In Moominpappa’s Memoirs, Moominpappa sits down to describe his life of adventure before he became the father of Moomin. The story alternates between Moominpappa’s memoirs and scenes in which he reads the pieces he has written to his family, who then continue to comment on it and ask questions.
Ever since I visited Sweden, I knew I had to read the Moomin books. Two of my friends there were great fans of the TV series, and I gave both of them a mug with one of the Moomin-characters on it for Christmas. This made them so happy that I knew the series could no longer be ignored. Unfortunately, now that I am on a book buying ban I am dependent on the library. And it appears (unsurprisingly) that this book is the only one the University deigned to buy in Dutch translation, the others are all in Swedish. I expect this wasn’t the perfect place to start, and yet, Moominpappa’s memoirs convinced me that I need to read the rest of the series.
In many ways, Tove Jansson’s book reminded me of Winnie the Pooh. I am sure I would have loved exploring the world of Moomin back when I was a child, but I expect that many of its subtleties would have passed me by back then. The descriptions of the different kinds of fantasy creatures, all with its own faults and qualities were things I found hard to grasp when I first read Winnie the Pooh and I expect I would have felt the same with this book. Yet, I cannot help but lament how I never had the chance to experience these stories as a child.
Anyway, as an adult, what I found most worthwhile in Moominpappa’s memoirs were its discussions of the many ways people can choose to cope with life. Many stories really deal with questions of our approach to life, while none of them are described as perfect. Moominpappa himself is described as a character keen on fantasy, who prefers to use his imagination. Other characters are either absorbed in thinking and/or scientific discovery, or collecting seemingly random things. Perhaps there is one kind of creature that Jansson describes more negatively: the Hemulen, who stick closely to what should be done and wish to restrict children in their exploits. Unsurprisingly, after reading The Summer Book earlier this year, Jansson feels little sympathy towards these creatures. Nevertheless, they somehow find their place in the end too.
I can imagine Moominpappa himself can get on the reader’s nerves. He is rather full of himself, emphasising his special destiny since birth, his claims to adventure and fame. At first, I found it hard to deal with his self-importance, until I realised that perhaps Tove Jansson meant us to feel this way and actually meant to ridicule memoirs: a genre that is usually written by people who consider themselves important enough to be read about by others.
I thoroughly enjoyed Moominpappa’s Memoirs, though I suspect I may have liked it better if I had read this after first getting acquainted with the world of Moomin through earlier books.