The Mantle of Invisibility
May 28, 2013 § 1 Comment
When I was a child I often dreamed of being invisible. I fantasized with the thousand possibilities of this existential condition and finally decided that apart from spying on other people´s lives there was probably not much more to it. Yet, spying is an exciting activity for a curious child.
After moving to Norway I came across a short children´s story titled “The Invisible Child“ by Tove Jansson. In Scandinavia, as maybe in other parts of the world as well, Tove Jansson doesn´t need any introduction, however coming from Venezuela I had never heard of her books or the Moomin characters. This is regrettable because the Moomin series is just the kind of books that are truly fantastic for children and adults alike. I´m not going to enter here into the details of Tove Jansson´s literary cosmos (which you can find in the net everywhere like here or here), neither will I discuss the enormous merchandise machinery surrounding all of the Moomin characters (even though I love the mugs and have some at home), as I indicated at the beginning of this post this a story about an invisible child.
This child is called Ninni and contrary to my childhood fantasies does not become invisible of her own accord to have fun spying on others. Ninni becomes invisible as a reaction to her aunt … My book version is in Norwegian, yet below you´ll find my English version of the explanation that one of the characters of the story (Tootiki) provides as to why and how Ninni becomes invisible:
– People can easily become invisible if you scare them often enough (…) Ninni was deeply frightened by an aunt that had taken care of her even though she did not love her. I met this aunt and she was spooky. She was not an angry woman, you can understand anger, she was just ice cold and ironic.
– What does ironic mean? – asked Moomintroll
– Well, if you stumble into a slimy mushroom and end up falling in the middle of a mound of recently cleaned mushrooms- said Tootiki – the natural thing would be that you mother becomes angry, right? No, she does not. Instead she (the aunt) says coldly and shatteringly: “I know that this is your understanding of dancing, but I would appreciate if you refrain from doing this …”
The aunt´s coldness and ironic comments had completely destroyed the self-confidence of the child to the point that she had become invisible to the world. Ninni does not want to be seen because she does not want to be the target of sarcasm. It´s all too painful. When Ninni arrives to the Moomin family she´s not only invisible, but in addition she doesn´t know how to laugh or how to get angry. Through the patience and understanding of a more compassionate environment and by re-learning how to get back in touch with her emotions, which had been crushed, Ninni slowly starts to release them and thus becomes “visible” to the world again.
In a nutshell this is the story of the invisible child, yet you have to read it yourself to appreciate the full spectrum of the Moomin´s universe. These are deeply entertaining books, full of messages and hidden warnings for us to head and enjoy.
p.s. The image above is taken from the story “The Invisible Child” by Tove Jansson