In the middle of 1950s Tove was very, very lonely. Her letters of that time are melancholy, as she desperately yearned for true love. By this time she was very interested in dating women (as to her, Atos Wirtanen was in a way the last man she wanted to love). But circles were small in a small town, where homosexual acts were both a disease and illegal.
It was 1955, when Tove met Tuulikki Pietilä. They knew each other vaguely by looks. They had attended Ateneum’s art school at the same time but Tuulikki was few years younger and usually students spent time with their own language group (Tove spoke Swedish, Tuulikki Finnish).
The love story which lasted until their deaths, almost half a century began at Pikkujoulu party (”Little Christmas” in Finnish, a party traditionally held in anticipation on Christmas, usually among coworkers or friends) arranged by Finnish art society. Tove asked Tuulikki to dance, but she declined - probably out of propriety. But later Tuulikki sent Tove a card picturing a striped cat and asked her to visit her atelier.
Next summer Tuulikki visited Tove at an island. Love was born. Tove wrote; “I have finally come home to that one person whom I want to be with”. The picture of a striped cat was always and still is on the wall of Tove’s atelier. The couple spent their summers together on an island and winters working in their ateliers, which were right next door from each other.
It can be said that Tuulikki saved Moominvalley. By the time they began their relationship, Tove was absolutely tired of Moomins. Tuulikki’s support restored Tove’s belief in Moomins and they became an important hobby to them both.
Moomin book Moominland Midwinter (1957) is a book about loving and falling in love with Tuulikki. And it really shows. In the book, Moomintroll (who is an avatar of Tove Jansson) wakes up in the middle of unfamiliar and eerie winter, facing loneliness and death for the first time. In the middle of all cold and silence Moomintroll finds Too-Ticky, who’s calmly watching a snow lantern. Too-Ticky is robust and strong with blonde hair and a knife at her hip; everything Tuulikki was.
Too-Ticky becomes Moomintroll’s calm and supportive mentor. She never gives ready answers and instead gently guides Moomintroll as he grows and learns. It is Too-Ticky who says the phrase which Tove repeated often in her interviews and which was seemingly one of her most important philophies: “Everything is insecure and that makes me calm”.
After Tuulikki’s first visit Tove wrote; “I love you both enchanted and very calm at the same time, and I don’t fear anything that might await us”. After finding Tuulikki, Tove described how much calmer and safer she felt. Whole living felt easier.
Tove Jansson attended the Independence Day celebrations in Presidential Palace, Helsinki together with her life partner Tuulikki Pietilä in 1992. This celebration is an important tradition in Finland and the broadcast is one of the most watched shows on Finnish TV each year.
They were the first same-sex couple to ever attend this celebration. The press of the time accused the couple of disgracing the event. Keep in mind, that homosexuality was punisheable by law in Finland until 1971 and was officially listed as a disease until 1981, so acceptance is not that old. Even in recent years there have been those who have expressed opinions against same-sex couples attending Independence Day celebrations together.
Let their example inspire you as well.
Same-sex marriage becomes legal in Finland on March 1, 2017!
Tove Jansson was an incredible artist. She was a multitalented painter, writer and illustrator who created many wonderful pieces of art. Her best-known works are Moomin books and illustrations and comics centered around these characters, but she was also a talented painter with a very keen eye for color and technique. She also wrote many books and stories after finishing Moomin books. Tove Jansson was born under the shadow of WWI and grew up during the Finnish Civil War. When she was a young woman, she had to live through WWII and witness all the horrors of the time. This shaped her into a pacifist with strong anti-violence opinions.
Moomin books containt many precious and timeless ideals. Stories have themes like acceptance and loneliness, love for nature and value of freedom. Instead of giving tired morals, Tove delicately talks about things that are necessary but often forgotten. Every little creature has the right to be angry and without getting angry, you will never get your own face. Family and friends should support and love one another, but this also means letting others explore freely and with knowledge that those at home will not worry over them. Even the coldest Groke can turn warm with kindness. The books are suited for both children and adults, no matter the century or millenium. Moomins have been used as icons for environmental campaigns and to promote children’s well-being. They have evolved from children’s characters into cultrual icons of Finland.
Besides being a genius with many talents, Tove Jansson was known as a brave and caring woman. She had very bold and forward-thinking ideas about gender equality and was critical of the role women were given during 1900s. Tove Jansson was never to give up her art and career to settle down. She also defended the rights of Jewish people under the shadow of WWII and often brought attention to the plight civilians faced during wartime.
Tove Jansson was employed by the satire magazine Garm, for which she drew many sharp political caricatures. In her drawings she often criticized fascism and communism around Europe. She was later quoted to have said that mocking Hitler was one of the most satisfying things she got to do in her career. Her work was so critical about war and political figures of the time that she even faces censorship.
Love of her life was Tuulikki Pietilä. Their relationship laster over half a century. Tove never tried to hide her love, even in a time when homosexuality was a crime and later classified as a mental illness. She rebelled against oppressive systems of her time by living against them every day. She and Tuulikki were devoted to one another and their relationship only ended with Tove’s death in 2001. Tove even brought her lover with her to attend Independence Day celebrations in Presidential Palace (note that same-sex couples have faced opposition as lately as 2010s). They shared their work and dreams, settled on an island together and traveled around the world.
Tove Jansson was an incredible woman and everything she left behind will continue to impact lives of many children and adults for years to come.
Loneliness is one of the key themes in Moomin books. Tove Jansson was very familiar with this experience. Her father had been emotionally damaged by the civil war when Tove was very young and because of this, she spent her entire childhood longing for his affection. In her adulthood Tove experienced another war and had to wait for her brother, lover and friends who were away fighting. All while her friends and family were also mourning and emotionally distant. After the war ended, Tove entered another relationship full of longing and waiting with Atos Wirtanen. Endless waiting only seemed to end when she met Tuulikki Pietilä, who was finally there when Tove needed her most.
Constant waiting is a lonely experience. But Tove was also aware of another kind of loneliness. This kind of loneliness is the kind we seek ourselves. Tove was a very private person even when she became famous and also a dedicated artist who needed peace to work. She spent years trying to find a place where she could isolate herself to work and enjoy her own company.
Loneliness appears as duality in Moomin books. The bad kind of loneliness is represented with various Fillyjonks and sometimes Moomintroll himself, especially when he longs for Snufkin. Fillyjonks are anxious and depressed people who often suffer from sudden feelings of doom. Their unstable minds and efforts to keep up respectable life often end up isolating them in large houses on the beach because their grandmother had supposedly lived there as a child or in neatly decorated parlors with only their own thoughts for company. Fillyjonks long to escape this loneliness. They will reach out for people but they often fail. It seems it’s impossible to be both polite and proper and speak up about your depression at the same time.
Moominvalley in November is a book where loneliness is the main theme. So it is no wonder that a Fillyjonk is among the main characters. This Fillyjonk is tired of being anxious and alone, so she comes to visit Moomin family in hopes of getting caught up in their spontaneous life. When Moomin family appears to be away, she tries to be spontaneous like Moominmamma herself and make people around her feel at home. She fails miserably, because a timid and orderly Fillyjonk cannot be Moominmamma. Her efforts isolate her further until she lets go and starts to be herself but with a happier attitude towards herself. In the end she manages to put together a work party and heads back home with more enthusiasm. She was able to overcome her loneliness when she accepted her limitations and embraced them and others.
Another lonely Fillyjonk appears in Tales from Moominvalley; Fillyjonk Who Believed in Disasters. This Fillyjonk ends up overcoming her loneliness without other people like the Fillyjonk mentioned above. Instead, she encounters the disaster she was afraid of and turns her loneliness from bad kind to the good kind. This good kind of loneliness means that you can be by yourself and it’s not scary or unpleasant. Snufkin basically lives for this kind of loneliness. He not only enjoys being by himself, he yearns for it and becomes anxious if he does not get to be alone. In a way, his good loneliness is the opposite from Fillyjonk’s bad loneliness. This good kind of loneliness nurtures and gives us strength to be social again. Though eventually even Snufkin realizes that maybe he did not really need to be so much alone, when he was always surrounder by people who understood him.
There is no way to talk about loneliness and healing without talking about the very personification of loneliness; The Groke. The Groke is so cold that everything she touches turns to ice. This isolates her from other people completely. So completely, that they would rather not even mention her name. Whenever she approached their light, they will turn it off and run away. She is almost defiant in her loneliness. “I’m the only Groke. There is no one like me and I will never warm up” she declares in Moominpappa and the Sea. She is bad loneliness given form. But eventually a single act of kindness, Moomintroll coming to see her on the beach, frees the Groke. Moomintroll’s company and caring drive away her loneliness and turn out to be the key to her freedom; The Groke becomes warm. Moomin books always show us characters either freeing themselves from bad loneliness or finding out that limitless amount of good loneliness is not actually a key to happiness.
The truest example of independent and good loneliness is actually Little My. She is capable of finding just the right balance between loneliness and sociality. She is with others when she feels like it and despite being sharp and brutally honest, she is willing to support and nurture them whenever they need it. But she is also capable of running away whenever she feels like it. Little My is free of sentimentality and will not miss people and company. She can enjoy both loneliness and company to equal measure, without ever getting bored or sad.