Tove Jansson – Vem ska trösta knyttet?

Title: Vem ska trösta knyttet?
English title: Who will comfort Toffle?
Author: Tove Jansson
Year: 1960

I said I was going to read more Swedish this summer, and so far, I’m doing quite okay (I’ve recently read Don Quijote, Ficciones, Tennisspelarna and Sent i november, all in Swedish, although admittedly not all in Swedish originally. Having liked everything I’ve read so far by Tove Jansson, it felt only natural to read Vem ska trösta knyttet?, kindly lent to me by Martin. It is a very short book with more pictures than text. And it’s great.

The picture on the cover to the right says it very well, I think. Toffle (or knyttet in Swedish) is lonely, because he’s too shy and doesn’t dare to be the first one to say hello. Everywhere he goes, he finds happy people and he dreams to be a part of that, but can’t. Then, he finds a message in a bottle, sent by someone even smaller, more lonely and more scared than he’s. This gives him the impetus to set out on a quest to help his poor soul mate, providing a chance to break the vicious circle he’s in.

This books is somewhat different from the other books I’ve read by Tove Jansson, simply because it isn’t a novel. I would call it a long, illustrated poem (although illustrated seems to imply that the pictures are there to show what the text is about, but it feels like it could be the other way around at times). It’s written in rhyme with the same almost magical language I’ve seen in other books. Since I was too lazy to collect quotes myself, I’ll just steal the ones Martin used in his review:

Då flög en vind från havet in med lockande musik,
en mumrik spelar på sin flöjt i sömnig sommarvik,
nån kappsäck har han aldrig haft och aldrig trånga skor,
han vandrar på den gröna äng där inga sorger bor.

And:

Och knyttet sa: förlåt en resenär
som undrar om ett skrutt har varit här?
Det har hon visst, sa dronten glatt, ett skrutt med trassligt hår
blev alldeles ifrån sig och sprang hemifrån igår,
men vart hon sprang och vart hon finns och var hon sist blev sedd
det vete mårran, men jag tror att hon var gräsligt rädd,
och vem som tröstar henne det är mera än jag vet

The illustrations themselves are unique (same style as the cover) and sometimes also brilliant, and the only visual drawback is that the text is printed using a font simulating handwriting, which is very hard to read.

In all, this book is perfect. It’s easy to read (apart from the font), it’s got language wonderful beyond description and it has a touching story which has implications beyond the pages of the book. Tove Jansson has been climbing on my list for some time now, but if she continues like this, that would be impossible, because she would soon be at the very top.

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  1. Kalle’s avatar

    Me and my girlfriend read this one aloud to each other :) It is wonderful beyond words. The wiriting is top notch, of course — but the illustrations are simply the work of genius.

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