Olga Holownia

‘They don’t really look like Moomins, do they?’:Tove Jansson’s Visual Translation of the Classics

 Tove Jansson is above all known as the creator of the Moomin world which includes novels, short stories, picture-books and comic strips. In the second half of the 1950s, the Moomins were at the peak of their fame. Unexpectedly, in 1958 she took on a commission. She agreed to illustrate the Swedish translation of Lewis Carroll’s 1876 nonsense poem The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in 8 Fits (Snarkjakten, 1959). In 1966 readers would see her take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865 (Alice i Underlandet), while in between the nonsense classics Jansson, encouraged by Astrid Lindgren, illustrated J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit: or There and Back Again, 1937 (Bilbo – en hobbits äventyr, 1962). The illustrations in these books and their choice, represent a curious juxtaposition of Jansson’s own interests and idiosyncratic style with a very English tradition. In my paper I will look at selected aspects of Jansson’s visual translations within the context of her own works and with references to the original illustrations in order to investigate the strategies she uses to reinvent the classics and at the same time her own artistic repertoire. All three books marked an important step in Jansson’s move towards writing for adults.