Thursday, June 7, 2012

Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson

I was really pleased when I saw Tove Jansson on the list. I loved the Moomin books as a kid, and this gave me an excuse to revisit my childhood.

I think I was about 7 or 8 when I first discovered the Moomins in Finn Family Moomintroll, which my mother gave me. I eventually managed to track down the others at our school’s miniscule library. For years Moominsummer Madness was my favourite, but these days I think Finn Family Moomintroll edges it out, largely because of Thigummy and Bob. They’re one of my favourite literary duos.

Although Comet in Moominland was the first of the books published in English (the prequel The Moomins and the Great Flood was not translated into English until 2005. I still haven’t read it. I may need to track a copy down), it was one of the last I read. It’s a good introduction to the series, because it shows how Moomintroll met his best friend; the carefree tramp Snufkin, and the love of his life the Snork Maiden and her pompous brother, as well as the Hemulen and how the philosophising Muskrat came to live with the Moomins. The character of Sniff is already a regular by Comet in Moominland, he was first found by the Moomin family in The Moomins and the Great Flood. Most of the characters are described as belonging to a particular species or race. The Moomins are moomintrolls; a gentle, white skinned, large nosed, roly poly type of troll, Snufkin is human, the Snork Maiden and her brother are snorks, the Hemulen is a hemulen, but readers never really find out what Sniff is. He’s described as a small animal, and from Tove Jansson’s drawings throughout the book he looks rather like a vole or a shrew.

In Comet in Moominland, Moomintroll and Sniff see signs of an approaching comet and journey to the observatory in the Lonely Mountains to ask the Professors there if the comet will destroy the world. Along the way they meet Snufkin, the Snork siblings and the Hemulen. They arrive home just in time to get Moominmamma and Pappa to safety in the beachside cave they discovered at the beginning of the book. The comet misses Moominvalley and everyone rejoices.

The books have a lovely feel to them. Comet in Moominland is rather lighter on adventure than Finn Family Moomintroll or Moominsummer Madness and the later Exploits of Moominpappa. There’s also less of the Moomin parents than in other books, except for Moominland Midwinter. Moominmamma appears as the fussy, but loving mother figure she has always been, but Moominpappa is hardly in Comet in Moominland.

I can’t recommend these books highly enough. They’re always a delight to read, whimsical and illustrated throughout with the author’s drawings (Tove Jansson was a very accomplished artist), they flow naturally and have a light touch to them. The later books (Tales from Moominvalley, Moominpappa at Sea and Moominvalley in November) are rather more serious and somber. They can be read easily by children and understood, they don’t preach or moralise and they’re just fun.

I couldn’t really recommend anything similar because I simply have never encountered anything quite like them. There’s no real suggested reading order, but Comet in Moominland is a good place to start. After that you get the real cream of the series with Finn Family Moomintroll and Moominsummer Madness.      

No comments:

Post a Comment