Lighthouses as attractors: following Moominpappa

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Edelheim, JR 2010, Lighthouses as attractors: following Moominpappa', paper presented at the Arts, islands and islomania, 6th International Small Island Cultures Conference, Guernsey, C.I. UK, 22-25 June.


Lighthouses are by definition forced to be located at strategic locations at the border between land and sea. They guide seafarers safely past dangers and inform travellers about their exact location. Whereas all lighthouses are not located on islands, but rather on headlands, capes and high points of a coastline, many are distinct features of the islands they inhabit. This paper will examine lighthouses on islands as tourist attractions and suggest that lighthouses are essential ingredients of a larger ‘islomania’ that attracts tourists to certain destinations. Lighthouses have in modern times changed function from having been desolate outposts inhabited by lighthouse keepers and their families to become attractive tourist destinations. Lighthouses remain naturally physically located where they always have been, but technology has diminished the need for people to be present at all times to maintain the lighthouses’ functions, at the same time as it has made transport to these once barren locations easier. Research on lighthouses as tourist attractions have in the past concentrated on managerial issues, such as maintenance, marketing and public-private partnerships but little has been written about the allure of the sites that tourists set out to experience. In an attempt to capture motivations lighthouse tourists have, this paper examines a book by the Finnish author Tove Jansson called ‘Moominpappa at Sea’ here a family moves out to a lighthouse on a small island to live out the dreams of the family’s father. The book is part of a beloved series of books about the Moomin family that has remained popular from the mid 1940s when they were first published in Finland. The audiences for the books are children and youngsters, but the skilful philosophical narratives capture equally adult readers.