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The Spring Tune is the second episode in the first series of the 2019 television series Moominvalley.

Synopsis

Snufkin's return journey to Moominvalley is disrupted by an overly friendly forest creature. Is it time to hurry back and see his friend Moomintroll?

Plot

Moomintroll eagerly waits for Moominmamma to finish preparing his lunch, hurrying back and forth as she reminds him to take an apple, and an umbrella. He tells his mother that he really needs to go, and she says that she is with him all the way. Moomintroll bumps into Moominpappa as he rushes out of Moominhouse, causing Moominpappa to ask if there is a fire, and Moominmamma explains that it's the first day of Spring, and that their son has some "urgent waiting" to do. Moomintroll runs across the bridge over the river near Moominhouse, and sits on a log, telling himself: "today's the day, I know it is".

Somewhere in a forest, the snow begins to melt. A small, brown creature sniffs the air, and then hides when Snufkin walks past, and the creature smiles to itself before creeping after him. The snow melts from the trees, and a woodpecker hammers away at a tree, inspiring Snufkin to tap his foot and bring his harmonica to his lips, preparing to play his new spring tune, however he stops, saying that he can't compose when he's being watched. The small creature continues to peer at him from behind a rock in great interest.

Snufkin enters a snowy clearing to find Moomintroll sat picking snowdrops near a rock. Snufkin says his name in surprise, and Moomintroll greets him warmly, and asks him if he is about to play his new spring tune. Snufkin can't decide himself whether he is ready to play it yet, and sighs, sitting on the rock beside Moomintroll. He tells Moomintroll that the tune isn't yet ready, and that he also isn't ready to return to Moominvalley yet. Moomintroll understands that Snufkin needs to be free, saying that "sometimes you just have to be alone", although he looks a little sad. Snufkin continues to tell him that a new tune is a serious thing to compose, and looks torn as he tells Moomintroll: "you're a splendid Moomin, but I can't think of you now". He apologises to Moomintroll, but affirms that he has to be alone with his tune.

From the small creature's perspective, we see that Snufkin is in fact talking to a mound of snow that looks somewhat Moomin-shaped. Snufkin is distracted with his thoughts of Moomintroll, and it is not clear if he is talking to the snow as a way to project his feelings, or if he thinks he really does see Moomintroll in that moment, however he is aware that he needs to focus on thinking about his tune instead of his best friend. The small creature shakes it's head, confused at the odd interaction, but continues to creep after Snufkin at a distance as he leaves the clearing.

Meanwhile, Moomintroll sits in Moominvalley, calling out Snufkin's name when he hears a noise in the forest, and sighing when it is revealed to be a squirrel. Snorkmaiden calls over to him, awake after hibernation, and Moomintroll greets her warmly, complimenting her when he asks him to. Snorkmaiden begins to talk about spring, while Moomintroll looks distracted, glancing over his shoulder and commenting pointedly that spring is "a special time". Snorkmaiden holds a bunch of snowdrops, and tells Moomintroll that they herald the return of loved ones, continuing to talk about the flowers as Moomintroll becomes distracted and gazes into the forest behind him.

Elsewhere we see Snufkin walking jauntily down a forest path. The small creature scurries behind him, hiding behind a tree as it follows him.

Snorkmaiden tries to get Moomintroll's attention as he continues to look out into the forest, and she gasps in shock when Moomintroll accidentally called her "Snufkin", distracted by thoughts of his best friend. Moomintroll quickly corrects himself, however Snorkmaiden says how it is the same every year, and becomes upset at feeling that Moomintroll has no time for her. Moomintroll tries to console her, apologising and explaining that it has been so long since he last saw Snufkin, however he gets lost in his thoughts as he speaks about how it will be nice to hear about Snufkin's Winter adventures, and to hear his new tune, and Snorkmaiden has to call his name to get his attention, again. Snorkmaiden's frown slowly subsides as Moomintroll promises that he will give her his undivided attention until Snufkin returns, however Moomintroll hears a noise in the woods and jumps away, calling out Snufkin's name. Snorkmaiden, having been about to lean against Moomintroll, is left to fall down in the grass in his absence. Snorkmaiden's irritation returns, and it is implied that she hits Moomintroll with her flowers.

Sniff arrives to see Moomintroll just as Snorkmaiden is storming away, and she tells him that, unless his name is Snufkin, he's "wasting his time", throwing her flowers onto the ground as she walks away, hurt. Moomintroll is sat down surrounded by some of Snorkmaiden's crumpled snowdrops, and he greets Sniff with little patience. Sniff explains that he needs Moomintrolls help to sell some snowballs, as he thinks they will be in high demand now that spring has arrived. Moomintroll tries to explain that he's waiting for someone, however Sniff is unpeturbed, saying that they can be the first customer when they arrive. Moomintroll helps place a pile of snowballs onto Sniff's stall before slowly backing away and leaving while Sniff is distracted with calling out his sales pitch.

A Hemulen arrives and asks to buy two-dozen snowballs, however Sniff is surprised to find that his stock has all melted into a puddle of water, and he looks around in confusion at the loss of his snowballs, and Moomintroll. The Hemulen leaves, disappointed. Moomintroll sits on the bridge near Moominhouse, hiding behind his umbrella from Sniff. He looks down at the river, sad that Snufkin hasn't yet arrived.

Back in the forest, Snufkin hums a tune to himself, beginning to compose his new spring tune while the small creature continues to follow behind him, watching from behind a tree trunk. Snufkin seems unhappy with his tune, fixing a dam in the river and then tries humming in a higher pitch, however he is distracted by the sound of the small creature snapping a branch. Snufkin looks around but doesn't see any sign of any other creatures, and he frowns deeply for a moment before continuing to make his way through the forest. The creature hides successfully behind the tree trunk, looking relieved at staying hidden.

In Moominvalley, Moomintroll slowly walks back to Moominhouse, looking despondent as he continues to rest his umbrella on his shoulder. Little My stops him before he goes inside the house, calling him over to show him how many times she has managed to spin the Muskrat around inside his hammock, much to the Muskrat's displeasure and apathy. The Muskrat ponders whether Moomintroll can ask Little My to desist, but Moomintroll tells him that he has some urgent waiting to do, and leaves. Little My comments that Moomintroll isn't much fun that day, then prepares to spin the Muskrat again, who sighs.

Inside Moominhouse, Moomintroll finds his mother sat at the table, reading a book. She tilts her head questioningly at him, enquiring about Snufkin, and he shakes his head sadly in response, taking himself off to his bedroom with his head hung. Moomintroll leans against the door to his room, sighing Snufkin's name before opening his bedroom window and looking out over the forest, asking: "where are you?"

Now later in the day, Snufkin pitches his tent and cooks and eats his stew. He hums the tune to himself again as he washes dishes, however he becomes distracted when he catches the creeping creature watching him from a short distance away. He frowns at it with his hands on his hips before sitting down with his back to it, humming the tune loudly to himself in an attempt at a distraction from the prying eyes. However, he quickly becomes irritated again, and tells the creature to shoo. The creature apologises, coming out from behind his hiding spot behind a tree to tell Snufkin that he knows who he is. The creature slowly crosses the river to reach Snufkin, apparently obvlivious to Snufkin's hostility. The creature tells Snufkin how happy he is to meet him, seeming fascinated by him.

At Moominhouse, Snufkin climbs down the ladder from his bedroom window, quietly leaving the house as sleep evades him. He passes the Muskrat, lying in his hammock, who is having a nightmare about being spun by Little My. Moomintroll sits alone on the bridge near his house, looking over in the direction of the forest in anticipation.

In the forest, the creature enjoys a bowl of Snufkin's stew while he tends to his fire, looking unhappy about the uninvited company. The creature talks eagerly of how he knows all about Snufkin, having heard stories from a hedgehog, and Toffle, and his own mother. The creature makes to look at Snufkin's bag, but he snatches it away, rejecting the creature's interest in hearing him play his mouth organ and telling him that he can't just play it on a whim, and that the creature "wouldn't understand". The creature becomes a little upset, sniffling, and Snufkin calms himself and relents, asking the creature for his name, however the creature tells him that he's so small he hasn't got one. The creature becomes talkative and eager again, much to Snufkin's displeasure, and when it asks if Snufkin could give him a name, pressuring him, Snufkin begins to back away. The creature says how it wishes to be as free as Snufkin, but Snufkin tells it that one can't really be free if they "admire someone too much". He adds "believe me, I know", perhaps referring to Moomintroll or one of the creatures he has met on his travels.

The creature continues to pressure Snufkin into talking to him, asking him if he is on his way to Moominvalley, and if he is going to see Moomintroll, telling him that he heard that: "Moomintroll starts waiting for you the second he wakes up from his Winter sleep". Snufkin becomes irritated by the questions, and being reminded about Moomintroll, who he was trying to avoid thinking of so as not to distract himself from his new tune. He tells the creature that he will journey to Moominvalley whenever it suits him, and that maybe he won't go at all, affirming his nomad status. He bumps his head against a large tree branch and falls down in his distraction. The creature points out that if Snufkin doesn't go to Moominvalley, then Moomintroll would be sad. Snufkin pushes himself up and struggles when a thin branch tangles around his leg, eventually storming away, his composure completely lost as he calls out that he "just wants to be left alone!" The creature attempts to follow him, but Snufkin zips up the entrance of his tent after going inside. The creature wishes Snufkin goodnight, and Snufkin responds with a goodbye, still irritated.

However, as the creature begins to leave, sadly, Snufkin sits up in his tent and switches on his lantern, as if struck with a sudden idea. He offers the creature the name "Teety-Woo", saying that it has a "light beginning" with a little sadness to "round it off". The creature considers the name, before howling it into the night affirmatively. Snufkin, seeming apologetic, leaves his tent and begins offering to play Teety-Woo a tune, however he finds his campfire empty. Though his wish to be left alone has been fulfilled, Snufkin looks down unhappily, realising he may have pushed the creature away for good.

Back on the bridge, Moomintroll has fallen asleep, and he slowly slips from the bridge and into the river, waking himself up with a start. He pulls himself to the edge of the river and asks himself what he's doing, waiting out all night for Snufkin. Moomintroll tells himself that Snufkin isn't coming, and once again begins to walk back to Moominhouse with his head hanging low, however he stops and turns around. He sits back on the bridge with determination, telling himself that Snufkin will be here soon.

Within the forest, Snufkin has packed up his tent and is searching for Teety-Woo. He notices the new moon, and makes a wish to find Teety-Woo, looking around eagerly only to find an owl, which seemingly taunts him with it's hoots of "too-whit too-woo". Snufkin sets up camp, again, staring into his campfire mournfully with a blanket wrapped around himself for warmth, and possibly comfort. He expresses how alone he feels, a strange and unfamiliar feeling, and says that he must be ill to be feeling that way.

The forest is dark and grey when Snufkin wakes up, his campfire turned to ashes. He tells himself that it is "time to go", and sets off through the forest, running when he hears unfamiliar noises. Snufkin finds himself tangled in gnarled branches again, pulling himself free and stumbling away in fear, only to drop his mouth organ and watch it fly away in the claws of a hooting owl. Snufkin shakes himself and continues on, spotting Moominhouse in the distance and running desperately towards it, a smile of relief on his face. He pauses in uncertainty when he sees the area looking dark and covered in mist, but continues on. After crossing over the bridge and passing a small hedgehog, he hears the hedgehog remark that it's "no use", and that Snufkin has been gone for "too long" and no-one will remember him there. Snufkin continues with determination, calling out Moomintroll's name when he notices his bedroom lit up through the window. Snufkin calls up to Moomintroll several times, desperately, and looks worried when he receives no response. He climbs up the ladder to the bedroom and peers through the window, smiling and knocking on the window to get Moomintroll's attention when he notices him inside. However, Moomintroll ignores him, and Snufkin's expression falls when he sees Teety-Woo run over to Moomintroll and embrace him in a hug, Snufkin apparently forgotten. Snufkin watches on in shock and falls backwards from the ladder, seeing strange images of an large, hooting owl, and the distorted sound of his mouth organ, before falling backwards into a hammock and becoming tangled up.

Snufkin immediately wakes, crying out for help. He finds that is is morning and that he's wrapped up within his blanket, his nightmarish trip to Moominvalley having been merely a dream. Teety-Woo wishes him a good morning, offering him some breakfast in the form of a worm on a small piece of bark. Snufkin looks thoughtful as he thanks him, and tentatively asks Teety-Woo if he has been to Moominvalley recently, the nightmare still on his mind. Teety-Woo tells him he has never been to Moominvalley and that he's much too busy for that now. Teety-Woo greets several creatures as he leads Snufkin to his new tree-home, tidying out the dry leaves from inside it. Teety-Woo tells Snufkin that now he has a name, everything that happens means something, because it happens to him: Teety-Woo. Snufkin says "good for you", looking genuinely happy for him. Teety-Woo says that he would offer Snufkin his spare room, however he tends to shout in his sleep, and Snufkin laughs bashfully and says that it's time for him to go to Moominvalley and see Moomintroll, saying that, in fact, he really wants to see him. Snufkin smiles to himself, and grins wider when he finds his mouth organ safe in his pocket. He offers to play Teety-Woo a tune, however the creature says that he is too busy at the moment, and Snufkin agrees that Teety-Woo needs a little time to himself.

Snufkin walks happily down a forest path, his thoughts on his new spring tune. He pulls out his mouth organ and begins to play, finally feeling ready for spring to begin, and ready to travel to Moominvalley. He plays the new tune on his mouth organ as he continues to walk.

Moomintroll sits on the bridge near Moominhouse, still waiting for Snufkin. Moominmamma comes to greet him and hands him a cup of tea, sitting down to wait beside him.

Themes

This episode deals with the highly evident theme of loss, and the resulting longing to be with someone who isn't there. Moomintroll deeply misses Snufkin to the point where it affects his relationships with Snorkmaiden and Sniff, due to his distraction of the impending return of his closest friend. Snufkin suffers with the loss of Moomintroll and is shown to be torn between that and the loss of his independence and nomadic lifestyle once he returns to Moominvalley. While Moomintroll is impatient and plans to spend the whole day sat waiting for his friend, Snufkin takes his time, part of him wanting to return to see Moomintroll, while the other part of him isn't ready to end his time away on his travels. Both Moomintroll and Snufkin struggle with fears of abandonment during this episode, however they learn to accept this by reminding themselves that they will see each other again soon if not immediately, with Moomintroll telling himself this aloud. Moomintroll's thoughts of Snufkin dominate his thoughts and actions for most of the story, however he is repeatedly reminded that he isn't alone even if his best friend isn't there, and in the end he embraces Moominmamma's company and stops waiting for his friend alone.

Whereas many adaptions have focused on Moomintroll's tendency to become emotional, and how strongly the absence of Snufkin affects him, this version of the story mainly focuses on Snufkin's emotional struggles, and his fears of becoming forgotten by his friend. Snufkin acts as though threatened by his distractions of Teety-Woo and Moomintroll, reminders that becoming too attached to others impacts on his freedom, but also reminders that he can enjoy and seek out company, which he does at the end of the episode by travelling to Moominvalley to see Moomintroll. Although he is originally distant and cold towards the unwanted presence of Teety-Woo, Snufkin is later more friendly and open towards him, and accepts that he missed the creature. Snufkin even uses his New Moon wish unselfishly, wishing to find Teety-Woo and he seems worried about him when he is not around.

During an outburst of irritation, Snufkin suggests not returning to Moominvalley at all, however we are shown that Snufkin is capable of deeply struggling with loneliness and that he cares about what Moomintroll thinks of him. Teety-Woo's absence reminds Snufkin of the absence of his best friend - and Teety-Woo himself reminds him of how Moomintroll misses him and would be sad if he didn't return to Moominvalley. These reminders of loss result in Snufkin having a nightmare about Moomintroll forgetting all about him and replacing him with another. Snufkin clearly worries about sacrificing his privacy, freedom, and independence, but his worries of losing his closest friend ultimately take priority and cause him to decide with certainty that he will return to Moominvalley. Snufkin states that he really wants to see Moomintroll and we see that he has accepted that.

The spring tune itself reflects all of the warring emotions that Snufkin feels during the spring: one part expectation, two parts spring sadness, and the great delight of walking alone and liking it. The two parts of spring sadness seem to suggest sadness at the loss of his time alone, and sadness at the loss of his best friend's company. The tune is only completed once Snufkin has experienced and made peace with each different feeling, recognising that they can exist at odds with each other, yet at the same time, much in the same way that the different personalities of Moomintroll and Snufkin do not stop them from spending time together.

Trivia

Snufkincreep

Snufkin talks to the forest creep (Teety-Woo) in Tales from Moominvalley (1962)

  • When Moominvalley premiered on Sky One, the episode "The Spring Tune" was shown later in the series, listed as episode 13 instead of episode 2. It followed "Midwinter Ancestor" and replaced it as the final episode in the series, for reasons unknown. The rest of the episodes followed the same order.
  • This episode is based on the first story from the 1962 book Tales from Moominvalley, in which Snufkin finds himself repeatedly distracted by the company of a creature he names Teety-Woo, until the creature, now with a name, becomes confident and sets off on his own journey instead of trying to follow Snufkin.
  • Snufkin appears somewhat less cold towards Too-Ticky in the Moominvalley adaption of The Spring Tune, compared to the original tale and the 1990 anime adaption.
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