Birgitta Lilliehöök was a journalist who created the classic comic strip called “Spara och Slösa” for Lyckoslanten, which was the Svenska sparbanksföreningen (Swedish savings bank association) magazine for children. She contributed to the comic during the 1926–1963 period.
Birgitta Lilliehöök was born in Gothenburg in 1899. She was the younger of two daughters. Her father, Johan Lilliehöök, was a bank director who later became consul general in Helsinki. Her mother, Greta Holmberg also known as “Sago-Greta”, was an author. When her parents divorced in 1905 Birgitta Lilliehöök, her sister, and her mother returned to Gothenburg from Finland. In 1910 they moved to Lidingö. A few years later Birgitta Lilliehöök’s mother married for a second time, to the artist and museum manager Sixten Strömbom. Birgitta Lilliehöök and her sister Gerd thus grew up in an artistic environment within a family whose social network included leading artists the likes of Carl Milles and Isaac Grünewald. After attending the Whitlock coeducational school Birgitta Lilliehöök began what became a several-year long period of studying art, beginning at Carl Wilhelmson’s painting school in the early 1920s, and then, later, in Copenhagen, Munich, and Paris.
In the summer of 1923 Birgitta Lilliehöök exhibited her fairy-tale and comic drawings for children at the major Jubileum exhibition in Gothenburg. Torsten Palmquist, a school-teacher who became the first editor of Lyckoslanten, was one of those who appreciated her talents. He commissioned a comic strip from Birgitta Lilliehöök, paid for by the journal, which was to focus on children and saving for a rainy day. Birgitta Lilliehöök came up with a comic centred on the splendid, and thrifty character of Spara and the lazy and sweet-toothed character of Slösa. This comic strip was published in the first edition of Lyckoslanten, which was released in honour of ‘Sparsamhetens dag’ (thriftiness day) on 31 October 1926, and subsequently in each edition between 1926 and 1963.
Birgitta Lilliehöök was not able to earn a living on her “Spara och Slösa” comic and so she also became an established journalist and illustrator. She worked for Stockholms-Tidningen, Husmodern, Idun, and Filmjournalen. Her longest period of employment was with Stockholms-Tidningen which lasted from 1924 to 1957. She also contributed to Damernas Värld and its predecessor Flitiga händer. Birgitta Lilliehöök published her first book Bulles dagbok in 1925, about a pug-like dog who philosophises on existence. Some episodes about Bulle were published in Folkskolans läsebok.
Birgitta Lilliehöök’s period of greatest fame whilst working for Stockholms-Tidningen came as a result of her causerie-style column entitled “Mary-Anne och jag”. This was published every Sunday from 26 May 1929 until 1935. A selection of these columns was printed in book format in 1933 under the title of Mary-Anne och jag.
Birgitta Lilliehöök married the Norwegian actor Fridtjof Mjöen in 1930. They spent seven years living in Norway, followed by two further years in Germany. In 1939 she wrote in Filmjournalen about her husband’s role in the Norwegian film En stilla flirt with Tutta Rolf. A Swedish version of the film had also been made, in which Birgitta Lilliehöök also acted. She played the part of “the young beautiful nurse” of the doctor in the film – the part which her husband had played in the Norwegian version. The Mjöens frequently socialised with the screen- and stage-stars of the day.
Birgitta Lilliehöök’s causerie-style contributions to Filmjournalen were written under the pseudonym of Bisse, along with the regular contributions entitled “Veckans Philip den Magre” and “Utifrån den stora världen av Maj Darling”, both of which were intended to make the readers “intimately conversant with what is going on in both the domestic and foreign film spheres”. She also undertook longer interviews with contemporary film actors in Sweden, Norway, and Germany.
It was pure chance that Birgitta Lilliehöök returned to Sweden from Germany the day before war broke out in 1939. Her husband, who was still in Germany, was able to make his way to Sweden and then on to occupied Norway. During the war Birgitta Lilliehöök was active as a freelance writer. Times were hard, particularly financially, and for a while she was hospitalised due to malnourishment. Her marriage did not survive the tribulations. In order to keep her spirits up Birgitta Lilliehöök wrote a novel, entitled Det våras, which was published in 1946 and received positive reviews.
During the 1950s and 1960s Birgitta Lilliehöök came up with new comic characters. Idun published “Lilla gumman” weekly, whilst another one of her characters “Loppan” was meant to represent the then relatively new-fangled concept of a ‘teenager’.
In 1966 Birgitta Lilliehöök undertook a journey to Latin America during which she visited her nephew who was working at the embassy in Buenos Aires. She was inspired to create sketches and drawings in Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, and Panama.
Birgitta Lilliehöök died in Stockholm in 1990. She is buried at the Gamla cemetery in Uppsala, in the family grave along with her maternal grandmother Ann-Margret Holmgren and others.