This beautiful book is the very first story in the famous and beloved Moomins saga. With the Moominland exhibition at London’s Southbank Centre, and an upcoming retrospective of Tove Jansson’s art, it’s the perfect opportunity to rediscover their magic.
The Moomins are small hippo-like creatures. Once upon a time, they lived in people’s homes, tucked snugly behind warm stoves, but the advent of central heating has forced them out into the wide world. In this story, Moomintroll is searching for his errant father Moominpappa, an incorrigible wanderer. Accompanied by his resourceful Moominmamma, they are also searching for a warm home for the winter.
Their perilous search sees them face howling storms, raging seas, and the obligatory forbidding forest. There is some vivid and lovely imagery here. A giant tulip, glowing from within, provides a lantern, to light their way through the darkness. As long as it burns, they feel safe. The tulip unfurls to reveal a girl with a mane of bright blue hair. Her name is Tulippa, and she becomes a fellow adventurer.
A later scene recalls the great Willy Wonka. A top-hatted gentleman, in a world of spun sugar grass, bubbling lemonade brooks, and icecream snowflakes. An early inspiration for Roald Dahl?
Aesthetically, the book is a delight. The paper quality and book design is excellent, and the mix of enchanting sepia watercolours and ink drawings, reminds us what a wonderful artist Tove Jansson was. She wrote this book in 1939. In the preface she says:
‘It was the winter of war, in 1939. One’s work stood still….’ The urge was to write a fairy story, to counter the darkness in Europe. ‘Anyhow, here was my very first happy ending.’
The perfect gift for anyone saddened to discover that central heating has robbed them of the chance to share their home with a Moomin.
The Moomin and the Great Flood is published by Sort of Books, 64 pages.