Thursday, 24 September 2009

The Moomins and the Great Flood - 4


It was a mass of small, pale creatures, pushing a sail-boat out. Moominmamma looked at them for a long time, and then she called loudly: 'Those are the wanderers! Those are the Hattifatteners!' and began to run towards them as fast as she was able. When Moomintroll, the small creature and Tulippa got there, Moominmamma was standing in the midst of the Hattifatteners (who only came up to her waist), talking and asking questions and waving her arms, and very excited. She asked over and over again if they really had not seen Moominpappa, but the Hattifatteners only looked at her for a moment with their round, colourless eyes and then went on pulling the boat towards the water. 'Oh dear,' Moominmamma exclaimed, 'I was in such a hurry that I forgot they can't speak, or hear anything!' And she drew a handsome Moomintroll in the sand with a big question-mark after him. But the Hattifatteners did not care about her at all, they had got the boat down into the sea and were busy hoisting the sails. (It is also possible that they did not understand what she meant, for Hattifatteners are very stupid.)

The black bank of cloud had now risen higher, and waves were beginning to move on the sea.

'There's nothing for it, we shall have to go with them,' said Moominmamma, at last. 'The shore looks gloomy and deserted, and I don't feel like meeting another ant-lion. Jump into the boat, children!'

'Well, it's not on my head!' mumbled the small creature, but he climbed on board after the others all the same. The boat steered out to sea with a Hattifattener at the helm. The sky grew darker and darker all around, the tops of the waves had white foam on them, and far away thunder was rumbling. As it fluttered in the gale, Tulippa's hair glowed with a very faint light.

'Now I'm frightened again,' said the small creature. 'I'm almost beginning to wish I hadn't come with you.'

'Phooh,' said Moomintroll, but then he lost the desire to say any more and crept down beside his mother. Now and then came a wave that was bigger than all the others and splashed in over the prow. The boat sailed on with stretched sails at a furious speed. Sometimes they saw a mermaid dance by on the crests of the waves, sometimes they glimpsed a whole flock of little sea-trolls. The thunder rumbled louder and the lightning ran criss-cross over the sky. 'Now I'm sea-sick, too,' said the small creature, and then he was sick while Moominmamma held his head. The sun had set long ago, but in the gleam of the lightning they noticed a sea-troll that kept trying to keep abreast of the boat. 'Hello there!' cried Moomintroll through the storm, to show that he was not afraid. 'Hello, hello,' said the sea-troll. 'You look as though you might be a relation.'

'That would be nice,' cried Moomintroll, politely. (But he thought it was probably a very distant relation, because Moomintrolls are a much species than sea-trolls.)

'Jump into the boat,' Tulippa called to the sea-troll, 'otherwise you'll be left behind!'

The sea-troll took a leap over the edge of the boat and shook the water off himself like a dog. 'Grand weather,' he said. 'Where are you bound for?'

'Anywhere, as long as we can go ashore,' groaned the small creature, who was quite green in the face with sea-sickness.

'In that case I had better take the helm for a bit,' said the sea-troll. 'If you keep to this course, you'll go straight out to sea.'

And then he took over from the Hattifattener who sat at the helm, and made the boat alter course. It was strange how much easier it was now that they had the sea-troll with them. The boat danced along, and sometimes it made long leaps over the tops of the waves.

The small creature began to look more cheerful, and Moomintroll shouted with delight. Only the Hattifatteners sat staring indifferently at the horizon. They did not care about anything except travelling on from one strange place to the other.

'I know a fine harbour,' said the sea-troll. 'But the entrance is so narrow that only superior navigators like myself can manage it.' He laughed loudly and made the boat make a mighty leap over the waves. Then they saw land rising out of the sea under the forked lightning. Moominmamma thought it was a wild and dismal land. 'Is there anything to eat?' she asked.

'There's anything you like,' said the sea-troll. 'Hold on, now, for we're going to sail right into the harbour now!'

At that same moment the boat rushed into a black ravine where the storm howled between the enormously high faces of rock. The sea foamed white against the rocks and it looked as though the boat was plunging straight towards them. But it flew light as a bird into a large harbour where the transparent water was calm and green as in a lagoon.

'Thank goodness,' said Moominmamma, for she had not really trusted the sea-troll. 'It certainly looks nice here.'

'It depends on how you judge it,' said the sea-troll. 'I suppose I like it more when a storm is raging. I'd best be off out there again before the waves get smaller.' And then he somersaulted down into the sea, and was gone.

When the Hattifatteners saw an unknown land before them, they livened up; some began to furl the slack sails and others put out the oars and rowed eagerly towards the flowering green shore. The boat put in at a meadow that was full of wild flowers, and Moomintroll jumped ashore with the mooring-rope.

'Now bow and thank the Hattifatteners for the voyage,' said Moominmamma. And Moomintroll made a deep bow, and the small creature wagged his tail gratefully.

'Thank you very much,' said Moominmamma and Tulippa, and they curtsied down to the ground. But when they all looked up again, the Hattifatteners had gone on their way. 'I expect they made themselves invisible,' said the small creature. 'Funny folk.'

Then all four of them went in among the flowers. The sun was rising now, and there was a glittering and gleaming in the dew. 'I should like to live here,' said Tulippa. 'These flowers are even more beautiful than my old tulip. Besides, my hair never really matched it properly.' 'Look, a house made of real gold!' shouted the small creature suddenly, pointing. In the middle of the meadow stood a tower with the sun reflecting itself in its long row of windows. The top storey was made entirely of glass, and the sunlight gleamed in it like burning red gold. 'I wonder who lives there,' said Moominmamma. 'Perhaps it's too early to wake them.'

(to be continued)

translated from Finland-Swedish by David McDuff

The Moomins and the Great Flood - 1
The Moomins and the Great Flood - 2
The Moomins and the Great Flood - 3

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