Tales from Moominvalley by Tove Jansson is my first foray into the world of the Moomins. I’d never heard of them until Saila mentioned them. They are apparently hugely popular over in Europe, or Finland anyway. When she gave me a gift card, I thought I’d use it to buy something I felt she would truly buy for me. So I bought three Moomin books.
This one is the sixth in the series, something that is not mentioned anywhere I could find and I swear it wasn’t until last night as I was reshelving it that I saw there’s a six on the spine. (Not unlike Rob’s buying me the fourth Harry Potter book even though I hadn’t read 1-3.) As the title implies, it is a collection of short stories filled with characters who’ve been introduced in the previous five Moomin books. You do not, however, have to have read any of the previous five to enjoy this book because I obviously hadn’t read any of the other books and I really enjoyed this little book very much.
There are nine stories and I especially liked “The Spring Tune” and “The Last Dragon in the World.” Because Snufkin, a vagabond musician, plays a role in both, I assumed I would also very much like “Cedric” but that proved to be my least favorite. I also enjoy “The Fir Tree” which is the last story in this collection. And I really liked “The Hemulen Who Loved Silence.” I liked the rest enough to be smiling even as I type this.
The book is full of quirky and charming characters that pretty much defy easy description. Human looking ones have paws so I am guessing they are not human after all. And everyone is described as quite small so I found myself imagining a world within a world scenarios where teeny tiny creatures exist just beyond our ability to perceive.
Although the stories are filled with these characters, these are not stories for little children. In fact, I would suggest that they belong with tweenagers who are perhaps still wanting to feel safe with cute and fuzzy things but beginning to question their reality, their beliefs, their values, etc. When Snufkin is seeking solitude because he feels inspired to compose music but is interrupted from his revery, his frustration is something a child who is old enough to appreciate the pleasures of solitude will find empathetic. But a younger child might find it alarming that Moominpappa, bored with life in Moominvalley, decides to just leave his family. Older reader,s however, may find it helpful to read about a father leaving the family especially if they, themselves, are struggling with divorce or separation, whether within their own family or a friend’s.
In other words, don’t let the cuteness of the titles, the characters, or the simplicity of the drawings fool you into thinking these are stories for a little child. They truly are perfect for a child who is on the verge of adolescence but still snuggling up with a stuffed animal at night.
The correct order for the books, for those who are interested, is as follows:
Comet in Moominland
Finn Family Moomintroll
Tales from Moominvalley
Moominpappa at Sea
Moominvalley in November