First created as a series of Swedish-language children's books by Swedish-Finnish author Tove Jansson, Moomin is a well-loved franchise starring hippo-like Moomins, who live in the Finnish woods and have adventures with their friends. The cast of characters is varied, ranging from little childlike humanoids to animal creatures from all over the world. The books themselves are surreal, often scary, somewhat philosophical, and very interactive. Following the success of the books, the franchise was extended into a comic strip, a BBC puppet show, an animated series, an anime (produced and highly popular in Japan) and a few as-yet untranslated movies.Moomintroll, the childlike main character, is the son of Moominmamma and Moominpappa. He lives in Moominvalley. His friends include Sniff (a mouse-like Kangaroo), Snufkin (a carefree and wise wandering hermit), the Snork Maiden (Moomintroll's egotistical love interest), her brother the Snork (who became a bumbling genius in the cartoon to make up for his complete lack of personality), Little My (the bratty and practical half-sister of Snufkin), the Mymble (her other sister) and a cast of thousands composed of Fillyjonks, Hemulens, Park Keepers, Tofts, Hattifatteners and one big ol' Groke — the monstrous personification of winter depression.The first few books were surreal, charming adventure stories for kids, which gradually became darker and more adult. The change culminated in the final book in which Snufkin, Mymble, Toft, Grandpa Grumble and the Fillyjonk hang around at the Moominhouse waiting for the absent Moomins (whom Moominpappa has whisked off to live in a lighthouse due to his sudden mid-life crisis). The change in genre accounts for the large cult fanbase. Today, the series is still huge in both Finland and Japan, and the franchise is still very much alive.
Animated Adaptation: In fact, there were dozens of them. three of them Japanese (1969, 1972 and 1990), one Polish, two German, and some Russian, too. Then there was an anime film based on the second book of the series, made by the same people behind the 2nd series and the 2nd half of the first series. There are also some short films too.
A 2D film is in the works, as of 2013.
Baleful Polymorph: Happens to Moomintroll when he crawls into the Hobgoblin's magic hat.
"Blind Idiot" Translation: The Hobgoblin. His name in Swedish is Trollkarlen, which means the wizard or, more literally, the male troll. The former applies. In case you're wondering, he looks like gray-bearded man in fancy suit and magical top hat, riding a flying black panther. You couldn't make someone look more like a magician if you tried.
Body Horror: In Finn Family Moomintroll (also the very first episode of the TV show) a Moomin makes the mistake of climbing into a certain magical tophat only to be transformed into something...
Bratty Half-Pint: Little My is very much the trope codifier for the Scandinavian audience.
Canon Foreigner: The Witch and her granddaughter Alicia of the 90's TV-series.
Canon Immigrant: Stinky doesn't appear in the original books. He first shows up in the early days of the comic strip, and after that makes appearances in various adaptations before he is finally introduced in the last Moomin story Tove Jansson wrote, An Unwanted Guest. (This particular story has not been officially translated to English, but there is an online unofficial translation here.)
Cerebus Syndrome: A particularly successful instance in the books; starting with Moominland Midwinter the series becomes slightly darker and much more introspective. The final two full-length novels, though still kid-friendly, are more aimed at an adult audience and end up largely deconstructing the sunnier "family adventure" tone from the earlier books — but without losing any sympathy for the characters. Actually Tove Jansson lamented this because she was not able to "find that happy Moominvalley" again.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Happens in the main books to Sniff after The Exploits of Moominpappa and Snork Maiden after Moominland Midwinter. Not played completely straight, as they both make appearances in short stories afterwards.
Clingy Jealous Girl: Snorkmaiden. Especially when she swaps eyes with the wooden mermaid to attract Moomin's attention. That was creepy.
Cool Airship: Snork spends most of the (animated) series working on perfecting his design for a flying ship.
Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Averted. In the popular 90's show, Moomin, Moominpapa, and the Snork are shades of blue/gray, and Moominmama and the Snorkmaiden are shades of yellow. However, the original tales have all Moomins to be white and Snorks being able to change their fur according to their mood.
Completely Different Title: The English translations insisted on sticking "Moomin" in every single of the books' titles to make it clearer that they were a series. Thus:
"The Comet Is Coming" became Comet in Moominland.
"The Hobgoblin's Hat" became Finn Family Moomintroll.
"Dangerous Midsummer" became Moominsummer Madness.
"Trollwinter" became Moominland Midwinter.
"The Invisible Child (and other stories)" became Tales from Moominvalley.
"The Father and the Sea" became Moominpappa at Sea.
And "Late in November" became Moominvalley in November.
In the '90s, there was another comic book adaptation, based on and using the character designs from the anime. Mostly it told original stories, but it did occasionally adapt some of the stories from the books. In one instance they made a follow-up to the book-version of Moominsummer Madness, with a caption advising the readers to read the original book for the backstory.
Continuity Cavalcade: An Unwanted Guest, the last Moomin story written by Tove Jansson, despite being a short story that takes place entirely inside the Moominhouse, features tons of characters from earlier stories, both books and comics, several of which get speaking roles for the first time in decades.
Demoted to Extra: Sniff in the books. From being one of the primary characters in the first four books, he is inexplicably absent from the fifth and sixth, and after that only makes a handful of appearances.
Fridge Brilliance: Since the last book in which he's a major character ends with him being re-united with his long lost parents, he probably went to live with them instead of with the Moomins.
Distressed Damsel: Snork- 'save me from this plant'- Maiden. And though she later saves Moomintroll, she doesn't really do anything.
Early-Installment Weirdness: The very first book, Småtrollen och den stora översvämningen, is more of a fairy tale than any of the others, and tells the story of how Moominmamma and Moomintroll and Sniff try to find Moominpappa, who doesn't even appear until a good while in. And in the pictures, their noses are much longer than in the other books. Furthermore, the Moomins and Sniff are described as very small, unlike in the other books.
The End of the World as We Know It: What will happen if the comet hits the Earth as predicted, in Comet in Moominland. The predictions end up being wrong and the world does not end after all.
Executive Meddling: This is the reason as to why the first series has two animation studios (TMS and Mushi).
Fantastic Drug: In one story arc in the newspaper comic the Moomin family buys mind-expanding "LBJ pills" from a bunch of hippies (see the Mushroom Samba entry below for further details). Other than that, the comic tends to avert this trope, though: before purchasing the LBJ pills the Moomins try to buy some marijuana, in another story arc a supporting character gets high on opium, and the Moomins are often shown making their own moonshine.
Norwegian avant-garde metal band Arcturus have a song called "Hufsa" on their album "Sideshow Symphonies". It is abut the Groke.
Four Temperament Ensemble: In Moominpappa's Memoirs/ The Exploits of Moominpappa, Young Moominpappa is Sanguine, Frederickson (Hodgekins in some translations) is Choleric, The Muddler is Melancholic, and The Joxter is Phlegmatic.
Also, Moomin and his friends qualify: Moomin (Sanguine), Little My (Choleric), Sniff (Melancholic), Snuffkin (Phlegmatic) and Snork Maiden (Leukine).
Heroic Wannabe: Moomintroll, always trying to do the right thing and live up to Snufkin's example.
An Ice Person: The Groke. Wherever she goes, air gets colder and the ground under her freezes.
There's also The Lady of the Cold.
Idiot Ball: Moomins' intelligence is significantly lower in the newspaper comic strips, and it shows.
I Feel Angry: Ninny in "The Invisible Child." The polite, timid girl gradually built up her confidence, losing her invisibility bit by bit, and shed it entirely when she finally dared to become angry.
Interrupted Suicide: The newspaper comic starts with a rather bleak note, as Moomintroll tries to drown himself, only to bump into his long lost parents before succeeding.
Interspecies Romance: Believe it or not, Moomin and Snorkmaiden are two different animals, but the difference is like a dog and a wolf. The Mymble's Daughter, a humanoid creature, is the love interest of the Officer, a Hemulen.
Lighter and Softer: The '90s cartoon was this compared to the later books of the series, though it still kept a few undertones. It's especially apparent if you view the episodes adapting Moominpappa at Sea, which treats the journey to the lighthouse as another fun family adventure — while the entire point of the trip in the book was that it wasn't another fun family adventure, but Moominpappa having a midlife crisis and changing things around for everyone.
Live-Action Adaptation: Two "suit actor" TV series, in 1969 and 1973, both done for Swedish television. The 1973 series, which was that year's televised advent calendar, made straight-up adaptations of Moominland Midwinter,Finn Family Moomintroll and two of the short stories from Tales from Moominvalley. The 1969 series, by contrast, was an original story with an almost half-parodic approach to the Moomins and several satirical elements.
Lower Deck Episode: Moominvalley In November, about a few lost souls who end up in the Moomin house while the Moomin family themselves are away experiencing the events of Moominpappa At Sea.
Meddling Parents: Moominpappa and Moominmamma are a very inverted form of this. They allow their son to travel miles away from home into the path of a fast approaching comet, for instance. Moominmamma even approves smoking, saying it's "good for the stomach".
Of course in the other times they meddle in a different sort of way, demanding to come along for the irresponsible adventure, or dragging the younger generation along for one they themselves cooked up.
Apparently they were based on Jansson's own parents.
Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: Despite her first two appearances, The Groke is later revealed to be a sad and lonely person who just wants friends and is not so evil after all. But that gives little to no comfort to all children who were scared to death by her. Or the fact that if she hugged anyone, they'd freeze solid.
Mushroom Samba: Different for each version: The original comics had the family take a vacation in "Torrelorca", where they ended up experimenting with made up but still obviously illegal drugs which were said to "free their true selves", which in their case just meant that they sat on a beach a week straight, staring at the sun and as a result missed their flight back home. In the animated adaption, they instead found some mushrooms that spread their spores around and caused whoever inhaled them to become listless and easily amused.
Not Allowed to Grow Up: Averted with Moomintroll in the books. If you read the books in chronological order, you'll notice that he is growing up, becoming more independent and self-reliant. In Moominpappa At Sea, Moominmamma even mentions to Moominpappa that their son isn't as little anymore.
Played straight in most of the adaptations, though.
Parental Abandonment: For the most part, the only one whose parents we see is Moomin. True, readers get a reunion of Snufkin's and Sniff's at the end of Moominpappa's Memoirs/ The Exploits of Moominpappa, but after that, there is no mention of anyone else's parents.
Sibling Yin-Yang: Loud My vs. quiet Snufkin. Messy My and Snufkin vs. clean, presentable Mymble. Self-obsessed, idiotic, fashionable Snork Maiden vs. clever, bumbling Snork. If you have a sibling, you're going to be his or her opposite.
In the 1990 cartoon at least. In the books Mymble is less clean and presentable and Snork is less obviously different from his sister too.
Time Machine: The Moomins have one in the newspaper comic and there are occasional storylines where they travel back in time to some historical epoch — usually because Moominpappa is sick of modern life and longs for the glory and romance of times long past. In every single one of these storylines he'd discover that the "good old days" weren't as good, glorious or romantic as he'd imagined them.
Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: Moominvalley is, at least at a very quick glance, somewhat of a saccharine world in the early novels and some of the adaptations. The Groke on the other hand, especially in her earliest appearances, is truly horrifying.
Walking Wasteland: The Groke. If she stays on the same spot for too long the ground she stands on becomes permanently infertile.
Widget Series: Not as much a Weird Japanese Thing as a Weird Finnish Thing.
Write Who You Know: Jansson has herself said that Moominmamma was modeled after her own mother and Too-Ticky after her life partner Tuulikki Pietilä. Also, although never confirmed by Jansson, it seems pretty clear that Tofslan and Vifslan (Thingumy and Bob in the English translation) refer to Tove and her first girlfriend Vivica Bandler. Jansson's boyfriend in the 1940s, Atos Wirtanen, and his old green hat were probably the inspiration behind Snufkin.
Yamato Nadeshiko: Moominmamma fits this trope perfectly - "submissive, loyal, mature, humble, but definitely not a pushover" - though, like so many other things, it's Deconstructed in the final two novels. Curiously enough, the Deconstruction is most apparent and visible in the very last novel, Moominvalley in November, in which Moominmamma doesn't even appear. She is, however, constantly referred to by the other characters and appears in the dreams and stories of the orphan Toft, who doesn't have a mother and whose expectations and hopes about her gets more exaggerated and caricature-like during the course of the novel. Finally, he has to confront the fact that the ultimate Yamato Nadeshiko that's developed in his dreams is not a real person at all and deep down he doesn't want Moominmamma to be like that.