Moominpappa at sea

by Tove Jansson

Other authorsKingsley Hart
Paper Book, 1974





London : Penguin, 1974


Feeling his family's life is too safe and fixed, Moominpappa moves them to a lighthouse on an island to lead a life full of troubles, and indeed they find many mysteries in that lonely place.

User reviews

LibraryThing member GingerbreadMan
I’m a little anxious to write this review. I just know I won’t do this book justice. There’ll be too much name dropping, too little plot description and love, love, love all over the place.

Don’t let the cute name fool you. Tove Jansson’s books about the Moomin family are the exact best books for children ever written. They are funny, adventurous, sad, spooky, melancholy, philosophical, profound and populated with the kind of characters you can use as examples to describe real people (I would love to be Little My, but am probably most like The Fillyjonk). Like all good books for children they are just as readable for adults. Each book in this series has a distinctly flavour of it’s own, from the fun and playfulness of Finn Family Moomintroll to the apocalyptic ambience of Comet in Moominland, from the Shakespearian poetry of Moominsummer Madness to the burlesque tall tales of The Exploits of Moominpappa. Moominpappa at sea and it’s sister novel Moominvalley in November (which deals with what happens in the valley when the safe centre point that was the family is gone) are the last books in the series, and they were my least favourites when I was a child. I liked them too, but thought they were bleak and dark and a little scary and that not enough was going on in them. It’s easy to see why. Those two books are very much in the borderland between children’s literature and adult literature, and they are the ones I most obviously read in a different way now than I did as a child.

It starts with Moominpappa feeling unnecessary. Everything is too steady, too comfortable, too neat. Nobody needs his protection, and he’s miserable because of it. Pappa’s restlessness affects the family and Moominmamma decides they need to move for his sake. A small island with a lighthouse, far out into the ocean will be the family’s new home, a place where Pappa can find a purpose again. But the island isn’t what the family hoped for. It’s grumpy, difficult and barren, whipped by an angry grey ocean and defying description. And it brings something with it – change.

It’s really brave what Jansson does here, letting her beloved family move in genuinely new directions, grow apart even. Mamma misses home, and escapes into memories instead of being a safe haven. Pappa battles with the disappointment of a fulfilled wish. My is her angry cheerful self as ever, but also shows a brutal streak. And Moomintroll comes of age in a way, and even starts to create a strange stormnight relationship with the Groke, the loneliest and most dangerous creature of all, she who freezes everything in her path to death. Yes, this is a sad book in some ways. There’s humour here too, and lots of warmth and insight. And a happy ending that rings so true it gives me goosebumps.

You shouldn’t start with this book. You could, but it finds additional strength if you already know the family in all their frail humanity. I’m reading it for the fourth time I think (third as an adult), and will definitely come here again. I revisit all the Moomin books regularly. I find new things in them every time.

This is not only the finest book for children I know, it’s probably on my top ten list of books ever.
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LibraryThing member evet
What a frightening children's book! The overpowering sense of fear and terror begin as soon as the family leave their familiar valley and set out to sea. The island from the first is strange, disturbing, unfathomable. It's effect on each family member is frightening and when everything begins to flee in terror, I could barely continue reading. The ending left me unsatisfied and uncertain. Children really like this book?… (more)
LibraryThing member JapaG
Moominpappa at Sea takes the moomin family out of their usual surroundings, onto a small light-house island in the middle of the sea. This change forces the family to ponder about what is truly important in their lives, and the meaning of their family.

The book starts slow, and while the moomins agonize over whether the choice to come to the island was right or not, I agonized over reading the book. It just didn't seem to live up to the very high moomin standards that I've grown to expect from Jansson. But as the book started to come to a close, so did the story rise to a new level.

At the end Moominpappa at Sea was competing right there with the best of moomin books. Philosophical, making you think about family and friendship, and once again, the feeling of loneliness and overcoming it through my favorite character The Groke.

Well worth the read for any moomin fan because of the reward in the end.
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LibraryThing member debnance
What do I say about this book? I'm not sure I understood a lot of it. Who, for example, is Little My and how did she get into Moominpappa's family? What exactly are Moominpappa and Moominmamma? Not that any of these questions really matter. I loved the book even though I didn't completely get it. I like books I don't quite get. I like the characters and I liked the author's penchant for slight digression into philosophical thoughts here and there. I've never seen anything about this series, and why is that? Why aren't more good, if somewhat out-there, books from other countries available in the US? Ah, questions, questions, questions.… (more)
LibraryThing member adzebill
Moominpappa at Sea in particular I remember as a child finding eerie and puzzling, but with adult eyes it revealed whole new layers dealing with loneliness, middle age, and the difficulties of solving one’s problems with radical life changes. Mercifully Hollywood has yet to get its hands on the Moomin books and ruin them the way it’s busily doing to Dr Seuss.… (more)
LibraryThing member fuzzi
This was my first Moomin-themed book. I did enjoy it, but it wasn't something I want to reread, and I am not in any hurry to read the others.
LibraryThing member jmattas
This is the best of the Moomin books. It is unbelievably deep and thoughtful -- I think reading this can change lives. It's not exactly for children anymore. It isn't funny like most of the previous books, it raises an air of anxiety from the very first pages onward, when we learn that there's a crisis brewing in the usually so happy-go-lucky Moomin family. There's no real adventure in this book, but a lot of struggles on a psychological level.

The book deals with themes such as sense of inadequacy, alienation, and the chance to start over. It grasped me very deeply, I could relate strongly (once again) to Moominpappa, whom I found very Finnish in this book. Actually, I could find a bit of myself in the responses of all of the Moomin family members to the new, hostile environment. This is a must for re-reading.
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Original language


Original publication date

1966 (English)
1965 (Swedish)


0140306722 / 9780140306729
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