Tove Jansson: Children’s book author and lesbian
Tove Jansson from Finland was a well-known children’s book author and illustrator, but it’s not as well-known that she went on to prefer women.
Even as she found fame with her greatest creation, the Moomins (white, hippo-like characters who stood upright), she found the love of her life, the graphic artist Tuulikki Pietilä.
Tove Jansson: Family of artist
Jansson was born to a family of artists in Helsinki when it was still part of the Grand Duchy of Finland of the Russian Empire on 9 August 1914.
Her parents were both artists: her father, Viktor Jansson, was a sculptor, while her mother, Signe Hammarsten-Jansson, was an illustrator. Her two siblings also became artists like her, a photographer and an author/cartoonist.
Jansson went on to study at a number of art schools: the University College of Arts, Crafts, and Design in Stockholm, the Graphic School of the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts, L’École d’Adrien Holy, and L’École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
However, at the age of 14, she wrote and illustrated her first picture book, “Sara and Pelle and Neptune’s Children,” which was later published in 1933.
She also drew illustrations for the anti-fascist Finnish-Swedish satirical magazine Garm.
Tove Jansson and the Moomins
It was at Garm that the Moomins first surfaced, though the troll-like creatures were called Snorks.
Jansson created the first Moomin book in 1945 in response to the Second World War, which she said depressed her. With “The Moons and the Great Flood,” she said she wanted to write something innocent.
She then went on to write the succeeding Moomin books, which sold well and made her famous in Finland and even abroad.
In 1966, she received the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing for her “lasting contributions to children’s literature.”
However, her greatest creation soon became her greatest bane as work on the Moomins ate into her time to paint and do other creative works.
Because of this, she once exclaimed: ““I could vomit over Moomintroll. I shall never again be able to write about those happy idiots who forgive one another and never realize they’re being fooled.
Tove Jansson and great love
Fortunately, while Jansson found someone who she could be with her entire life: Tuulikki Pietilä, who is regarded as one of the most influential people in Finnish graphic arts.
Jansson was actually engaged to the left-winger Atos Wirtanen in the 1940s but this didn’t push through. During her art studies, she met Pietilä.
The two worked on many works and projects, including a model of the 5-storey Moominhouse, which is now exhibited at the Moomin museum in Tampere.
They spent a lot of summers on their island Klovharu in Finland, though they also did a lot of traveling around the world.
Jansson loved Pietilä so much that she created a Moomin character based on her: Too-ticky, the wise woman and good friend of the Moomin family.
She died at the age of 86 on 27 June 2001 and was buried in the Hietaniemi Cemetery in Helsinki.