Moominland Midwinter: a start

groke

We’ve had a bit of a Moomin hiatus, but last night the lad chose the next book in the series, Moominland Midwinter. As we began, I remembered again why I fell in love with Tove Jansson and her formidable translators.

To set the scene: Moomintroll wakes mid-hibernation, something that has never happened before. He tries to wake Moominmamma, but she can’t wake up. [” *gasp* I wonder if the Groke hibernates?” the lad interjected here.] Moomintroll decides to walk south to find Snufkin. The windows and doors are stuck fast with ice. He climbs up onto the roof through the chimney-sweep’s hatch, where he slips and rolls off the roof onto to the ground, leaving him stranded.

“And so Moomintroll was helplessly thrown out into a strange and dangerous world and dropped up to his ears in the first snowdrift of his experience. It felt unpleasantly prickly to his velvet skin, but at the same time his nose caught a new smell. It was a more serious smell than any he had met before, and slightly frightening. But it made him wide awake and greatly interested.

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.

“This is snow,” Moomintroll whispered to himself. “I’ve heard about it from Mother, and it’s called snow.”

Without Moomintroll knowing a thing about it, at that moment his velvet skin decided to start growing woollier. It decided to become, by and by, a coat of fur for winter use. That would take some time, but at least the decision was made. And that’s always a good thing.

Meanwhile Moomintroll was laboriously plodding along through the snow. He went down to the river. It was the same river that used to scuttle, transparent and jolly, through Moomintroll’s summer garden. Now it looked quite unlike itself. It was black and listless. It also belonged to this new world in which he didn’t feel at home.”

Isn’t that just the best start for an adventure book ever? This is prose poetry for the 5 year old set: brilliantly evocative, enticing, teeming with sensation and promise and just a hint of delicious danger.

I’m looking forward to chapter two.



Categories: Life

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9 replies

  1. I KNEW I liked this blog for a reason!
    I had these books as a child (borrowed from my cousins) and loved them, but for years could never find copies in Australia.
    I finally managed to buy some across two years ago via Amazon and have been reading them to my two boys.
    They are amazingly good books and as you suggested, really well translated.
    I’m glad to see other people enjoying them as well.
    Grendels last blog post..Stocks at an all-time low

  2. Same – we were given one of the beautiful picture books (The Book About Moomin, Mymble, and Little My), and then I went and grabbed the novels as a job lot from the US. The language is so lyrical, and the characters and adventures so engaging. And there is love, and peril, and flaws, and philosophy, and merriment, and feasting.
    I love that the parents just trust the kids (and their merrie friends) to be ok and to look after themselves when they go out on their journeys into the wilderness, even when an Apocalypse impends.
    Plus – the text/translation seems to be designed to read aloud.

  3. I *love* the Moomins. My mother used to read the original Swedish versions to my sister and I when we were young and I remember being so enraptured in the stories that I could dream about them for nights on end. I think that this was what started me on my love of sci-fi and fantasy.
    Having no children, I haven’t read these in ages but I think that it is time that I buy them to read to my cat. I’m sure she’ll enjoy them almost as much as I will! 🙂

  4. I’m not a sci-fi or fantasy fan at all, but I read and read and reread Finn Family Moomintroll and Comet in Moominland as a child. Snufkin is one of my favourite characters ever. Thanks, L, you have reminded me I meant to hunt down the other books.

  5. Oh, and I’m so hugely relieved that the Disney machine has passed it over, so far!

  6. That would take some time, but at least the decision was made. And that’s always a good thing. (Love that.)
    Ah! Thanks for reminding me that I am yet another person who needs to get my hands on these again.
    I haven’t read them since I was a very little kid, but I still remember the very different tone of them; less conciliatory and dishonest than many children’s books, and much, much more interesting and useful as a result. Must. Find. Now. I miss Moomintroll.

  7. Helen:

    Oh, and I’m so hugely relieved that the Disney machine has passed it over, so far!

    Ahhhhhhhhhhh. Ow. Brain bleach required.
    Theriomorph:

    I haven’t read them since I was a very little kid, but I still remember the very different tone of them; less conciliatory and dishonest than many children’s books, and much, much more interesting and useful as a result.

    Absolutely! When reading, I don’t get the impression “this is a story someone has made up for kids”; it’s more of a story bubbling up out of an imagination, a story for everyone. There’s no talking down. And despite its quirkiness, it feels so “true”.

  8. Her memoirs are wonderful too- same unsentimental style and beautifully spare. “A Winter Book” is just too good for me to do it justice. But read it read it if you can.

  9. love all of the book, tove jansson has the best books

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