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M o o m i n l a n d . c o m !
You may not know the Moomins. I'm not talking about the cartoon characters you catch on children's TV these days, but the original books about the Moomins written by Tove Jansson. Whatever your age, if you are here and haven't read these books, the chances are you will love them. Beg, borrow or buy - you won't regret it!
Tove Jansson's illustrations just add to the magic. There's lots more of them here if you're interested. She drew her first Moomin in the 1930s, just for fun, to tease her little brother by drawing the ugliest creature she could think of. Moomin developed a nicer snout and character and in 1939 he became a character in a children’s story. It's no surprise to learn that Tove was a succesful young artist before writing the Moomins. Her father was a sculptor and her mother a graphic artist. The settings for the Moomin stories are influenced by the more remote parts of Finland she stayed in as a child and where she eventually lived in isolation in her last years.
Find out more about Tove Jansson here
The first Moomin book I read was Moominpappa at Sea, which for an average eight year old was a bit hard going. Still, I was bitten by the bug already and next chose Comet in Moominland and Finn Family Moomintroll. Maybe my reading had improved but these were a lot more accessible - I loved them! Next came my favourite: Moominland in Midwinter, a simply magical and mesmerising story. When for some reason Moomintroll awakes from hibernation he can't get back to sleep and he becomes the first Moomin to see Winter. Unable to awake his family he discovers Winter's dark secrets alone and gets to know the other creatures who inhabit Moominvalley and the Moominhouse whilst the Moomins are hibernating.
The list goes on, but there's no point in me trying to describe these hauntingly beautiful stories here. You can see previews of the first few pages of most of these books at the U.S. Amazon website - click on the book covers below that have 'look inside' tabs on them. If you haven't read any before I'd recommend starting with Comet in Moominland or Finn Family Moomintroll first - I think they provide a good introduction to the characters. Comet in Moominland, published in 1946, was actually the first 'Moomin-proper' Moomin book, although it was Finn Family Moomintroll (1948) that led to widespread international translations and acclaim. There was a lesser known and apparently less developed Moomin book - which was the very first book to be written. Have a look here.
The last book, Moominvalley in November, was published in 1970. For some unbelievable reason Moominvalley in November seems to be out of print at the moment, in the English version at least. Thanks to Dan from the Moominvalley Yahoo! Group I have learnt that Puffin are reprinting four Moomin books in February 2003, and Moominvalley in November is one of these. I suppose, like Moominpappa at Sea the themes are more adult so perhaps this book isn't quite as popular. The central character in Moominvalley in November, The Fillyjonk, is rather unbalanced and disturbing - she gave me my first glimpse of paranoia as a child! Later in her life, when asked about the time she stopped writing the Moomin books, Tove Jansson commented, "I couldn't continue. I couldn't go back and find that happy Moominvalley again." The Moominland in November story isn't about the Moomins at all, but about the other creatures who are waiting for the Moomins to come back. She seems to have known that their simple happiness wouldn't fit into her own life anymore and that she had to move on, but there must have been a part of Tove that, like the creatures in Moominvalley in November, was still waiting for them to come back.
Where can I buy Moomin books?
UK readers: If you can't make it to your local independent bookshop, then in terms of price and service it's between Amazon or Blackwells. Amazon often have big discounts, but you do pay the postage. Blackwells on the other hand currently offer free postage. So it's swings and roundabouts. Click the top half of the book covers for the Amazon price and the lower half for Blackwells.
You can read inside the books on the U.S. Amazon website: