Tove Jansson (1914 – 2001), was born in 1914 in Helingsfors, Finland. Her mother was a charicaturist and the designer of many of Finland’s stamps, and her father was a sculptor. Tove studied painting in Finland, Sweden and France and later worked as a book illustrator, a designer and strip cartoonist, as well as being involved in theatre décor and making frescoes in public places. She drew her first Moomin in the 1930s, just for fun, to tease her little brother by drawing the ugliest creature she could think of. Moomin developed a nicer snout and character and in 1939 he became a character in a children’s story. The Finn Family Moomingtroll has been a hugely successful book, translated into many languages – many other Moomin stories followed.
In 1966 Tove Jansson was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Medal – an international award for the best children’s book of the year.
Most of the books were written on a tiny island in the Gulf of Finland where Tove and her lifelong partner Tuulikki Pietilä, a graphic artist, were the only inhabitants. Tove loved to be surrounded by the sea and the remote island gave her the peace of mind in which to work. Tove and Tuulikki lived there only during spring, summer and autumn months, weather conditions permitting, for they had no running water or electricity on the island. In the wintertime they lived in separate studios in Helsinki, though very near each other. Some years ago Tove wrote of the island:
‘It is so small you can walk around it in ten minutes. It is shaped like an atoll and surrounds a deep lake which in good weather makes a fine swimming pool, but in bad weather turns into a raging torrent surrounded by waterfalls. Then our boat has to be pulled right up to the house and tied to the veranda. We only have one tree, a rowan, which bloomed for the first time last summer. But we plant wild roses in the crevices, and potatoes. And we fish. We use rainwater for our coffee and driftwood for our fires. My favourite weather is fog, when the island seems to be afloat at the very end of the world in perfect silence and solitude. Only rarely does one hear the foghorns from the open sea where big ships go by for foreign countries.’
In this very special, beautiful and challenging environment Tove’s imagination and artistic talent flourished.
Swedish Academy Gold Medal