Apocryphal Moomin Land

Naantali is a small coastal town near Turku in Finland. The name is a fennicisation of Sw. Nådendal, which in turn stems from the name of a Bridgetine abbey founded there in the 15th century. Vallis Gratia, “Valley of Grace”.

Naantali is best known as a picturesque summer resort of the Turku bourgeoisie in the late 19th century. But increasingly, it has also become associated with the Moomins, Tove Jansson’s magical fantasy characters. A sizeable island right outside town is home to the Moominworld theme park. Today I visited it with my wife and kids.

The kids were reasonably entertained by the park, both the 5-y-o and the 10-y-o pointing out the chipboard labyrinth as the best part. So the visit was far from wasted. But I was disappointed. You see, the Naantali theme park is not designed to recreate the books and their author’s many lovely and quirky illustrations. It doesn’t even go for the comic strip version of the Moomins created by Tove’s brother Lars. We were treated to a homegrown theme-park version of the recent Japanese TV cartoon. What a let-down.

Also, there is not very much to do in the park. No rides. Little interactivity. It’s more a question of walking around and looking at buildings and dioramas, many of them kind of tacky and sad. You can also meet and talk to actors dressed up as Moomin characters, and see them perform short plays every hour.

Good points were the food, which was nice though expensive, and a corner in one shop with Tove Jansson’s books in Swedish plus Finnish and English translations. But the shop was pretty big, and apart from that corner, it was filled with Moomin cartoon merchandise.

Moomin Valley is most emphatically not located in Naantali.

Comments

  1. #1 kontakt
    August 15, 2008

    Sad, and not surprising. After Tove Jansson’s death, the rights to her work were transferred to a company owned by her heirs.

    In 2004-2005, two students in Finland made a series of Moomin animations and displayed them on the internet, entitled “Mumin visar allt”. In these animations, the moomin characters where less nice than the originals, used swear words etc. Still it was a parody made with love for the characters. The company sent them a letter to make them shut down. The students did, and published a comment on their website. Of course, plenty of people had already downloaded the material.

    Why the company Moomin Characters do not find it worth it to sue Youtube, or threaten to do so, I do not know. Possibly they have given up, knowing the material can be found on several places on the internet.

    If such a company has as main (or only) interest in making money, then I guess creating a Moomin them park based on the Japanese cartoons is a reasonable thing to do.

  2. #2 Bob O'H
    August 16, 2008

    You could try Moomonvalley, near Tampere, next time. I’ve no idea what the connection between Tove Jansson and Tampere is, but there you go.

  3. #3 Mattias
    August 16, 2008

    I went there with my nephews and my niece last year and was startled not only by the lack of atmosphere made famous from the books, but also by the altered characteristics of the characters. Speaking of apocryphcal – was that character ‘Stinky’ ever in any of the books? I cannot remember reading about him when I was little, yet now he seems to be the favourite of the kids.

    / Mattias

  4. #4 Martin R
    August 17, 2008

    Stinky may be a creation of Lars Jansson. Snorkmaiden’s brother certainly isn’t in the original books.

  5. #5 kai
    August 18, 2008

    Stinky comes from the Tove/Lasse Jansson comics. The Snork turns up in Comet in Moominland (Kometen kommer). This book also makes it clear that the Snorkmaiden shifts colour according to mood, something which all recreations have missed out on.

    Actually, my experience of Moominland isn’t all that negative, but I may have started with lower expectations :-) I thought it was nice that it wasn’t particularly loud, there was a suitably small amount of things going on and on the whole it worked quite well for small children. Then on the other hand, the rest of Naantali came across as the worst kind of tourist trap and quite impossible to find decent food in. Then again, it’s been a few years since I was there last.