Reviews of Moominland Midwinter (1957) and related work

Moominland Midwinter (1957Text)

Tove Jansson (writer).

Read in 2023.

Moomintroll wakes up and cannot go back to sleep while the rest of his family is hibernating.

The sixth of Jansson’s Moomin books. A fine children’s fantasy: Charming and funny with cleverly constructed scenes and personalities.

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Moominpappa at Sea (1965Text)

Tove Jansson (writer).

Read in 2023.

Moominpappa, who is commonly called only “the dad” (pappan) in the original Swedish, is dissatisfied with the family’s idyllic life in the Moomin valley. They move with him to a remote island where he wants to run the lighthouse.

The eighth of Jansson’s Moomin books, the longest, and the last one where the Moomin family makes an appearance.

Reading this in 2023, before Moominland Midwinter, I interpreted the father’s problem to be toxic masculinity. He insists on his authority, he claims to be taking responsibility for his family but avoids accountability, he rejects input on priorities, he rejects help, and he has little expertise. It is he who orders the move, and it is the move which makes the mother more unhappy than the father was in the valley, their previous home. She is so unhappy, separated from her own interests, that she has a psychotic break where she disappears into the mural she’s been painting to escape from the island. In the finale, Moomintroll—the son—is excited to get his father’s attention, another typical sign of a family made dysfunctional by the father’s mode of masculinity. Jansson must have thought of the father as the villain of the piece.

The island is a site of fear, boredom, embarrassment (those preening seafillies!) and disappointment, at much higher levels than is typical even of Jansson. Its composition is solid, but I wonder whether its bleakness served the emotional needs of children.

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‣‣ Comet in Moominland (1992Moving picture, 70 minutes)

Little My is frequently the best part of a Moomin story. Here I love her battle tactics.

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