Friday, December 11, 2009

Moomin 101 OR MoominMania!

Allow me to introduce or reacquaint you with the Moomins: those happy little trolls that look like Hippopotami and are the greatest Finnish export since...EVER!

Author/illustrator Tove Jansson began writing fairy tales to escape from the dreariness of World War II. The books, which followed Moomintroll and his family have since taken off into a series of novels aimed for ages 7+ and a comic strip printed in London in the '50s for several years. They're as popular and ubiquitous in Scandinavia as Disney is in America, and with recent re-releases Stateside, they're destined for a North American takeover! The creation of a claymation series in Germany has also cemented their European popularity. The Moomins are also wildly popular in Japan following a popular animated cartoon there.

The books and comic strips follow the creative and bohemian Moomin family and their various friends on wacky adventures.

Here are the main players:

Sweet, gentle Moomintroll, the main character.

His best friend Snufkin, the free-spirited, detached vagabond.

His friend Sniff, the opportunist.

His vain but sweet lady-love Snorkmaiden.

His gentle and comforting Moominmamma.

His adventurous and wander-lusting Moominpappa.

And the mischievous yet insightful Little My. introduce but a few. To get all the goodness, you have to stop in Curious George for your passport to Moominland, via:

The books have been in print in English since their original publication, starting in 1946. Many of the books work well on their own and are not necessary to read sequentially, but here's a chronological list anyway:

Comet in Moominland (paperback, $6.95)

Finn Family Moomintroll (paperback, $6.95)
This was the first of the books to be translated into English, and as such I feel it's the best introduction to the books as the author includes a great preface from Moominmamma and many of the characters are introduced formally.

Moominpappa's Memoirs (paperback, $6.95)

Moominsummer Madness (paperback, $6.95)

Moominland Midwinter (paperback, $6.95)

Tales from Moominvalley (paperback, $6.95)
This one is a collection of short stories whose only relation is the characters are all in Moominvalley.

Moominpappa at Sea
(paperback, $6.95)

Moominvalley in November (paperback, $6.95)

Comic Strip
The comic strips have just now been released in the US from Drawn and Quarterly. Thus far there are four volumes (with the 5th and final coming June 8, 2010). The strips are grouped together into great story arcs that are some original story lines and some drawn loosely from the novels. They work great on their own, or with the novels, or as a quick introduction to the Moomins. These are great for all ages.

Volumes 1-4 (hardcovers, $19.95)

Picture Books

Ms. Jansson also published a few picture books with Moomin characters that are just now being released in English. The first (and only right now) is The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My (hardcover, $16.95), in which Moomintroll, on his way home with milk for Moominmamma, is derailed in an effort to help Mymble find her missing sister Little My. The book is a TOTAL joy, written in verse, with wild and colorful illustrations, and die-cuts throughout the book that expose illustrations from the next pages.


Curious George has ordered in some really great Moomin-related merchandise recently. These tea towels (which work fine on their own as display tapestries, too) and baby blankets are woven from natural materials in Sweden:

Snufkin, the vagabond

Moominmamma and Moominpappa & hot air balloons!

Moomintroll on ice floes!

Moomintroll baby blankets

Tove Jansson didn't just write for the young at heart. She has novels for adults that are just as deep and surreal as the Moomins. The New York Review of Books is re-releasing The True Deceiver, a book about an outcast young girl who inserts herself into the life of an aged and reclusive children's book author.

Another of Jansson's books recently translated into English and released stateside is The Summer Book which follows Sophia and her Grandmother vacationing for the summer on a Finnish island.

Stop in and meet the Moomin family: no matter what age you are you will be enchanted!