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The Gay Love Stories of Moomin and the Queer Radicality of Tove Jansson | Autostraddle
"In 1955, Tove Jansson asked Tuulikki Pietilä to dance. They had sat all night around the gramophone together, guarding it whilst they played their records so that nobody could change the music. But Pietilä said no: same-sex relationships were still illegal in Finland — and would be until 1971 — and – the threat of judgement from peers and colleagues was intense. Queer people know well the hollow of panic, deep in the gut, when you think that your disguises may have failed. It is why, historically, we have avoided large displays of affection; why our histories take the form of private letters, fragments hidden inside books and diaries. The story of Tove and Tuulikki is no different; soon after she refused to dance, Tuulikki sent Tove a card with a cat, fat and striped, hand-drawn on the front. A code that meant: I am thinking of you. After telephone calls over the holidays, Tove finally set off to Tuulikki’s studio. It was March, and snowing, when she walked over; the streets were dark and the fat flakes fell in drifts that made the roads shine. When she got there, the studio warm and light like a ship’s cabin at sea, they drank wine and played French records.

Jansson’s queerness is often left out in stories of her life. Puffin editions of Moomin books talked about how she lived alone on her Finnish island; documentaries still talk of Pietilä as a lifelong friend. Jansson is no
 misnomer, rather, she fits in neatly with the trend of avoiding the personal lives of gay people
 – particularly lesbians – that exists to this day. Society dissolves queer realities: erases the two bodies sharing a bed, wrapped around each other, the two bodies fucking, the moments and hours and days, the holding hands and arguing and kissing and small talk. As seen throughout history, gayness is coded as dangerous for children. It is portrayed something purely sexual or purely chaste, rarely afforded the complexity and nuance afforded to heterosexual relationships. For Jansson to be a successful children’s writer she was portrayed as sexless, loveless. It’s particularly egregious when queerness informs the work of a writer to that extent that it did for Jansson. Not only do the themes of loneliness, family and love shape her work for adults and children, but she included characters based on her female lovers in many of her works.

Before meeting Pietilä, Jansson had been in a creative crisis. She knew the demand was high for another Moomin book, but dreaded the thought of repeating herself – she longed for new ground to tread, for the freedom of inspiration. As her fame had increased, so had her awareness that the Moomins were no longer hers alone; they now appeared on waste paper baskets and brooches and wrapping paper, and the public always wanted more. In 1955 she wrote of her conflicting feelings, saying, “I can’t recall exactly when I became hostile to my work, or how it happened and what I should do to recapture my natural pleasure in it.” The knowledge that she had to write another Moomin book loomed large in her mind. It was precisely Pietilä’s influence that helped overcome her writer’s block: “That I was able to write Moominland Midwinter was entirely due to Tooti,” Jansson stated to biographer Boel Westin in Tove Jansson: Life, Art Words. Out of their love letters the character of Too-tikky had been formed, first as an inky doodle of her lover’s likeness (‘My Tootikki!’, she nicknamed Pietilä), and then slowly as a fleshed-out form.

Moominland Midwinter was a radical departure from the sun-drenched summers of the Moomin valley that readers had seen before — sailing boats framed by orange-slice suns, picnics on the terrace, dances in the woods. Instead, Moomin wakes up from hibernation in the cold dark of a Finnish winter, pine trees blanketed with snow. He is disoriented and scared, eager to wake up his mother for comfort. However, when she turns away from him in her sleep he realises he must deal with this new world — and his yearning for spring — on his own. There to help him is Too-tikky, as no-nonsense as her flesh and blood counterpart, who describes to him the dancing colours of the Northern Lights, states “One has to discover everything for oneself.” Moomin realises that the winter is needed, for after it follows the spring, lush and bright and alive. It’s hard not to read this as a mirror of Jansson and Pietilä’s relationship, blooming out of the snow and cold — in Moominland Midwinter, our narrator states “There are such a lot of things that have no place in summer and autumn and spring. Everything that’s a little shy and a little rum. Some kinds of night animals and people that don’t fit in with others and that nobody really believes in.” The winter gives us as queer people the chance to show ourselves, to claim the world as ours.

This wasn’t the first lover she had included in her stories: Vivica Bandler, the married theatre director with whom Jansson had an affair in 1946, became the character of Bob. Bob’s counterpart, Thingumy, was Tove, who wrote to Bandler, “No one understands their language, but that doesn’t matter so long as they themselves know what it’s all about… Do you love me? Of dourse you coo! Sanks and the thame to you!” This exchange ended up almost entirely complete in Jansson’s next Moomin book, Finn Family Moomintroll, where Thingumy and Bob are introduced as intertwined, inextricable creatures, their names better known in conjunction than when on their own. They even look the same, only differentiated by the hat Bob wears. By placing them, idiosyncratic and unmissable, at the centre of the story, Jansson was able to make a public declaration of love in a private manner. Her passion – her willingness to depict their relationship for anybody who could decipher the code – led Bandler to warn her to be secretive. Not only was their love illegal, but it was classed as a psychiatric condition, and its reveal would have cost both women their livelihoods and families.

Queerness is Jansson’s works is never as simplistic as direct representation of lovers. It’s something that seeped into the pages, flowing along the lines in the illustrations. In a letter to Bandler, Jansson talks of how “everything has changed since I met you! Every tone is more vivid, every colour cleaner, all my perceptions are sharper.” Already so occupied with “pure, fresh colours” – fleshy greens and cornflower blues and sherbet yellows – Jansson’s passion for Bandler allowed her to utilise them further in her work, encouraging her to use them with a giddy joy on the front cover of Finn Family Moomintroll. Her renewed passion for colour around this time is also prominent in the murals she painted in Helsinki Town Hall, into which she painted Bandler, a tiny Moomintroll and herself; fan in one hand, cigarette in the other, turning her blue eyes away from the viewer’s gaze.

Throughout Finn Family Moomintroll there is a presence, cold and dark and flat, sucking the light from the sun, wilting the flowers. The Groke is the closest the Moomin books get to an antagonist, although even she is treated with sympathy. She is grey as a storm cloud, and wherever she goes the plants and creatures die. She is the antithesis of Thingumy and Bob’s happiness, the embodiment of loneliness to their companionship. It is they who get to keep suitcase of rubies in the end of the story, a treasure many long for but one whose dazzling contents are only available to those who have ‘the right’ to own it — their love makes them the only ones suitable for the honour. It’s tempting to read the Groke as an allegory for the bigotry of a society that seeks to separate lovers, and for the misery that follows. In typical Tove fashion, however, the Groke is not a figure of hatred or derision, but one of pity.

It is Too-Ticky who, in Moominland Midwinter, encourages us to empathise with the Groke — to consider how desperately lonely a life untouched by love must be. This is not to say that Jansson did not face the isolation that is inherent in the lives of most queer people — although she remained with Pietilä for the rest of her life, and although they shared connected apartments and their island cottage, she could never discuss her love with her family. Jansson was open with her friends, telling them that she the “happiest and most genuine solution for me will be to go over to the spook side;” a wonderfully matter-of-fact way of resolving her own conflicts over her sexuality. But both her father and her mother were unable to discuss it with her — Jansson describes how her father tried to speak with her after he had heard gossip, but ultimately, he could not say the “difficult word homosexual.” Jansson suspected that her mother knew, but never raised the subject, writing “I can accept this […] But it feels lonely.”

Only after her parents had died did Jansson write Fair Play, a collection of short stories that fictionalised her relationship with Pietilä. The characters in the book, Jonna and Mari, live as Jansson and Pietilä do – in adjoining apartments with connecting studios. They are – respectively – an artist, and an illustrator and writer. The stories are quiet: Jonna and Mari watch westerns together, try to protect their fishing nets from a storm, bicker over the way paintings hang on the wall. They travel to America, as their real-life counterparts did, and sleep in a tent when a guest stays in their island cottage. But it’s everyday-ness is precisely what makes it so calmly radical. It is a portrait of a lifelong lesbian couple, allowing us to see into their daily lives, the minutiae of how they live, and on display at the centre of everything is their love for one another. In her introduction Ali Smith brilliantly summarises it as “affectionate discretion […] a good-working love, a homage to the kind of coupledom that rarely receives such homage.” No longer forced to be… [more]
tovejansson  tuulikkipietilä  2018  moomins  sexuality  writing  hannahilliams  queerness  relationships  creativity  finland  love  boelwestin  1955  1946  vivicabandler  language  groke  empathy  literature  howwerite  homosexuality  alismith  affection  discretion 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Twitter
RT : Today is for 's birthday. Did you know that Jansson illustrated Swedish and Finnish edition…
MoominsDay  ToveJansson  from twitter
august 2018 by daisyk
Austin Kleon — Tove Jansson, Moomin: The Deluxe Anniversary...
"Tove Jansson, Moomin: The Deluxe Anniversary Edition

When my son Owen was born, all I seemed to be able to read was old collections of Nancy comics. After my son Jules was born a few months ago, I would lie down and read a few pages of Moomin.

The comics are so, so wonderful. (See this documentary about Tove Jansson’s life.) My wife and I have been joking a lot that we’re Moominmama and Moominpapa:

The only downside to the collection is that it’s a big honking book and can be kind of cumbersome to read in bed:

I ended up splurging and buying a bunch of these “Enfant” editions, which have been colorized by Drawn & Quarterly and come in nice little paperbacks (one story per book). Here are some images from Moomin on the Riviera:

Highly, highly, highly, recommended."
tovejansson  austinkleon  moomin  2015  comics 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Here Comes Hilda - The New Yorker
"It began, as adventures often do, with a trip: a family holiday in Norway, parents and their teen-agers, that seemed entirely straightforward at the time. “My imagination was really going for it on that trip—the landscape of the place stuck with me,” Luke Pearson, the British author of the Hildafolk series of graphic novels, told me. “At the time, I was reading about trolls and daydreaming, knowing I wanted to do something with that one day.”

Next, there was a map. “When I was at university, everyone who studied illustration was given a project to do an illustrated map of a country, and I was given Iceland,” he said. “I made a map of Icelandic folktales—you can still play it.” Move the digital clouds on Pearson’s “Hidden Iceland” and see, in their shadows, the giants and sprites and Viking ships just beneath that country’s peaks and fjords.

Finally, there was a girl: Hilda, now the star of four (soon to be five) comics. Netflix is planning a twelve-episode animated series, based on the first four books, for early 2018. The fifth book, “Hilda and the Stone Forest,” comes out in September.

When Pearson was still in school, in 2009, he submitted a one-page drawing to a competition run by Nobrow, now his publisher. “She’s basically wearing her outfit”—beret, scarf, red top, blue skirt, and big red boots—Pearson said, of Hilda. “She’s standing at the end of a pier, with a Scandinavian-esque city behind her and all kinds of creatures around, including a giant troll and a zeppelin in the sky.” A similar scene occurs in the third Hilda book, “Hilda and the Bird Parade,” but at the beginning Pearson didn’t have a story, just this “curious image” of a small girl with blue hair and a question: “Where is she and what does she get up to?”

What she gets up to is a string of adventures, first in the Heidi-esque hills above Trolberg, and then in the city itself—a move made (spoiler alert!) after a giant steps on the cozy ancestral cottage that she shares with her mother. That Hilda herself has long been a giant to a set of thumb-size invisible elves, living on the same patch of grass that her cabin sits on, is just another part of a life in which mythical creatures hide within mountains and behind bureau drawers. (There’s a lot of unused space in Hilda’s house, you see.)

For such a small girl, Hilda is about to get very big, and I am not at all surprised. My five-year-old daughter brought the first book home from a friend’s house, and it took reading only the first few pages, beautifully laid out, with the rich color palette of a Nordic sweater, to know that Hilda was something special. Trolberg may have a complex of bell towers (bells keep trolls at bay, we learn), but it also has a glassy downtown à la Houston. “All of these stories are riffs on folktales that are as old as time, that have taken a hard left turn through Luke’s imagination and all of these contemporary pop-cultural sensibilities,” Kurt Mueller, the executive vice-president at Silvergate Media, which will produce the Hilda series, said. (The company’s other series include “The Octonauts” and “Peter Rabbit.”) “Like the movies of Miyazaki, she feels totally of the moment, but she’s reacting to something that feels ancient and archetypal,” Mueller said. The nostalgic Northern European setting recalls Miyazaki’s romanticism, while Hilda’s communion with the conjoined natural and spirit worlds recalls San from “Princess Mononoke” or Satsuki from “My Neighbor Totoro.”

My first point of comparison was Lewis Carroll’s Alice, though Pearson said that he never thought of her. But, greeted by a little girl in an unchanging outfit, who is confronted with all manner of creatures great and small, in landscapes giant and miniaturized, who else are we to think of? What’s markedly different with Hilda is the attitude with which she greets her wonderland. She does not fall down a hole but strides, prepared with sketchbook and satchel, into the wind and weather. The first words of the first book, “Hilda and the Troll,” are delivered by a radio announcer: “But tonight clouds rolling in from the east . . . temperatures remain mild . . . with the likelihood of heavy rain.” Hilda, reading a tome on trolls at the breakfast table, rushes outside her red, peak-roofed cabin to see storm clouds forming over an adjacent peak. “Mum! Mum! It’s going to rain tonight! Can I sleep in the tent?” And Mum says yes.

Pearson’s aesthetic is sophisticated for the often candy-colored world of children’s animation, and the plots fit neatly into a number of present-day parenting preoccupations. Do children need dream time or organized activities? Nature or urban exploration? Pearson himself is too young to have friends with kids, so one suspects that his sensitivity to children’s desire for independence, combined with a need for a secure nest, may stem from his own childhood. Hilda’s mum wants her to have friends, to go to school, to participate in organized activities, but Hilda is always wandering off, learning Scout lessons on her own terms. Pearson says the scenes of the Sparrow Scouts were taken directly from his own Cub Scout experiences, down to the design of the church hall in which they meet (made of Nordic wood rather than Tamworth brick).

In the countryside, Hilda runs free, but the city brings greater conflict between her and her mother—who works from home at a drafting board, perhaps as an architect or an illustrator. Pearson’s panels are filled with such suggestive details, rewarding the close and repeated reading of small children. One of my daughter’s favorite spreads is at the back of the paperback version of “Hilda and the Troll”: a glimpse of Hilda’s realistically messy desk and shelves, stocked with Easter eggs from this and future tales, allowing young readers to put a few things together for themselves. Pearson extends the respect he has for Hilda to his audience, giving it room to discover the good kind of troll for themselves.

Pearson’s utter lack of pretension keeps Hilda feeling fresh, while his reading of folktales and Tove Jansson’s Moomin series embeds Hilda in the long history of children’s stories. Spunky heroines abound, but they don’t always speak to the present day. Hilda’s dilemmas, while fantastic, also feel real: Does she throw a rock at a pigeon to fit in? Does mother know best? Can one, or both, of them draw their way out of their latest adventure? Pearson has found a lovely new way to dramatize childhood demons, while also making you long for your own cruise down the fjords."

[See also:
https://islingtoncomic.blogspot.sg/2012/05/hilda-and-midnight-giant.html
http://www.tcj.com/i-wanted-a-character-who-was-very-positive-an-interview-with-luke-pearson/
http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/2014/09/how-to-read-hilda/
http://comicsalliance.com/learning-and-inspiring-in-luke-pearsons-hilda-comics-review/
https://thebookwormbaby.blogspot.com/2016/02/the-amazing-world-of-hilda.html ]
books  childrensbooks  childhood  alexandralange  2016  lukepearson  comics  graphicnovels  toread  hilda  nordiccountries  hayaomiyazaki  girls  heroines  aliceinwonderland  lewiscarroll  play  maps  mapping  parenting  sfsh  iceland  pippilongstocking  tovejansson  princessmononoke  myneighbortotoro  studioghibli  scandinavia  illustration  folktales  moomin  childrensliterature 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Twitter
Dancing was important for . Read more about Dancing from our blog
ToveJansson  Moominvalley  from twitter_favs
april 2016 by edsonm
looking aesthetic
Well, I never knew that: Tove Jansson did illustrations for a Swedish edition of the Hobbit. Just beautiful.
jrrtolkien  hobbit  tovejansson  illustration  art 
february 2015 by infovore

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