Driving down Westlake Avenue on the way to Lower Queen Anne on Sunday morning, I was stopped at a traffic light and saw a white butterfly weave its way over the car windshields and flutter away. I remembered the part in Finnish author and artist Tove Jansson’s Finn Family Moomintroll when Snork and Moomintroll spot the first butterfly of spring:
“(As everyone knows, if the first butterfly you see is yellow the summer will be a happy one. If it is white then you will just have a quiet summer. Black and brown butterflies should never be talked about – they are much too sad.)”
Moomintroll and Snork saw a golden butterfly, which is the best kind of all. But, fortunately or unfortunately, this summer looks like it will be a quiet one.
Note: For those unfamiliar with the Moomin series, I highly encourage you to read them. First published in 1945 in Swedish, the series concerns a raggle-taggle bohemian bunch of forest creatures from Jansson’s imagination living in an idyllic place called Moominvalley. Central are the Moomins (moomintrolls resemble hippopotamuses in Jansson’s drawings and are “smooth and like sunshine”) – Moominpappa, Moominmamma and Moomintroll – and a whole host of guests and friends including but not limited to a Hemulen, Snufkin, Snork, the Snork Maiden (Moomintroll’s beloved), Little My, a Mymble, a Fillyjonk etc. The Moomintroll books are classics of Scandinavian literature and have been loved worldwide (especially by the Japanese).
There are nine books in the series and I am haunting the Seattle area to track them all down – I think I still need four. The Moomin books are well written, intelligent, and with countless whimsical adventures and endeavors, endlessly charming. Whether reading about Moominpappa’s constant work on his Memoirs (from his “wilder” days) or reading about how Mymble’s like brushing their hair or Hemulens have a natural propensity for melancholy, I have been entranced.