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Wednesday, 27 June, 2001, 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK
Moomins creator dies
Tove Jansson
Tove Jansson was a reclusive figure
The creator of the animated Moomin family of trolls has died at the age of 86.

Finnish writer and artist Tove Jansson created the white hippopotamus-looking creatures whose adventures were translated into 34 languages.

Such was the popularity of the books and series that a theme park was opened in 1993.

Jansson, who died in Helsinki following a long illness, wrote and illustrated eight books about the eccentric trolls who always welcome visitors and eat lots of strawberry jam.

Thingumy

There were also shorter tales and picture books featuring Moomintroll, Moominmomma, Thingumy, Bob and The Snork Maiden.

The Moomins became popular in the UK when they featured in a cartoon strip in the London Evening News.

After finding it too difficult to carry on with the strip Jansson handed over the reigns to her younger brother Lars Jansson, who drew for many international publications.

In the 1980s the Moomins were transformed into a Japanese-made television series.

In 1993, a Moomin theme park was founded in Naantali giving children the opportunity to visit the strange world of the trolls.

The Hobbit

Jansson's artistic studies took her to Paris, Stockholm and Sweden and had her first exhibition in 1943.

She made a living illustrating children's books including Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and The Hobbit.

The first Moomin book was written during Finland's Winter War of 1939-1940 and in contrast the Finn Family Moomintroll lived in a lush valley, shielded from hardship.

Jansson's idea was to create happy stories but felt traditional fairy stories were not appropriate for the time.

Instead the hippo-like creatures replaced the beautiful princes and princesses.

Awards

A reclusive figure, Jansson wrote her last book Moominvalley in November, in 1970.

The difference with this tale was that it did not feature the rest of the family.

Before her death, she said: "I couldn't continue. I couldn't go back and find that happy Moominvalley again.

"But one thing I did, not only for the children but for myself as well, in the very last sentence of the book you see the Moomins' lantern approaching in the distance."

She received some 50 awards and nominations, including the Nils Holgersson prize in 1953, the Hans Christian Andersen medal in 1966, the Order of the Smile Polish children's award in 1975 and the title of honorary professor issued by Finland's president in 1995.

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