Moominvalley in November

Moomins (Volume 8)

Written and illustrated by Tove Jansson; Translated by Kingsley Hart

Square Fish

Chapter 1
Snufkin
Early one morning in Moominvalley Snufkin woke up in his tent with the feeling that autumn had come and that it was time to break camp.
Breaking camp in this way comes with a hop, skip, and a jump! All of a sudden everything is different, and if you're going to move on you're careful to make use of every single minute: you pull up your tent pegs and douse the fire quickly before anyone can stop you or start asking questions, you start running, pulling on your rucksack as you go, and finally you're on your way and suddenly quite calm, like a solitary tree with every single leaf completely still. Your camping site is an empty rectangle of bleached grass. Later in the morning your friends wake up and say: he's gone away, autumn's coming.
Snufkin padded along calmly, the forest closed around him and it began to rain. The rain fell on his green hat and on his raincoat, which was also green, it pittered and pattered everywhere and the forest wrapped him in a gentle and exquisite loneliness.
There were many valleys along the coast. The mountains rolled down to the sea in long stately curves to promontories and bays which cut deep into the wild country. In one of these valleys a Fillyjonk lived all by herself. Snufkin had met many Fillyjonks in his time and knew that they had to do things in their own way and according to their own silly rules. But he was never so quiet as when he went past the house of a Fillyjonk.
The fence had straight and pointed posts and the gate was locked. The garden was quite empty. The clothesline had been taken in and the woodpile had gone. There was no hammock and no garden furniture. There was none of the charming disorder that generally surrounds a house in summer, no rake, no bucket, no left-behind hat, no saucer for the cat's milk, none of the other homey things that lie around waiting for the next day and make the house look welcoming and lived in.
Fillyjonk knew that autumn had arrived, and she shut herself up inside. Her house looked completely closed and deserted. But she was there, deep deep inside behind the high impenetrable walls and the dense fir trees that hid her windows.
The quiet transition from autumn to winter is not a bad time at all. It's a time for protecting and securing things and for making sure you've got in as many supplies as you can. It's nice to gather together everything you possess as close to you as possible, to store up your warmth and your thoughts and burrow yourself into a deep hole inside, a core of safety where you can defend what is important and precious and your very own. Then the cold and the storms and the darkness can do their worst. They can grope their way up the walls looking for a way in, but they won't find one, everything is shut, and you sit inside, laughing in your warmth and your solitude, for you have had foresight.
There are those who stay at home and those who go away, and it has always been so. Everyone can choose for himself, but he must choose while there is still time and never change his mind.
Fillyjonk started to beat carpets at the back of her house. She put all she'd got into it with a measured frenzy and everybody could hear that she loved beating carpets. Snufkin walked on, lit his pipe, and thought: “They're waking up in Moominvalley. Moominpappa is winding up the clock and tapping the barometer. Moominmamma is lighting the stove. Moomintroll goes out on to the verandah and sees that my camping site is deserted. He looks in the mailbox down at the bridge and it's empty, too. I forgot my good-bye letter, I didn't have time. But all the letters I write are the same: I'll be back in April, keep well. I'm going away but I'll be back in the spring, look after yourself. He knows anyway.”
And Snufkin forgot all about Moomintroll as easily as that.
At dusk he came to the long bay that lies in perpetual shadow between the mountains. Deep in the bay some early lights were shining where a group of houses huddled together.
No one was out in the rain.
It was here that the Hemulen, Mymble, and Gaffsie lived, and under every roof lived someone who had decided to stay put, people who wanted to stay indoors. Snufkin crept past their backyards, keeping in the shadows, and he was as quiet as he could be because he didn't want to talk to a soul. Big houses and little houses all very close to each other, some were joined together and shared the same gutters and the same trash bins, looked in at each other's windows, and smelled their food. The chimneys and high gables and the drainpipes, and below, the well-worn paths leading from door to door. Snufkin walked quickly and silently and thought: oh all you houses, how I hate you!
It was almost dark now. The Hemulen's boat lay pulled up under the alders, and there was a grey tarpaulin covering it. A little higher up lay the mast, the oars and the rudder. They were blackened and cracked by the passing of many a summer; they had never been used. Snufkin shook himself and walked on.
But Toft, curled up inside the Hemulen's boat, heard his steps and held his breath. The sound of Snufkin's footsteps got further and further away, and all was quiet again, and only the rain fell on the tarpaulin.
The very last house stood all by itself under a dark green wall of fir trees, and here the wild country really began. Snufkin walked faster and faster straight into the forest. Then the door of the last house opened a crack and a very old voice cried:
“Where are you off to?”
“I don't know!” Snufkin replied.
The door shut again and Snufkin entered his forest, with a hundred miles of silence ahead of him.
Excerpted from Moominvalley in November by Tove Jansson.
Copyright © 1971 by Tove Jansson.
Published in 2010 by R. R. Donnelley & Sons Company
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.