I first discovered Tove Jansson’s fifth Moomin book, Moominsummer Madness, while rooting through my stepbrother’s bookshelf shortly before my 9th birthday. The story of floating theatres, Midsummer magic, and a sad girl named Misabel who becomes a great actress was a favorite summer read for several years after. But it would take me two decades, a trip out of the closet, and a discovery about the book’s author to fully understand why.
The fact that Jansson was a lesbian is not very well known, thanks perhaps in part to earlier biographic blurbs that identified her as living alone on Klovharu Island. In actuality, she summered there with her partner Tuulikki Pietilä, a graphic artist who collaborated with Jansson on a number of projects, including a book about Klovharu, Anteckningar från en ö (Pictures from an Island), in 1996. Some have even speculated that Jansson based the boisterous, friendly (and quite delightfully dykey) Moomin character Too-ticky on Pietilä.
As a prolific artist, sculptor, illustrator and writer, Jansson also lived a bohemian lifestyle similar to the one in which she grew up as the child of two artist parents. Unsurprisingly, Moominvalley is awash in the concerns of such a life, from a reverence for nature to a respect for relaxation and the act of making art.