MOOMIN FINE ART PRINT 11 X 14 MOOMIN & LITTLE MY This year Finland is celebrating the centenary of the birth of Tove Jansson, creator of the Moomins, and one of the most successful children's writers ever. There is Moomintroll, Moominmamma and Moominpappa - little white trolls who live in Moominvalley, with other fantastical creatures such as the Hattifatteners, Mymbles and Whompers.
Tove Jansson's Moomin books have sold in their millions, and been translated into 44 languages. Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials, has described her as a genius. Other devotees include Michael Morpurgo, writer of War Horse and dozens of other children's books, and Frank Cottrell Boyce, who scripted the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony.
Tove Jansson grew up in an artistic household in Helsinki. Her father, a Swedish-speaking Finn, was a sculptor, her Swedish mother an illustrator.
While her mother worked, Tove would sit by her side drawing her own pictures. She soon added words to the images. Her first book- Sara and Pelle and the Octopuses of the Water Sprite - was published when she was just 13. She later said that she had drawn the first Moomin after arguing with one of her brothers about the philosopher Immanuel Kant. She sketched "the ugliest creature imaginable" on the toilet wall and wrote under it "Kant". It was this ugly animal, or a plumper and friendlier version of it, that later brought her worldwide fame.
Jansson studied art in Stockholm and Helsinki, then in Paris and Rome, returning to Helsinki just before the start of World War Two.
"The war had a great effect on Tove and her family. One of her brothers, Per Olov, was in the war. They didn't know where he was, if he was safe, and if he was coming back," says Boel Westin, a friend of Jansson's for 20 years and a Professor of Literature at Stockholm University.
Jansson's first Moomin book - The Moomins and the Great Flood - was published in 1945, at the end of this difficult and nerve-wracking period, with Comet in Moominland following soon afterwards.
"Writing a children's book about a great flood is not so common. In the Comet book, Moomintroll and Sniff go on this journey to find out when the comet is coming and if it's coming to Moominvalley.
"There are descriptions of creatures leaving their homes. Just like here in Helsinki, people were leaving their homes for fear of the bombs. She captured that and put it in her books."
Finn Family Moomintroll's success caught the attention of Charles Sutton, a London agent who offered Jansson a lucrative deal to produce a Moomin comic strip for London's Evening News newspaper. Jansson agreed to produce six strips a week for seven years, starting in 1954.
It was an instant hit and within two years 120 newspapers around the world were running it, reaching 12 million readers.
Moomin-mania was now in full swing. Requests for Moomin-related projects came flooding in. Walt Disney asked for exclusive rights to the word "Moomin", but Jansson refused.
The Moomins spend a lot of their time close to water, on boats, or on islands. This was true of the Jansson family too, who used to spend summers on Klovharu, a tiny uninhabited island in the Gulf of Finland.
"They went sailing and they went camping on the islands, and if you read the Moomin books there are many things that are, to me, completely normal and to other people are completely fantastical. But in Finland that's what you do when you are on the islands. That's what they did and it's what we've always done."
Tove Jansson died in the summer of 2001, aged 87.
Since the Moomins and the Great Flood in 1945, more than 15 million Moomin books have been sold, around the world.
One of the things I really took from them was the importance of small pleasures, that life is really worth living if we're just nice to each other Frank Cottrell Boyce "That's a fantastic message to take home, isn't it?"
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