Nordic Magic: Five of Our Favourites from the North January 31 2018
Anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past few years will have noticed the massive trend in all things Nordic recently, from lifestyle trends like the Danish hygge philosophy to Swedish Kanken backpacks popping up everywhere. We’ve always loved Nordic design and illustration at Tales for Tadpoles, from classic Swedish author Elsa Beskow to the whimsical world of Moomin from Finnish artist Tove Jansson.
Here are five of our favourite things from Nordic countries.
If you don’t know Moomins, you would probably love them. If you already know them, you are probably deeply, deeply obsessed with them to a level that is perhaps unhealthy.
Moomins are creatures from the fictional land of Moominvalley. They were first created by the iconic Finnish author, illustrator and artist Tove Jansson in the 1940s, and are now a global brand. They feature in a series of novels and picture books, and at one point had their own daily comic strip which ran for over years and was read across continents, by a readership of 20 million.
The 1960s and television culture brought with it a merchandising explosion, and Moomins were among the first characters to be reproduced in commercial prints for the retail market.
This Moomin print was among the first ever produced for the retail market. Buy a reproduction here.
There is something uniquely Finnish about the Moomins, with their tales of endless summers and snowy winters. They are now so much a part of Finland’s national consciousness that the two are inextricably linked. But they also have a global appeal. Moomins are huge in Japan, and with the current trend for all things Nordic they are becoming much more well known in Ireland, the UK and the U.S. Read more about Moomins and Tove Jansson in another of our blogs.
2. Folk and Fairy Tales
Like Ireland, Scandinavia and the Nordic region has a very strong oral storytelling tradition and a wealth of folk history. Around the same time that Lady Gregory and W.B. Yeats were collecting folk tales in Ireland, two folklorists set out to record the folk tales of rural Norway and published them in a volume called East of the Sun, West of the Moon. The tales were later reissued with illustrations by the Danish golden age illustrator Kay Nielsen, and what results is a feast for the senses.
East of the Sun, West of the Moon was recently reissued in a gorgeous hardback coffee-table book edition, (here), with full pages to show off Nielsen’s intricate designs. It also includes essays on the history of folk culture and Golden Age illustration. You can learn more about the incredible Danish illustrator Kay Nielsen in our blog on his life and work.
3. Classic authors like Elsa Beskow
Beskow was a turn of the century children’s writer and illustrator whose scenes of forests, nature and rural harvests are uniquely Nordic. The sense of humour in these books is very Swedish too, with grumpy goblins and well-meaning children who accidentally burn their mother’s house down!
While other cultures are au fait with translation, the English speaking world tends to stick to its own well known authors. Introducing children to classic Scandinavian literature in translation is a great way to broaden their world view and feed their curiosity. You can find our large range of Elsa Beskow books here.
Elsa Beskow's life was a fascinating story in its own right, you read more about her in our biography.
4. Wacky humour like Findus and Pettson
The Nordic countries have their own special brand of humour, which is very noticeable in Moomins and in other series’ like Findus and Pettson.
Findus and Pettson is a series of picture books by Sven Nordqvist, about a grumpy old farmer and his mischievous cat. Findus and Pettson are modern day Odd Couple who get themselves into all sorts of scrapes, with hilarious results. As with Moomins, this series is a household name in Scandinavia and Germany, but is largely unknown in Ireland and the UK. Anyone we’ve met who takes one of these books home always comes back for the rest in the series. They are wacky, warm and memorable. And look at those illustrations! Read more about the warmth and wit of Sven Nordqvist here.
5. Cosy homes
These Elsa Beskow homewares from Design House Stockholm show off slick Swedish design at its best. When you have to spend so much time indoors during the dark and cold winter months, you may as well do it in style! We could learn a lot from Nordic lifestyles about making the best of winter, and making your home pretty and cosy is a great place to start.
Words by Sophie Meehan.