One of the first rare Moomin items that I picked up was the first compendium of strips published by Wingate in 1957, three years after the strip premiered in The Evening News.

I’ll cover this book in all its glory in a later post, but one item of particular interest is the foreword.

Margery Allingham was one of the leading lights of the Golden Age of detective fiction, an aptly named era whose other leading lights included Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Ellery Queen and many others. Detective themes pop up often in the Moomin strips; Moominpappa is seldom happier than when he’s up a tree nursing a glass of whisky, with his snout down in an Agatha Christie novel.

Tove Jansson was a huge admirer of Margery Allingham and her Albert Campion stories and, unbeknownst to her, the publisher sought out Allingham to write the foreword to the book. Allingham was all too happy – she herself was a fan of the strips.

Like all good mysteries, this raises many questions. Did the mutual admirers ever get to meet? Was Agatha Christie also approached? We may never know.

But I can take some delight in reprinting the foreword, verbatim, for the first time in nearly sixty years. I’ll leave it to übersleuths to pick out the two errors made by the author…


Perhaps it is true to say that everybody who has ever held a battered first edition of a classic in his hand has wondered secretly if he would be experiencing the same thrill if the copy was mint new, untried, damp from the press, the ink scarcely dry. I have always thought that for my own part the answer was ‘of course not’. Now I am not so sure.

The saga of the Moomin Family, which has been awaited impatiently by so many of us who have been following the strip in the Evening News, possesses, for me at any rate, the thrill already. I can only explain it by saying that it seems to be an elementary question of quality.

Surely this series is that very rare thing, an instantly recognisable work of art? To be certain of this, I submit, one has only to consider a single drawing. Art experts are forever lecturing us about the purity and economy of line and sometimes the layman is privately put about to discover precisely what the jargon means. But here there is the perfect line and perfect economy and nothing else whatever to get in the way. Even the work of the original master of this genre, Caran D’Ache, was a little more wasteful, a fraction more mannered than these exquisite pictures which say every subtle thing they want to say as purely and simply as a bell rings a note.

On the Moomins themselves I find myself uncharacteristically reticent. Their appeal is so personal and so intricate that I feel chatter about them is like gossip in public about friends.

For me, Snorkmaiden, superbly feminine, divinely innocent, curvacious as Marilyn Monroe, if not quite in the same places, is one of the most endearing heroines I have ever known. Whilst Moomin himself, always screwing up his courage in the deathless cause of knight errantry, has all the touching honesty of a figure from an early Wells novel.

Mama Moomin, too, never without her handbag and discreet apron, must clearly be one of the outstanding fictional figures of our age. Her virtues and her failings are contemporary. If she is making the best of an ignoble impulse to keep up with the Fillijonks or dealing with the psychotic vagaries of a maidservant only likely at the present time, she exudes an affable but obstinate form of courage which one meets almost everywhere in the world today, save in print.

Yet, somehow these are not matters to discuss. It is a very odd thing but when Moomin fans discover each other they do not begin at once a duet of eulogy starting ‘Do you remember when…?’ or ‘Who does Stinky remind you of?’ but are much more likely to sit down trustingly together, speaking of lesser matters, each quietly confident that the other is not only a man of undoubted taste and intelligence, good looking and urbane but also, which is much more extraordinary, absolutely sound at heart.

Margery Allingham