from Pantperthog to Knockando

Monday, August 06, 2007

Finnside Jokes?

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a children’s book for some time, or at least that’s my excuse for reading kids books (but not Harry Potter and the Phnub Phnub Bleerr, or whatever it is).

Over the past year I’ve read four of the Moomintroll books, including a couple I hadn’t read as a kid. Maybe it’s just they haven’t aged well, or they’re in translation, but how weird are those books? It feels like you’re reading something in code.

The stories themselves are stream-of-consciousness narratives which don’t seem to follow any thought-out plan. But it’s the characters which feel most like an inside joke, with you the reader firmly on the outside of the humour circle.

There are several instances where it seems a character exists only to poke fun at someone Tove Jansson knew. The Muskrat, for instance, moans a lot and likes to think deep thoughts and not be disturbed. I imagine him as being a caricature of a cantankerous, bearded uncle.

In my minds eye I can picture Jansson reading out her stories in family gatherings with everyone collapsing in fits of laughter when the philatelist Hemulen starts going on about his precious stamps, or the Snork Maiden almost falls over a cliff because she’s primping her hair, or whatever. It’s funny when you don’t know the people she’s sending up. It must have been downright hilarious if you did.

In Comet in Moominland, Moominpappa’s obsession with recording his life in his journal – to the point where he feels he has to go out and do something so he’s got something to write about – reminds me a bit of my own dad, ringing me up to check how many football matches I’ve been to last season (and where). Maybe it’s a common trait of dads. Certainly, I’m willing to bet the loving, resourceful, wise, distracted Moominpappa, and the knowledgeable, caring, permission-giving Moominmamma are basically Jansson’s mum and dad in (moomin)troll-suits. (And the thought occurs that Moominpappa would have made an interesting blogger.)

So where is the author in all these trollish happenstances? Is she the boyish hero Moomintroll, or his noisy, messy, small chum Sniff? Or is she the cool and detached Snufkin, watching and going along with the plans of Moomintroll? It seems everyone else she knows is in there somewhere. She must be in there too.

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At 6/8/07 14:29, Blogger starinajar said...

fantastic. well done jon, never thought i would ever read a blog entry about moomins. lol

At 6/8/07 16:34, Blogger Jenny said...

Used to love the moomins. What a blast from the past. Not as cool as choc-a-block though! Do you remember it?


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