The fourth book in the series of Moomin novels written by Tove Jansson, a Finnish author living in Sweden, has a confusing publishing history. It was first issued in English in 1950 under the title The Exploits of Moominpappa. I read and enjoyed that, but later learned of this version, considerably revised and with many new illustrations from 1968, and issued in America in 1994. That’s the one I’m reviewing.
Moominpappa has been working on his memoirs for some time, as mentioned in the previous books. Here he decides to read them aloud to his son Moomintroll and his son’s friends Snufkin and Sniff, whose fathers also appear in these tales of Moominpappa’s youth.
Moominpappa begins with his own childhood. He was raised in an orphanage run by a Hemulen, where food and shelter were provided along with many rules and regulations and little love. When he is old enough, he runs away into the wild forest. He decides his plan is to be a builder and creator of things, and imagines the house he will build for himself. A new friend, Hodgkins, a creature of few words, shows him how to make a water wheel. Soon they meet the Joxter and the Muddler, parents of Snufkin and Sniff, and they decide to build a ship so they can sail away and have adventures. When the ship, the Oshun Oxtra, is completed, they’re unable to launch it into the nearby stream until they trick a monster, the Groke, into doing it for them. From then, the Groke is angry and pursues them, but soon they are sailing on the ocean to new lands.
Many more adventures follow, and we also meet the Mymble, mother of Little My and her sister, as well as the Moomin maiden who will become Moominmamma. This book fills in much of the back story of the Moomins and their friends, and is a fun and exciting read. Jansson’s illustrations are as charming as her prose.