Recently, I ran across a comment online which said that most of the characters in the Moomin books are introverts.* At first, I was surprised. After all, can you make an entire book (much less a series) populated mostly by introverts?!
Well, it probably helps being Finnish. Introverts supposedly are a large part of the population there.** You also end up with a very different sort of book.
The Moomin books often end up seeming quite dreamy and wandering, with the various characters getting together to do things, then all going off on their own escapades. Even in one of the more typically adventurous books, Moominsummer Madness , where there is a flood and they float away on a stage (complete with dressing rooms, etc.), they still end up often having adventures each on their own.
Still, it's unusual to have books with that many introverts in it. For instance, Moomintroll (left), the main character, wanders around a good bit on his own in Moominland Midwinter. His family is hibernating, and many of his friends are gone for the winter. Part of the adventure is seeing what goes on during the part of the year he usually hibernates. His friend, the Snork maiden (right), is sweet and somewhat more forthcoming than he is, but still not really extroverted.
Even a character like Little My (left)- loud and opinionated, with no tact whatsoever and not seeing a need for it - is quite happy on her own in Midwinter where she spends much time sledding down hills on Moominmamma's
tea tray. The grumpy, existentialist muskrat shows up occasionally to give his thoughts, but he prefers to be left alone to read his book, The Uselessness of Everything, in his hammock.
Moominland Midwinter brings out characters that are more introverted and even shy than those in the other books. These creatures come out only when all others are napping and the world is quiet. They include Salome, the little creep (left), the forefather in the bathing house cupboard (who eventually ends up in the chandelier)(more on him another day), the eight invisible shrews (not pictured)(they've gone invisible because they're so shy) and the Dweller Under the Sink (right).***
I think I never really noticed that so many of the main characters were introverts before because they're all happy with it. There's no angst with their introversion. In our society, extroverts are normal, and introverts often feel that they have to measure up. Or they're bothered that they don't. Or, at the very least, they stick out as being unusual.
In the Moomin books, being an introvert is normal, and therefore unremarkable (literally - as in unworthy of remarking upon)(though, of course, that doesn't stop my blogging about it).****
The fact that all the characters are comfortable introverts also changes their interactions in the more populous scenes. No one is trying to "keep up with" or "measure up to" an extroverted interaction style so the characters keep going on their dreamy ways - coming up with whatever odd things drift into their introverted heads. For instance, here's Too-ticky's introduction from Moominland Midwinter (p. 28):
[Moomintroll] forgot the track and continued slowly on his way, looking towards the light. Until at last he saw that it was an ordinary candle, thrust steadily upright in the snow. Around it stood a small sugar-loaf of a house, built of round snowballs. They looked transparent and slightly orange-yellow, like the shade of the night-lamp at home.
On the other side of the lamp someone had dug herself a cosy hole, someone who lay looking up at the serene winter sky and whistling very sofly to herself.
"What song is that?" asked Moomintroll.
"It's a song of myself,' someone answered from the pit. "A song of Too-ticky who built a snow lantern, but the refrain is about wholly other things."
"I see," Moomintroll said and seated himself in the snow.
"No, you don't," replied Too-ticky genially and rose up enough to show her red and white sweater. "Because the refrain is about the things one can't understand. I'm thinking about the aurora borealis. You can't tell if it really does exist or if it just looks like existing. All things are so very uncertain, and that's exactly what makes me feel reassured."
* I am resisting the urge to go find that comment. I end up with more unfinished blog posts that way!
** Resisting the urge to go look this one up too.
Too-ticky rubbed her nose and thought. "Well, it's like this," she said. "There are such a lot of things that have no place in summer and autumn and spring. Everything that's a little shy and a little rum. Some kinds of night animals and people that don't fit in with others and that nobody really believes in. They keep out of the way all the year. And then when everything's quiet and white and the nights are long and most people are asleep - then they appear." (Moominland Midwinter, p. 52)
**** Can I live there?
[Thanks to the Unofficial Moomin Character Guide for some of the pictures and chapter reminders.]