14 Nov 2020


In February 1944, Russian bombs smashed the windows of Tove Jansson’s art studio in Helsinki. ‘I knocked slivers of glass out of the windows,’ the author wrote in her diary. She was so depressed, she had been unable to paint for a year, and despaired that war was ‘making us smaller. People don’t have the strength to be grand if a war goes on for a long time.’

Super article on the creator of the Moomins and the spirit of the times it was made in. To me it was this dope, but weird Finnish cartoon I watched with my little sister: the controversy behind it makes it extra in retrospect.

This assault on social censure and laws against homosexuality went completely over the heads of Jansson’s young readers, and was missed (or perhaps just politely passed over) by her adult reviewers. I can think of no other children’s writer who, as early as the late-1940s and early ’50s, was depicting gender fluidity and protesting the illegality of homosexuality. And if any have done it since, none have done it so beautifully. If anything, today we face a backlash against decades of progress, with so much children’s literature marketing princesses, ponies and unicorn books to girls