Tove Jansson Biography

Tove Jansson, a renowned painter, writer, and novelist, is widely known for her contributions to children’s literature. From a young age, she knew she would become an artist, thanks to her Bohemian upbringing and supportive family. As she traveled through Europe, perfecting her artistic skills, she found herself amidst the chaos of war, leading her to create a beloved series of fantastical adventures for children. Jansson’s books gained global recognition for their creative writing style and heartwarming illustrations. Beyond her literary achievements, her public romantic relationship with another woman, though scandalous at the time, now positions her as a pioneer in the LGBT community. Throughout her career, Jansson remained true to her artistic calling and independent nature, ultimately becoming one of the most celebrated authors in Scandinavian history.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Tove Marika Jansson
  • Died At Age: 86
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Tuulikki Pietilä
    • Father: Viktor Jansson
    • Mother: Signe Hammarsten-Jansson
    • Siblings: Lars Jansson, Per Olov Jansson
  • Born Country: Finland
  • Quotes By Tove Jansson
  • Novelists
  • Died on: June 27, 2001
  • Place of death: Helsinki, Finland
  • Ancestry: Swedish Finnish
  • Notable Alumni: Konstfack
  • Cause of Death: Cancer
  • City: Helsinki, Finland
  • More Facts
  • Education: Konstfack
  • Awards:
    • Order of the Smile – 1975
    • Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing – 1966
    • Selma Lagerlöf Prize – 1992

Childhood & Early Life

Tove Marika Jansson was born on August 9, 1914, in Helsinki, which was then part of the Grand Duchy of Finland in the Russian Empire. Her mother, Signe Hammarsten-Jansson, was a graphic designer and illustrator, and her father, Viktor Jansson, was a sculptor. Tove belonged to the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland and had two brothers, Lars and Per, who also became artists and writers.

Tove studied art from 1930 to 1933 at the University College of Arts, Crafts, and Design in Stockholm, Sweden. She then continued her studies at the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki from 1933 to 1937. In the following year, she studied at L’Ecole d’Adrien Holy and L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France.


During the 1930s, Jansson traveled extensively throughout Western Europe, working as an illustrator for book covers, advertisements, and postcards. In 1943, she had her first solo art exhibition. In 1945, her first children’s book, ‘The Moomins and the Great Flood’, was published. She was also commissioned to paint a mural for a factory in Pitäjänmäki, Finland.

In 1946, Jansson published ‘Comet in Moominland’, the second book in the ‘Moomins’ series, which became popular like its predecessor. In 1948, she achieved worldwide fame with the publication of ‘Finn Family Moomintroll’. The following year, she wrote a play based on her book ‘Comet in Moominland’. She continued to publish more books in the ‘Moomin’ series, including ‘The Exploits of Moominpappa’ in 1950 and ‘The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My’ in 1952.

Jansson held solo exhibitions of her paintings between 1960 and 1967 and published another book in the ‘Moomin’ series titled ‘Moominpappa at Sea’. She also published short fiction works, novels for adults, and collections of short stories. In 1984, she began painting murals featuring her ‘Moomin’ characters for schools in and around Pori, Finland. Several books of her short fiction were published posthumously, including ‘The Invisible Child’, ‘The Last Dragon in the World’, and ‘The Secret of the Hattifatteners’.

Major Works

Tove Jansson is most famous for creating the ‘Moomin’ series of children’s books and comic strips. The series consists of 15 works that have been translated into 45 languages and sold tens of millions of copies worldwide. The city of Tampere, Finland, has a museum dedicated to the ‘Moomin’ characters created by her.

Awards & Achievements

In 1966, Jansson was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Medal for her contributions to children’s literature. She was also awarded the Order of the Smile in 1975.

Personal Life & Legacy

Tove Jansson passed away on June 27, 2001, at the age of 86, after a successful career in the visual and literary arts. She had a romantic partnership with Tuulikki Pietilä from 1956 until her death.


Jansson wrote her first story, ‘Sara and Pelle and the Water Sprites’ Octopuses’, when she was just 14 years old, although it was not published until 1933. In 2004, a 10-euro commemorative coin was struck in Finland to honor Jansson. She has stated that the original inspiration for her ‘Moomin’ characters was the German philosopher Immanuel Kant.

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