The second* in the Moomin
books of Tove Jansson
, published as Trollkarlens Hatt
(the Hobgoblin's Hat) in 1948. The English translation (by Elizabeth Portch) came out in 1950: it was the first to appear in English. (Moominmamma
contributes a preface in her curlicue
It has the same characters as the first book, Comet in Moominland, and no new regulars are introduced. Yet the tone is quite changed. This is the moomins as we know and love them: not having adventures, but simply living around their home, finding things, meeting people, and doing special things as family and friends. Tove Jansson has realized she doesn't need to push the plot along with events. Her delineation of the quiet magic of Moominvalley is assured.
The pace may be seen in the fact that there are only seven chapters. Two of them concern sailing to an island, where the mysterious blind little Hattifatteners are gathering to worship their barometer. The Hemulen has a new passion for botanizing, but a collector is a collector, and he disturbs them with his interest. Exploring the island, the Snork finds a seam of gold, and the Snork Maiden finds a magnificently painted beautiful figurehead washed up as driftwood by a storm, and this she shyly presents to Moomintroll, but after they start taking back their treasures to Moominvalley they are hardly mentioned. The important things are the howling of the wind, the huddling together of friends, the joy of looking at turned-up sand just after a storm: things we all know and understand. Sniff's discovery of half a dipper, and their consolation of the Snork Maiden on the singeing of her lovely fringe, are quite as important as these soon-forgotten treasures.
Treasure of a very real kind does come into the story. On the island, during the storm, the far-sighted and wandersome Snufkin sees a glimpse of the Hobgoblin riding on his black panther and realizes with awe he is not just someone from a fairy tale. An annoying magical hat they had found had been plaguing them with its tricks. Two tiny creatures, Thingummy and Bob, creep into their lives with a secret suitcase. The chilling, unhappy Groke shambles towards their threshold and demands the treasure. Around the enchanted boundaries of the Moominhouse are folk of a wilder magic. They negotiate with both the Hobgoblin (searching all the planets and their moons for the greatest of all rubies) and the sad, deathly Groke.
Snufkin scents the air and decides it is time to move on: to leave the comfort of Moominvalley and follow his sense of adventure out into the wide world. So he will pass winter, as the moomins hibernate. That is what snufkins do. The solitary parting between the friends Moomintroll and Snufkin is unemotional, yet filled with a seasonal sense of imminent yearning. (The Hobgoblin later changes this sadness to something better.)
One passage early on moved me to floods of tears. The mischievous hat has changed Moomintroll beyond all recognition, and his friends the Snork Maiden and Sniff and Snufkin are peremptory with this stranger playing strange games in their midst. Tearfully he goes up to Moominmamma.
'Isn't there anyone who believes me?' Moomintroll pleaded. 'Look carefully at me, mother. You must know your own Moomintroll.'
Moominmamma looked carefully. She looked into his frightened eyes for a very long time, and then she said quietly: 'Yes, you are my Moomintroll.'
* Actually the third, counting the very first one, The Little Trolls and the Great Flood, not available in English at the moment. In my future reviews of Moomin books I shall omit this from my count without comment.