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last week, i defended my master’s thesis in oslo. for the first time in my academic life i wrote about something that i was really passionate about: landscape in tove jansson’s ‘moominpappa at sea’. i analyzed the role of landscape in the formation of the book’s narrative, and with it the nature+human relationship as portrayed in the story. here is a very small excerpt:

…It also seems important to the characters to be able to connect to the island in private. One of the critical and most sense-infused scenes in the book is when Moomintroll goes off to explore the island on the family’s first morning there. The scarce but colorful vegetation, the warmness of the rock, the odd- but nice-smelling soil, the smooth white sand, and the low-hanging lines of calm grey clouds step forward to relate the personality of the place to a curious Moomintroll: “Now that he was alone, [he] could begin to look at the island and smell it in the right way. He could feel it with his paws, and prick up his ears and listen to it” (Sea, p. 41). Moomintroll is attentive; he notices that the island does not have big trees and that “everything [seems] to grow so close to the ground, groping its way across the rock”, to which Moomintroll’s response is to try to “make himself as small as he [can]”, too (Sea, pp. 41-42). His reaction is remarkable in that he wants to blend in with the landscape, not impose his presence on it. Moomintroll exhibits a degree of harmonization between nature and man that suggests an intimate relationship, one that functions as a two-way street or a dialogue with both parties as active participants. There is no urge in him to conquer or inflict change. In fact, that is what his parents try to do until they, too, come to a conclusion that “perhaps one shouldn’t try to change things so much on this island. Just leave it as it is.” (Sea, p. 100)…

to set the mood for my presentation, i created a short video loosely inspired by the book:

my friends know that moominvalley is my ultimate happy place. it is where i mentally retreat in times of distress. it is also what i try to make my own immediate environment look and feel like. moomins live in a landscape that is alive. it is a character in its own right. you are never fully alone in a forest or on a tiny rocky island in the baltic sea. you may be sad or angry at times but there is always a magical chance to interact with the landscape and not let dullness take over. landscape always has in store adventure and thrill. it also offers solitude for those who seek it. it is your friend and a stranger at the same time and you need to be patient, attentive, and self-aware to make the relationship work.

these are my crude thoughts on a thesis topic. there is one moomin book that is particularly important to me: ‘moominpappa at sea’. i reread it every summer: it always manages to put me back into a child’s state of wonder about the seemingly trivial things around you and to help me re-imagine my dream world as a necessary reference in real life. what better way to write a research paper than choosing a subject that represents your own self?!

(the photographs are from an exhibition by roger gustafsson called “hommage à… trollish adventures in contemporary art” organized by the finnish-norwegian cultural institute in oslo. i was lucky enough to attend its opening in march 2012.)