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Six things we learned at Southbank Centre’s ‘Adventures in Moominland’ exhibition

By Laura Lee Davies

Who knew that Moominvalley was on the Northern line? Setting off from the Southbank Centre’s Spirit Level, you pass through a portal to Tove Jansson’s worlds real and imagined – from an artist’s studio to dense forests, over a rocky beach and through snowscapes – to understand more about the inspiration for one of the world’s most loved children’s book series. Beyond the chance to gaze on Jansson’s beautiful artwork, here’s what we discovered at the Southbank Centre’s new Adventures in Moominland exhibition.

1. If it wasn’t for crumbs in bed, the Moomins wouldn’t exist.

As a child, Tove Jansson was a bit of a midnight feaster, raiding her parents' larder for snacks. Her uncle used to tell her that if she made a mess, a nasty Moomintroll would be lured from his lair. The Moomintroll became an outlet for her feelings and eventually evolved into the loveable creature we know today.

2. Nature gave birth to Moomintroll.

His shape is inspired by clouds and snow.

3. The evils of war couldn’t destroy Moomin magic.

The fear of comets (a theme in the Moomin story) reflects the reality of life in Finland under fire in World War II. Jansson and her friends would paint and listen to jazz in her studio to keep calm while bombs went off in the city outside.

4. Jansson’s art started small.

Tove Jansson’s early work was often drawn very small because her mother Signe made a living designing stamps for the Finnish postal service. 

5. Art imitates life.

Tove Jansson is reflected in the inhabitants of Moominvalley, from characters that reveal aspects of her own personality, to creatures based on the people she loved – including Too-ticky, who brings love into Moomintroll’s lonely world, just as Tuulikki Pietilä did to Jansson’s. *Sighs* 

6. You'll need to get your Bear Grylls on to enjoy the show.

There’s crouching, scurrying, ducking under low-hanging trees and a spot of negotiating the ‘sea’ in a raft involved on your Adventure in Moominland, so wear sensible shoes and get set to wander in the wonder.

Find out more about 'Adventures in Moominland'.

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