The re-reading part:
Comet in Moominland is the first of the Moomin books—we are being clever with our re-read here by reading the books in order! It is a new and innovative technique we are pioneering—and it begins by helpfully not explaining anything that is going on, utilizing the time-honored tactic of letting the reader figure it all out him- or herself.
The first thing there is in Comet in Moominland is a cave. Moomintroll and Sniff discover it, and proceed to fill it with pearls. (Sniff, by the by, is one of those friends who is very nice but also kind of pathetic; depending on your own niceness quotient, you either end up wanting to pat him on the head reassuringly a lot or leave the room so as not to hit him out of aggravation. Most people fall somewhere in the middle of this scale; Sniff’s moments of pathos may be aggravating, but are also completely explicable. Who doesn’t want a cave all to themselves? That they discovered? Because clearly, that would be awesome.) However, upon their later return to the cave, Moomintroll and Sniff discover Something is clearly Up, because the pearls have rearranged themselves in the shape of a star with a tail . . . as have the local seagulls and the ants. Clearly, it is a secret society!
(It is not a secret society.)
The next thing there is in Comet in Moominland is a comet. (Didn’t see that one coming, did you?) After discovering that all the things in nature were arranging themselves in the shape of a comet because of their psychic natural intuition about the existance of a comet that would cause a grave ruckus, Moomin and Sniff head off to an observatory, because alas, they do not themselves posess psychic natural intuition and must therefore look upon the comet with a telescope. Their journey contains crocodiles, a waterfall, a marked lack of lemonade, a new friend with a mouth-organ and a disctinctive lack of regard for material wealth (he’s a Marxist), and also the samba.
Here is the bit that encapsulates the whole of the book: upon discovering that there will be comet of great danger, Moomintroll says, “We must hurry home as fast as we can. If only we can get home to mamma before it comes, nothing can happen. She will know what to do.”
So they go home (there is a pause on the way for samba, lemonade, and miscellaneous encounters with octopi that occur while they walk on stilts above the dried-up ocean). And because, in a book, there cannot be a smoking cave in the first chapter without it going off by the end of the story, Moominmamma wisely evacuates the Moominhouse to the cave, at which point they fall asleep and miss the comet entirely.
Also at some point Moomintroll falls in love! And at the end when they don’t die, he and the Snork Maiden (who is the one he falls in love with) curl their tails together and it is adorable.
The commentary part:
Here are the things I have to say about this book:
1. A fantastical land in which the solution to problems is going home so your mom can fix everything? That is kind of awesome. It is even more awesome because Moomimmamma is really the sensible one in this story; also she makes jam and pancakes and things, so clearly she should be the one to fix the world when it goes all wonky, rather than having someone else less talented and coordinated and with less skill in pancake-making just stumbling over the solution coincidentally.
2. Best description of gratuitous autobiographers ever!
“Mostly my pappa writes in a book called ‘Memoirs.’ It’s all about what he has done in his life, and as soon as he does something else, he writes that down, too.”
“Then surely he hasn’t got time to do very much?” said the Snork Maiden.
“Oh, well,” said Moomintroll. “He makes sure of doing things now and again, even if it’s only to give himself something to write about.”
3. There is a dragon. And a carnivorous tree that eats people. They are in the same book as obsessive-compulsive collecting creatures who only wear house-dresses. The dichotomy is somewhat striking.
4. Let’s not all be killed by a comet that comes by to destroy the earth, okay? It seems like it would be kind of worrying, if only because I do not know of many comet-proof caves in the New York City area, and unfortunately, my skill at pancake-making is distinctly sub-par.