The Exploits of Moominpappa by Tove Jansson – Review
By Victoria Holdsworth
This Moomin book is basically the life story of Moominpappa, and the events in the book are almost like a prequel to the main series of other Moomin publications. I wouldn’t recommend this book as part of the collection to start with, as I feel you have to love the characters first in order to get the most out of it.
Unlike the other Moomin books, this one is really better suited to adults rather than children. Most of the humour is in Moominpappa’s grandiose wording and inflated opinion of himself, and most children would not really grasp this, without a lot of explanation.
Written in a first person narrative, this book brings to life the journals of a young Moominpappa navigating his way through the world of his quirky adventures, after being abandoned in a newspaper on the steps of the Home for Moomin Foundlings, to the time he ran away to see the world and was lucky enough to meet Moominmamma.
‘I decided to run away. There simply wasn’t anything else to do,’ says Moominpappa.
Pretty soon, he finds he has a talent for building houses and he constructs his first Moomin house. He then meets the mechanical genius Hodgkins, who introduces him to the Muddler who loves acquiring things.
The Exploits of Moominpappa is certainly the funniest book in the series, and is full of fanciful stories and expeditions, which he is relaying to his own children as a side story, within the main story. The characters that are mentioned above, quickly make friends with Moominpappa, and interestingly three new friends turn out to be the fathers of the child characters who become friends with Moomintroll. The Joxter is Snufkin’s father and the Muddler is Sniff’s father.
Hodgkins builds a boat and combines it with the Moomin house to create a sailing vessel called The Oshun Oxtra. Hodgkins, Moominpappa and the Muddler move in, and are soon joined by the Joxter.
After a hair-raising maiden launch, they set sail and soon start having some exciting times. They meet lots of new people and strange creatures, including Niblings.
The hapless band of friends eventually reaches a faraway island, where they meet Mymble and her children, one of which is my all-time favourite Moomins character, Little My. It is on the island that The Mymble has another child, with the Joxter, and that is Snufkin, and the Muddler meets and marries the Fuzzy, with whom he has a son: Sniff.
After some dealings with the island King and some more inventions from Hodgkins, they eventually reach another neighbouring island and settle, becoming friends with a ghost and then launch an exploration to the bottom of the sea. It is during this time that Moominpappa meets Moominmamma, when he rescues her in a storm from a capsized boat.
Moominpappa’s memoirs end at this point, and when he finishes reading his manuscript, there is a knock at the door, and we get the arrival of his old friends Hodgkins, the Joxter and the Muddler, plus the Ghost and the Fuzzy too! The reunion sees all the friends introducing their families from the Moominpappas stories, so it comes full circle.
The Moomins are quite philosophical little creatures and have strong views on family, freedom, happiness, friendship and other important topics.
The notions of the sea in the book, seem to bring out the poetic side of Jansson, and the way she describes the different shades of seawater, as they dive deeper, is so descriptive you could almost dive in with them.
And, as Moominpappa lays down his memoir pen, there’s this: ‘in the foggy dawn they all tumbled out in the garden. The eastern sky was a wonderful rose-petal pink, promising a fine clear August day. A new door to the Unbelievable, to the Possible, a new day that can always bring you anything if you have no objections to it.’
‘The Exploits of Moominpappa’ by Tove Jansson is published by puffin, £6.99 paperback