He comes to the valley to seek out someone he believes will be the perfect parent: Moominmamma. The Moomins, however, are nowhere to be found. Their house is inhabited by others drawn to the valley, each looking for something. Toft bears more than a passing resemblance, both emotionally and physically, to Toffle, the hero of Who Will Comfort Toffle? And here it is, in a brand-new translation by the poet Sophie Hannah. As well as being a remarkable writer, Jansson was also an artist and an illustrator, and the black and white pen and ink drawings in the Moomin novels published in the UK by Puffin are incredibly atmospheric. Both to CIM p. Unsatisfied he pressed her: "But what's your very favourite? Hattifattiners - I think Hattifattiners. The name as well, such an exciting word to say, may have been another factor in their popularity. Rebecca's first character assimilation was with Sniff. Leading the way through a bushy park to hunt for tadpoles, I suggested that she was like Moomintroll exploring "mysterious paths". CIM p. We were partway through reading this for the first time, and she was 6. She agreed: "Yes, but I'm Sniff. Ralph can be Moomintroll. Rebecca was correct about the character that was in the lead. At this point in the story p. Asked who I was, I declined the obvious role of Moominmamma, and chose to be Snufkin, adding that he was my favourite. Daddy was happy to be Moominpappa. The next day she again announced she was Sniff. When I tried to elicit why she had chosen him, her reply was: "Because he's the littlest, and because he doesn't really belong to the family". This was a surprise, as he is treated as one of the Moomins, and it is only through the pictures that you can see he is different. Trying to clarify her answer I asked: "You identify with him because he isn't really one of the family, and because he is small? I then queried if she felt sorry for him not belonging to the family, and her "No! That had obviously never occurred to her. Much of his appeal was this very difference. Over the next few days she found superficial reasons for "being" Sniff, the privilege of licking out the custard bowl, for instance cf CIM p. Picking up the book to reread, and giving her the chapter titles, she asked to hear: "'Sniff finds the cave. I find the cave", showing she was identifying with him, even within the reading session. However the next title we read, MsM, does not involve Sniff, and she missed him. Her allegiance changed, and once on the first day of reading this, she had already announced that she was Snufkin instead. A week later I queried this allegiance: "I thought you were Sniff? Gradually her interest in Snufkin replaced Sniff. For instance the story "Cedric" TFM p. Sniff and his missing toy Cedric, were definitely secondary. I replied that Snufkin was my favourite too. Much of her time she went around blowing either a mouth organ or a recorder "flute" as Snufkin does. A competition entry at this time on "My favourite author" was dictated to me. The author of course was Tove Jansson. Part of it explained "I play games. One of the people is one person of the Moomin family, and one is the other. I am usually Snufkin in the game. I play my mouth organ and I pretend I'm going away with my tent". Exactly a year later, at 7. He was just the sort of person she would like to be. In fact, long afterwards when she had just completed school, she went off as a committed conservationist, with her backpack and her tent, to sit up trees in forests threatened by loggers. As soon as she could, she went off independently, just as Snufkin did. She felt "the great delight of walking alone and liking it" TFM p. And her family feet like "Moomintroll who sat at home, who waited for him and admired him, and who always told him: Of course you have to feel free. Naturally you must go away. I do understand that you have to be alone at times" TFM p. Ralph at first assigned himself Moomintroll, because he had been allocated this role by Rebecca when he was only 3. However his interest in Little My was evident as soon as he started to hear the books themselves. She features extensively in his first title, MMw. To the picture of her on p. I very much like her, don't I? All of her pictures were commented on extensively, and on page 59 his monologue went like this. What's she doing? She's talking to an ant! Little My is always cross. Little people are usually cross. I'm quite cross sometimes. Ralph did have a quick temper, and recognised a soul mate. He was also the smallest in the family, though not as small as Little My, who hopes to one day grow as big as an orange. The other trait of Little My which appealed to Ralph, was her imperturbability. Bushwalking, along a narrow cliff track Lerderderg Gorge, Ralph 4. His response was "Little My wouldn't mind it". A long discussion on her ensued, in the course of which he asserted "Little My doesn't mind anything! Little My would like sleeping in mud! Little My is a nice fellow! We all agreed, and I asked him if he was going to be Little My. This gender problem is interesting, and stereotypical unfortunately. It certainly never bothered Rebecca that Snufkin was male. In this case Ralph decided to be Snufkin, and Rebecca opted for Little My - a complete reversal of their usual allegiances. It may not only have been gender which put Ralph off the Little My role. Someone as brave, intrepid and energetic as she, would be difficult to live up to. Rebecca discovered this towards the end of the walk, when both were getting tired. I had reminded "Snufkin" that he likes journeys, and persuaded him to "play" on his grass-straw flute, and sing "All small beasts should have bows on their tails" CIM p. But later still, when Ralph was finally being carried the last stretch, I told Rebecca hopefully that Little My never complains. Ralph consoled me with "Little My would like that, when stuff fell in her eyes! Little My's size caused much discussion. There is, as Rebecca noticed quite soon, some inconsistency in the books. Rebecca's first mention of her - "That My gets bigger all the time" 6. In this case they both appear to be just smallish members of the family. This is in contrast to the My who, in MsM which Rebecca had just heard has her meal set on top of the table, uses a comb to climb to the edge of a cup, and hides and sleeps in Mamma's sewing basket. I want to grow up! Rebecca at 7. Ants are part of the problem with My's size. As Ralph remarked, on hearing the incident where Moomintroll asks My "What does one do to get ants to move? We knew this from the picture MsM p. Size was one aspect of Jansson's varied characters which led to the children, especially Ralph, thinking about and discussing their "realness". Although of course all fictional characters are equally imaginary, the creatures or beasts of Moominland are even more "unreal", in that most of them do not resemble human people, not physically, anyway. Of course their personalities are very clear, and easily identified types - not unlike Dickens's caricatures, for instance. The size of characters relative to each other was often of interest, as with Little My and Ninny above. This is a surprising picture, as we already know that Thingummy and Bob were small enough to sleep in the bureau drawers, and later learn that they even sleep in the pockets of Moominmamma's handbag p. More interesting, and obviously leading into the real-pretend concepts, is the size of the characters relative to our own world. Ralph's very first question, at the beginning of the very first title he heard MMw, he 4. Rebecca, who was also present and the acknowledged expert, held her hand about a metre from the floor, but Ralph chose only about 3 centimetres. I said diplomatically that they could be as big as you wanted to think of them. It seems that Ralph continued to think of them as tiny. Both were interested in the few places where the characters are actually put beside recognisable elements of the actual world. They commented on the picture where Moominntroll and the others are depicted next to a grasshopper CIM p. As Ralph spelt it out at 4. They must be much much smaller than us, cos we're bigger than them [grasshoppers] aren't we? Meanwhile, the book introduces another important theme — that of difference. Her technique is based on freezing the magical instant when neutrality transitions to gender difference, and the fateful decision between curtseying or bowing, wearing a skirt or trousers, must be made. Trollkarlens hatt signals a fundamental refusal to accept adult gender stereotypes and an attempt to replace them with an infantile, fantasised sexuality that resonates through the portrayal of male and female instincts in subsequent books. The fact that all the Moomins have similar anatomies is a reassuring confirmation that no such difference exists. Right at the beginning, Moomintroll is turned into a tarsier after hiding in a hat, which is the symbol of masculinity in the books. His corpulent figure grows thin, his short tail long, his small eyes and ears grotesquely enlarged, etc. Nobody except Moominmamma recognises him. This portrayal of a deformed child, who can be affirmed as normal only by the tender and rehabilitating eyes of its mother, is a primeval scene. The perilous difference is postponed by a blessed maternal gaze. Moominpappa at Sea , and the autobiographical Bildhuggarens dotter ; Eng. The title notwithstanding, the latter book is a tribute to her mother, who was the main, albeit unacknowledged, breadwinner in the family due to her diligence as an illustrator. Jansson was contracted in to draw the Moomin comic strip for Evening News, which consumed most of her time for several years until her brother Lars took over. The paper ordered her not to criticise the government or portray sex. According to the patriarchal genealogy, Moominmamma rolls in from the sea like a latter-day Aphrodite without a history of her own. The self-generating Mymble, a living advertisement for unreflecting motherhood, counterbalances the dominance of males in the colony that Moominpappa founds. The female equivalent of narcissistic promiscuity is Mymble, who has innumerable children the verb form of her Swedish name is slang for copulate. Her daughter turns electric in Sent i november. In Farlig midsommar, the Moomins take refuge on a stage that has floated away during still another flood. It possesses features of a depth psychological coming-of-age novel. Moomintroll triumphs over winter on his own while the rest of the family blithely hibernates. The illustrations depict moods and emotions instead of concrete events, culminating in a melancholy atmosphere of farewell. It can be softer than anything and it can be harder than rock. He finds himself in cahoots with the Groke, who differs from Moominmamma in that she loves nobody and is cold as can be, which fits right in with his attitude towards his own family, which in this book resembles an ordinary, complicated nuclear family. She takes final leave of the social utopia that the family had previously represented. Moominhouse is bursting with other supplicants — Fillyjonk, the Hemulen, Snufkin, Mymble, and Grandpa Grumble — and is starting to resemble a therapy centre where most everyone comes to terms with their need of the Moomins and learns to assume responsibility for their own lives. Nevertheless, the narrative returns to its source, a Nummulite, which turns out to be a sign that points to, diminishes, and depletes the charged image of Moominmamma.
Buy Who Will Comfort Toffle. One of my very favourite comforts of all time is Tove Jansson's Comet in Moominland.
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