Whether you’ve come across The Moomins through Tumblr or the book series was a staple of your childhood, you have lesbian legend,
novelist, and illustrator Tove Jansson – who was born on this day in 1914! – to
thank for the whimsy of that unforgettable fairy tale world.
The profile photo for the official Twitter account in honor of Tove Jansson’s work (@ToveJansson1914) shows the author and illustrator herself in a bountiful flower crown (x).
Tove Marika Jansson was born on August 9, 1914 in Helsinki,
Finland. Her family was a part of the Swedish-speaking minority of Finland and
had a history of producing artistic minds; her father was a sculptor and her
mother was a graphic designer and illustrator. Tove wrote and illustrated her
first picture book, Sara and Pelle and
the Water Sprite’s Octopuses (Sara
och Pelle och näckens bläckfiskar), when
she was only 14-years-old, and unlike most people’s childhood creations, it didn’t
dawdle in a forgotten box in her family’s attic, but was actually published
later on in 1933! After graduating high school she attended the University
College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm and would also go on to earn
degrees from the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts and L’École des Beaux-Arts in
Tove Jansson and her partner
Tuulikki Pietilä were together for over 40 years and stayed together until Tove’s death. After meeting Tuulikki for the first time, Tove wrote, “I love you both enchanted and very calm at the same time, and I don’t fear anything that might await us…
I have finally come home to that one person whom I want to be with” (x).
From the 1930s to 1952, Tove worked as a political cartoonist
for the Swedish-language magazine Garm
and became known for her comical portrayals of the happenings of World War II,
but she eventually left the magazine when her Moomins series took off. The first Moomins book, The Moomins and
the Great Flood, was published in 1947. Tove later said that her inspiration
for the white, round-bellied family of trolls came from a childhood story her
uncle used to tell her of a “Moomintroll” who lived in the kitchen
pantry and stopped children from stealing food. Several recurring characters in
the Moomins series are also famously inspired by people in Tove’s real life;
the character of Too-Ticky was based on her life partner Tuulikki Pietilä (you
can read more about the story of Too-Ticky and Tuulikki here!) and the characters
Moominpappa and Moominmamma are adaptations of Tove’s own parents.
eventually became an international sensation and the most identifiable marker of
Tove’s cultural legacy! Throughout her lifetime, the characters were featured
in books, comic strips, short stories, and even stage productions that Tove
herself participated in. The series is the most widely-translated works of
Finnish literature and includes a Moomins theme park and museum. In 1966, Tove
won the Hans Christian Andersen Award for her work in children’s literature with the Moomins. She would eventually pass away on June 27, 2001 at the age of 86. Footage of her
creative journey, life, and travels with Tuulikki was eventually compiled into
the 2010 documentary titled Moominland Tales:
The Life of Tove Jansson.