My fictional Friday Hoyden is Little My. Little My is a character in the Moominland books by Tove Jansson.
My is probably considered a bit part by many readers. She is relegated to last place in the Moomin-Gallery of characters. Tiny and fierce, she pounces on life with a verve and independence that stands in stark contrast to the more faint-hearted or sedate characters. She comes and goes as she pleases. She is pragmatic, gleeful, angry, fearless, impolite, and completely unbound by social convention.
The Mymble’s daughter, her big sister, reprimands her for her manners and threatens that the Groke will get her if she doesn’t behave, but Little My doesn’t care a bit. When she is treated as incompetent or irrelevant or a burden, she resists this either directly or by snark and misdirection – whatever happens to her, she doesn’t take it lying down. And the one thing that bugs her most of all is being infantilised merely because she is small.
I’d like to share with you a few passages that particularly endeared Little My to me.
The first is from Moominsummer Madness.
But nobody else took any interest in his trapdoor. Only Little My laid herself on her stomach to look down into the water. “I suppose it’s for enemies,” she said. “A splendid trap-door for big and small villains!”
She lay there all day looking for villains, but she unfortunately didn’t find any.
[…the floating theatre runs aground, and My tumbles down through the trapdoor into the water …]
If Little My had been only slightly bigger, who knows if she wouldn’t have drowned. Now she bobbed light as a bubble through the whirls of water and, snorting and spitting, popped her head above the surface again. She floated like a cork and was swiftly carried away by the current.
“This is fun,” said Little My to herself. “My sister’s going to wonder.”
[… My finds and takes refuge in Moominmamma’s sewing basket, is caught in Snufkin’s fishing line …]
“By my hat, if it isn’t a small Mymble,” he said and took the pipe from his mouth. He then poked at Little My with the crochet hook and said kindly: “Don’t be afraid!”
“I’m not even afraid of ants,” replied Little My and sat up.
They looked at each other.
The last time they had met, Little My had been so small as to be nearly invisible, so it wasn’t very strange that they didn’t recognize each other now.
“Well, well, dear child,” remarked Snufkin and scratched his head.
“Well, yourself, with knobs on,” said Little My.
Snufkin sighed. He was here on important business, and he had really hoped to be alone for a few days more before returning to Moominvalley for the summer. And then some careless Mymble went and put her child to sea in a work-basket. Just for the fun of it.
“Where’s Mother?” he asked.
“Somebody ate her,” replied Little My untruthfully. “Have you any food?”
Snufkin pointed with his pipe-stem. A small kettle of peas was simmering over his camp-fire nearby. Beside it stood another with hot coffee.
“But I suppose milk’s what you drink,” he said.
Little My gave a contemptuous laugh. She did not bat an eyelid as she swallowed two brimming teaspoonfuls of coffee and ate no fewer than four peas.
[…My and Snufkin get to know each other…]
“I’ve got a secret, too,” said Snufkin. “In my knapsack. I’ll show it to you after a while. Because I’m going to settle an old account I have with a villain!”
“Big or small?” asked Little My.
“Small,” said Snufkin.
“That’s good,” said Little My. “Small villains are much better. They break more easily.”
The second set of clips are from Moominland Midwinter. Moomintroll awakes in the middle of winter, while his family is still all hibernating. He finds a strange new world of ice and snow, a world populated by a completely different set of creatures, a world that frightens him. While he frets and carps about the unfamiliar wintry landscape, Little My also awakes. She throws herself into the world with gusto and joy, stealing household items from the Moominhouse to improvise skates and toboggans and skis, and running rings around the slow-to-adapt Moomintroll.
In clip one, the Squirrel with the Marvellous Tail has just woken Little My from her winter sleep. She goes outdoors.
The first thing she accomplished was to slip on the icy cliff and sit down very hard.
“I see,” Little My said in a threatening voice. “They think they’ll get away with anything.”
Then she happened to think of what a My looks like with her legs in the air, and she chuckled to herself for quite a while. She inspected the cliff and the hillside and thought a bit. Then she said: “Well, now,” and did a jumpy switchback slide far out onto the smooth ice.
She repeated this six times more and noticed that it made her backside cold.
Little My went back intothe cave and turned her sleeping sister out of the cardboard box. My had never seen a toboggan, but she had a definite feeling that there were many sensible ways of using a cardboard box.
Clip two comes as Moomintroll and Little My prepare for the squirrel’s funeral.
When Moomintroll came out again he had a black bow on his tail. He also made fast a little black bow on Too-ticky’s cap.
But Little My flatly refused to be decorated. “If I feel sorry, I needn’t show it with a bow,” she said.
“If you feel sorry, that is,” said Moomintroll. “But you don’t.”
“No,” said Little My. “I can’t. I’m always either glad or angry. Would it help the squirrel if I were sorry? No. But if I’m angry at the Lady of the Cold, I might bite her leg sometime. And then perhaps she’d take care not to scratch other little squirrels behind their ears just because they’re sweet and fluffy.”
Little My was standing at the top of the slope, shouting with joy and admiration. She had broken a barrel and fastened two of the staves under her boots.
“Here I come,” she cried. Without a moment’s hesitation Little My set out, straight down the hill. Moomintroll looked up with one eye and saw that she would manage it. Her ferocious little face bore the mark of happy confidence and her legs were stiff as pegs.
Suddenly Moomintroll felt very proud. Little My never shied; she hurtled at breakneck speed close to a pine-bole, wobbled, caught her balance again, and with a roar of laughter threw herself down in the snow beside Moomintroll.
“She’s one of my oldest friends,” he explained to the Fillyjonk.
How could you not love her too?
Categories: gender & feminism
Delurking to say that My is one of my favourite characters, too. Even after the depressing scene with the ants in Moominpapa at sea, where her gloriously practical amorality is taken to its obvious conclusion, I couldn’t feel that she had done anything more than was inevitable – she’s a force of nature.
Little My getting so much of the page space in Moominland Midwinter was what made it my favourite Moomin book. I don’t think I read them all though – the basket on the sea and ants isn’t ringing any bells.
I adore Little My. I adore all things Moomin, and all those who have the good sense to adore all things Moomin, but Little My is perhaps the best character of the lot. And kudos on your excellent selections.
Of the available novels, the order goes something like:
Comet in Moominland
Finn Family Moomintroll
The Exploits of Moominpappa
Tales from Moominvalley
Moominpappa at Sea
Moominvalley in November
We’re up to Moominland Midwinter, which is why my Moominblogging abruptly stops there. I expect there will be more!
Plus, cheers for delurking, tynic! I love your wee penguins.
also de-lurking to cheer for little my! i’ve just been getting to know the moomins recently after moving to japan six months ago, where they’re massively popular…little my was the first to catch my attention. i noticed a lunchbox set in a shop with an image of her, scowling, and the caption “i like your kitchen” and i had to think, my god, is this ME in cartoon form?? signs point to yes upon further investigation!
It’s good to find people who love Moomins. (Snufkin was my favourite.) Tove Jansson herself would be a good Friday Hoyden sometime, I think.
My friend who I wrote about is a Finn and I see her very much in little My. Her indomitable personality and raging pride don’t make her dealings with the authoritahs easy.