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!
In 1947, Tove Jansson began one of her most famous and most challenging art projects ever. She was ordered to paint two large frescos to the dining room of the Helsinki city hall, by Erik von Frenckell. Tove began the ambitious work with passion to celebrate the time after war in Finland. Each step she reported to her “beloved Vifslan”, Vivica Bandler.
Vivica Bandler was Tove’s first female lover. Their love was passionate and all-consuming. Tove worshipped Vivica and described that loving her had changed everything. All things felt new and all feelings were more intense. And Tove was not shy about showing this love, even if she did it in secret (note, homosexuality was illegal in Finland until 1971 and listed as a disease until 1981).
One of the boldest and bravest gestures was in one of the frescos ordered by von Frenckell (Vivica’s father, actually).
The blonde woman smoking her cigarette is Tove herself and the dark-haired woman dancing behind her is Vivica. Painting them so close and so visible was a brave move on Tove’s part and served to fuel the rumours around them. Tove laid out her love for all the world to see, but in a careful way.
Tove and Vivica even appear in Moomin books; as Thingumy and Bob from Finn Family Moomintroll (1948). Their original Swedish names, Tofslan and Vifslan, give away the connection. These two speak in a secret language only they can understand and are running away from The Groke who wants to steal their precious gem; the most beautiful thing in the world. You do not need deep analysis to see what the story represents.
Eventually Tove’s and Vivica’s love ended like all quick and passionate love stories; to it’s own impossibility. Like with about all her lovers, Tove still remained friends with Vivica. Hot summer turned to cool autumn in the book and the frescos were finished.
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.
Lie on the bridge and watch the water flowing past. Or run, or wade through the swamp in your red boots. Or roll yourself up and listen to the rain falling on the roof. It’s very easy to enjoy yourself.