Classic Children's Literature

Completed: Finn Family Moomintroll

Finn Family Moomintroll [Trollkarlens hatt]
Tove Jansson
1948, Finland
Translated from Swedish by Elizabeth Portch (1958)

Finn Family Moomintroll (book cover)Phew! I’ve finally finished a book for my own reading event! (Let’s not discuss how many I’ve started.)

While there is a part of me that wishes I would have discovered the Moomins of  Moomin Valley when I was still a child, I think the greater part of me is actually thrilled that I am only just now experiencing the delight of Tove Jansson’s creations for the first time. For it is indeed a true delight to visit Jansson’s world, the magical, whimsical Moomin Valley.

I hadn’t even heard of the Moomins until about a year ago, but from the moment I first caught glimpse of  Janssen’s line drawings I knew I had to at least try one of her books, so charming were the imaginative characters in her images, especially the round Moomins, who rather remind me of hippos, although I’ve never heard of a hippo native to Finland.

Finn_Family_Moomin_ch1

In a post on Tove Jansson last year, Jean at Howling Frog books suggested that Finn Family Moomintroll was a good place to start, and so there I did. It is not the first book in the series, but I found no difficulty in starting midstream; indeed according the Jean reading order does not matter. I would say that Finn Family Moomintroll  is a good January read–its spring/summer setting is just the thing to cure the winter blues.

Then they all threw themselves onto the clouds and shouted “Hup! Hup, hup-si-dasiy.” The clouds bounded wildly about until the Snork discovered how to steer them. By pressing a little with one foot you could turn the cloud. If you pressed with booth feet it went forward, and if you rocked gently the cloud slowed up.

Ch. 1

The story itself is more or less episodic, with a new adventure in each chapter, but always in the background, when not front and center as the catalyst for the latest adventure , is the magical Hobgoblin’s hat. This hat is a marvelous thing, for once something is put in, you may never be sure what will come out. Perhaps outlandish words or raspberry juice or clouds? Reading this, I feel that Jansson surely in some way held on to the soul of a child. Somehow it feels like a memory of my own childhood, and the imaginative games I played with my best friend.

Despite it being a “children’s book,” I feel as if one reading isn’t quite enough. That there is perhaps something I’m missing, so caught up in the delight of reading as I am. But then, perhaps that is the point. Delight seems to have been delegated to the province of children, so caught up are we adults in the “real” world with its responsibilities and difficulties. Yet turning to this book, I am so happy to return to the province of Delight, that I can’t imagine what I am doing mucking about in “reality.” Perhaps the essential element of childhood that Jansson captured was not the wild imagination or whimsy, but the child’s capacity for Delight and Joy and Wonder. And for this alone, I believe I shall visit  Moomin Valley and its inhabitants many times still.

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18 thoughts on “Completed: Finn Family Moomintroll

    1. I’m so glad you and Tom praised them so highly that I was prompted to read about them! I have a feeling that the Moomin books are going to be the series I read this year.

  1. When you think that these books are still very popular today without the benefit of being dramatized in any way and in addition are in translation I think that says a lot about the enduring quality of those stories. Episodic stories seem to have great appeal for kids and adults, maybe it is the convenient size of each episode that makes them in part so appealing.

    1. They seem to be more popular outside of the United States–which is a pity as they are truly wonderful stories. I do like episodic stories, as I find them easier to read in scattered bits of time.

  2. The Moomin stories in fact have been dramatized – or cartoonized – but for some reason the cartoons, like the Moomins, have never been well-known in the US. It is a mystery. We must do our part to correct the injustice.

    Your description at the end is good. I am convinced that there is surprising depth in the Moomin books. But the free play of Jansson’s imagination is the best part.

    1. For me, it’s this little niggling suspicion I can’t quite shake that there’s something there I’m missing. But I’m perfectly content to miss it, if it means I have to keep returning to Jansson’s books. I agree–Jansson’s imagination is what makes them so delightful.

  3. Good to hear that you liked the Finn Family Moomintroll. Even though it wasn’t her first Moomin book, it certainly was the one that made her famous also outside Finland. Also, I do agree with Tom that the cartoons and movies have, unfortunately, lost the some of the magic that the original books hold! (P.S. Definitely no hippos in Finland)

    1. I didn’t think there were hippos! Not unless they exist in a zoo. If Finn Family Moomintroll was the book that made Jansson famous, then it seems that I chose a good one to start with, though I will probably go back and look at the earlier stories as well.

  4. I can’t wait to start on the children’s books, I read Tove Jansson for the first time last year, starting with The Winter Book and then The Summer Book and I have her biography The Sculptor’s Daughter and another novel The True Deceiver to read this year, her 100th anniversary #TOVE100

    I love how you describe discovering her children’s book as an adult, I can’t wait to experience it for myself too, and too pass them on to the children to read. 🙂

    1. So far, this is still the only Tove Jansson book I’ve read–I can’t wait to read some of the other Moomin books, though. I keep seeing such good things about her other books as well, I should probably put those on my list. I hope you enjoy the children’s books!

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