Eduard Vilde: Mäeküla piimamees (Milkman of the Manor)


The latest addition to my website is Eduard Vilde‘s Mäeküla piimamees (Milkman of the Manor). This novel, which has been called Estonia’s first psychological novel, tells the story of an estate owned by a German, Ulrich von Kremer, and one of his tenant farmers, Tōnu Prillup. Prillup’s wife, Leenu, has died, and he has almost immediately married her younger sister, Mari, to help look after his two children. When Mari goes to the manor to wash windows and, later, to milk, Ulrich von Kremer is very taken with her and wants her for his mistress (he is unmarried and, indeed, has never been married). Eventually, after having some moral doubts, he offers Prillup the lucrative milk contract and then a better farm, if Prillup will let Mari be his mistress. Prillup initially refuses but then sees the financial advantages – he is behind with his rent – and tries to persuade Mari to comply. For a long time she refuses but she, too, eventually agrees. But things do not work out as well as Prillup hoped, with the milk contract not being as lucrative as he hoped and he himself having doubts about letting his wife being the mistress of another man. It is a fairly straightforward, realistic tale but with the psychological element, and has been hailed as a classic of Estonian literature. it is the only one of Vilde’s many novels to be translated into English.

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