Jansson, Tove (1914–2001)

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Jansson, Tove (1914–2001)

Finnish artist, author, and illustrator who created the "Moomins." Born on August 9, 1914, in Helsinki, Finland; died in Helsinki in July 2001; daughter of Viktor (a sculptor) Jansson and Signe (Hammarsten) Jansson (an artist); studied book design in Stockholm, 1930–33; painting in Helsinki, 1933–36; and at Atelier Adrien Holy, Paris, France, 1938, and in Florence, Italy; never married; no children.

Awards, honors:

Stockholm Award for best children's book (1952), Nils Holgersson plaque (1953), and Selma Lagerlof Medal (1953), all for Hur gick det sen? (The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My); Moominsummer Madness was nominated by the Swedish section of the International Board on Books for Young People for the International Hans Christian Andersen Award (1956); an award from the Academy (Finland), Hans Christian Andersen Diploma of the International Council of Youth (Florence), Rudolf Koivu plaquette (Finland), and the Elsa Beskow Award (all 1958), all for Trollvinter (Moominland Midwinter); Swedish Culture Prize (Helsinki) for body of work (1958, 1963, and 1970); Hans Christian Andersen Diploma of the International Council of Youth for Who Will Comfort Toffle? (1962) and Tales from Moominvalley (1964); Langman's Prize (1965); Hans Christian Andersen Medal, Author Award (1966); Expressen (Stockholm's daily paper) Winnie-the-Pooh Prize for Moominvalley in November (1970); prize of the Finnish State for Moominvalley in November (1971); Selma Lagerlof prize for Sculptor's Daughter (1972); Bonniers Publishing House, Sweden, scholarship award (1972); prize of Swedish Academy (1972); Werner Soderstrom Publishing House and Grafia Society (Finland) scholarship and medal for illustration (1973); given the "Order of Smile" medal by the Polish children (1976); Austrian State Prize for Children's and Juvenile Literature (1978), for Wer soll den Lillan trosten? (Austrian edition of Vem ska trosta Knyttet? ); honorary doctorate from Abo Academy (1978); Le Grand Prix des Treize for Sommarboken (The Summer Book, 1979); awarded the "Prize of Dunce's Hat" by the Finnish Comic Strip Society (1980).

Selected writings—all juvenile self-illustrated, except as noted:

Smaatrollen och den stora oversvamningen ("The Small Trolls and the Large Flood," Soderstrom, 1945); Kometjakten (Soderstrom, 1945, published in Sweden as Mumintrollet pa Kometjakt, Sorlins, 1946, translated by Elizabeth Portch and published in England, 1951, rev. ed. published as Kometen Kommer, Schildt, 1968, published in America as Comet in Moominland, Walck, 1968); Trollkarlens hatt (Schildt, 1949, published in England as The Finn Family Moomintroll, Benn, 1950, published in America as The Happy Moomins, Bobbs-Merrill, 1952, and as The Finn Family Moomintroll, Walck, 1965); Moominpappans bravader (Schildt, 1950, published in America as The Exploits of Moominpappa, Walck, 1966, rev. ed., published as Muminpappans memoarer, Schildt, 1968); Hur gick det sen? (Schildt, 1952, published in England as The Book About Moomin, Mymble and Little My, Benn, 1953); Farlig midsommar (Schildt, 1954, published in America as Moominsummer Madness, Walck, 1961); Trollvinter (Schildt, 1957, translated by T. Warburton, published in England as Moominland Midwinter, Benn, 1958, published in America, Walck, 1962); Vem ska trosta Knyttet? (Schildt, 1960, translated by Kingsley Hart, published in England as Who Will Comfort Toffle?,

Benn, 1961, published in America, Walck, 1969); Det osynliga barnet och andra berattelser (Schildt, 1962, translated by Thomas Warburton, published in America as Tales from Moominvalley, Walck, 1964); Pappan och Havet (Schildt, 1965, translated by K. Hart, published in America as Moominpappa at Sea, Walck, 1967); (autobiographical) Bildhuggarens Dotter (Schildt, 1968, published in England as Sculptor's Daughter, Benn, 1969, translated by K. Hart, published in America, Avon, 1976); Sent i November (Schildt, 1970, translated by K. Hart, published in America as Moominvalley in November, Walck,1971); (adult short stories) Lyssnerskan ("The Listener," Schildt, 1971); (adult fiction) Sommarboken (Schildt, 1972, translated by Thomas Teal, published in America as The Summer Book, Pantheon, 1975); (adult fiction) Solstaden (Schildt, 1974, translated by T. Teal, published in America as Sun City, Pantheon, 1976); Den Farliga Resan (Schildt, 1977, translated by K. Hart, published in England as The Dangerous Journey, Benn, 1978); (adult short stories) Dockskapet (Schildt, 1978); Moominstroll (contains Volume 1, Comet in Moominland, Volume 2, Finn Family Moomintroll, Volume 3, Moominland Midwinter, Volume 4, Moominpappa at Sea, Volume 5, Moominsummer Madness, Volume 6, Moominvalley in November, Volume 7, Tales from Moominvalley, Avon, 1978); Skurken i Muminhuset (Schildt, 1980); (adult novel) Den A'rliga Bedragaren (Schildt, 1982); (adult novel) Stenakern (Schildt, 1984). Writer of two plays for children; writer and designer of strip-cartoon, "Moomin," The Evening News, London, 1953–60.

The daughter of artists (a sculptor and a designer), Tove Jansson was born in 1914 and grew up in a large, dilapidated studio in Helsinki, Finland. She remembered pitying other children who had to live in more conventional households. Jansson later recalled that her upbringing was remarkably complex, although she never noticed it at the time. "My parents gave their children the impression of growing up in a wealthy, generous, problem-free home, although one comes to understand in later years how 'troublesome' it really was, both financially and in other ways.… My mother, especially, had an unusual quality; a mixture of strict morals and almost endless unparalleled tolerance." Since her mother frequently designed book covers, Jansson was an avid reader from an early age, devouring the free samples her mother brought home, as well as the stories of Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, Joseph Conrad, Selma Lagerlöf , Jack London, and Edgar Allan Poe.

From 1930 to 1936, Jansson studied book design and then painting in Stockholm, Helsinki, Paris, and Florence. Over the years, she would have many exhibitions of her paintings in Helsinki. In 1939, she wrote and illustrated her first children's book and, in 1945, published the first of her enchanting "Moomin" books, a series of troll stories set in the bizarre "Moomin-world" for which she became known. The books, which were first written in Swedish then translated into Finnish, English, and other languages, were inspired by an island off the coast of Finland, where the family went when she was a child. "Much later, I moved out to that same island and sat listening to the gales in my cabin, and one day I felt the urge to write about trolls," she explained. "I called them Moomintrolls. Perhaps I wrote mostly for myself, as a sort of secret game and a way to return to my adventurous summers of long ago."

Between 1952 and 1953, Jansson won three prestigious awards: the Stockholm Award, the Nils Holgersson Plaque, and the Selma Lagerlöf Medal, all for The Book about Moomin, Mymbie and Little My. Although Jansson said at the time that she wrote primarily for herself and not for children, she did admit that her stories would probably be most appealing to the person who has difficulty fitting in, "those on the fringe, the lost ones." In 1966, she won the Hans Christian Andersen Medal for the "Moomintroll" books, which over the years have won countless other awards and have been translated into 27 languages. Her beloved characters were also seen in the comic-strip "Moomin," which she wrote and drew for The [London] Evening News from 1953 to 1960.

In later years, Jansson made a successful transition to adult books with her autobiography Sculptor's Daughter (1968), several collections of short stories, including The Listener (1971), and The Doll's House (1978), and a few adult novels.


Commire, Anne, ed. Something about the Author. Vol. 41. Detroit, MI: Gale Research.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts