Category Archives: Finland

Moomin Words of Wisdom

Tove Jansson had a real knack for filling her Moomin characters full of wonderful words of wisdom. Lessons on life and love and death, how to say no to relatives who want to stay in your house, how to feel glad to have emotions, how to embrace uncertainty and how sometimes it is ok to want to sack it all in and go live in a tree!

You can’t ever be really free if you admire somebody too much. Tales from Moominvalley

A theatre is the most important sort of house in the world, because that’s where people are shown what they could be if they wanted, and what they’d like to be if they dared to and what they really are. Moominsummer Madness

All things are so very uncertain, and that’s exactly what makes me feel reassured. Moominland Midwinter

You must go on a long journey before you can really find out how wonderful home is. Comet in Moominland

Someone who eats pancakes and jam can’t be so awfully dangerous. You can talk to him. Finn Family Moomintroll

Quite, quite, she thought with a little sigh. It’s always like this in their adventures. To save and be saved. I wish somebody would write a story sometime about the people who warm up the heroes afterward. Moominland Midwinter

I only want to live in peace and plant potatoes and dream. Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip, Vol. 1

It’s funny about paths and rivers, he mused. You see them go by, and suddenly you feel upset and want to be somewhere else–wherever the path or the river is going, perhaps. Comet in Moominland

Just think, never to be glad or disappointed. Never to like anyone and get cross at him and forgive him. Never to sleep or feel cold, never to make a mistake and have a stomach-ache and be cured from it, never to have a birthday party, drink beer, and have a bad conscience…How terrible. Tales from Moominvalley

There are those who stay at home and those who go away, and it has always been so. Everyone can choose for himself, but he must choose while there is still time and never change his mind. Moominvalley in November

When one’s dead, one’s dead… This squirrel will become earth all in his time. And still later on, there’ll grow new trees from him, with new squirrels skipping about in them. Do you think that’s so very sad? Moominland Midwinter

From Wonderful Moomin Words of Wisdom.

Elevenses with Moomins

Moomintroll, Moominmamma and Moominpappa are little white trolls who live in Moominvalley, with other fantastical creatures such as the Hattifatteners, Mymbles and Whompers.

Little bears are enjoying their elevenses and making new friends… They have found someone who shares their philosophy – the importance of small pleasures and a good party 🙂 Because the good in a good party is part of the Infinite Goodness!

The little white trolls who live in Moominvalley are Finnish literature characters created by the much-loved Swedish speaking Finn, writer and artist Tove Jansson in the 1940’s. After the initial success of the comic strips and books, Moomins grew into a world-wide phenomenon through puppet animations and Japanese-style cartoons. Today the Moomins adorn the wings of Finnair (The Official Airline of Moomins), the iconic mugs of Arabia and high-quality bedding of Finlayson, to name a few.

The Moomins are not only adventuring in literature, animation and merchandise or in films, music and theatre shows. In Finland, the Moomins have their own hotel rooms like the Naantali Spa Moomin Story and theme parks such as The Moomin World in Naantali. They also have their own Moomin Museum in Tampere and numerous gallery and museum exhibitions around the country every year.

Still don’t know who the Moomins are?

The Moomins are a fairytale family of Finnish “trolls” who have adventures with their friends, just like little bears 🙂

The main characters include Moomintroll, his parents, Moominmamma and Moominpappa, Snufkin, Little My, and the terrifying Groke.

The Moomins first appeared in a series of comic strips and novels by Finnish writer, artist, and illustrator Tove Jansson.

These stories later inspired international TV shows, films, and a staggering range of merchandise that sells well even today. A Moomin shop even opened in London’s Covent Garden in 2011.

The first printed Moomin appeared in an anti-Hitler cartoon Jansson drew for satirical Finnish magazine Garm in 1938. She signed herself off with an angry Moomin.

At that time, her Moomin was called Snork and looked thinner and creepier than the rounded, friendly Moomins we know today.

Britain’s first glimpse of Moomintroll was a shot of his bottom in the first Moomin comic strip to run in The London Evening News in 1952. The series continued until 1970.

Tove Jansson started producing Moomin novels alongside her comic strips. She wrote the first Moomin novel, Moomin and the Great Flood, at the end of the Second World War.

Although she was Finnish, The Moomins was originally written in Swedish.

Jansson and her family were among the minority of Swedish-speaking Finns living in Finland.

Moomin Valley was inspired by the area around Jansson’s family summer house in northern Finland.

The fertile greenery of Moomin Valley echoes Pellinki, the archipelago in the Gulf of Finland where Jansson spent her childhood summers.

The second book, Comet In Moominland was published in 1946. Comet in Moominland is often seen as first novel in the series as it introduces many of the main characters, like Snufkinand the Snorkmaiden, and is set in Moominvalley. Like the first book, Moomin and the Great Flood, Comet In Moominland was written during the difficult and nerve-wracking war period, and Tove’s anxiety and grief are embedded in these books. In Comet In Moominland, Moomintroll and Sniff go on this journey to find out when the comet is coming and if it’s coming to Moominvalley. There are descriptions of creatures leaving their homes. Just like in Helsinki during the war, people were leaving their homes for fear of the bombs. She captured that and put it in her books.

The adventurous Moominpappa, with his top hat and seafaring nature, was based on Jansson’s storm-chasing father.

Viktor Jansson was a sculptor who loved storms and fires. Whenever there was a fire in Helsinki, he would scoop up the children to go and watch it unfold.

The character of Toft, who appears in Moomin Valley in November, the last Moomin story, was based on Tove Jansson herself. She wrote Moominvalley in November after her mother died. It is a wise and moving book about grieving.

Jansson wrote this final, slightly melancholy Moomin book in 1970. In the book, Toft visits the Moominhouse only to find that no one is home. And no one comes home.

The Moomins became so popular that you could read Moomin studies at Swedish universities in the 1950s.

Jansson rejected an offer from Walt Disney to buy up the Moomin brand. The Moomins became a massive franchise in Tove Jansson’s lifetime. But she never left them to the mercy of the market or to someone elses’s mercy. For example, she made sure the ceramics were made in Finland where she could control them and where they would create Finnish jobs.

A theme park called Moomin World opened in Naantali, Finland in 1993.

Its attractions include the big blue Moomin House, the Hemulen’s house, Snufkin’s camp, and Moominpappa’s boat. A second Moomin World is due to open in Hanno, Japan in 2019.

But Jansson also built her own Moomin House.

Tove Jansson built this Moomin House between 1976 and 1979 with Pentti Eskola and Tuulikki Pietilä. It is housed in the Tampere Art Museum in Finland.

There has been a Moomin opera and several Moomin plays.

Jansson worked with Vivika Bandler on a series of Moomin plays in the 1950s, and in 1974 she designed the costumes for a Moomin opera written by Finnish composer Ilkka Kuusisto.

And even a Moomin cookbook. Published in 2010, it gives an introduction to Finnish forage and forest cuisine, something called “apple grog”, and even toast.

And a recipe for perfect pancakes.

Ingredients
500 ml milk
80 g wheat flour
20 g barley flour
½ tsp salt
2 eggs
Butter for frying.

Steps
1. Whisk the flour into the milk and add the salt. Add the eggs one at a time and beat thoroughly. Whisk the mixture until it is smooth and allow it to rest for about half an hour before frying.
2. Heat a cast-iron frying pan, then add a knob of butter. Pour enough of the batter into the centre of the pan so that it spreads out to form a thin, lace-like layer across the pan.
3. Once the underside of the pancake has cooked, turn it over using a wooden spatula. Fry the other side of the pancake until it is a beautiful brown colour, then remove the pancake and place it on a preheated plate (covered with a lid). Continue doing this until you have used up all the batter.

Serve the pancakes with strawberry jam or whipped cream. Or both.

Jansson’s brother Lars took over the comic strip in 1961 and drew it until 1974.

His daughter Sophia has been managing them since 1993.

Tove Jansson was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1966, the most distinguished prize in children’s literature and often referred to as the “Little Nobel Prize”.

Although the Moomins started life in the 1940s, they’re still going strong today. The movie Moomins on the Riviera was released in 2014.

Time to watch Moomins and the Comet Chase. Mads Mikkelsen voices Sniff and Stellan Skarsgård voices Moominpapa.

Pancakes!

The world of the Moomins is threatened by comets and subject to terrifying winters. The Moomins, however, concentrate on good manners, good coffee and enjoying the summer. Life is really worth living if we’re just nice to each other and make really good coffee, and the pancakes are just right 🙂

Nordic Sense of Humour

Sweden’s deputy prime minister and climate minister Isabella Lövin signing a climate bill surrounded by her closest female colleagues, apparently mocking you know who.
Photograph: Isabella Lövin

Sweden, a pioneer in women’s rights, is known for its high level of women in the workplace, including in parliament and government.

Nordic Prime Ministers: (L-R) Stefan Lofven of Sweden, Lars Lokke Rasmussen of Denmark, Erna Solberg of Norway, Juha Sipila of Finland and Bjarni Benediktsson of Iceland, in Bergen, Norway, apparently mocking you know who.

Norway holds the Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2017, and Prime Minister Erna Solberg has hosted a meeting of her Nordic colleagues in Bergen on 29 and 30 May. The agenda items included: further development of the Nordic region to ensure that it remains the most integrated region in the world, the fight against extremism and the Nordic region in the world. The ball the PMs are holding in the photo has sustainability targets written on it. They hope they will be a roadmap for the future.

The Nordic Countries look like a very interesting place to visit!

Once more, with feeling: life as bilingual

Finnish-born PhD student Wilhelmiina Toivo, from the University of Glasgow School of Psychology, has won the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) 2016 -17 writing competition Making Sense of Society, in partnership with SAGE Publishing.

l-r: Martin Rosenbaum, ESRC Council member and an executive producer in the BBC Political Programmes department; Wilhelmiina Toivo; and Dr Alan Gillespie, Chair of the ESRC

Brought up in Helsinki, Finland, Wilhelmiina came to Glasgow in 2011 to study psychology as an undergraduate student; last year she completed a Master of Science in Psychology and is currently six months into her PhD.

The competition, which is now in its second year, celebrates and fosters the writing skills of the next generation of social scientists. This year students were asked to write 800 words about why their research matters, and how it helps us make sense of and understand the society in which we live. There were nearly 300 entries which demonstrated the incredible breadth and depth of social science research taking place across the UK. Topics ranged from Big Data, to climate change, class, immigration, dementia, the economy and education. You can find all the winning entries here: Making Sense of Society

Entrants were encouraged to temporarily take off their academic hat, and write in a style different to what they might be used to, using their imagination to think of new ways to capture the interest of the public. A wise requirement, as academic writing, frankly, is incredibly tedious to read and it appears designed to exclude all but the chosen few. And no doubt it contributes a great deal to the failure to transfer knowledge from research into practice.

In her winning essay Once more, with feeling: life as bilingual, Wilhelmiina Toivo wrote about her experiences growing up in Scotland speaking English as a second language, and how speaking in her non-native tongue gave her a sense of liberation when it came to swearing and discussing her emotions. This personal insight linked well to her PhD research project, which focuses on why many bilinguals report feeling less emotionally connected to their second language, a phenomenon known as the ‘reduced emotional resonance of language’.

Below is the essay written by Wilhelmiina Toivo that made her joint winner with Lauren White, from the University of Sheffield. Wilhelmiina’s research caught my attention because I can relate on some level. With English as my second language, I find that the emotional force of swearwords and taboo (S-T) words is much stronger in my native language, so I switch to that when I really need to unload! It also helps that people around me can’t understand me then 🙂 And that is despite the fact that my entire life now unfolds in English and I think (and probably dream) in English. I also find it much easier to discuss some subjects in English, they don’t carry the same emotional weight as they do when I try to discuss them in my native language.

To take a short tangent now, it turns out even if you learn a second language to a very high standard, you’ll never speak it like a native unless you were exposed to it by around the age of eight. This is mirrored by brain scans. Languages you learn after eight go into a subtly different area of the brain to those acquired earlier.

Due to the complex nature, and often diverse subject matter, the value of social science research is too often overlooked or called into question, despite its significant impact on society. It turns out using a foreign language reduces decision-making biases. Four experiments show that the framing effect disappears when choices are presented in a foreign language. Whereas people were risk averse for gains and risk seeking for losses when choices were presented in their native language, they were not influenced by this framing manipulation in a foreign language. Two additional experiments showed that using a foreign language reduces loss aversion, increasing the acceptance of both hypothetical and real bets with positive expected value. The hypothesis is that these effects arise because a foreign language provides greater cognitive and emotional distance than a native language does.

Once more, with feeling: life as bilingual, by Wilhelmiina Toivo

My dad had a rather liberal philosophy of bringing up children, but he would always tell us off for swearing. As a result, I grew up feeling very uncomfortable using swearwords. Or, at least, so I thought – when I first moved to Scotland, I noticed that it was actually very easy to swear in English. Interestingly enough, I also found it easy to talk to my flatmates about topics that felt too intimate to discuss in my native tongue. In a flat of seven girls from all over Europe, we discussed the full magnitude of emotions and topics; the fears of living abroad, falling in and out of love, death, sex – everything. Swearing and talking about these emotions was not easy just because of the inherent rowdiness of the student community, or because we felt liberated being away from home for the first time. The effect I was observing is something that goes deeper and touches a huge number of people who live in multilingual settings.

Language is so much more than just a communication device; it is a way to understand the world around us

Many bilinguals report ‘feeling less’ in their second language; it does not bear the same emotional weight as your native language. Feeling less emotionally connected to your second language might make it easier to use highly emotional vocabulary, which is precisely what I was experiencing with my ease of swearing and talking about sensitive topics in English. The scientific term for this is ‘reduced emotional resonance of language’. It is a fairly well-established phenomenon, but many specific questions still remain unanswered. For example, what exactly makes one’s second language less emotional? How does this affect different immigrant communities? My research project aims to address these questions by looking into the reasons and implications of reduced emotional resonance in bilinguals’ second language.

It is still unclear what exactly shapes emotional resonance of a language and in what way – results thus far have been inconclusive. In the first part of my project we are exploring which factors in a person’s language background contribute to reduced emotional resonance. For example, is it influenced by the age at which you have learnt your second language? Does it matter how frequently and in which context you use the language? Or is your emotional experience of a language predictable from whether you dream or can do maths in it?

To investigate these questions, my project uses eye-tracker technology to measure bilinguals’ pupil responses to emotional words in English. Typically, when shown highly emotional words or pictures, people’s pupils dilate as an uncontrollable, emotional reaction. Previous research has shown the effect is smaller in bilinguals’ second language, which suggests reduced emotional resonance. Understanding the reasons why this happens can, in turn, help us explain how you experience a foreign language community, and how this could be taken into account in acculturation and adaptation.

Wittgenstein said: “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” This is particularly true for your second language. For fluent bilinguals living in a community where their native language is not
spoken, reduced emotional resonance sets ‘the limits of the world’. While your language skills can be more than adequate, not being able to fully structure your surroundings through language might leave you feeling alienated; not a part of the society you live in. Or perhaps you are perceived as rude or socially awkward for using the wrong words in the wrong emotional context.

Many bilinguals report ‘feeling less’ in their second language

However, not all the implications of reduced emotional resonance are negative – bilinguals can actually benefit from being able to approach things in a less emotionally involved way. For example, bilinguals have been shown to be able to make more rational decisions in their second language. Also, switching languages can be used as a tool in therapy when working through emotionally difficult or traumatising experiences. Imagine how it would be if it were easier to talk about your emotions with your partner – maybe bilingual couples have a communicative advantage? Ultimately, understanding the full scale of implications of reduced emotional resonance is a way to understand how bilinguals experience the world.

In the increasingly globalising world where studying abroad, immigration and sojourning are more and more common, as well as pervasive issues in international politics, understanding the realities of bi- and multilingual people is crucial. Being bilingual no longer means just being exposed to two languages from birth – it can refer to a person who uses two languages in their everyday life, regardless of their level of fluency. As the number of people with versatile language backgrounds grows, understanding all aspects of language and how these mediate our lives become important. Language is so much more than just a communication device; it is a way to understand the world around us, defining our reality and what it actually means to be human.