Tove Jansson (1914 – 2001) was a Swedish-speaking Finnish author, novelist, painter, illustrator and comic strip author. She was born in Helsinki, then in the Grand Duchy of Finland, a part of the Russian Empire. Brought up by artistic parents, Jansson studied art from 1930 to 1938 in Stockholm, Helsinki and Paris. Her first solo art exhibition was in 1943. At the same time, she was writing short stories and articles for publication. She continued to work as an artist and a writer for the rest of her life.
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. Jansson wrote the Moomin books for children, starting in 1945 with The Moomins and the Great Flood. The book was not a success, but the next two installments in the Moomin series, Comet in Moominland (1946) and Finn Family Moomintroll (1948), brought Jansson some fame. For her work as a children’s writer she received the Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1966.
The Moomins were strongly inspired by Jansson’s own family – they were bohemian and lived close to nature. Jansson remained close to her mother until her mother’s death in 1970; even after Tove had become an adult, the two often traveled together. Moominpappa and Moominmamma are often seen as portraits of Jansson’s parents.
In addition to the Moomin novels and short stories, Jansson also wrote and illustrated four original and 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). After Moominvalley in November, Tove Jansson stopped writing about Moomins and started writing for adults. She wrote five novels and five collections of short stories. The Summer Book is the best known of her adult fiction translated into English.
Although she was 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, and displayed a number of artworks in exhibitions during the 1930s and early 1940s.
In 1956 Jansson met her lifelong partner, Tuulikki Pietilä – or “Tooti”, as she was known. In Helsinki they lived separately, in neighbouring blocks, visiting each other privately through an attic passageway. In the 1960s, they built a house on a tiny uninhabited island in the Gulf of Finland, where they would escape for the summer. Jansson died on 27 June 2001 at the age of 86.