky Moomin books and cartoons has won over millions in all age groups and dozens of languages from Czech to Chinese, Estonian to Esperanto.
The nuclear family -- Moominpappa, Moominmamma and Moomintroll - and their coterie of other eccentric characters living close to nature offer a strangely attractive and sometimes eery alternative reality that draws people in, despite cultural differences.
"The forest was heavy with rain and the trees were absolutely motionless," wrote Jansson in the 1971 book "Moominvalley in November".
"Everything had withered and died, but right down in the ground the late autumn's secret garden was growing with great vigour straight out of the mouldering earth, a strange vegetation of shiny puffed up plants that had nothing at all to do with summer."
Tamami Yamaguchi, a 50-year-old sales assistant from Yokohama near Tokyo, is one of many devotees around the world who flock to Finland to feed their passion.
"Moomin lets you escape the bustle of Japanese life and enter a world of animated characters who make you feel relaxed," she said.
Yamaguchi makes an annual pilgrimage to the Nordic country, which has its own Moomin theme park. And like many Japanese fans, she is the proud owner of a variety of things Moomin from pyjamas to pillow cases to crockery.
The Moomin spin-off industry today is estimated to be worth eight million euros ($10.5 million), with Moomins on everything from stamps to huge passenger planes.
The world was quite a different place when Moomin creator Jansson was born into a family of artists on August 9, 1914, when Finland was still ruled by the Russian tsar.
The precocious girl -- a member of Finland's Swedish minority -- looked destined for a career as a painter, attending schools in Stockholm, Helsinki and Paris.
But the outbreak of World War II changed her fate as Finland was drawn into battle, twice fighting the Soviet Union. Some 100,000 lives were lost as well as large swathes of Finnish territory.
"We can actually thank the war for the birth of the Moomin family," said Tuula Karjalainen, a curator at the Ateneum Museum of Fine Arts in Helsinki.
"Tove Jansson created them because she wanted other things to think about."
She drew inspiration from her background and the people she knew. Moominmamma -- patient and wise -- is said to be based on Jansson's own mother.
Her first book about the Moomin and their Moominvalley was published in 1945 and was a hit from the start. The most translated Finnish author of all time, her nine Moomim books have appeared in more than 30 languages.
What people like about the Moomins is their "philosophical attitude to life," said Karo Haemaelaeinen, editor of Finland's leading literary magazine "Parnasso".
"The stories of the Moomins are multi-dimensional," he added, appealing to adults on an intellectual level and to children on an emotional plane.
"They are full of adventures, but they don't conform to the conventional narrative patterns of children's entertainment."
The real mega-boom came in the 1990s, when a 104-part TV cartoon series was released in Japan. The public -- even those who hadn't or couldn't yet read the books -- was hooked.
It helped that the Moomin, in their international version, eschewed some of the slightly unsettling eeriness -- evoked particularly by the dark, moody illustrations -- found on the pages of the Finnish original.
"The Japanese version is more fun -- less dark -- than the original," said Yamaguchi, the Yokohama fan.
Her annual trip includes a stop at Moomin World, a theme park in southern Finland visited by hundreds of thousands each year. But soon she won't have to travel so far since a similar park is scheduled to open in Japan next year.
Though extremely lucrative, today's Moomin industry is somewhat removed from the original spirit of the Moomin universe as conceived by Jansson, who died in 2001.
"Tove Jansson wrote stories for herself and adults, but the Moomin world is designed for children, this is the biggest difference," the Finnish park's manager Tomi Lohikoski told AFP.
Few outside of Finland know that Jansson was also a painter. She considered this her main calling and saw herself as an artist who happened to write books about Moomins.
She also ended up ambivalent about her global success.
"She was very critical of the commercialisation of the figures," said Karjalainen. "But she was delighted that she could give joy to the children."
© 1994-2014 Agence France-Presse
August 8, 2014
Laquintasaura venezuelae: Early dinosaur was turkey-sized, social plant-eater
Tate Britain welcomes home John Everett Millais's Ophelia and Rossettis The Beloved
MoMA online-only publication features new research on Pablo Picasso and Cubism
England's Richard III to be reburied in one of three services at Leicester Cathedral in March 2015
Art Gallery of South Australia announces marketing specialist Tracey Whiting as new chairperson
Rose and Wendt lead auction and new records for Willard Nash and Paul Grimm
Albertinum exhibits sketches and watercolours by Oskar Kokoschka from Willy Hahn's private collection
Smithsonian Books releases Maine to Greenland; Book exploring the maritime far northeast region
First solo museum exhibition of work by artist Adler Guerrier opens at Pérez Art Museum Miami
250 works of fine art in many genres will be offered at Shannon's Fine Art Auctioneers
Finland's 'Moomins', a group of bulky, white creatures resembling hippos, conquer the world
Spain's Rioja region uses wineries with stunning contemporary architecture to draw tourists inland
Meteorite science meets Scottish visual artist Katie Paterson's dream of spaceflight
Philadelphia's new "Park on the Parkway" returns for its second season
New archives shine light on history of black Britons
'Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People' to premiere at Film Forum
'Cai GuoQiang: The Ninth Wave' opens at the Power Station in Shanghai
A massive, immersive installation in willow specially devised for Ruthin Craft Centre
Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates' Victorian Glass Auction realized strong results
Natural history auction in Denver features world class collection of lapidary arts
Most Popular Last Seven Days
1.- The Morgan explores the Medieval world's fascinating approach to the passage of time
2.- Experts discover hidden ancient Maya structures in Guatemala
3.- Egyptian archaeologists unveil tomb of Old Kingdom priestess Hetpet
4.- The Speed Art Museum and Italian Ministry reach loan agreement on ancient calyx-krater
5.- Major exhibition features artistic masterpieces from the glorious Church of the Gesù
6.- From Beowulf to Chaucer, the British Library makes 1,000 years of rich literary history freely available online
7.- Truck damages Peru's ancient Nazca lines
8.- Trish Duebber is new Coordinator of Youth Programs at Boca Raton Museum Art School
9.- Exhibition examines the way art, like language, was used to articulate a rhetoric of exclusion
10.- The Dallas Museum of Art announces gift of three major European works
Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .
|Royalville Communications, Inc|
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.