Moomin Mayhem: In the footsteps of Tove Jansson

Head to the Finnish homeland of Moomins author Tove Jansson to find out what inspired her surreal creation.

By National Geographic Traveller (UK)
Published 6 May 2014, 12:00 BST, Updated 1 Jul 2021, 11:25 BST

More than 15 million of Tove Jansson's books have been sold worldwide, many Finnish homes contain Moomin memorabilia, and Finnair planes feature Moomin insignias. As well as being one of the world's best-loved children's authors/illustrators, the Finnish natural treasure — who would've been 100 this summer — was also a keen travel writer. Her short story collection, Travelling Light, is a work of philosophical poetry; her The Summer Book, meanwhile, is a classic gift for those departing on a sunny adventure, telling the tale of an elderly artist and her granddaughter who summer on a tiny island.

The town of Porvoo and the island of Klovharu in the Pellinki Archipelago — where Tove spent childhood summers and returned to regularly as an adult — are the places to start any pilgrimage. This landscape of arid, deserted islands is best explored by fishing boat, just as her fictional moomintrolls did, camping out under the stars and paddling in rock pools. From Helsinki the steamer ferry, JL Runeberg (, takes around 3.5 hours to reach Porvoo. Island trips can be arranged with local fishing operators. 

Born in Helsinki to a family of artists, Tove's city residence was a turreted attic studio in the centre of the capital, at Ullanlinnankatu 1. It's usually off-limits, unless part of the annual Open House Helsinki in September. Elsewhere, Tampere Art Museum Moominvalley has the largest collection of Tove's work — around 2,000 drawings.

Moomin Mayhem

Centenary: An exhibition in Helsinki, presenting Tove's career as an artist, illustrator, political caricaturist, author and creator of the Moomins. (Until 7 September)

Arabia: Tove designed Moomin-themed dishes for Finnish ceramics firm Arabia in the '50s; this year, a collection features illustrations from her book The Dangerous Journey. The Arabia Museum, meanwhile, has an exhibition of Finnish Moomin products.

Tove and the Archipelago: The Porvoo Art Factory explores the Pellinki Archipelago's role in Tove's literary output. (7 July–31 August) 

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