Happy Birthday, Tove Jansson

I love the Moomins. They are philosophers and archetypes. All human life is there, and acceptance for everybody in the little house in Moominvalley, even if you are The Lonely and the Rum. I wanted to run a Moomin poetry tribute blog for Tove Jansson’s centenary, but when I asked the Moomin Marketeers about it they said the “could not allow” people to write about Jansson’s characters on the internet. They have obviously never heard of fanfic. So in defiance of that blanket ban, I am publishing my Moomin poem, about that wandering hippie mystic, Snufkin, the only inhabitant of Moominvalley who does not hibernate but goes off in the winter on adventures of his own.

Snufkin in Winter

The snow cloaks Moominvalley
like a Groke’s wedding veil, already
you’ve had a bellyful of pine needles
but I can’t stomach it, can’t face

a hundred days and nights
of dreaming. So I gift hazelnuts
to the Ancestor Behind the Stove,
roll up my bedding and I’m gone,

through winterwoods to the grey shoreline,
a stowaway in the electric hold
of a tall ship crewed by Hattifatteners,
its prow jostled by ice floes

as we set sail for who knows where.
On the seventh morning, the sun
rises like blood over a seaport city
and I shoulder my pack at the harbour mole,

tread cobbled streets, watch Fillyjonks
in the souks and stews, consider
what the people want with so much
gold. I pitch my tent on a warm beach,

get high with wild-eyed, dusky Mymbles
who embroider secret names
on my sunstruck canvas. I tell them stories
of boreal forests, houses like ships,

Hobgoblins’ hats; of the high magic
that holds with four strong seasons.
Their laughter is shallow bells – I need
the north again. I hitch a ride

with a passing Booble, dodge
the serge-frocked Border Hemulens.
I’m back in the valley before you wake,
sitting on the verandah, where I take

out my mouth-organ, begin to play
All Small Beasts Should Have Bows
On Their Tails
. ‘Hello, Snufkin’, you say,

‘Cloudberry pancakes for breakfast?’

I follow you in. You never do ask
what I’ve been doing, where I’ve been.