Once, when Moomintroll was quite small, his father got a cold at the very hottest time of summer. Moominpappa refused to drink warm milk with onion juice and sugar, and he refused to go to bed. He sat in the garden hammock blowing his nose and saying his cigars had a horrible taste, and the lawn was strewn all over with his handkerchiefs. Moominmamma carried them away in a little basket.

When his cold became still worse, Moominpappa moved up to the verandah and seated himself in the rocking chair, with blankets around him up to his nose, and Moominmamma brought him a substantial rum toddy. Only by then it was too late. The rum toddy tasted just as bad as onion milk, and Moominpappa abandoned all hope and took to his bed in the northern attic room. He had never been ill before and took a very serious view of the matter.

When his throat was at its sorest, he asked Moominmamma to fetch Moomintroll and Snufkin and Sniff, and they all assembled around his bed. He then exhorted them never to forget that they had had the privilege of spending their early lives in the company of a genuine adventurer, and asked Sniff to bring him the meerschaum tram from the chest of drawers in the drawing room. But Moominpappa was so hoarse that no one understood what he wanted.

When they had tucked him in and pitied him and comforted him and given him some toffees and aspirin and amusing books, they took themselves off and went back out in the sunshine.

Moominpappa remained in bed, greatly vexed, and at last he went to sleep. When he awoke towards evening, his throat was feeling a little better, but he was still vexed anyhow. He rang the dinner bell at his bedside, and Moominmamma climbed upstairs at once to ask him how he was feeling.

“Just as I thought… I may have told you something about my youth, but obviously you’ve forgotten it all.”

“I feel rotten,” said Moominpappa. “But no matter. Just at the moment it’s important that you take some interest in my meerschaum tram.”

“The drawing- room decoration?” said Moominmamma, surprised. “What about it?”

Moominpappa sat up. “Really, don’t you know it played an important part in my youth?” he asked.

“Well, it was some kind of lottery prize, wasn’t it?” said Moominmamma.

Moominpappa shook his head, blew his nose, and sighed.

“Just as I thought,” he said. “Now, suppose I had died from my cold this morning. Then none of you would have had the least idea of the history of this tram. Probably the same goes for a lot of other important matters. I may have told you something about my youth, but obviously you’ve forgotten it all.”

The first four collectors' editions from Sort Of Books, pictured on the Janssons' summer island of Bredskär“Perhaps some of the lesser details,” Moominmamma admitted. “One’s memory gets a little vague with time… Would you like your dinner now? We have vegetable soup and fruit juice.”

“Ugh,” said Moominpappa gloomily. He turned his face to the wall with a hollow cough.

Moominmamma sat awhile looking at his back. Then she said, “I’ll tell you what: the last time I tidied the attic, I found a thick exercise book, quite unused. Suppose you wrote down the whole story of your youth?”

Moominpappa did not answer, but he stopped coughing.

“Wouldn’t it be convenient now when you’ve got a cold anyway and can’t go out?” Moominmamma continued. “What is it called, memories, when you write about your life?”

“No, memoirs,” said Moominpappa.

“And then you could read to us what you’ve written,” Moominmamma said. “After breakfast, or after dinner, for instance.”

“I’ll have to take some time about it,” exclaimed Moominpappa, pushing the blankets away. “You can’t write a book all that easily, believe me. I won’t read a word aloud before I have a complete chapter, and I’ll read it only to you at first, and afterwards to the others.”

“You’re probably right,” said Moominmamma.

She went to look in the attic and found the exercise book.

“How’s he feeling?” asked Moomintroll.

“Better,” said his mother. “And now you’ll have to keep very quiet because your father is starting his Memoirs today.”

Translated by Thomas Warburton

This is the Prologue to The Memoirs of Moominpappa, as revised by Tove Jansson in 1968 from the original Exploits of Moominpappa, now published in the UK for the first time by Sort of Books


Tove_Jansson_290Tove Jansson (1914–2001) was a Finnish-Swedish writer and artist best known as the creator of the Moomin stories, which were first published in English sixty years ago and have remained in print ever since. In her 50s she began writing for adults, producing a dozen novels and story collections including the classic bestseller The Summer Book. The first four collectors’ edition Moomin hardbacks – Finn Family Moomintroll, The Memoirs of Moominpappa, Moominland Midwinter and Comet in Moominland – lovingly restored to their original 1950s and ’60s designs, are out now from Sort of Books. Four more titles follow in June/October 2018. Read more