Moomin and the Brigands
by Tove Jansson, 1954

Moomin and the Brigands is the first collection of Moomin comic strips to be collected in book form (an earlier serialization of Comet in Moominland adapted into comic form had previously been published in a Swedish newspaper). This would become a massive series, and there are dozens of these collections, first by Tove and then by her brother Lars Jansson.

These stories started after the publication of the fifth Moomin novel (The Exploits of Moominpappa), so many of the familiar characters are already in place, while others are introduced in non-canon ways. In Moomin and the Brigands Moomin, Snufkin, and Sniff are friends, but Moominmamma and Moominpappa are not yet part of the picture; Snork Maiden is introduced midway through the story as a new character; Moomin and Snork Maiden had originally met in a completely different manner in the novel Comet in Moominland.

Beware, massive spoilers follow.

Anyway, in this version of Moominland... Moomin is upset because he has innumerable guests and relations staying in his house. More keep coming, and he hasn't the backbone to turn anyone away, no matter how obnoxious they are. Sniff decides that he will help by flooding Moomin's house, but the guests love the indoor pool; Sniff pretends that he has the mumps and will be staying with Moomin, but the guests have all had it before, and they don't care; they tell the guests that there is an escaped convict at large, and make suspicious noises in the cellar, and get attacked for their troubles.

In desperation, Moomin asks Stinky to come stay at his house; Stinky, in addition to smelling bad, is an all-around vile character, and also likes eating furniture. His presence chases out all the unwanted guests, but the cure is worse than the disease, and Moomin, too, is chased out of his own house. He goes to a policeman for help, is arrested, and Sniff quickly breaks him out of jail; they decide to make their fortune selling snake oil; but the magic potion they brew turns out to be real magic, and makes odd things happen to the people who take it (it turns them into their opposite, for a loose definition of opposite).

And so it goes; we're not even halfway through yet, and the story is hectic, helter-skelter, and cycles through another harebrained scheme about every four strips. The friends dream up one money-making scheme after another, most of them illegal, and we briefly meet Snufkin, who advises them to start a fruit orchard. They get distracted when a beautiful maiden needs rescuing -- Moomin meets Snork Maiden for the first time! -- and they decide to make money by entering her in a beauty pageant, She wins, but Moomin immediately spends all the winnings on buying her jewelry, which is when the brigands finally show up.

The brigands kidnap the jewel-bedecked Snork Maiden, and Moomin sets all of his guests and relations (apparently still wandering homeless) on them; they chase them off easily, and Snork Maiden walks off with all their ill-begotten loot, which they use to build a new house. The end.

This sort of chaos sets the tone for most of the following comic strip collections. They each involve a definite story, but the thread of the plot is often quite tangled. Often the goal is to introduce new characters or amusing art rather than to make much sense, and even more often the goal is a humorous situation -- quite appropriate for a comic strip. While fans of the Moomintrolls or of 1950s comic strips may enjoy these stories for the obvious reasons, it is also worth noting that Tove Jansson's illustrations are most excellent, and are well worth checking out even if you are not a fan of surreal children's comic strips.

The next in the series is Moomin and Family Life

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