November 1st, 2012


Who Would Win in a Fight Between Tove Jansson and Astrid Lindgren?

I'm excited to have taken delivery of my copy of The Moomins and the Great Flood today, Tove Jansson's very first Moomin book, begun in 1939 and finished in 1945. The shadow of the War hangs over Moominland in these early days. The book opens with Moomintroll and Moominmamma wandering in Dantesque fashion through a dark wood. Moomintroll, frightened, asks his mother if there are any dangerous creatures around, to which she replies less-than-reassuringly:

"I shouldn't think so," she said, "though perhaps we'd better go a little faster anyway. But I hope we're so small that we won't be noticed if something dangerous should come along."

Their eventual discovery of Moominpappa towards the end of the book, perched in a tree above the Great Flood and the ruined land beneath it, recapitulates a scene that was being played out across Europe at that time:

"How are you? Have you caught cold? Was the house you built a very fine one? Did you think of us often?"
"It was a very fine house, alas," said Moominpappa. "My dear little boy, how you have grown!"

A biographical note at the end of the book asserts boldly that "Tove Jansson is Scandinavia's best-known and best-loved children's author." Is this true? I mean, she's the one I love best, but is she really better known than Astrid Lindgren? Then again, I think we can agree that both writers nudge Alf Prøysen into the shade, but what about Hans Andersen?

But comparisons are malodorous, and Jansson needs no hyperbole. (Why? Because she was a fucking genius.)