One grey morning the first snow began to fall in Moomin Valley. It fell softly and quietly, and in a few hours everything was white.
It took me a ridiculous amount of time to read this pocket-sized, yet delightful children’s book.
Finn Family Moomintroll is the first Moomin book translated into English, and at only 175 pages with generous font and illustrations every few pages, I could have read it in a few good reading sessions. Instead I popped it into my work backpack to enjoy over a morning coffee on the days I work the closing shift (which means I start at a very civilised 10am).
The first problem is I only work these shifts twice a week. The second problem is I often get caught up in stuff at home and by the time I get to my favourite cafe I only have time for a quick coffee and a people-watching gaze out the window, not the leisurely half hour or so of reading time I initially envisaged for these days!
However, none of that detracted from the delight I felt on the odd days I did pull it out of my backpack for a reading session.
The former owner of my bookshop loved the Moomins, so we’ve always carried them. In more recent times, the new Special Collectors’ edition hardbacks were published complete with restored original cover artwork, fold out maps and gorgeous endpapers. Revisions made by Tove Jansson, such as the amusing running head commentaries for each chapter, have also been restored. They are beautiful treasures for any child’s library.
Having said all that though, as I child I would not have liked these books. Whimsical, cute stories about fanatsical creatures would not have sat well with me at all. I did not like Winnie-the-pooh, Wind in the Willows or Alice in Wonderland. I wanted real stories – about children rescuing babies, running away to islands, living in orphanages, solving mysteries or climbing trees into magical lands!
As an adult, though, I adore them.
Tove Jansson was born in Finland on the 9th August 1914. Her father was Finnish-Swedish and her mother was Swedish. Finn Family Moomintroll was first written in Swedish as Trollkarlelens Hatt (or The Hobgoblin’s Hat). It was Jansson’s third Moomin book, but the first one translated into English in 1950 by UK publisher Ernest Benn. Her first two books (The Moomins and the Great Flood and Comet in Moominland) were darker, written during the final days of WWII. They feature natural disasters, a missing Moominpappa and a comet heading straight for Moominvalley.
Finn Family Moomintroll is a lighter story. The Moomin Valley is not under any kind of threat (except for the mysterious workings of the Hobgoblin’s hat and a misadventure on Hattenfattener’s Island) and the book is more about relationships and character development.
The Moomin family love nature, freedom and creativity. They are loving, kind, inclusive and always respectful. They regularly ‘adopt’ new members, who are given the freedom to come and go as they please. Most of the characters are slightly eccentric, given to philosophical musings and fanciful dreams. Each chapter is it’s own mini-adventure, gradually taking us through a whole year in Moominvalley, before culminating in a glorious autumnal party hosted by a grateful Moominmamma.
I can see why this Scandinavian children’s series has become a much-loved classic.
In total Jannson wrote nine Moomin books plus three younger reader books. However many of you may know of her thanks to her autofiction, The Summer Book or her short story collection, The Winter Book.
During the winter months Tove lived and worked in Helsinki, but in the summertime she stayed on a beautiful remote island in the Gulf of Finland with her long-term partner, the artist Tuulikki Pietilä. The small town of Naantali in Finland has been hosting summer in Moominworld for over 30 years. A day in Moominworld includes puppet shows, readings, exploring the Moominhouse and the Hattifatteners cave. Or you can simply hug your favourite Moomin character- selfies optional!
Jansson died on the 27th June 2001 and is buried in Helsinki with her parents and younger brother.
- Read for (or at least finished in time for) Annabel’s Reading Nordic Literature month #NordicFINDS23 throughout January
Oh to be a Moomin and to dance in the waves while the sun gets up.
I have every respect for your deductions, but you are wrong, completely and absolutely, and without any doubt.Muskrat
- Jansson was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1966.
- According to the ‘which moomin are you’ quiz, I am Snufkin – shy but independent, anxious if my personal space is invaded, friendly, wise, a free spirit, solitary, responsible and prone to philosophising.
- Not an easy choice. Obviously I appreciate Snufkin’s love of peace and quiet and his keenness to go off on an adventure “it was a good day to start a journey; the crest of the hill beckoned to him in the sunshine, with the road winding up and disappearing on the other side…” but Moominmamma’s calm, tender, nurturing care and love of nature appealed to my sensibilities the most. She notices everything and remains patient. She is also based on Jansson’s own mother, the graphic artist Signe Hammarsten-Jansson.
Title: Finn Family Moomintroll | Trollkarlelens Hatt (Swedish) | The Hobgoblin’s Hat | Taikurin Hattu (Finnish 1956) Author: Tove Jansson Translator: Elizabeth Portch (1950) ISBN: 9781908745644 Imprint: Sort Of Books Published: 2017 (originally published 1948) Format: Hardback Pages: 175 Dates Read: sometime in September 2022 - 16 January 2023
- This post was written in the area we now call the Blue Mountains within the Ngurra [country] of the Dharug and Gundungurra peoples.