Friday 22 June 2018

Why we (writers especially) should all love the Moomins

It's the 22nd June which is officially just gone the middle of Summer which in turn means that we'll be on the countdown to Christmas pretty soon. Naturally, I cannot let this time slip by without referring to the Moomins - those adorable, testy, life enhancing, tough and bold characters dreamed up by the brilliant, Tove Jansson.

Image result for tove jansson
Tove Jansson
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am very fond of these books and characters. In fact, the very lovely, Jo Wyton, bought me this book for my birthday...

which was as generous and awesome a gift as any moomin would give (I think that makes you an honorary moomin, Jo, Moomintroll?). It is a wonderful reference guide by the very bearded, Philip Ardagh, to all things Moomin.

Hers is a unique world; a unique vision. It is a world of magic and melancholy, of friendship and family and love, all told with a simplicity and clarity that belies Jansson's remarkable insight into even the smallest creature's hopes, fears and dreams ... And it is peopled with a most heart-warming array of living, breathing funny and lovable characters to be found between the pages of any book. Philip Ardagh (The Ancestor?)

What's so great about the Moomins? Where they live!

They live in a house, which sits in a valley, near to the sea

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does the charm of this setting need explaining? If so, do NOT read on

When one of the many extraordinary-ordinary characters, the free-spirit, Snufkin, returns from his travels, he sees:
There below him lay the Valley of the Moomins. And in the middle amongst the plum and poplar trees, stood a blue Moominhouse, as blue and as peaceful and wonderful as when he had left it.
The Moomin house is central to the stories. It is a home to anyone who needs it, including a reader who can settle in and recognise family loves and woes, the comings and goings and food; yes, they drink coffee. Everybody knows about the Moomin house, even those who live far away. Even if they know nothing of the Moomins, visitors to the valley will drift towards the house and make themselves at home in this most welcoming of places with that most accepting and welcoming of mothers, Moominmama - the roundest, most comfortable and sensible of Moomins.

Plus, who can't love someone who has a beloved handbag which was once taken by Thingumy and Bob because they liked sleeping in 'pittle lockets'.

What reader could not want someone like her in vague charge. She usually always knows what to do and you really, really need that in a world where magic and change and difficult characters, live side by side.

What's so great about the Moomins? The characters!

Which brings me to my next reason for loving the Moomins. If you have never read a Moomin book you may think that these are mere cuddly, wuddly, characters who have nothing much to say. Wrong.

Moominvalley characters may be different and yet we all know them! Tove Jansson gives us every facet of human nature and makes them familiar even in their strangeness to the reader. The immediate Moomintroll family is a tiny bit dysfunctional. Moominpapa has an adventuring heart and always wants to be off in the boat without proper reference to the feelings of Moominmama or Moomintroll in these matters. On the plus side, his family does go with him and have great adventures which only sometimes end in disaster. And Moomintroll has inherited this thirst for adventure, his curiousity

"I think it's very adventurous to float down a winding river," said Moomintroll. "You never know what you'll meet around the next corner." Comet in Moominland

The batty but wise older relation comes in the form of the Moomins' Ancestor who lives in the stove and is incredibly old. He's even older than Grandpa Grumble, who likes a moan. And definitely hairier.

I don't think the Moomins are related to Little My but she spends a lot of time at their house being either, 'glad or angry'.
'Little My is used to taking care of herself ... I'm more worried about the people who happen to cross her path." Moominsummer Madness 
The Hemulens are very fond of rules and can get quite upset when people refuse to take them seriously.

We have the calm thinker, Too-ticky

The child-like, Sniff who wants adventures but when they arrive doesn't know what to do with them.

"Sniff lay under his blanket and screamed." is a fairly typical reaction

Yeah - we've all been there.

Oh, so many minor, brilliant characters. Like The Woodies; 24 tiny children who were lost or abandoned in a park but don't worry they were later rescued by brave Snufkin (although he came to slightly regret it what with all their crying and arguing). Or the Niblings who had the bad habit of chewing off noses if they're too long. And then there's the curious Hattifatteners

".... the little white creatures who are for ever wandering restlessly from place to place in their aimless quest for nobody knows what." Comet in Moominland
And why not.

What's so great? Exciting stuff happens!

This is no sleepy valley where nothing the weather and land stays quiet. There are actual disasters to overcome. When a volcano erupts, Moominmama is quite put out:

"Oh dear me," she said. "What a terribly hot and sooty day. Volcanoes are such a nuisance." Moominsummer Madness
Then there was the tornado which blew the roof of the Fillyjonk's house and the flood which sent the Moomins packing. Only for them to take shelter in an abandoned theatre where the only thing to do was to put on a play for everybody - of course.

Catastrophes happen but the Moomins are never defeated; they simply make the best of it because that's really all you can do.

What so great about the Moomins? There's magic in the air!

The Hobgoblins Hat brings chaos. Midsummer Eve brings a time for wishing. Moominpapa has his very own crystal ball. There are even ghosts. And then there's one of my favourite characters, the invsible Child or Ninny who was so scared that became 'misty and difficult to see'. Don't worry, she nearly recovers eventually.

Why should writers love the Moomins? 

They are cuddly (not all of them - Hattifateners *shudder* but I want to hug lots of them).

They eat proper food, even coffee (I do have a Moomin recipe book)

There is always dark and light in the stories

They have Big Ideas which sometimes don't work but they're not afraid to try them out.

They are sometimes sad. And that's okay.

They make the best of testing situations

They do not judge

Apart from being HUGELY entertaining, the Moomins and all their friends and relations, exist inside the sort of world you never want to end. Tove Jansson also offers an alternative philosophy. Don’t fear the unexplainable or waste time worrying about things that can’t be solved or changed. If your house floods, make the best of that upside-down-view of your kitchen. Live like a Moomin… unless there’s ever a volcano that’s about to erupt near your house. Then maybe it would be better to leave.


  1. I love how, by telling us what's great about the moomins, you teach us so much about writing well! Thank you!

    1. Thanks! I think there was more to say in the lost yellow bits but therein lies a lesson in itself ...

  2. I have never read a Moomin book. #runsaway

    1. It's never too late to read The Moomins - they won't mind

  3. Addy, I feel like secretly I AM a Moomin. (Shhh!)

    1. The secret Moomin is undoubtedly a Moomin!


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