March 15, 2007

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Moomin, The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip (Drawn & Quarterly, 2006, 95 pages)
By Lucas Lund news@hippopress.com

Finnish writer and illustrator Tove Jansson, who died in 2001 at the age of 86, created the Moomin characters in the 1940s. They attained popularity in Scandinavia, and Jansson’s comics ran in the London Evening News in the 1950s and ’60s.

It seems evident that Jansson wrote and drew not weekly strips, but stories — the four longer episodes reprinted here. She then published them in small bits, a la Dickens (though without his financial hardships).

These characters are charming and simply drawn. The adult Moomin family resembles hippopotamuses. They wish for money, or peace and quiet, or the good life, whatever that might be. The dilemmas created are smoothly resolved, with no dire consequences. This makes a fine read for children, or for adults who tire of the rather bleak tack on which our culture now sails.

I did get a bit tired of the simplicity and homogeneity. I put this book down many times, and wondered what might be the point of reading it. In retrospect, I have the sense-memory of having spent an afternoon in a field of flowers. I thank Jansson (and Drawn & Quarterly) for that bit of instant nostalgia. Still, a reader cannot live on charm alone. B-