SULJE
Self Portrait in Ink, 1970s

The fine ink lines sketch out the familiar features delicately yet deftly. It is a minimalist portrait, no longer requiring props or even colours. Tove’s work from the 1970s is characterised by longing, the presence of which can be sensed in the sketch-like quality of this portrait.
Tove left Moominvalley in 1970. It had been 25 years since the first Moomin book. Moominvalley in November was published in the autumn of 1970. It is a tale tinged with sadness, and one in which the Moomins do not appear. The character Toft is Tove’s alter ego. The Moomin family have left Moominvalley and Toft tries to conjure them back with his stories. His attempts to recapture the past fail, yet he finally finds a way to start a new story. This Moomin book – the narration of an identity crisis – was completed in the summer of 1970 after Ham’s death. Tove was overcome by grief.

‘I feel as if I’m living in a fantasy world, everything is peaceful but strange,’ she wrote to her friend Atos soon after her mother’s death.

Tove and Tuulikki spent their summer in the usual way on the island of Klovharu – only Ham was missing and things were never going to be the same again. While on the island, Tove worked almost non-stop on the illustrations for Moominvalley in November: drawing brought her closer to her departed mother.

But although she still yearned for the way things used to be, life had to go on. In the summer of 1971, Tove and Tuulikki put the final touches to their plans for a round-the-world trip, a long-time dream that would finally come true in October 1971. The most important aspect of this trip was the sense of freedom it brought. Tove would finally get the chance to work at her own pace, without the pressures of fame or people pestering her. Tove wrote prose during the trip, and the 1970s were to usher her into an era of short story and novel writing. Tove increasingly distanced herself from her role as ‘Mother of the Moomins’ and ‘children’s author’, and became a prolific author for adults. In the early 1970s, she wrote at a brisk pace. Her collection of short stories, The Listener, was published in 1971 followed by The Summer Book in 1972 and her novel Sun City in 1974. Television dramas and radio scripts also came thick and fast.

But she did not abandon the Moomins entirely. In 1974, Tove wrote the libretto for the Moomin Opera. During the 1970s, she wrote more Moomin songs and Moominworld was also taken to museums in three-dimensional form. Moomin puppet theatre was filmed for television in Poland and Sweden. People loved the Moomins, and the enormous business that sprang up around them took vast amounts of Tove’s energy and time.

‘Writing business letters is awful,’ she sighed in the mid-1970s.