Finnish creator of Moomin troll books dies aged 86

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Tove Jansson, the Finnish writer who created the Moomin family of plump trolls, died in hospital in Helsinki yesterday after a long illness. She was 86.

Jansson became the most translated author in Finland with her series of Moomin books, which were originally written for children but became popular across the world with readers of all ages.

She was translated into 34 languages from her original Swedish, the language she spoke with her parents, and the stories were adapted for cinema, opera, radio and theatre.

But she had already made a name for herself as an artist and illustrator before publishing the inaugural Moomin book, The Little Trolls and the Great Flood in 1945.

The trolls came to life during Finland's war against the Soviet Union over the winter of 1939-1940, and were designed as angry and ugly creatures because Ms Jansson felt that traditional fairy-tale heroes would have been inappropriate during such harsh times.

But the Moomins, who always kept their door open and sometimes served dinners consisting solely of strawberry jam, grew less grumpy in her later books. The eighth and final book in the series –Moominvalley in November, was published in 1970.

Ms Jansson was born in Finland, the daughter of a sculptor, Viktor Jansson, and an artist, Signe Hammarsten-Jansson, and realised from an early age that she wanted to draw. She studied art in Paris, Helsinki and Stockholm.

During her career she received more than 50 honorary awards and nominations, including the Hans Christian Andersen medal in 1966.

The Finnish government awarded her an honorary professorship when she turned 80. She said at the time: "I've had an exciting, varied life that I am glad of, though it has been trying as well. If I could live it all over again, I'd do it completely differently. But I won't say how."

Christer Timgren, whose company administers the copyright in the Moomin characters, announced Ms Jansson's death.