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15 Magical Moomin Facts!

Travel to Moominvalley with these fascinating facts about everyone's favourite Finnish trolls! Learn about the history of the Moomins and their author, Tove Jansson!

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Beano Facts Team
Last Updated:  April 5th 2024

The Moomins are a true global phenomenon! The series has been translated into more than 50 languages, and there have been Moomin TV shows, films, stage shows, video games, merchandise, cafes - and even theme parks! It's a lot to take in! Don't worry though - these fifteen fascinating facts will get you totally up-to-date on all things Moomin. Read on to learn everything about them, and their author Tove Jansson - who was just as interesting as her work! We've got other great book-related content, too - click here to learn about Alice in Wonderland, Beatrix Potter or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!

1. They're from Finland!

A common misconception is that Moomins are from Japan, because there were several popular anime adaptations of the series, and the Japanese just love their cute cartoon creatures - but this is not the case! They're the creation of Finnish author and illustrator Tove Jansson (pronounced Tor-vay Yarnson). The series was originally published in Swedish, and is now available to read in many languages!

2. They're trolls

Moomins kind of look like hippos, but they're actually trolls! You might think of trolls as big ugly creatures, like in the Harry Potter series, but in older Nordic folklore they're usually depicted as small creatures who live in the countryside in little family groups. Sound familiar?

3. They're also ghosts!

The name "moomintroll" came from Tove Jansson's uncle, Einar Hammerstan. To stop Tove from taking food from the cupboards at night when she was young, he told her that creatures called moomintrolls lives in the kitchen behind the stove. They'd creep out and press their cold noses against your leg and blow cold air down your neck, and make creepy sighing noises! "Moomintroll" became kind of an in-joke between Tove and her uncle, and she used it to describe ghostly things.

4. Early Moomin drawings were very different

"Black Moomintroll" (detail) | Tove Jansson | 1934 | Moomin.com

The very first Moomin-like sketch was made by Tove when she was a child, after an argument with her brothers. She drew the ugliest creature she could imagine on the bathroom wall - a ghostly, troll-like creature with a huge nose. This creature didn't have the ears or long tail that Moomins did, but it was her first time experimenting with the Moomin design! She drew lots more as the years went on. The Moomins are black in some of her other early sketches, and they look almost like wolves! The famous design was cemented in the first Moomin book, The Moomins and the Great Flood, in 1945.

5. They were called "Snorks" originally

Moomin | Telecable Benelux B.V. | Telescreen Japan | TV Tokyo, VARA, Yle

The early Moomin sketches called the creatures "Snorks". Snorks appeared in the series as a slightly different creature - almost identical to Moomins, but with the ability to change colour. Don't confuse them with "The Snorks", an 80s cartoon about colourful underwater creatures with snorkels in their heads!

6. They fought fascism

When Tove was 15 she started working as a cartoonist for Garm, a satirical Finnish magazine with strong anti-Nazi views. The Moomins (still called Snorks at the time) appeared in her signature and also in pictures holding protest signs. The published Moomin stories reflected some elements of the Second World War for Tove and her family. The first book, The Moomins and the Great Flood, is about a family facing danger and separation, similar to the perils of war and the pain Tove felt when her brothers enlisted in the army.

7. They're big in Japan!

Moomin | Tove Jansson | Drawn & Quarterly | Macmillan | Farrar, Strauss and Giroux | Schildts | Zangavar | Sort of Books | Moomin Characters Oy Ltd

Remember we said that there were several popular Japanese adaptations of the series? That's partly because of how popular the Moomins are in Japan! Moomin-themed merchandise sells almost as well as original Sanrio characters like Hello Kitty and Gudetama in Japan, there are Moomin cafes, shops and bakeries, and even a Moomin theme park (more on THAT later)! Japanese audiences love cute characters, but they also enjoy strange mythology and themes about nature. The very popular Japanese animation studio Studio Ghibli has some similar themes and visuals to the Moomins, so it's easy to see why the series is so popular there!

8. The characters are inspired by real people!

Moomin | Telecable Benelux B.V. | Telescreen Japan | TV Tokyo, VARA, Yle

Several characters were inspired by real people Tove Jansson knew - and even by herself! She said that Moomintroll had some aspects of her personality. Moominmamma and Moominpappa were inspired by her own parents, and members of her extended artistic family inspired the various residents of Moomin Valley. Snufkin was inspired by her friend and one-time fiance Atos Wirtanen, who wore a green hat and tended to come and go as he pleased. Too-Ticky is thought to be based on Tove's life partner Tuulikki Pietilä, an artist and professor.

9. And Moomin Valley is inspired by a real place!

The beautiful Moomin Valley was based on the summerhouse that Tove visited as a child. It's on the island of Klovharu in the Gulf of Finland, and Tove and Tuulikki later built a cottage there together.

10. Tove Jansson did more than just the Moomins

Like a lot of artists, Tove Jansson ended up having kind of a complicated relationship with her most famous creation, once saying "I could vomit on those Moomintrolls!" She did a lot of work outside the Moomin series, including illustrating other famous children's books like The Hobbit and Alice in Wonderland. She also wrote literature for adults such as her famous novel The Summer Book, and she was a very talented artist in several mediums, including painting, sculpture and model-making.

11. Some episodes of the TV show were too scary

Moomin | Telecable Benelux B.V. | Telescreen Japan | TV Tokyo, VARA, Yle

The best-known Moomin show was a Japanese anime that was aired in the 1990s. Tove didn't much care for the earlier Japanese adaptation from 1969 because it changed too much from her stories, but she liked the new one. This new anime was a bit much for some audiences, though! Several episodes of the series are left out when the series repeats in Finland and Sweden, because they were too scary for small children and "un-Moominlike"!

12. They were immediately popular in the UK

The Moomins arrived in the UK in 1954 in the London Evening News, a daily paper. This was their first international appearance, and Moomins have been popular in the UK ever since! You can visit Moomin shops in Camden and Covent Garden in London.

13. Disney wanted to buy the rights

"The Moomins" is one of the most franchised series in the entire world. You can buy any sort of merch of any character - even the former President of Finland, Tarja Halonen, was known to wear a Moomin watch! Some people worry that this is against the philosophical nature of the books, and take away from their complex themes. This is one of several reasons why Tove Jansson's estate, which is now managed by her niece, has turned down several offers from Disney to buy the rights. Even though they sell a lot of merch, they want to keep the story in the Jansson family!

14. The Moomins have inspired other writers!

Lots of popular writers have called the series a huge inspiration for their work - and many of them are children's authors! Michael Morpurgo, Phillip Pullman and Terry Pratchett named Tove Jansson as their inspiration, and Frank Cottrell Boyce said that he found the books so magical he thought Finland was a made-up place, like Narnia!

15. You can visit Moomin Valley!

"Moomin World in Finland | Summer 2021" | PWE | YouTube.com

There are not one but two Moomin-themed lands in the world - one in Japan, and one in Finland! In Japan you'll find Metsä, a Nordic-themed park near the city of Hannō, where you can meet characters, eat and play! But if you want to go to the place where it all began, you'll want to head to Naantali in Southwest Finland. There you'll be able to visit all five floors of the Moomin family house, meet all of the characters, visit their homes, and use your magical bracelet to unlock adventures!