Finn Family Moomintroll | Tove Jansson #NordicFINDS23

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.

Favourite Quotes:

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

Facts:

  • 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.

Favourite Character:

  • 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.

26 thoughts on “Finn Family Moomintroll | Tove Jansson #NordicFINDS23

  1. I agree that this, in common with the other Moomin books, is more likely to be appreciated by adults than the target child audience, even if the latter like the whimsical names and logic. Thanks for reminding me of this, and for the gems like ‘The Dictionary of Outlandish Words’, ‘Moominpappa’s Memoirs’, and ‘On the Uselessness of Everything’ which I wish really existed!

    Like

    1. I see that there is a Memoirs of Moominpappa (1950) to look forward to – perhaps if I had tried that particular book as child I might have got into the Moomins (Moominpappa spent his childhood in an orphanage). I’d love to have a peek inside Muskrat’s On the Uselessness of Everything book too!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I read all these as a kid… but I can’t recall any of the detail only the mood, which to me seemed strange, a little spooky and kind of oppressive so I’ve never been inclined to revisit them as an adult. Yet whenever I read blog reviews they sound absolutely delightful! I wonder what it was as a child that I found so odd about them… ?

    Like

    1. Perhaps you will have to borrow one from the library to refresh your memory?
      When I read Winnie-the-pooh as an adult, and was utterly charmed, I wondered why I disliked it so much as a child. The human:animal ratio was the wrong way round for starters and as a child I only saw the silliness not the deeper philosophy underpining each character’s relationships. Like the muskrat, my childhood reading was serious and rarely frivolous!

      There is definitely something rather eerie or moody about the Moomin adventures and a lot of the scenes in this book are at night, or in a jungle, or a cave or a summer storm on an isolated island. Everything works out okay in the end, but there is a slight sense of dread or concern before you get to the ‘safe’ resolution.

      Like

      1. Ah, yes, the darkness and the caves is what I remember now. And it sounds like the sense of dread must have been what I found so disconcerting as a child. I only read them because my dad was a school teacher and he was a fan and we always had a ready access to them through the school library. Still not sure I want to revisit them as an adult though 🤷🏻‍♀️

        Liked by 1 person

  3. When you mentioned The Moomins and the Great Flood, I thought it must be an alternative title for Moominsummer Madness, which also features flooding due to a tidal wave caused by a volcano erupting. Now I’m wondering if it was this story that gave me nightmares about tidal waves as a child. Probably not: I adored the Moomin stories I borrowed from the library.

    Like

    1. I guess when you live by the sea, flooding and tidal waves will always be of concern. The Moomins certainly had a lot of close calls and mishaps.
      As a child, you never know which idea planted at the wrong time will give you nightmares. For me it was a TV show about housefires when I was 8 that haunted me for years. To this day, the first thing I do when I stay somewhere new, is discreetly note the fire exits.

      Like

  4. I never read the Moomin books as a child either. I have read this one since, but think the darker ones will chime more with me, even as an adult, although through reading a couple of her adult books I’ve grown to adore her writing. Thank you so much for joining in.

    Like

    1. I thought I had The Winter Book on my TBR pile, but I couldn’t find it last week when I went looking. After enjoying The Summer Book so much, I’m not sure why I’ve waited so long to read more by her.

      Thank you for the timely nudge to finally finish Finn Family Moomintroll though.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Have never read these either – I mean, not to my kids whom I think would have liked them more than I would have as a kid because like you I wanted reality. (Acwally I didn’t like magical lands either). But I might suss these out for the grandchildren. I suspect I’d love reading them aloud.

    Like

  6. Thank you for the thorough and good review. I am a little bit ashamed of admitting I have never read any of Tove Jansson’s books. Neither have I seen very much of the animated tv-series that are very popular. I think, today, they are a little bit of a cult, and I just have to get around to read one of her books about these creatures.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s