Moomins do not like winter. In one of Tove Jansson’s stories, Moomin’s Winter Follies, young Moomintroll bumps his head when the sea ‘goes hard’, prompting Moominmamma and Moominpappa to hurry the family into hibernation. They attempt to follow the tradition of their ancestors by scoffing pine needles and covering the furniture in dust sheets before bedding down on hay, but Moominpappa, for one, is troubled by the prickliness of all this: ‘Who said I must do like my ancestors?’ They briefly abandon the idea and postpone their sleep to try some winter sports, but Moomins are not really built for skiing.
In Moominland Midwinter, which premières on Radio 4 on Christmas Day, the family have finally managed to doze off for the season when a moonbeam strikes Moomintroll right in his doughy white face. ‘And now something happens that has never happened before,’ narrates Samantha Bond, breaking from a whisper into a warning tone. The young Moomin wakes and cannot go back to sleep.
This is naturally very frightening. Mooninmamma will not wake up. The clocks have stopped. There is nothing around to eat except loganberry syrup and half a packet of biscuits and who wants those? Nibbling the paltry provisions beneath the kitchen table, Moomintroll does his best to reassure himself — ‘Spring soon!’ — but then he notices two small eyes peering out at him from underneath the sink.
If you’ve seen Moominvalley, the newest animated TV series based on Tove Jansson’s characters, you’ll know that Moomins can sound decidedly modern these days. Taron Egerton, wonderful as Elton John in Rocketman, lends the series’ Moomintroll the voice of a nice defiant bloke living closer to St Helens than Helsinki. John Finnemore, in the radio play, restores the creature’s innocence in the smallness of his sound.