Written by Lars Jansson and drawn by Tove Jansson
Drawn & Quarterly
This volume of Moomin contains the final three stories to feature Tove Jansson’s artwork. Her brother Lars, the writer of these three stories would subsequently provide both words and pictures, but this is an ending of sorts.
I looked through the previous review of Volume 4 before starting on this one and to be honest everything there applies here:
“….the simple imagery of the Moomins; hippopotomous nosed white troll creatures, with wide open eyes full of innocence is something deep in my cultural memory and, I’d imagine, yours as well. At first glance, it’s the simplicity of Jansson’s artwork that entices you into the book. It looks just like a classic old strip should look and just to add to the effect, Drawn & Quarterly have printed it on a subtle yellow page, making it immediately feel of some other time.”
“….Tove Jansson’s observations of the world around her fifty years ago now are obviously enchanting whimsy for children, with the incredibly cutesy Moomin family and their adventures, but there’s also a darker undertone to it all that Jansson explores. The Moomins are the dreamers of their world; complete innocents used to make poignant and critical comments about modern life. And although these strips were drawn by Jansson back in the 50s they still resonate today; with themes of social mobility, an environmental message, rejection of the rampant consumerist lifestyle and most of all, the fear and distrust that the outside world harbours towards anyone daring to be simply happy, free and without a care. The Moomins represent freedom, optimism and hope for the future, true innocents abroad.”
The first story; “Moomin Winter” finds our Moomins settling down for a winter’s hibernation – or at least that’s the plan. Interruptions and unwanted guests are continually getting in their way, with our consistently good natured Moomins trying so hard to get on with their guests without displaying their irritation at the disturbances. And then the Nibling turns up;
“Mummy sent me. Said I’d made a nervous wreck of her. You know what she meant?”
“Not yet …..”
The Nibling’s continual interference brings an end to any hopes of hibernation and the Moomins have to deal with both the onset of winter and the Nibling’s continual prying and secret gathering as he spreads deceit and suspicion throughout the Moomin household.
The second story “Moomin Under Sail” features something I never thought I’d see in these beautifully designed and constructed Drawn & Quarterly reprint volumes – a proof reading mistake. One of the daily strips from Moomin Winter appears in Moomin Under Sail by mistake. Nothing terrible, but should have been caught.
Once over this, the actual story is a delight, as the Moomins spend the story looking for an adventure that sees them taking to sea. The first two strips of this story contain a brilliant “break the 4th wall” moment. Something Jansson was never afraid to do, but rarely as perfectly as this:
The final tale; “Fuddler’s Courtship” is perhaps the strangest of the lot, skirting issues of madness and our reactions to those creatures who sit outside our narrow definitions of normality. The Moomins are helping out poor Fuddler in his romantic entanglements, as he tries to win the heart of Mymble. But his inept attempts drive her into the arms of Dr. Hatter, psychiatrist, a man who really defines the concept of “physician, heal thyself”; a mess of anxieties and psychological tics masquerading as a shrink. One by one everyone in Moominland finds themselves undergoing one of his increasingly bizarre treatments.
It’s a great final story, capturing the essence of the Moomins, perfectly at peace with themselves and their world, if only outside influences wouldn’t keep upsetting the delicate balance of this unique and endearing ecosystem.
Jansson’s Moomin strips in this final volume are lovely, surreal things, with lines as sparse and perfectly formed as you would expect. But the addition of Lars as writer gives the strips a slightly darker, stranger, metatextual feel. All the fun is there, but there’s an extra edge here that I didn’t notice in the previous volume. The three stories all revolve around the Moomins being thrust into some adventure or other, drawn apart and then brought back together as one loving family in the end but the issues they address; lost children, family secrets, bribery, guilt, restlessness and madness are dark, deeply philosophical ones.
And it’s that beautiful mix of wonderfully silly children’s tales that mask stories populated by the very adult ideas of the dreamers and deep thinking philospophers of Moominland that make Moomin a pure delight.