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Tove Jansson

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Tove Jansson

Tove Jansson
Tove Jansson in 1967
Born Tove Marika Jansson
(1914-08-09)9 August 1914
Helsinki, Grand Duchy of Finland, Russian Empire
Died 27 June 2001(2001-06-27) (aged 86)
Helsinki, Finland
Occupation Artist, writer
Nationality Finnish
Notable works The Moomins
Notable awards Hans Christian Andersen Award
Order of the Smile
Pro Finlandia
Partner Tuulikki Pietilä


Tove Marika Jansson (Finland Swedish pronunciation:  ( ); 9 August 1914 – 27 June 2001) was a Swedish-speaking Finnish novelist, painter, illustrator and comic strip author. For her contribution as a children's writer she received the Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1966.[1][2]

Brought up by artistic parents, Jansson studied art from 1930 to 1938 in Stockholm, Helsinki and then Paris. Her first solo art exhibition was in 1943. At the same time, she was writing short stories and articles for publication, as well as creating the graphics for book covers and other purposes. She continued to work as an artist for the rest of her life, alongside her writing.

Jansson is best known as the author of the Moomin books for children. The first such book, The Moomins and the Great Flood, appeared in 1945, though it was the next two books, Comet in Moominland and Finn Family Moomintroll, published in 1946 and 1948 respectively, that brought her fame.

Starting with the semi-autobiographical Bildhuggarens dotter (Sculptor's Daughter) in 1968, she wrote six novels and five books of short stories for adults.


  • Biography 1
  • Career 2
    • Comic strip artist 2.1
    • Inspiration for Moomins 2.2
    • Author 2.3
    • Painter and illustrator 2.4
    • Theatre 2.5
  • Jansson's cultural legacy 3
  • Works 4
    • The Moomin books 4.1
      • Novels 4.1.1
      • Short story collections 4.1.2
      • Picture books 4.1.3
      • Comic strips 4.1.4
    • Other books 4.2
      • Novels 4.2.1
      • Short story collections 4.2.2
      • Picture books 4.2.3
  • Awards 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Tove Jansson in 1923

Tove Jansson was born in Helsinki, Grand Duchy of Finland. Her family, part of the Swedish-speaking (Swedish: finlandssvensk) minority of Finland, was an artistic one: her father Viktor Jansson was a sculptor and her mother Signe Hammarsten-Jansson was a graphic designer and illustrator. Tove's siblings also became artists: Per Olov Jansson became a photographer and Lars Jansson an author and cartoonist. Whilst their home was in Helsinki, the family spent many of their summers in a rented cottage on an island near Porvoo, 50 km east of Helsinki.[3]

Jansson studied at University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm in 1930–33, the Graphic School of the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts in 1933–1937 and finally at L'École d'Adrien Holy and L'École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1938. She displayed a number of artworks in exhibitions during the 30s and early 40s, and her first solo exhibition was held in 1943.

Aged 14, she wrote and illustrated her first picture book "Sara och Pelle och näckens bläckfiskar" ("Sara and Pelle and the Water Sprite's Octopuses") although it was not published until 1933, and had drawings published in magazines in the 1920s.[4] During the 1930s she made several trips to other European countries, and wrote and illustrated short stories and articles which were also published in magazines, periodicals and daily papers. During this period, Jansson designed many book covers, adverts and postcards, and, following her mother, she drew illustrations for Garm, an anti-fascist Finnish-Swedish satirical magazine.[4]

Briefly engaged in the 1940s to Atos Wirtanen,[4] she later during her studies met her future partner Tuulikki Pietilä.[5] The two women collaborated on many works and projects, including a model of the Moominhouse, in collaboration with Pentti Eistola. This is now exhibited at the Moomin museum in Tampere.

Jansson wrote and illustrated her first Moomin book, The Moomins and the Great Flood, in 1945, during World War II. She said later that the war had depressed her and she had wanted to write something naïve and innocent. This first book was hardly noticed, but the next Moomin books, Comet in Moominland (1946) and Finn Family Moomintroll (1948), made her famous. She went on to write six more Moomin books, a number of picture books and comic strips. Her fame spread quickly and she became Finland's most widely read author abroad.[6] For her "lasting contribution to children's literature" she received the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing in 1966.

Jansson continued painting and writing for the rest of her life, although her contributions to the Moomin series became rare after 1970. Her first foray outside children's literature was Bildhuggarens dotter (Sculptor's Daughter), a semi-autobiographical book written in 1968. After that, she authored five more novels, including Sommarboken (The Summer Book) and five collections of short stories. Although she had a studio in Helsinki, she lived many summers on a small island called Klovharu, one of the Pellinki Islands near the town of Porvoo. Jansson's and Pietilä's travels and summers spent together on the Klovharu island in Pellinki have been captured on several hours of film, shot by Pietilä. Several documentaries have been made of this footage, the latest being Haru, yksinäinen saari (Haru, the lonely island) (1998) and Tove ja Tooti Euroopassa (Tove and Tooti in Europe) (2004).

A lifelong smoker, Jansson developed lung cancer in early 2000,[7] and died on 27 June 2001.[8][9] She was 86 years old.


Comic strip artist

Tove Jansson in 1956.

Tove Jansson worked as illustrator and cartoonist for the Swedish-language satirical magazine Garm from the 1930s to 1953. One of her political cartoons achieved a brief international fame: she drew Adolf Hitler as a crying baby in diapers, surrounded by Neville Chamberlain and other great European leaders, who tried to calm the baby down by giving it slices of cake – Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, etc. Jansson also produced illustrations during this period for the Christmas magazines Julen and Lucifer (just as her mother had earlier) as well as several smaller productions. Her earliest comic strips were produced for productions including Lunkentus (Prickinas och Fabians äventyr, 1929), Vårbrodd (Fotbollen som Flög till Himlen, 1930), and Allas Krönika (Palle och Göran gå till sjöss, 1933).[10]

The figure of the Moomintroll appeared first in Jansson's political cartoons, where it was used as a signature character near the artist's name. This "Proto-Moomin," then called Snork or Niisku,[4] was thin and ugly, with a long, narrow nose and devilish tail. Jansson said that she had designed the Moomins in her youth: after she lost a philosophical quarrel about Immanuel Kant with one of her brothers, she drew "the ugliest creature imaginable" on the wall of their outhouse and wrote under it "Kant". This Moomin later gained weight and a more pleasant appearance, but in the first Moomin book The Moomins and the Great Flood (originally Småtrollen och den stora översvämningen), the Immanuel-Kant-Moomin is still perceptible. The name "Moomin" comes from Tove Jansson's uncle, Einar Hammarsten: when she was studying in Stockholm and living with her Swedish relatives, her uncle tried to stop her pilfering food by telling her that a "Moomintroll" lived in the kitchen closet and breathed cold air down people's necks.[4]

In 1952, after Comet in Moominland and Finn Family Moomintroll had been translated into English, a British publisher asked if Tove Jansson would be interested in drawing comic strips about the Moomins. Jansson had already drawn a long Moomin comic adventure, Mumintrollet och jordens undergång ("Moomintrolls and the End of the World"), based loosely on Comet in Moominland, for the Swedish-language newspaper Ny Tid, and she accepted the offer. The comic strip Moomintroll, started in 1954 in the Evening News, a newspaper for the London area and London commuters (no longer in business). Tove Jansson drew 21 long Moomin stories from 1954 to 1959, writing them at first by herself and then with her brother Lars Jansson. She eventually gave the strip up because the daily work of a comic artist did not leave her time to write books and paint, but Lars took over the strip and continued it until 1975.

The series was published in book form in Swedish, and books 1 to 6 have been published in English, Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip.

Inspiration for Moomins

Critics have interpreted various Moomin characters as being inspired by real people, especially members of the author's family, and Jansson spoke in interviews about the backgrounds of, and possible models for, her characters.[4]

Pietilä's personality inspired the character Too-Ticky in Moominland Midwinter.[3][4] and Moomintroll and Little My have been seen as psychological self-portraits of the artist.[3][4]

The Moomins, generally speaking, relate strongly to Jansson's own family – they were bohemian, lived close to nature and were very tolerant towards diversity.[3][4][11] Moominpappa and Moominmamma are often seen as portraits of Jansson's parents.[3][4][11] Jansson remained close to her mother until her mother's death in 1970; even after Tove had become an adult, the two often travelled together, and during her final years Signe also lived with Tove part-time.[4]


Cover of Finn Family Moomintroll (1948)

Jansson is principally known as the author of the Moomin books. Jansson created the Moomins, a family of trolls who are white, round and smooth in appearance, with large snouts that make them vaguely resemble hippopotamuses.

The first Moomin book, The Moomins and the Great Flood, was written in 1945. Although the primary characters are Moominmamma and Moomintroll, most of the principal characters of later stories were only introduced in the next book, so The Moomins and the Great Flood is frequently considered a forerunner to the main series. The book was not a success (and was the last Moomin book to be translated into English), but the next two installments in the Moomin series, Comet in Moominland (1946) and Finn Family Moomintroll (1948), brought Jansson some fame. The original title of Finn Family Moomintroll, Trollkarlens Hatt, translates as "The Magician's Hat".

The style of the Moomin books changed as time went by. The first books, up to Moominland Midwinter (1957), are adventure stories that include floods, comets and supernatural events. The Moomins and the Great Flood deals with Moominmamma and Moomintroll's flight through a dark and scary forest, where they encounter various dangers. In Comet in Moominland, a comet nearly destroys the Moominvalley (some critics have considered this an allegory of nuclear weapons[12]). Finn Family Moomintroll deals with adventures brought on by the discovery of a magician's hat. The Exploits of Moominpappa (1950) tells the story of Moominpappa's adventurous youth and cheerfully parodies the genre of memoirs. Finally, Moominsummer Madness (1955) pokes fun at the world of the theatre: the Moomins explore an empty theatre and perform Moominpappa's pompous hexametric melodrama.

Moominland Midwinter marks a turning point in the series. The books take on more realistic settings ("realistic" in the context of the Moomin universe) and the characters start to acquire some psychological depth. Moominland Midwinter focuses on Moomintroll, who wakes up in the middle of the winter (Moomins hibernate from November to April, as mentioned on the back of the book), and has to cope with the strange and unfriendly world he finds. The short story collection Tales from Moominvalley (1962) and the novels Moominpappa at Sea (1965) and Moominvalley in November (1970) are serious and psychologically searching books, far removed from the light-heartedness and cheerful humor of Finn Family Moomintroll.

After Moominvalley in November Tove Jansson stopped writing about Moomins and started writing for adults. The Summer Book is the best known of her adult fiction translated into English. It is a work of charm, subtlety and simplicity, describing the summer stay on an island of a young girl and her grandmother.

In addition to the Moomin novels and short stories, Tove Jansson also wrote and illustrated four original and highly popular picture books: The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My (1952), Who will Comfort Toffle? (1960), The Dangerous Journey (1977) and An Unwanted Guest (1980). As the Moomins' fame grew, two of the original novels, Comet in Moominland and The Exploits of Moominpappa, were revised by Jansson and republished. The revised versions were, however, never translated into English.

Painter and illustrator

Although she became known first and foremost as an author, Tove Jansson considered her careers as author and painter to be of equal importance. She painted her whole life, changing style from the classical impressionism of her youth to the highly abstract modernist style of her later years. Jansson displayed a number of artworks in exhibitions during the 1930s and early 1940s, and her first solo exhibition was held in 1943. Despite generally positive reviews, criticism induced Jansson to refine her style such that in her 1955 solo exhibition her style had become less overloaded in terms of detail and content. Between 1960 and 1970 Jansson held five more solo exhibitions.[4]

Jansson also created a series of commissioned murals and public works throughout her career, which may still be viewed in their original locations. These works of Jansson's included:

  • The canteen at the Strömberg factory at Pitäjänmäki, Helsinki (1945)[4]
  • The Aurora Children's Hospital in Helsinki[13]
  • The Kaupunginkellari restaurant of Helsinki City Hall[13] – Transferred in 1974 to Helsinki Swedish-language Adult Education Centre "Workers' Institute" Arbis.
  • The Seurahuone hotel at Hamina[4]
  • The Wise and Foolish Virgins altarpiece in Teuva Church (1954)[4]
  • A number of fairy-tale murals in schools and kindergartens including the kindergarten in Pori (1984)[4]

In addition to providing the illustrations for her own Moomin books, Jansson also illustrated Swedish translations of classics such as J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit[14] and Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark[15] and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland[16] (some used later in Finnish translations as well). She also illustrated her late work, The Summer Book (1972).


Several stage productions have been made from Jansson's Moomin series, including a number that Jansson herself was involved in.

The earliest production was a 1949 theatrical version of Comet in Moominland performed at Åbo Svenska Teater.[4]

In the early 1950s, Jansson collaborated on Moomin-themed children's plays with Vivica Bandler. In 1952, Jansson designed stage settings and dresses for Pessi and Illusia, a ballet by Ahti Sonninen (Radio tekee murron) which was performed at the Finnish National Opera.[4] By 1958, Jansson began to become directly involved in theater as Lilla Teater produced Troll i kulisserna (Troll in the wings), a play with lyrics by Jansson and music composed by Erna Tauro. The production was a success, and later performances were held in Sweden and Norway.[13]

In 1974 the first Moomin opera was produced, with music composed by Ilkka Kuusisto.[13]

Jansson's cultural legacy

The biennial Hans Christian Andersen Award conferred by the International Board on Books for Young People is the highest recognition available to a writer or illustrator of children's books. Jansson received the writing award in 1966.[1][2]

Jansson's books, originally written in Swedish, have been translated into 45 languages.[17] After the Kalevala and books by Mika Waltari, they are the most widely translated works of Finnish literature.

The Moomin Museum in Tampere displays much of Jansson's work on the Moomins. There is also a Moomin theme park named Moomin World in Naantali.

Tove Jansson was selected as the main motif in the 2004 minting of a Finnish commemorative coin, the €10 Tove Jansson and Finnish Children's Culture commemorative coin. The obverse depicts a combination of Tove Jansson portrait with several objects: the skyline, an artist's palette, a crescent and a sailing boat. The reverse design features three Moomin characters. In 2014 she was again featured on a commemorative coin, minted at €10 and €20 values, being the only person other than the former Finnish president Urho Kekkonen to be granted two such coins.[18] She was also featured on a €2 commemorative coin that entered general circulation in June 2014.[19]

Since 1988, Finland's Post has released several postage stamp sets and one postal card with Moomin motifs.[20] In 2014, Jansson herself was featured on a Finnish stamp set.[21]

In 2014 the City of Helsinki honored Jansson by renaming a park in Katajanokka as Tove Jansson's Park (Finnish: Tove Janssonin puisto, Swedish: Tove Janssons park). The park is located near Jansson's childhood home.[22][23]

In March 2014 the Ateneum Art Museum opened a major centenary exhibition showcasing Jansson's works as an artist, an illustrator, a political caricaturist and the creator of the Moomins. The exhibition will run in Helsinki until September after which it will embark on a tour in Japan, visiting five Japanese museums.[24][25]


The Moomin books


Short story collections

Picture books

Comic strips

  • Mumin, Books 1–7 (1977–1981, Moomin; Books 3–7 with Lars Jansson) (all seven released in Swedish, Books 1–6 released in English).[26]

Other books


  • Sommarboken (1972, The Summer Book) (translated into English)
  • Solstaden (1974, Sun City) (translated into English)
  • Den ärliga bedragaren (1982, The Honest Swindler) (translated into English in 2009, under the title The True Deceiver)
  • Stenåkern (1984, The Field of Stones)
  • Anteckningar från en ö (1993, Notes from an Island) (autobiography; illustrated by Tuulikki Pietilä)

Short story collections

  • Bildhuggarens dotter (1968, Sculptor's Daughter) (semi-autobiographical, translated into English)
  • Lyssnerskan (1971, The Listener)
  • Dockskåpet och andra berättelser (1978, The Dollhouse and Other Stories, also translated as "Art in Nature")
  • Resa med lätt bagage (1987, Travelling with Light Luggage) (translated into English in 2010, under the title Travelling Light)
  • Rent spel (1989, Fair Play) (translated into English)
  • Brev från Klara och andra berättelser (1991, Letters from Klara and Other Stories)
  • Meddelande. Noveller i urval 1971–1997 (1998, A Winter Book) (compilation of earlier material. Translated into English)

Picture books

  • Sara och Pelle och näckens bläckfiskar (under the pseudonym of Vera Haij) (1933, Sara and Pelle and the Octopuses of the Water Sprite)


See also


  1. ^ a b "Hans Christian Andersen Awards". International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). Retrieved 2013-08-01.
  2. ^ a b "Tove Jansson" (pp. 32–33, by Sus Rostrup).
    The Hans Christian Andersen Awards, 1956–2002. IBBY. Gyldendal. 2002. Hosted by Austrian Literature Online. Retrieved 2013-08-01.
  3. ^ a b c d e Liukkonen, Petri; Pesonen, Ari (2008). "Tove (Marika) Jansson (1914–2001)". Kuusankosken kaupunginkirjasto. Pegasokseen. Retrieved 4 February 2009. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Ahola, Suvi; Fletcher, Roderick (tr.) (2008). "Jansson, Tove (1914–2001)". Biografiakeskus.  
  5. ^ Hassel, Ing-Marie. "Tove Janssons mumintroll" (in Swedish). Retrieved 9 April 2007. 
  6. ^ Schoolfield, George C. A history of Finland's literature, p. 571. University of Nebraska Press, 1998. ISBN 978-0-8032-4189-3
  7. ^ Yule, Eleanor. "Moominland Tales." BBC Four. 2012.
  8. ^ "Famous Deaths for Year 2001 (Part 2)". Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  9. ^ "Tove Jansson: Life, Art, Words by Boel Westin – review". the Guardian. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  10. ^ "Comic creator: Tove Jansson". Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  11. ^ a b Rahunen, Suvi (Spring 2007). "Om Översättning Av Kulturbunda Element Från Svenska Till Finska Och Franska I Två Muminböcker Av Tove Jansson" (PDF).  
  12. ^ Schoolfield, George C. A history of Finland's literature, p. 572. University of Nebraska Press, 1998. ISBN 978-0-8032-4189-3
  13. ^ a b c d e f Liukkonen, Petri; Pesonen, Ari (2008). "Tove (Marika) Jansson (1914–2001)". Kuusankosken kaupunginkirjasto. Pegasokseen. Retrieved 4 February 2009. 
  14. ^ "Hobbit illustrations". Flickr. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  15. ^ "Hunting of the Snark illustrations". Flickr. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  16. ^ "Alice in Wonderland illustrations". Flickr. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  17. ^ Hällsten, Annika: “Boksuccé efterlyses.” Hufvudstadsbladet 22 January 2014, p. 21.
  18. ^ "Another collector coin is minted in honour of Tove Jansson". Mint of Finland. 30 January 2014. Retrieved 14 March 2014. 
  19. ^ "Tove Jansson to feature on two-euro commemorative coin". Mint of Finland. 16 May 2014. Retrieved 17 June 2014. 
  20. ^ Norma Suomi 2011: Postimerkkiluettelo, pp. 147, 152, 169, 180, 195, 202, 219, 233. [Stamp catalogue.] Käpylän merkki, Helsinki 2010. ISSN 0358-1225
  21. ^ "The first stamps of 2014 celebrate Tove Jansson and ancient castles". Posti. 16 October 2013. Retrieved 14 March 2014. 
  22. ^ "Tove Jansson saa puiston Katajanokalle" (in Suomi). Helsingin Sanomat. 11 March 2014. Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  23. ^ "Katajanokanpuisto renamed Tove Jansson Park FTimes-STT Report, March 12". Finland Times. 12 March 2014. Retrieved 12 March 2014. 
  24. ^ "Tove Jansson 14.03.2014 - 07.09.2014". Ateneum Art Museum. Retrieved 14 March 2014. 
  25. ^ "Ei vain muumien äiti – Tove Janssonilla oli taiteilijana sadat kasvot" (in Suomi). Yle Uutiset. 13 March 2014. Retrieved 14 March 2014. 
  26. ^ "Products by Tove Jansson".  
  27. ^ "thisisFINLAND: People – Tove Jansson". Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  28. ^ a b c d e f g h i "WSOY". Retrieved 18 November 2014. 

External links

  • Tove Jansson at (Finnish) (Swedish) (English)
  • Tove Jansson at Schildts (Finnish) (Swedish)
  • Tove Jansson and the altarpiece "Ten Virgins" (Finnish) (Swedish) (English) (Japanese)
  • Tove Jansson at WSOY (Finnish)
  • thisisFINLAND: People – Tove Jansson: writer, painter and illustrator
  • The Moomin Trove Comprehensive lists of Tove Jansson's Moomin books
  • Tove Jansson and The Moomin Trove by Finland Travel Club
  • Moominland Tales: The Life of Tove Jansson (BBC) by Eleanor Yule
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