Sunday, June 16, 2013

Finn Family Moomintroll, by Tove Jansson

In this delightful Moomin story, a hobgoblin’s hat comes into the Moomin family’s possession. It has magical powers, and when anything is dropped into it – an eggshell, a poisonous flower petal, even Moomintroll himself – all sorts of amazing transformations take place.

This is my first Moomin book, which I enjoyed very much, but didn’t quite know how to approach. So many weird and wonderful things happen, with so many unusual and original characters, that I was quite thrown, and just had to ride the story as best I could. Better to not try and make any sense of it seemed the best course to take. And then about half way through Finn Family Moomintroll, it struck me that that Tove Jansson’s Moomin world had many similarities to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The more I read on, the more Shakespeare’s imaginative cosmos came to mind. Names like Sniff and Snufkin are certainly like something straight out of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while the zany Moominmamma reminded me of Titania, Queen of the Fairies.

The Book’s History

Finn Family Moomintroll was originally published in Swedish as The Magician’s Hat in 1948. It was translated into English in 1961.

The Hobgoblin’s Hat

When Moomintroll, Sniff and Snufkin discover a Hobgoblin’s hat, it opens the way for all sort of strange and magical happenings. The hat has amazing transformative powers. For example, when an egg shell is dropped into the hat, it turns into five clouds that Moomintroll and his friends use to fly around on. Moominmama decides to get rid of the hat when they find the hat’s powers too much trouble to cope with, and it gets thrown in the river. But Moomintroll and Snufkin recover it and hide it in a cave. Eventually the Hobgoblin’s hat finds its way back to the Moomin’s house and Moominmamma accidently drops some poisonous pink perennials in it. This turns Moominhouse into a jungle, with fruit trees dropping plums onto Moominpappa’s memoirs as he writes. It's all delightfully nutty, and ends with the Hobgoblin recovering his hat and granting everyone a wish.

Why I liked this Book

I enjoyed Finn Family Moomintroll, especially once I found a way to appreciate its surreal and transformative aspects. It’s like a nonsense novel, where you take a holiday from reality, and wish you could enter Moominvalley and live there for a while.

Finn Family Moomintroll, by Tove Jansson. Published by Puffin. ISBN: 9780140301502  RRP: 16.99