Eduard Bornhöhe

Short stories and novellasEduard Bornhöhe

About Eduard Bornhöhe

Eduard Bornhöhe (real name Brunberg, 17./5. II 1862 - 17. XI 1923), Estonian author, prose writer, whose most important works include historical romantic tales of adventure. They have shaped the historical consciousness of succeeding generations, and have found a place as Estonian literary classics and school-age reading matter.

He was born on the Kullaaru estate in Virumaa, the son of an estate servant. From 1872 to 1874 he attended W. Kentmann’s primary school in Tallinn, thereafter until 1877 at a county school. He held various jobs in several places; he was an apprentice in a commercial office, a surveyor’s assistant, a railway station clerk, a sacristan and schoolmaster, a tutor and a theatre critic. In 1888, as an external student, he passed the final examinations at the Tallinn Governorate Gymnasium, and in 1889 he enrolled to study Estonian philology at Tartu University. Having curtailed his studies for financial reasons, Bornhöhe continued his peripatetic life, holding various jobs in Russia, Poland and Germany. Having returned home for good, in 1893 he started work at Tallinn Circuit Court as an interpreter and in 1901 as an archivist. From 1907 to 1917 he worked as the chairman of the supreme peasant court in Jõhvi, and then as city secretary and people’s judge in Narva. In 1919 he moved to Tallinn, where he held the post of Justice of the Peace until his death. Bornhöhe was buried in Kopli cemetery; in 1951 he was reinterred at Metsakalmistu Cemetery in Tallinn. His cousin was the well-known Estonian writer Eduard Vilde.

Tasuja ('The Avenger', 1880), which he wrote at the age of 17, is the first original Estonian historical narrative, which became a precursor of other historical novels of the late 19th and early 20th century. In the tale, which deals with the St. George’s Night Uprising of 1343, Bornhöhe expressed the patriotic fighting spirit and hunger for freedom of a small nation. The author, in the spirit of romanticism, is guided not only by historical sources (the author relied on Balthasar Russow’s [1578] and Christian Kelch’s [1695] chronicles) while depicting the past, but  creates a colourful and exalted treatment of the Estonian’s heroic struggle for freedom against the Baltic German feudal overlords. Against a background of social and political clashes he depicts the experiences arising from the main protagonist Jaanus’, or the Avenger’s, status as a yeoman, and from his unhappy love match, which turn into a revenge on all the landlords.

The subsequent historical works, Villu võitlused ('The Struggles of Villu', 1890) and Vürst Gabriel ehk Pirita kloostri viimsed päevad ('Duke Gabriel, or the Last Days of the Pirita Convent', 1893) continue the trend of romantic historical fiction. The latter, an adventure novel based on Balthasar Russow’s chronicle, tells of the peasant uprising against the background of the events of the Livonian War in the second half of the 16th century in Tallinn and its environs. Based on the novel, the well-received featured film Viimne reliikvia ('The Last Relic', 1979, directed by Grigori Kromanov) is captivating with its exciting subject-matters, noble heroes and idealistic songs of freedom, which even today are part of the Estonian’s song repertoire.

Besides historical prose, Bornhöhe wrote circumstantially realistic stories on contemporary subjects. In the book Tallinna narrid ja narrikesed ('Fools and Buffoons on Tallinn', 1892), consisting of short satirical pieces, he satirizes self-styled inventors who call themselves intellectual giants, uncultured writers and their unoriginal creations. He deals with the living conditions of officials of different social status and their outmoded ways in the realistic short novel Kollid ('The Bugbears', 1903). Bornhöhe shaped the tradition of Estonian travel writing with the book Usurändajate radadel ('Following the Footsteps of the Pilgrims', 1899), in which he tells in high figurative style of the peoples of the Middle East and their cultures, criticizing the colonialists’ ambitions of power in the process. He published Estonian-language abridged adaptations of Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1891) and Cervantes’ Don Quixote (1900). Withdrawing from literary activity, he published no further books in the last two decades of his life.

A. O. (Translated by C. M.)

Books in Estonian

Short stories
Röövel ja mõisnik. Tartu: H. Laakmann, 1878, 112 lk.
Tasuja. Tallinn: A. E. Brandt, 1880, 147 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: Tartu: M. Vares, 1888 146 lk, Jurjev: M. Vares, 1900, 132 lk; Tallinn: Teadus, 1915, 97 lk; Tallinn: Kool, 1921 117 lk; Tallinn: Kool, 1922, 117 lk; Tartu: Loodus, 1935, 135 lk; Tallinn: Ilukirjandus ja Kunst, 1945, 108 lk; Tallinn: Ilukirjandus ja Kunst, 1947, 118 lk; Vadstena: Orto, 1947, 100 lk; Tallinn: Ilukirjandus ja Kunst, 1948, 128 lk; Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1967, 88 lk; Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1971 169 lk; Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1984, 88 lk; Columbia: Cultural Models, 1996, 232 lk; Kuressaare: TormiKiri, 1998, 379 lk; Tallinn: Mixi Kirjastus, 1999, 102 lk; Tallinn: Ilo, 2005, 103 lk; Tallinn: Ilo, 2008, 103 lk; Tallinn: Eesti Päevaleht, 2008, 127 lk; Tallinn: Eesti Digiraamatute Keskus, 2010, e-raamat; Tartu: Lutsu-nimeline Linnaraamatukogu, 2011, e-raamat; Tallinn: Tänapäev, 2017, 110 lk.]
Lindanissa. Tallinn: A. E. Brandt, 1882, 64 lk.
Villu võitlused. Tallinn: K.Busch, 1890, 112 lk. [Järgnevad väljaanded: Tallinn: Kool, 1921, 101 lk; Tallinn: Ilukirjandus ja Kunst, 1946, 100 lk; Vadstena: Orto,1949, 127 lk; Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1971, 169 lk; Kuressaare: TormiKiri, 1998, 379 lk; Tallinn: Eesti Digiraamatute Keskus, 2010, e-raamat; Tartu: Lutsu-nimeline Linnaraamatukogu, 2011, e-raamat.]
Tallinna narrid ja narrikesed. Tallinn: K. Busch, 1892, 96 lk. [Järgnevad väljaanded: Tallinn: Varrak, 1993, 76 lk; Tallinn: Digira, 2014, e-raamat.]
Vürst Gabriel ehk Pirita kloostri viimased päevad. Tallinn: G. Pihlakas, 1893, 96 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: Tallinn: G. Pihlakas, 1898, 240 lk; Tallinn: G. Pihlakas, 1920, 240 lk; Tallinn: G. Pihlakas, 1929, 200 lk; Tartu: Elmatar, 1996, 170 lk; Kuressaare: TormiKiri, 1998, 379 lk; Tallinn: TormiKiri, 2008, 166 lk; Tallinn: Eesti Digiraamatute Keskus, 2010, e-raamat; 2012, Tallinn: ImmiSoft, 2016, 72 lk; Tallinn: Critera VMG, 2017, e-raamat.]
Kollid. Tallinn: M. Schiffer, M. Antje, 1903, 146 lk. [Järgnev väljaanne: Tartu: Lutsu-nimeline Linnaraamatukogu, 2012, e-raamat.]
Kuulsuse narrid. Tallinn: Pedagoogiline Kirjastus, 1941, 52 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1951, 48 lk; Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1974, 39 lk; Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1981, 36 lk; Tallinn: Mixi Kirjastus, 2006, 26 lk; Tallinn: Eesti Digiraamatute Keskus, 2010, e-raamat.]

Usurändajate radadel. Tallinn: Eesti Postimees, 1899, 144 lk. [Järgnev väljaanne: Tallinn: Digira, 2012, e-raamat.]

Selected and collected works
E. Bornhöhe kirjatööde kogu. Tallinn: Keyler ja Poeg, 1905–1906, 772 lk. [Ilmunud annetena 1-24. Kaasanne väljaandele Uus Aeg. Sisu: 'Tasuja', 'Willu võitlused', 'Tallinna narrid', 'Orelimängija', 'Üks leht "vana pagana" tähtraamatust', 'Aadam ja Eewa', 'Aischa', 'Jõulu-öö Petlemmas', 'Würst Gabriel ehk Pirita kloostri wiimsed päewad', 'Anni neitsipõlv', 'Kollid'.]
Ajaloolised jutustused. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus 1952, 356 lk. [Sisu: 'Tasuja', 'Villu võitlused', 'Vürst Gabriel ehk Pirita kloostri viimased päevad'. Järgnevad trükid: Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1953, 323 lk; Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1959, 468 lk; Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1964, 348 lk; Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1977, 316 lk.]
Teosed I: Tallinna jutud. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1962, 343 lk. [Sisu: 'Anni neitsipõlv', 'Tallinna narrid ja narrikesed', 'Aadam ja Eeva', 'Lihavõttekink', 'Orelimängija', 'Jõuluingel', 'Kollid'.]
Teosed II: Jutud ja reisikirjad. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1963, 420 lk. [Sisu: 'Üks leht «vanapagana» tähtraamatust', 'Labajalavalss laeva peal', 'Surmasuus', 'Must plaaster', 'Liisi peigmees', 'Jõuluöö Petlemmas', 'Aiša', 'Teekond Õhtu-Euroopas', 'Usurändajate radadel', 'Tallinnast Nuustakule', 'Volgal', 'Öine postisõit Eestimaal', 'Buduaar ja tsirkus', 'Valimik kirju'.]
Teosed III: Ajaloolised jutustused. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1964, 348 lk. [Sisu: 'Tasuja', 'Villu võitlused', 'Vürst Gabriel ehk Pirita kloostri viimased päevad'.]