Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson

I keep coming back to Tove, don’t I? Those fluffy little creatures the Moomins, with their quiet wisdom, are very appealing, and I guess I’m trying to make up for lost time by reading books I should have read as a child, or at least read to my own children!

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Of course, being an adult reader, I do seem to see subtexts all the time… The life of the Moomins is often strange and unsettling, with little permanence and an ever-changing cast of original little critters; and this volume is no exception.

It is winter time in Moominvalley; the Moomins and all their friends are cosily hibernating when suddenly Moomintroll awakens. The valley is covered with snow, which he’s never seen before, and even though the family stay slumbering, Moomintroll finds it impossible to get back to sleep. Along with the irresponsible and irrepressible Little My, he sets off to explore the winter world, a very different one from his usual one.

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I found that this book had surprising depths; Moomintroll is obviously isolated, separated from his family by their apparent inability to waken, he encounters many strange new peoples and comes across unexpected dangers. And many of his new friends and acquaintances are vulnerable, needing to raid the jam store to survive the winter. Then there is the large-than-life and very hearty Hemulen, who tries to get all the creatures to get involved in his winter sports when all they’re really trying to do is get through the cold days and nights.

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In many ways, Moomintroll seems a little lost, despite his usual practicality; and it’s the new character Too-ticky who appears to be the sensible one, obliquely helping him survive through the cold and deal with threats from The Groke and The Lady of the Cold. And despite the rather threatening environment, Moomintroll has some wonderful new experiences and ends up reunited with old friends and family, as well as plenty of new ones.

“Moominland Midwinter” turned out to be one of the most thought-provoking volumes in the series so far; I’m not sure how I would have reacted to it as a child, but I loved it as an adult!

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