Celebrating Tove Jansson
August 9, 2014 5:23 AM   Subscribe

Today marks Tove Jansson’s 100th birthday. She was a free spirited artist, painter, political cartoonist, illustrator and author who defied the conventions of her time. Earlier this year, a postage stamp and a 2-Euro coin depicting Tove Jansson have been released in celebration of her birthday. She is probably best known for creating the Moomins, a beloved children's book series that was translated in over 40 languages. Unsurprisingly, some call her the queen of the Moomins. A current London exhibition [Tales from the Nordic Archipelago] allows a glimpse into her life and shows unseen photographs from her private island in the archipelago of Finland, where she spent over 30 summers. The English translation of a new biography is due later this year. posted by travelwithcats (12 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Here is the obit on Metafilter, she died in 2001.
posted by travelwithcats at 5:57 AM on August 9, 2014

I adored the Moomin books as a kid, at least in part because I couldn't whistle - like all Moomins. I loved them so much that when my wife and I separated recently, I decided to start narrating the Moomin books so that I could still read to my 6 year old son on the days when he's staying with her.

Which is precisely what I was doing tonight - recording Comet in Moominland - when I took a break at the end of a chapter and checked MeFi.

What a juxtapositon - I sit here in one house narrating a 60 year old children's story in one house, emailing mp3s to my ex; my son and I united by narrative and memory and the timeless ritual of storytelling. I couldn't think of any better story to start with, and I look forward to the day when he whispers to me 'sssh, daddy. I've already finished the page. Please turn over'.
posted by tim_in_oz at 6:20 AM on August 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

Oh, I can't wait to read that biography! I'm vaguely aware that Jansson had a very interesting life, and of course read about the Moomins and watched the animation as a child. To my shame, though, I only discovered last year that she was actually a woman, let alone that she spent decades of her life in a relationship with another woman, Tuulikki Pietilä, who was also an artist.
posted by daisyk at 6:23 AM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I read my first Moomin book this year, Moominvalley in November, and it's a really strange and wonderful book. If you're wondering if these books hold up for first-time adult readers, that at least was my experience. Jansson's adult books are widely considered classics in the Nordic countries and many of them have been translated into English.
posted by Kattullus at 6:25 AM on August 9, 2014

I think it was Omiewise' suggestion here that for me into her adult novels which are compact, sparse and beautiful. The Summer Book is a delight, and so far the others I've tried are all very good as well.
posted by latkes at 8:22 AM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

So glad to see this post. I love Jansson and the Moomins and have had little success, for some reason, getting other people to read her. Her books are so strange and unsettling and wonderful and creepy and life-affirming and frightening. No one else I've ever read can do all that in one deceptively simple children's story.
posted by OolooKitty at 8:33 AM on August 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

I was introduced to Moomin by the comics thread on Something Awful, and I have now spread Moomin-love to my teen son. Yesterday we found the Moomin shop online and were clapping gleefully at all of the wonderful things we could buy. Little My phone case, you will be mine!
posted by Biblio at 9:51 AM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I love the Moomin books. I love how accepting and loving the family is and how Jansson is never making fun of any of her characters. I especially love that her female characters are just allowed to be themselves. Snork Maiden is vain and sort of needy and often acts more helpless than she is, but none of these things are presented as being "bad." That's just who she is. Same with Little My, who is mischievous and argumentative is allowed to be those things without anyone trying to change her.

There's such sweetness and genuine love in these books. Yeah, there are dark things, too, but the family's perseverance and faith in each other is really beautiful.

(I still need to get my Little My tattoo. I dressed up as her last Halloween.)

To me, one of the most fascinating things about Jansson is that she really wasn't that excited about doing the comic strip. She really just did it for the money.
posted by darksong at 11:46 AM on August 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

Love the Moomin-books, also seconding the wonderful "The Summer Book".
posted by Petersondub at 1:42 PM on August 9, 2014

tor.com is giving away Moomin books. Comment here for a chance to win.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:21 PM on August 9, 2014

Oh, I'm very excited to read that biography! Happy 100th, Tove!
posted by snorkmaiden at 6:52 PM on August 9, 2014

The BBC4 2013 documentary "Mooninland Tales" about Janson is great if you haven't seen it.

I found that reading the books as a kid stood me in great store when I went on to meet actual Finns as an adult.
posted by rongorongo at 11:17 PM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

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