As I have helped edit the 65th anniversary reissue of the Moomin series, I often sense Moomins floating over my head like tubby cheering spirits. I mean this literally, as I have a vintage Moomin mobile (Moobile?) spinning endlessly above my desk. I found this prize in the old FSG offices before we moved a while ago, and I claimed it as inspiration for my personal crusade to help bring the series to a wider readership in North America than it’s ever had before.
Moominpappa is there, enjoying a bottle of wine and an Agatha Christie novel; Moominmamma is next to him, busy making some sort of berry soup or salad; and above them perch Moomintroll and the Snork Maiden on a cloud in reference to the famous opening scene in Finn Family Moomintroll.
The Moomin books began to be acquired in 1989 by FSG after the original North American editions from the fifties and sixties went out of print and disappeared. By 2003, we finally had all eight books available. But a few years back, when I helped my daughter dress up for Halloween in a very homemade costume as the Moominvalley character Little My, nobody we met had the slightest idea who Little My was—or even that Little My was a fictional character’s name and not a garbled, dyslexic reply.
“And who are you dressed up as, sweetheart?”
“Your little what?”
And so forth.
Not know Little My? Not love and admire this clear-eyed, sassy-mouthed rascal who can sleep curled up in a sewing basket and yet make an outsized appearance whenever she feels like it? She was Tove Jansson’s favorite and is exactly the kind of subversive fictional character any kid should want to emulate.
That fateful Halloween, it was clear to me that we simply needed to sell a whole lot more Moomin books. We needed to get the word out. And now we are making that push. “Pee-hoo!” as Moomintroll likes to shout when he’s happy.
To help publicize the books, we’ve been overwhelmed with amazing quotes in support of the series from luminaries ranging from Philip Pullman and Neil Gaiman to Sir Terry Pratchett and Lauren Child. These smart, important folk will be hugely helpful in spreading the Moomin message.
Because they know there IS a message that needs to get out. These Moomin books are books to believe in and wave a flag for.
Granted, from the outside, a world where a family of hippo-like trolls are the least fantastical characters may seem to offer only escapist reading. But in their funky, offbeat way, the Moomin adventures are powerful, inspiring, and comforting meditations on themes such as self-reliance, creativity, friendliness, and tolerance most of all, tolerance for the quirks and faults of others, and tolerance for one’s own shortcomings as well.
Nobody more than the Moomins knows the value of doing what one needs to do when the spirit moves you, or the importance of seeking colorful companions no matter how difficult and demanding. And nobody better than Little My knows how to poke fun and let the overheated air out if anybody starts to get too goody-goody or sentimental about things.
With the Moomin spirits guiding my crusade onward, I hope the evening will come in the near future where the Halloween streets are peopled with Little Mys, Moomins, Hemulens, Snufkins, and—yes—even Grokes. But Little Mys most of all.