Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Moomin origin story!

I read all the Moomin books (some multiple times) as a kid. I think Moominvalley Midwinter, or perhaps Tales from Moominvalley were my favorites, but I also liked Moominvalley in November - the last book in the series, and somewhat sad, in that the moomins never appear - they have gone off somewhere and various friends and acquaintances show up at their house - Toft, who is lonely; Mymble, who wants to visit her sister who lives with the Moomins, and the Fillyjonk* who freaks herself out (nearly falling off her roof while obsessively cleaning) and decides she "needs to be around people."

(*Apparently, based on some of the other books, fillyjonks are a species rather than a single individual)

And they, and others, show up, and wait for the moomins to return. And some commenters have speculated on whether the book isn't maybe a little too sad for children? But I remember liking it and feeling like it captured some of what was true about life - sometimes people went away and it wasn't always because they wanted to (I lost my paternal grandmother around the time I was a fan of the book).

However, there was one Moomin book I'd never read, because it hadn't been republished here - the Moomintrolls and the Great Flood. I knew vaguely that the series supposedly started with Moominmamma and Moomintroll finding Moominpappa and finding he had built them a house....

But I noticed Amazon had it, so I ordered a copy. It came yesterday, from Wordery Bookshop in the UK. (Apparently it's not widely sold here). It's interesting to see the characters I know so well in sort of embryonic form. Apparently Jansson wrote this shortly after World War II, as a response to all the horrors - she wanted something sort of fairy-tale like, with *nice* characters.

We mostly see Moominmamma and Moomintroll in there. (Moominpappa makes an appearance, but not until the very end - the search for him is the driving force of the story). Moominmamma is pretty much her capable quiet self. (I always liked Moominmamma. She remained calm no matter what happened, usually had what someone needed in the purse she carried, and she generally wants everyone to be happy.)

There's also an animal called "The small creature" who looks a lot like - and acts a lot like - the character called Sniff in the later books.

And they  meet up with a girl with blue hair (her hair glows and lights the way, and in the introduction it's suggested that Jansson was influenced by Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio there).

On the way, they meet up with a magician who lives in a deep forest where he has made a sort of artificial sun (the forest is so dark they can't see the sun) and garden that is made of candy. (And I found myself wondering if Roald Dahl could have read this book before creating the Chocolate Factory....)

The moomins look a bit different from their final forms; they are thinner and their noses are slightly differently shaped. But their characters are clearly recognizable.

I liked Moominvalley as a kid. It was a quiet place. Oh, people had Adventures but mostly those Adventures were pretty nice and if you needed something usually Moominmamma had it. And there was good food to eat, and a nice garden....I wouldn't have enjoyed the hibernating so much, I remember thinking, but the rest of it was pretty nice.

1 comment:

purlewe said...

I really liked "The Summer Book" which is totally not a moomin book, but a lovely novel she wrote about being a kid let loose on an island with her relatives (gosh it has been a long time since I read it. maybe her grandmother?)