Who Will Comfort Toffle? – Tove Jansson

More in the Series – Moomin Valley
“More in the Series” scores the other books in a series where one (or more) of the books have made it into the 1001 Books list. Mostly because I’m a bit of a completionist. 

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points.
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point.

We loved this book. C made me read it repeatedly. This may have had something to do with the fact that “Toffle” is quite a lot like the nickname his grandparents (and the rest of my family) call him, so he felt personally connected to the book, but I also think it’s just that it’s so frikkin’ charming!

Unfortunately, it doesn’t score that high. There is no Bechdel pass. There are a couple of named female characters, but the structure of the story is such that every other character interacts in relation to Toffle himself, so no Bechdel. I can’t really give it the diversity pass, but it doesn’t fail either, since the beings that occupy this world bear no real relationship to the real world. So there sort of is diversity – Moomin valley has lots of different kinds of beings in it – but it’s not clear that it is representative of real life diversity.

The story is essentially a love story – Toffle is looking for companionship, and he finds it in the form of Miffle, a classic damsel in distress. She is scared and in trouble and is rescued by Toffle, and they live happily ever after. In this respect it’s fairly typical in terms of gender roles, and also quite fairytale-like.

The thing I like most about it, I think, was the fact that Toffle clearly, throughout the book, wants to join in and make friends, but he is too shy and afraid to do so. But when he is presented with the opportunity to help someone, that becomes his purpose, and in that purpose he finds courage and, ultimately, love. Despite being framed in the fairly typical “damsel in distress” kind of way, there is something going on there to do with finding purpose and courage in helping others that I can’t really be upset by.

It also led C and I to have quite a conversation about making friends in general and how sometimes that can be really hard if you’re shy and you don’t know anyone, and how it’s good to be brave in those situations, but it can be difficult sometimes.

So I have given it an ideology point for that – this idea about making friends, and about finding purpose in helping others.

Honestly, like I said, we were both utterly charmed by the book, and I would absolutely recommend it despite its low score here. Wonderful stuff.

 

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