Tove Jansson and The Heartwarming Personal Story Behind Moomin and Snufkin

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Published on February 11, 2021

Can you hear it? The beautiful sound?
The peaceful melody of the harmonica playing that touches your soul and calms you down?
Where is it coming from you ask?
Who is playing it?
Oh, look, right across the bridge! Underneath the serene sky and the green hills, by the riverbank is a mild green tent and there he sits, enchanting all of Moominvalley with the magical tune of his harmonica. There is our adorable nomad Snufkin!

Story Behind Moomin and Snufkin

And our beloved Moomin is right over there too! Approaching his best friend. He is always so happy to see Snufkin for they are the closest friends, right?

Or does their connection go even deeper?

Story Behind Moomin and Snufkin

For many decades fans have always seen the close relationship between the two characters; Moomin, a troll who lives in Moominvalley, and Snufkin, the maverick vagabond.

They are very fond of each other clearly but many think that their relationship borders on romantic attachment. It might sound strange to some as the series has shown Snorkmaiden as Moomintroll’s romantic partner but the chemistry and deep sense of love that transcends beyond being just best friends have always been a subject of interest for Moomin Lovers throughout the several decades the franchise has been popular.

It all becomes more so obvious when we consider the personal life of the creator of the Moomin universe, the brilliant late author and illustrator Tove Jansson. Looking at her life experiences and drawing parallels from what we know, we can get a clearer image of Moomin and Snufkin’s relationship.

Moomintroll and all the characters of Moominvalley are deeply personal caricatures of Jansson herself and many important figures of her life.
For example, Moominpappa was based on Jansson’s father.

Story Behind Moomin and Snufkin

And Moominmamma was based on Jansson’s mother.

Story Behind Moomin and Snufkin

You can see more of her inspirations on the official page as well!

Tove Jansson and Atos Wirtanen

Atos wirtanen
Atos Wirtanen

See the hat? I guess with this you can figure out where we are going.  Atos Wirtanen was a Finnish intellectual, writer, culture-critic and even a member of the Parliament. He was close friends with Tove and he was briefly her fiance in the 1940s. He was the main inspiration for Snufkin; his looks, his hat and pipe and his love for travelling and his view of free life where the material assets are unnecessary.

The way I see it, I can own anything on Earth, even the Earth itself, if I say it’s mine.

Snufkin hence is a free-spirited vagabond who comes to Moominvalley every spring but in November he always goes south for the winter, only returning to Moominvalley in the spring.

This relates to Atos Wirtanen and Tove Jansson’s relationship ending because of his free-spiritedness that made him not very willing to chain himself with commitment, although they remained very good friends even after.

You can see their relationship reflected through the character arc of Moomin who is very attached to Snufkin and is very much saddened by his periods of absence while Snufkin understands this but his carefree nature overpowers his desire to stay by his best friend.

Although I use the term best-friend to describe them, there have been many many interpretations over decades by numerous fans of the homosexual subtext of their relationship.

Moomin and Snufkin

It is no surprise to us now that the subtext comes because of the inspiration for Snufkin being the author’s love and best friend.

Story Behind Moomin and Snufkin
Human Moomin x Snufkin by @_madarax_

Moomin’s deep attachment to Snufkin and the deeply personal nature of the Moomin stories has always implied their relationship exceeds platonic love. And Moomin’s relationship with Snorkmaiden is not a contradiction to that as the author Jansson herself was capable of having a relationship with both men and women. She was bisexual living in an era where homosexuality wasn’t as accepted widely as it is now. This probably is the reason why Moomin’s homosexual attraction to Snufkin wasn’t spelt out clearly as being romantic.

The Conclusion

In the books, their character arc concludes with Moomin growing over his sentimental nature and becoming more independent without losing his loving nature. Snufkin on the other hand realizes that true freedom exists with your loved ones not simply by wandering. Perhaps this reflects Tove Jansson’s wish of how her relationships went and/or her growth as a person herself. Because of the profoundly personal nature of the Moomin stories, understanding Tove Jansson’s life can add a whole new layer of beautiful experience when we watch or read about our beloved characters that she brought to life with her brilliance.

Tove Jansson
Tove Jansson


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