A Moomin of Truth

tove jansson moominThe author and illustrator of the Moomin family books was Finnish novelist, painter, illustrator and comic strip author Tove Jansson. Spending time in both Sweden and Finland, Tove Marika Jansson was born in Helsinki on 9th August, 1914. Brought up in the artist’s colony of Lallukka in Helsinki, by artistic parents, Jansson studied art from 1930 to 1938 in Stockholm, Helsinki and later, in Paris. Her father Viktor Jansson, was a sculptor and her mother, Signe Hammarsten-Jansson was a Swedish-born graphic designer and illustrator. Tove’s siblings also became artists: Per Olov Jansson,(a photographer) and Lars Jansson; an author and cartoonist.

Briefly engaged in the 1940s to Atos Wirtanen, a left-wing politician, she later met her future life partner Tuulikki Pietilä. The two women collaborated on many works and projects, including a model of the Moominhouse, in collaboration with Pentti Eistola. Examples are on display at the Moomin museum in Tampere.

Her first book: The Moomins and the Great Flood, was published in 1945; but it was her next two books in the series, Comet in Moominland (1946) and Finn Family Moomintroll, (1948) that brought her fame. Many of the characters were based on Jansson’s influences. For example: Moominmamma, the domestic goddess, was based on her mother. Other characters were either based on real people or became “code” for her lifestyle. Apparently, the characters Thingummy and Bob were the names for Jansson and her lover Vivica Bandler. Mymble was a term used by Jansson’s circle to refer to sex; and the love of her life; Pietilä became Too-Ticky. When Jansson’s mother died – so did the Moomintroll series. Tove Jansson died on 27 June, 2001.

  • Other notable works by Jansson include: her semi-autobiographical Bildhuggarens dotter (Sculptor’s Daughter: A Childhood Memoir) in 1968, and six novels and five books of short stories she wrote for adults. A recent biography has been released: “Tove Jansson: Life, At Words: The Authorized Biography” by Boel Westin, Profile Books.

The above image is from the cover of “Finn Family Moomintroll.”

If you haven’t had a chance to read these, take a Moomin in time and do so!

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