Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson and other Moomintroll books are among my most beloved childhood books. They’re well written and resist the urge to explain.
Back when I read my first Moomintroll books, I was already ten or eleven years old, and I remember vividly how different they were.
Three things stood out for me:
- the all-pervasive feeling of melancholy;
- the humorous quirkiness (or quirky humor);
- its author’s dedication to keeping strange things strange.
Indeed, Tove Jansson is a master in resisting the dreaded Urge to Explain. What goes unquestioned for this strange world’s inhabitants stays unanswered for the reader, and what the characters find strange but can’t explain remains strange for the reader too. It’s only when the characters actually try and find something out that anything is “explained.”
Everybody talks about this “sense of wonder” we all should retain, but that’s actually pretty hard to do if you’re continuously force-fed the notion that everything can be explained and will work out toward a happy ending—aggravated by that incessant bombardment with supposedly “real” mysteries certain kinds of people professionally pretend to know about. Now that’s a poor ersatz for genuine enchantment and our natural sense of wonder!
The Moomintroll books have their dark and brooding passages, and the threats the inhabitants of the valley and the world face are no child’s play indeed. In the first and second installment, these were the flood and the comet—written by Jansson in 1945 and 1946, respectively.1
After all this time, these books are still great, and I can see why they figured—alongside the original Peterchens Mondfahrt by Gerdt von Bassewitz—as my most beloved childhood books.2