Moomin 2 reviewed by New World Finn

Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip, vol. 2

New World Finn    |    K.A. Laity    |    December 4, 2007

“We are not going to hibernate. We shall create new traditions!”

You could hear the sighs of pleasure around the world when the second volume of Moomin comics was issued by the talented folks at Drawn & Quarterly. Like the first one, this second book is gorgeously produced, the sturdy cover a mix of forest green and wintergreen pink, the creamy interior pages hefty enough for constant re-reading. Moomin frolics in various poses across the textured white on blue endpapers, which seemed designed to provide models for drawing him yourself. The illustration on the front already thrusts us into the heady mix of drama with a serious looking Moomin clasping pinchers, Little My feeding a giant snake into a tower and an anxious Fillyjonk (is there any other kind?) on the telephone spreading word of disaster. Even Moomin Mamma and the Mymble dancing in the mid-summer bonfire take on an ominous look when juxtaposed with those furrowed brows.

The four stories in this volume continue the delightful adventures of the Moomin family. Once again Jansson allows her beloved to roam freely in search of adventures. Of course as soon as wild escapades are really underway, we can count on the troll family inevitably abandoning them to search for peace and quiet. Jansson continues to begin the stories with the iconic image of Moomintroll’s behind, that whimsical circle that she adapts to the needs of the tale. In “Moomin’s Midwinter Follies” we get a glimpse of Moomin laboriously working his way into swimming trunks, only to discover their pond to be frozen over. Moomin Pappa decides the family will not follow their ancestral habit of hibernating for the winter and instead “create new traditions.” The shivering trolls immediately run into Mr. Brisk, the keen winter sport competitor. Of course the mix of plump Moomin bodies and breakneck winter sports lead to delightfully silly antics, but there’s also a darker undercurrent as the Mymble falls hypnotically in love with the “manly” athlete. Moomin Mamma’s simple “well, hm,” speaks volumes along with her arched brows, but the family’s kindly tolerance of eccentricities gives her patience for the foolish romantic. Jansson seems to share her befuddlement with Mymble’s headlong pursuit of the uber-competetive (and oblivious) Mr. Brisk.

That tolerant attitude occasionally leads the Moomins away from their normal happiness. In the second adventure, “Moomin Mamma’s Maid,” they are shamed into hiring a maid by the fussy Fillyjonk who moves in next door. Naturally, they retain the services of the saddest little maid ever, Misabel who arrives with her frightened dog, Pimple, who himself worries about the family discovering “the tragic secret of my life.” Both cower before the rambunctious frolicking of the Moomin clan, trying in their iconoclastic way to help the tightly-wound pair to relax. They only get more agitated, however, leaving Moomin Mamma to cluck over their need to “take everything so tracigally.” It is Pimple who first says wistfully, “I wish I was more Moomin-minded.” So might we all.

“Moomin Builds a House” introduces that irrepressible force of nature, Little My. She and her horde of siblings descend on the Moomin household to create more chaos than their tiny size would suggest. While both the smallest and the worst of the children (always ready to bite), Little My proves to also be a kind of catalyst for Moomin and as likely to use her mischievous habits to help as to frustrate. Her unbridled nature speaks to our secret desire to ignore rules, but for Jansson there are some limits to chaos. Things truly fall apart when even Moomin Mamma decides to take up the hedonistic life preaches by the new prophet in “Moomin Begins a New Life.” Although she dismisses his teachings, observing, “Free! Free? I’ve always felt free,” Moomin Mamma finally gets irked enough by her family’s selfishness to go float in the water and collect seashells, leaving her apron and handbag on the shore. It’s a tribute to the unflappable comfort she provides that the sight of those two items abandoned appears so shocking. The true freedom of the Moomin home relies not on selfish indulgence, but loving compassion and acceptance.

A delightful sense of imagination suffuses every line of the comics. The panel borders arise easily out of the objects on display, as if they are found art objects that also move the narrative forward, like the match unstruck on one side and burned and spent on the other. The wealth of facial expressions, simply rendered but wonderfully realized (just look at page 71 for a terrific range of examples), will bring a smile to anyone’s face. The unconventional world of the Moomins easily conveys the power of imagination and the joy of whimsical invention, but it also shows how easily people are frightened away from these simple pleasures. We should all be so lucky as to become Moomin-minded.

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