groke

The reason why Finnish children are traumatized.

I swear, most of the people I know gets creeps of her theme music. I still do myself, and I’m 24y.o. grownass dude.

At the anime convention on fall 2017 there was this person cosplaying the Groke and he had a speaker under the costume, which played this theme. I had so bad goosebumps every time he went by, and far before I even saw him xD that little fucker.

Loneliness

Loneliness is one of the key themes in Moomin books. Tove Jansson was very familiar with this experience. Her father had been emotionally damaged by the civil war when Tove was very young and because of this, she spent her entire childhood longing for his affection. In her adulthood Tove experienced another war and had to wait for her brother, lover and friends who were away fighting. All while her friends and family were also mourning and emotionally distant. After the war ended, Tove entered another relationship full of longing and waiting with Atos Wirtanen. Endless waiting only seemed to end when she met Tuulikki Pietilä, who was finally there when Tove needed her most.

Constant waiting is a lonely experience. But Tove was also aware of another kind of loneliness. This kind of loneliness is the kind we seek ourselves. Tove was a very private person even when she became famous and also a dedicated artist who needed peace to work. She spent years trying to find a place where she could isolate herself to work and enjoy her own company.

Loneliness appears as duality in Moomin books. The bad kind of loneliness is represented with various Fillyjonks and sometimes Moomintroll himself, especially when he longs for Snufkin. Fillyjonks are anxious and depressed people who often suffer from sudden feelings of doom. Their unstable minds and efforts to keep up respectable life often end up isolating them in large houses on the beach because their grandmother had supposedly lived there as a child or in neatly decorated parlors with only their own thoughts for company. Fillyjonks long to escape this loneliness. They will reach out for people but they often fail. It seems it’s impossible to be both polite and proper and speak up about your depression at the same time.

Moominvalley in November is a book where loneliness is the main theme. So it is no wonder that a Fillyjonk is among the main characters. This Fillyjonk is tired of being anxious and alone, so she comes to visit Moomin family in hopes of getting caught up in their spontaneous life. When Moomin family appears to be away, she tries to be spontaneous like Moominmamma herself and make people around her feel at home. She fails miserably, because a timid and orderly Fillyjonk cannot be Moominmamma. Her efforts isolate her further until she lets go and starts to be herself but with a happier attitude towards herself. In the end she manages to put together a work party and heads back home with more enthusiasm. She was able to overcome her loneliness when she accepted her limitations and embraced them and others.

Another lonely Fillyjonk appears in Tales from Moominvalley; Fillyjonk Who Believed in Disasters. This Fillyjonk ends up overcoming her loneliness without other people like the Fillyjonk mentioned above. Instead, she encounters the disaster she was afraid of and turns her loneliness from bad kind to the good kind. This good kind of loneliness means that you can be by yourself and it’s not scary or unpleasant. Snufkin basically lives for this kind of loneliness. He not only enjoys being by himself, he yearns for it and becomes anxious if he does not get to be alone. In a way, his good loneliness is the opposite from Fillyjonk’s bad loneliness. This good kind of loneliness nurtures and gives us strength to be social again. Though eventually even Snufkin realizes that maybe he did not really need to be so much alone, when he was always surrounder by people who understood him.

There is no way to talk about loneliness and healing without talking about the very personification of loneliness; The Groke. The Groke is so cold that everything she touches turns to ice. This isolates her from other people completely. So completely, that they would rather not even mention her name. Whenever she approached their light, they will turn it off and run away. She is almost defiant in her loneliness. “I’m the only Groke. There is no one like me and I will never warm up” she declares in Moominpappa and the Sea. She is bad loneliness given form. But eventually a single act of kindness, Moomintroll coming to see her on the beach, frees the Groke. Moomintroll’s company and caring drive away her loneliness and turn out to be the key to her freedom; The Groke becomes warm. Moomin books always show us characters either freeing themselves from bad loneliness or finding out that limitless amount of good loneliness is not actually a key to happiness.

The truest example of independent and good loneliness is actually Little My. She is capable of finding just the right balance between loneliness and sociality. She is with others when she feels like it and despite being sharp and brutally honest, she is willing to support and nurture them whenever they need it. But she is also capable of running away whenever she feels like it. Little My is free of sentimentality and will not miss people and company. She can enjoy both loneliness and company to equal measure, without ever getting bored or sad.

When any work is adapted as often as Tove Jansson’s Moomin stories have been, there will be differences between portrayals. This means that many characters can have surprisingly different personalities in each story. Because many fans come to know Moomins through different adaptations (most often books or 1990s TV series which started the Moomin boom), it's worth considering how different characters can be depending on the version. Here are how some main characters differ between adaptations:

Originally posted by sniffinmoominland


Moomintroll is probably the character with most consistent characterization. As the main character, he is the heart of the story and everything happens around him (except the last book, some rare strips and episodes etc.). So he needs to change the least to suit the tone of the stories. In earlier Moomin books, Moomintroll is a typical curious young boy who is lyrical, sentimental and emotional but also adventurous and brave. He is very dependent on people around him especially his mother and his best friend Snufkin. Later books have him experience some adolescent moods and heartaches but his personality stays the same thorough books. In the comic strips he is still emotional and dependent but his naivety is also emphasized. This is mainly done for comedy. Most animated adaptations keep his sweet and insecure but brave personality. Notable exception is 1960s Japanese anime adaptation, where Moomin is more like a classical rascal of a boy protagonist. This is one of the details Tove Jansson disliked.

Originally posted by snarflegank

Moominmamma and Moominpappa are important characters in all adaptations. Moominpappa is often the protagonist in Lars Jansson’s comic strips and Moominmamma appears is almost all Moomin stories. Their personalities are often consistent and clear like their son’s. Moominmamma is always safe, warm and motherly. In later Moomin books, we do get to see her hidden side but this does not compromise her earlier characterization as the perfect mother. Moominpappa, on the other hand, gets surprisingly deep and human flaws to his personality in later books. He still remains strong leader and an egotistical but caring father in all versions. Granted, in comics his ego is promoted a bit for comedy.

Originally posted by seinaet


Snufkin is a character with as many personalities as there are adaptations. What remains consistent is his independence, wisdom and some level of sarcasm. In earlier books, he is almost social and happily greets new people. He also willingly chatted about his life and adventures. This is later removed as he becomes unsociable and so quiet it disturbs other characters. His love for freedom becomes more like an obsession with it. In the comics, Snufkin is more like a rare guest star. Here his personality is very simple and he mainly appears to give wise advice to Moomintroll. In animated adaptations, he is often included in the main cast but with surprising differences. In 1990s animated series, he is the perfect big brother and mentor to everyone in Moominvalley. This Snufkin is much kinder and more patient than any other Snufkin. However, it should be noted that this depends on the dub. Japanese version has a sweet and gentle Snufkin compared to Finnish dub, where he is more serious and sarcastic.

Originally posted by happymoomin


Little My is not present in earlier Moomin books but after her debut, she quickly became one of the main characters and an icon. This may explain why her personality is one of the most consistent in all books. She is an independent trickster and a harsh little girl. At times, she is almost like a force of nature rather than a character. She serves as voice of reason for Moomin family and does not show much character depth. When she appears in the comics, she can easily keep her brash personality and keep dishing out harsh truths because it easily suits the comedic tone. The most well-known animated version is actually toned down a lot from her original portrayals. Her 1990s version has insecurities about hurting others, getting scared or her looks. This Little My is also more emotional and can be seen blushing or looking sad.

Originally posted by happymoomin

Snorkmaiden is another character who’s portrayal varies a lot. In a way, she has become the character that portrays all sides of femininity (good and bad). In the books she is nurturing, beautiful and down-to-earth, even if a little vain. In the comics this is discarded in favor of a more comic portrayal. Here she is flirty, extremely vain and temperamental. She is not too loyal to Moomintroll (to be fair, their relationship is a bit more like play-pretend and practicing rather than an engagement) and often gets the adventure started by chasing after a man. It’s not surprising that many of her animated portrayals lean more towards the book version which is more suitable for serious stories and children. Notable aversion is Moomins on The Riviera, which adapts the comic with a same name and keeps her personality exactly like comic strip

Originally posted by kamisa-chan


And last for this post, The Groke. She is an important presence in the Moomin books and very well known even though she rarely appears in person. In earlier books we meet The Groke who is obsessed with ownership and extremely mean. She is simply a villain for a children’s story and completely different from the deep, suffering figure that appears in later books. It can be argued that they are different characters, but this is inconsistent too. In earlier books Grokes are portrayed as a race of monsters that can hunt innocent creatures anywhere. In Moominpappa and The Sea, The Groke declares that she is the only groke. In the comics, some Grokes appear as simple monsters to run away from because a personification of loneliness and depression would not suit the comedic tone. 1970s portrayed The Groke as just lonely and a lot less scary. This Groke even delivers mail. 1990s portrayal of The Groke is famous for giving many children nightmares, but the series also kept her vulnerable side. This makes it the adaptation which stays most true to her final portrayal in the books. 1990s animation even kept her crush on Moomintroll, which is just slightly hinter in Moominpappa and The Sea.

The Groke

The Groke first appears in Finn Family Moomintroll, as the horrible creature who chases Thingumy and Bob. Her name is also something akin to a curse among all other characters, as they often use it to frighten small children or express how angry they are. At the same time, Moominmamma tells us how it’s not appropriate to talk about The Groke; not about her or to her. If you talk about her, she will get bigger and come after you. It’s best to talk around the subject and ignore her. In a manner The Groke is similiar to Hattifatteners; outsiders who are both strange and threathening. These creatures live in the margins of the proper life and just thinking about them can lead you down the wrong path. Characters like these must have been exciting for Tove to create; she loved all things scary and unknown ever since she was a little girl.


The Groke’s role adjusted as the stories and style changed in the books. First Moomin books are honest children’s stories. Text is more straightforward, action is clear and threaths come from outside. Everything ends happily. Starting from Moominland Midwinter the books take a turn towards more mature story telling and become more targeted towards older audiences (but still keep the child-friendly touch!). In the first books the Groke is one of these outside threaths that must be overcome. She is a monster that comes to the valley, demanding Thingumy and Bob to return her jewel. The Groke can also be seen to represent the law, as she is trying to take away the forbidden love (jewel) from Thingumy and Bob (Tove and Viveca). The Swedish name of The Groke (Mårran) was actually a word Tove and Viveca used to describe hatred towards homosexuality.


In ”Moominland Midwinter” and especially in ”Moominpappa at sea”, The Groke has evolved into a more complex character. She can be seen as the very symbol of loneliness. She is forever cold and always follows the light. The cruelty of her yearning is that whenever she approaches a lantern or a candle she just makes it go out. Moomin event hinks that entire winter must belong to the Groke! Like Moominmamma tells us, The Groke has not truly done anything mean. She is just so cold that it’s impossible to be with her. She also hints that maybe the reason The Groke is like that is because nobody has ever cared about her.


The Groke is a difficult character to determine and even Tove Jansson herself declined to explain her. Many people who have analyzed Moomin books have still been able to see a connection between The Groke and depression. Depression was a familiar guest in the Jansson family and Tove struggled with it her entire life. It’s a topic that is always hidden and much like The Groke, it freezes the warmth. This is most evident in ”Moominpappa and the sea”. Tove wrote the book after her father had passed away. The Groke follows the Moomin family and haunts Moomintroll through the whole book, where her role can be seen to represent the sadness and depression Tove experienced when she lost her father. In the end, the only way to cure The Groke of her coldness is to embrace her. Moomintroll comes to meet her at the beach; this act or caring makes The Groke dance and sing.


After The Groke leaves, Moomintroll touched the sand and realized it’s warm. Tove said that she ”warmed the Groke” in the book.

As a cute sidenote: many readers often wished that Tove would give The Groke a friend. Tove declined because a warm Groke served no literally purpose. But in an answer to one letter she did envision a family for the Groke. She told that there is a herr-mårra (Mr Groke) and when the two Grokes meet, they will become warm. Afterwards they have small groke-children, morits (moriter). These children are warm.

Happy Birthday, Tove Jansson

Born 9.8.1914 in Helsinki, Finland.

Tove Jansson was an incredible artist. She was a multitalented painter, writer and illustrator who created many wonderful pieces of art. Her best-known works are Moomin books and illustrations and comics centered around these characters, but she was also a talented painter with a very keen eye for color and technique. She also wrote many books and stories after finishing Moomin books. Tove Jansson was born under the shadow of WWI and grew up during the Finnish Civil War. When she was a young woman, she had to live through WWII and witness all the horrors of the time. This shaped her into a pacifist with strong anti-violence opinions.

Moomin books containt many precious and timeless ideals. Stories have themes like acceptance and loneliness, love for nature and value of freedom. Instead of giving tired morals, Tove delicately talks about things that are necessary but often forgotten. Every little creature has the right to be angry and without getting angry, you will never get your own face. Family and friends should support and love one another, but this also means letting others explore freely and with knowledge that those at home will not worry over them. Even the coldest Groke can turn warm with kindness. The books are suited for both children and adults, no matter the century or millenium. Moomins have been used as icons for environmental campaigns and to promote children’s well-being. They have evolved from children’s characters into cultrual icons of Finland.

Besides being a genius with many talents, Tove Jansson was known as a brave and caring woman. She had very bold and forward-thinking ideas about gender equality and was critical of the role women were given during 1900s. Tove Jansson was never to give up her art and career to settle down. She also defended the rights of Jewish people under the shadow of WWII and often brought attention to the plight civilians faced during wartime.

Tove Jansson was employed by the satire magazine Garm, for which she drew many sharp political caricatures. In her drawings she often criticized fascism and communism around Europe. She was later quoted to have said that mocking Hitler was one of the most satisfying things she got to do in her career. Her work was so critical about war and political figures of the time that she even faces censorship.

Love of her life was Tuulikki Pietilä. Their relationship laster over half a century. Tove never tried to hide her love, even in a time when homosexuality was a crime and later classified as a mental illness. She rebelled against oppressive systems of her time by living against them every day. She and Tuulikki were devoted to one another and their relationship only ended with Tove’s death in 2001. Tove even brought her lover with her to attend Independence Day celebrations in Presidential Palace (note that same-sex couples have faced opposition as lately as 2010s). They shared their work and dreams, settled on an island together and traveled around the world.

Tove Jansson was an incredible woman and everything she left behind will continue to impact lives of many children and adults for years to come.