My love for the Moomins was something that began with watching the TV series when I was a kid but to my surprise, most people my age haven’t seen anything to do with the Moomins or remember the TV series. The only other person I met (before Bryony) who knew what I was talking about when I said the word ‘Moomin’ was my friend Henry who then gave me some Moomin notebooks and a luggage tag that is still on my suitcase today (I even used one of the notebooks for my dissertation so, thank you Henry!). Anyway, I could sit here and gush about how beautiful the world of the Moomins, created by the ingenious Tove Jansson, is and how much joy they brought me as a child as well as how much some of the underlying adult themes in the stories resonate with me now as an adult… but that is not what this blog post is about and no one wants to read obsessive gushing when you don’t care about the topic. So, on we go to the main point of this post.
A couple of weekends ago, whilst I was in London visiting my family, I met up with Bryony and headed down to the Southbank Centre for what I thought was simply an exhibit of Tove’s original artwork. I had refrained from reading anything about it online or looking at what other people had said about it because, in all honesty, I didn’t really know what I was getting into so I didn’t think that doing any research was needed for a tour of some artwork. Well, it turned out to not just be a tour. Bryony and I were the first to arrive outside the large book that would open to reveal pages of the Moomin books, one with a large enough hole for us to climb through. Our entire group consisted of about 12 people ranging from 20-70 years old and despite none of us being children there was an air of childlike wonder and excitement buzzing between us as we got ready to enter Moominland.
Our tour guide led us with a lantern through each room, if I can even call them rooms as the experience was so immersive that it was easy to forget you were actually in a building in London and not Snufkin’s tent or on a raft to Tove’s home. Each area included a voice over by Sandi Toksvig to tell us about how the Moomin’s came to be, narrating snippets of the stories and generally setting the tone with each bit of information and imagination. There were drawings in every area so we would all get to have a good look at the original artwork, the most interesting had to be the map of Moomin Valley that looked distinctly Tolkien like, to which our tour guide told us that Tove did create some drawings for Middle Earth but they weren’t so well received (god knows why).
Having watched a documentary last year on Tove and her life I was pretty clued up about a lot of that but when it came to Moomin knowledge I had so little! For me, the mere appearance of the Moomins was enough to throw me into feeling like a child again as I crawled through a forest, sprinkled snow around me and huddled with the others into the Moomin’s modest home. I honestly felt very close to shedding a tear all the way through, which may sound crazy but there was just something so pure, innocent and yet strangely real about the world of Moominland that mixed with my own nostalgia and sent me into a spiral of weird emotions.
The experience felt as though it was over too soon and the reality of my actual life was waiting for me behind a wardrobe door that I guess eased leaving a little because it was so exciting to exit via a wardrobe. I can honestly say that I have never been to an exhibit quite like that before and nor do I feel like I have ever spent £12 so well. The exibit will close soon so if you are in London and want to do something fun, read a little on the Moomins and head down to Southbank because you won’t experience anthing like that again. For me, I am left just dying to get all the books now and read the Moomin stories – I really had to restrain myself at the gift shop from buying the books and Tove’s biography. At least I can be safe in the knowledge that the new animated series is on the way and I can lose myself in that sometime in the future.