The recent lockdown has caused a major disruption to my usual Christmas themed Instagram. Under normal circumstances, I’d have been able to pick up a cheap box of crackers on my lunchbreak at work. Since all shops have been closed and I’m, once again, staying inside as much as possible, it’s been harder tracking them down. Or, at least, tracking them down for a price that is cheap enough considering I’m going to destroy them. Thankfully, I found a box on Oxfam and decided that the additional charitable donation would somehow offset my intentions. While I was browsing the site, I got a bit sidetracked by all of their Moomin related items. I put a whole bunch of stuff in my basket but, after a lot of thought, got rid of all but a few things. One of them was this delightful book containing two stories by Tove Jansson. It seemed like a must for any real Moomins fan.
This book brings together two sweet Moomins stories that will bring joy to plenty of readers. Both are taken from Tales from Moominvalley but have been repackaged in a gorgeous little hardback to raise money for Oxfam. Why not treat yourself to something sweet and help a good cause at the same time? The first story, The Invisible Child, introduces us to Ninny. Ninny is a young girl who comes to live with the Moomin family after she has turned invisible. Ninny faded away thanks to the mistreatment of her previous caretaker. The Moomin family agree to take her in and Moominmamma must find the right medicine to bring her back.
The second story, The Fir Tree, sees the Moomins experience Christmas for the first time. As creatures who normally hibernate during the Winter, the family have no idea about the customs of Christmas. Everything they hear about the festivities fills them with confusion and dread. However, they comply as best they can in case something bad should befall them. Will they ever be able to understand the true meaning of the holiday or are they better off just heading back to sleep?
Both of these short stories are delightful and fun reads. If pushed, I think most people would agree that The Fir Tree isn’t quite as strong as The Invisible Child and doesn’t quite work as well. Although it’s fun to see the Moomins coming to terms with some of humanity’s admittedly weird customs. Their misunderstanding causes a lot of silliness and does help question the materialism of Christmas. I just don’t think it has as much depth as the first story. I guess it just ends up getting a bit repetitive. It relies on one joke that gets stretched as far as possible.
That’s not a bad thing, per se, but when it doesn’t necessarily compare with The Invisible Child. A story that deals with a great deal of complex issues in a seemingly simple way. The story of Ninny is the story of an unloved and abused child. She is lost to the world around her and has lost her identity. The story explores the importance of caring and empathy. The Moomin family must show Ninny that she is safe and welcome in their home before she will be able to show her true self. At the same time, Ninny can only really become visible when she faces up to her past. When she accepts that she was treated badly and deserved better. She must be allowed to be her own person and find acceptance from those around her. It’s a stunning tale that offers a very important message to children.
Though this is only a short book that brings together two previously published tales, both of them seem highly appropriate for this purpose. They both see the Moomins thinking of others before themselves. They are both tales about understanding other people and helping them. The Fir Tree ends with the Moomins giving away their Christmas to the Woodies who are so desperate to experience their own. These are stories that can be enjoyed by children but have so much to offer everyone who reads them.