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.