Finn Family Moomintroll [Trollkarlens hatt]
Translated from Swedish by Elizabeth Portch (1958)
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.
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.
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.