When I was in third grade, there was a girl I greatly admired in my class who checked out a Moomin book from the library. Wanting to be like her, I also checked one out.
I hated it. I didn’t get it, I thought it was boring and so I returned it. And I haven’t picked up a Moomin book since.
Some of you may know of my passion with Traveler’s Factory Notebooks. I have begun a small collection of them, since 2016, and when I saw the special collaboration I hungered after one of these:
It is a brown passport size traveler’s notebook with an embossed picture of Little My on the front, and it is only sold in Japan. “Well,” I thought, “at least I have access to the book.”
And so, I began reading Moominland Midwinter last night, and this time I am utterly entranced. It is one of those books, in my opinion, which is written for children but is really better suited to adults. For the sentences and phrases are powerful when you know enough to appreciate them.
Consider the descriptions of snow:
At dawn the snowdrift on the roof began to move. It went slithering down a bit, then it resolutely coasted over the roof edge and sat down with a soft thump.p. 5
The valley was enveloped in a kind of grey twilight. It also wasn’t green any longer, it was white. Everything that had once moved had become immobile. There were no living sounds. Everything angular was now rounded.p. 9
Moomintroll awakes when a bit of moonlight shines right in his face, and he cannot fall asleep again. He feels terribly lonely, where, “in the drawing room also, grouped around the biggest porcelain stove of the house, the Moomin family lay sleeping their long winter sleep.” And so, he goes out to find Snufkin who went to the South in October.
Of course, Moontroll doesn’t make it, for how could the story continue without his interactions with Little My, Too-ticky, or the Groke? Each character is so charming and so original, that I read this book with great delight.
And suddenly Sorry-oo (the dog) knew that he had made a mistake. They weren’t his brethren at all, and one couldn’t have any fun with them (the wolves). One could only be eaten up, and possibly have the time to regret that one had behaved like an ass. He stopped his tail, which was wagging from pure habit, and thought, “What a pity, I could have slept all those nights instead of sitting here and longing myself silly…”p. 109
Little My had always had the gift of having fun on her own, and whatever she might have been thinking about spring, she felt no need to talk about it.p. 117
“Why didn’t you talk like that in the winter?”said Moomintroll, “It’d have been such a comfort. Remember I said once: ‘There were a lot of apples here,’ and you just replied: ‘But now there’s a lot of snow.’ Didn’t you understand that I was melancholy?”
Too-tricky shrugged her shoulders. “One has to discover everything for oneself,” she replied. “And get over it all alone.”p. 118
“I must get up before the others next spring,” Moominmamma said. “How nice to be on your own for a bit and do what you like.”p. 130
Read this for Anna Book Bel’s Nordic Finds Challenge 2023 as, of course, Tove Jansson is from Finland.