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Rationale - Re-telling - Translation - Activities - Reflection

Country: Finland
Language: Swedish
Title: Vem ska tröst knyttet? (Who will comfort Toffle?)
Author: Jansson T.
Publisher: Jakobstads Tryckeri Och Tidnings Ab (1984)
ISBN: 91-20-02767-2
Chosen by: Liliane Kjellman
Cygnaeus School, Mariegaten 11, Turku, Finland.

Rationale for choosing the book:
The main reason for choosing the book, besides the fact that Tove Jansson is one of the best known Finnish authors, is that the Moomin Trolls are very popular among children. Children see them as exciting, charming and interesting figures. The book 'Vem skall trösta knyttet? deals with feelings such as loneliness and shyness from a child's point of view.

Vem skall trösta knyttet tells the story of Toffle, a young Moomin troll, who is always lonely and frightened. He is especially frightened of the dark and wonders who will comfort him, and say: 'At night, you know that things are not as bad  as they appear to be!' He decides to leave his house to seek company, but everyone seems to be busy and Toffle feels even more lonely. He sees Hemulen sitting with his happy guests, but no one notices the small boy standing outside in the dark. Toffle watches and then goes on until he comes to a beach and begins to collect stones in his hat. He still feels depressed, because he cannot show them to anybody. Then he finds a bottle bobbing about in the sea with a message inside. The message is from tiny Miffle, as frightened as can be, who wants someone strong and kind to comfort her. Toffle now feels both strong and bold, ready to comfort Miffle. He walks by himself trying to find the tiny Miffle, and he must now be very brave as Miffle is probably far more scared than he is. Toffle even frightens the awful Groke away and finds Miffle sitting on a rock nearby. Overcome with shyness, he writes her a letter and Miffle thinks he is very kind and good. In the future they will comfort each other and have nothing more to fear.

Once upon a time there was a little toffle who lived all by himself in a lonely house. He was probably far more alone than he thought. In the evenings he lit all the lights and cuddled up under the eiderdown, sobbing to himself because he was so scared. Outside the hemules were walking around with heavy steps and far away Morran´s howl was heard in the darkness. All the doors were closed everywhere, and all the lamps were burning in the homes of all the poor frightened little creatures who comforted each other. But who will comfort Toffle and say something like this: "At night scary things grow much worse than they really are".

The next morning before dawn, when the cold, grey fog was lying round the house, Toffle put his nose out anxiously and sobbed. He had made it after all - but he would rather eat his hat than stay in this house another night. So he fled into the fog and soon he could no longer be seen. But the doors of his house were open and the lamps were still burning. After he had left, Toffle began to miss his house and thought: "I was stupid to let rain and darkness move into my rooms and frighten me". But who will comfort Toffle and tell him that, the day he fled, his house was filled by new, much happier, toffles.

Toffle walked and walked but nothing happened, although there were plenty of people everywhere. He did not see anyone he knew, because he was a very lonely troll and far too shy to say: "Hello, can I talk to you? Meanwhile, four filifionkas rode past whistling and two small green carriages, with eight homsas inside, passed him. So did Mymble with a lingonberry garland hung round her neck, but Toffle hid himself and was not seen at all. But who will comfort Toffle and tell the truth: "if you keep running away you will never find a friend".

Toffle´s new shoes were very tight and his suitcase was heavy and the sun was shining. When night came and the shadows became long, there was not much left of Toffle´s legs, so he sat down on his suitcase. Then a sea breeze flew in with charming music, and a mumrik played his flute in a sleepy summer cove. So, with his suitcase and his tight shoes, Toffle wandered through the green meadow where no sorrows live. But who will comfort Toffle and explain, that a song is better than a suitcase if the road is too long.

Toffle walked on tired legs towards the West; he was as lonely as a toffle could be. There he saw a merry hemule sitting with his guests, lighting big fireworks. They all had flowers in their tails and under the trees there was dancing. Also four merry-go-rounds were whirling with music and singing. The thirteen homsas sat there and each one had a red balloon. The hemule was eating a big blini with raspberry jam and butter. but no-one saw that Toffle was standing outside. So who will comfort Toffle by saying: "Come in and say Good Evening so they can SEE that you are here!"

Little Toffle went onto the beach and found a shell that was big and white. He sat down carefully on the sand and thought: "Oh, how nice that I came here". He put some beautiful pebbles in his hat and watched the calm sea until night came. Far away the big heavy steps of the hemules could be heard, and Morran had disappeared. Toffle took off his shoes and sighed: "How come I feel so sad, although everything is so good?" But who will comfort Toffle by saying: "Little friend, what do you do with a shell if you cannot show it?"

Far out in the black water of the Atlantic a lonely bottle lay drifting until it was washed ashore during the night. Inside it there was a small letter. It was short and sad and the sea had washed away the writer's name. But Toffle managed to make out what was left of the writing. and over the whole beach the July moon shone brightly. "I am scared of Morran´s howling and I have no friends, I feel so forlorn . If you are strong and kind, please try to comfort me a little. I am a very tiny snufkin and it is almost night."

Toffle hid the letter in his pocket, it was the first letter he had ever received. Also, it was written by a girl and this did Toffle a lot of good. Suddenly he felt brave, strong and happy. So he took a cold, moonlight-swim, then emptied his suitcase, sat on it, and rowed out to sea. Two shoes were left on the beach and a hat with pebbles in it.the night was as beautiful as a summer night can be. When someone has to be comforted and protected by a toffle, everything becomes different, magic and new!

In the morning the whole sky was filled with clouds and huge whales were squirting water everywhere. In the middle of the sea the hemule splashed and shouted: "Ugh,ugh, how cold it is!" Toffle spoke to him and said: "I think we have met before!" A filifionka in a party dress passed him waving from her boat, and six sky-blue boats with nine homsas in, greeted Toffle, who shouted: "Hello, oh, it has never happened before, that someone has noticed me! I wish I could stay to chat a little bit more, but who will comfort Snufkin if I stayed here with you?"

Black mountains appeared on the horizon - three wild mountains where scruffles and morrans live - and nineteen homsas were fishing with the dront and laying out their nets peacefully. Toffle spoke to them in a friendly way and said: "Forgive a traveller who wonders if a snufkin has been here?" "Oh, yes, she certainly has, the dront said merrily. A snufkin with tangled hair was quite upset yesterday and ran away from home. But where she ran, where she is and where she was last seen, I haven't a clue. I think she was terribly scared, and who will comfort her now I do not know because I'm on holiday and about to go fishing".

When dust eventually came, small, hairy, creeping things emerged from everywhere. They had pallid night eyes that glistened and they whispered: "There goes a lonely troll, a lonely poor toffle, who believes that he is very strong and very big." Far away in the mountains, Morran´s horrible howl was heard and Toffle hid in the nearest hole. But after fifteen minutes he leapt up, stamped his foot and said: "Now I am more angry than frightened, which is good. I have to comfort Snufkin, I cannot be weak because she is probably even more frightened than I am".

Suddenly everything was quiet and all the lights went out. Morran sat alone like a mountain. All around the ground was frozen and the moon was losing its colour. Toffle said to himself: "This will not be easy since Morran is the worst creature I have ever seen". So he tried to cheer himself up with an angry, martial dance, then he set his teeth deep into Morran´s cold tail. Morran was so amazed that she yelled and ran off into the woods. All this time, Snufkin was sitting on a rock watching Toffle fight. She was easily frightened but it was very easy to comfort her afterwards.

They looked at each other in silence, a toffle and a snufkin, whilst the Summer moon shone. Perhaps Toffle was not to blame for his legs becoming so weak. Lost in his shyness he whispered: "I will write what I mean." and then disappeared. He sat down to write about his great loneliness, about the hemule, about the shell that was so white and smooth, about his thoughts at sea, and about how scared he was. But however much he tried to express himself, there was no letter! If you, the reader, would like to comfort these two, please write a letter from Toffle so that Snufkin will understand! (Here is some paper for your letter. You do not need a stamp, just put the letter in a rose-bush, or any other bush, where you can be sure Snufkin will see it).

After Snufkin had read the letter (she found Toffle´s name a bit difficult) the white rose bush suddenly turned red. Immediately, Snufkin leapt into Toffle´s arms and whispered excitedly: "We must forget how horrible it used to be and remember that we can have so much fun now! I'm really looking forward to going to the sea and collecting beautiful shells. So, that very night, they left in Filifionkan´s boat. All the homsas cheered and shouted and lamps of joy swayed over the sea wherever you looked. "Now we are comforting each other and we will never be frightened again!" .

and they lived happily ever after. THE END

NB This is a working translation for educational purpose only.

Activities for use in school:
1. Discussion around pictures:
The pictures and colours tell a lot about the content. The pictures form a good background for conversation and discussion. The first picture shows Toffle sitting in his house. How does he feel? How can we see this in the picture? The teacher can ask similar questions leading the children into a discussion about how pictures can show feelings eg through colouring and facial expressions. Inspired by the pictures the children might like to tell about their own fears and things that frighten them. Another picture to discuss might be when Toffle comes to the party and nobody notices him. Ask the children what they would do if they were Toffle and very shy, but still would like to make new friends.

2. Writing:
Toffle wants to comfort Miffle but he is too shy to say anything, so he writes a message to her. What does he write to Miffle? The children could write this letter.

3. Drawing and Acting:
The children might choose their favourite episode from the story and either draw it or act it out.

This story was originally written in Swedish, the second language in Finland, and can be heard on the CD which accompanies the EPBC. Also, there is an audio cassette available with Tove Jansson reading the text.

Reflection: As Finland is a very young country, only existing since 1917, the culture and languages spoken by the people are very much influenced by its Swedish and Russian ancestry. Many inhabitants of Southern Finland are, for example, bi-lingual (Swedish/Finnish) as is Tove Jansson. Consider how historical events within cultures might affect the language and customs of different countries.

NB Further literature and language-based activities can be found in
Picture Books sans Frontières
available from or


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ncrcl November 2004