The third Moomin novel for young readers was called Trollkarlens hatt or “The Magician’s Hat” in Sweden when first published in 1948. It was the first Moomin book published in America in 1950, so the English title was an attempt to introduce the characters. Really, Finn Family has nothing to do with the book except that the author is Finnish, and the setting is a fantasy version of Finland. For the American edition, author Tove Jansson lettered this charming introduction from Moominmamma to tell her new readers about the characters:
The book continued to be marketed as the first of the series in America until 1980. This makes sense in some ways because it’s the first one where most of the main characters are present and the story is the first to take place almost entirely in Moomin Valley. It did cause me a lot of confusion when trying to locate the entire series, though.
The Moomins and their friends have spent the long, snowy winter sleeping in the Moomin house, as is their habit. When young Moomintroll awakes on a spring morning, he joins his friends Snufkin the wanderer and Sniff the fearful on an expedition to the top of a mountain where they find a magical hat, though they don’t know about the magic yet. When they bring it home it takes a while for them and Moomintroll’s parents to figure out that any object placed in the hat is magically transformed in unpredictable ways. For instance, eggshells become small clouds that can be ridden into the air and when Moomintroll hides in the hat, he’s changed into someone no one else recognizes.
On the sea shore the Moomins find a boat that has washed up, and they take a voyage in it to the island of the Hattifatteners, those odd creatures something like electric eels with legs and arms that wander in herds on land and sea. They have adventures there and find treasures. When they get home, they find the Moominhouse transformed into a jungle by the hat. New friends Thingumy and Bob arrive with a huge jewel they have stolen from the monstrous Groke. When the Groke arrives to claim it, a trial is held. Then things get even more complicated with the Magician arrives to claim his hat.
Jansson’s imaginative world and creations are a continual delight in this book, and the characters are as charming and appealing as ever, especially when they get into trouble. Recommended. Here are the first two books previously reviewed:
Tove Jansson on Wikipedia.