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In one of the quirkiest book cults America has never heard of, a round-snouted troll is hauling consumers' wallets from their pockets despite the worst recession in decades. The license-holders for Moomin, who say license sales increased 35 percent this year, are contemplating expansion.
"We want to grow and be as profitable as we have been so far," said Sophia Jansson. "But in a way that increases the awareness of Moomin, starting from countries where books already are sold."
Moomins -- whose naive hero Moomintroll was the "nastiest creature" teenage Tove could imagine after a quarrel with her brother -- are a lucrative publishing and licensing niche mostly in Nordic countries, Japan and Britain.
Since the 1945 publication of "The Moomins and the Great Flood," adventures with Moomin and parents Moominmamma and Moominpappa have featured in 13 novels and picturebooks translated into 40 languages, and thousands of cartoon strips.
The characters have also been used to brand a wide range of products including kitchenware, diapers, DVDs and tinned candy.
Moomintroll is friendly, wide-eyed; he picks flowers and likes to fish. Besides Little My, who plays pranks, his friends are oddball. Snufkin smokes a pipe. Where Pooh's Hundred Acre Wood has Eeyore the grumpy donkey, Moominvalley has a melancholy scientist, the Hemulen. A hill-shaped, lethal spook called the Groke invokes all winter's pain. Even the comedy Hattifatteners -- finger-shaped electric creatures which move in a flock -- are unsettling.