The hypnotic prose of Tove is definitely getting to me! I keep being drawn back to her work, and I’m gradually accumulating a little collection of Moomin books. This is the third in the series and from what I’ve read is regarded as the first ‘proper’ introduction to all the main Moomin characters. Of course, we’ve encountered many of them in “Comet in Moominland” but it seems that each book in the series introduces a wider range of beings who reside in Moomin Valley. However, FFM was the first of the Moomins books to be translated into English and so I believe it’s often been regarded as the first in the series over here. My very sweet little old Puffin version has a foreword attributed to Moominmamma explaining all about Moomins for English children, which I assume was written in that language by Tove herself!

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FFM opens with the Moomins hibernating, after eating lots of pine needles (yuk!) When Moomintroll awakes it is spring, and with Sniff and Snufkin, he discovers a large hat which he brings home. This, however, is a magic hat, belonging to the Hobgoblin, and it has the ability to change things…. Much fun and mayhem follows, with the arrival of new characters (Thingumy and Bob), adventures with the old (the Muskrat and my favourite, the Hemulen). The extended family has a wonderful boat trip, Moominmamma loses her handbag and the Hobgoblin returns from the moon in search of a royal jewel.

Tove Jansson had such a wonderful way with words, and she’s created such a beautiful and surreal world here. Moominvalley is definitely somewhere you’d like to live – accepting, full of creatures happily getting along together, and the Moomin family itself is so welcoming:

“They had had many strange adventures on this river and had brought home many new friends. Moomintroll’s mother and father always welcomed all their friends in the same quiet way, just adding another bed and putting another leaf in the dining-room table. And so Moominhouse was rather full – a place where everyone did what they liked and seldom worried about tomorrow. Very often unexpected and disturbing things used to happen, but nobody ever had time to be bored, and that is always a good thing.”

All is not sweetness and saccharine though, as there are elements of threat in the story – the Groke, in particular, a most unpleasant creature who freezes the ground where she’s been sitting. The Hobgoblin is a bit unsettling until he arrives, and there is definitely the feeling with his hat that there are some kinds of magic with which it’s better not to meddle…

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The drawings of course are a huge delight, bringing the story, the characters and the valley to life – I actually wish the book was in larger format so the pictures were easier to see, as a small paperback really doesn’t do them justice. I’m definitely finding that if I need to switch off and escape for an hour, Moominvalley is the place to go!

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