Each country has its well-known and loved literary characters whose essence is deeply connected to the identity of a nation or region. This exhibition is about those characters, introducing the fictional world, authors and cultural surrounding of smaller European states. Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary and Luxembourg are represented with their literary characters. Learn about the project



Man Child

Toots is one of the most colourful characters in Kevade (Spring) – the national-mythical story about his school time by Oskar Luts. Toots’s restless mind, continuously seeking activity, gets him into one scrape after another. It might be for telling his desk-mate stories about Red Indians at the Russian lesson, having a pot-shot at the sauna window, switching on the gramophone at the moment when silence should rule or bringing a puppy to class.

This character has given the Estonian language quite a few bywords:

  • Toots’s globe – a legendary study aid. It was a big rough red ball that Toots made when geography suddenly caught his interest.
  • Toots’s pockets – used as a comparison, meaning full pockets.
  • Toots’s bed – something totally messed up. When Toots was to help at spring sowing, he mixed up all the different seeds and planted them in one bed.
  • Toots’s class – a rather new word for groups of mentally and behaviourally challenged pupils.
  • Toots – a prototype of a hyperactive child.

The reader encounters adult Toots, an enterprising and fine man, in all the sequels to Kevade, i.e. in Suvi (Summer), Sügis (Autumn) and others. Today’s schoolchildren first meet Toots and the other archetypal characters from the book, more often than not, in the film. Kevade (Tallinnfilm 1969, director Arvo Kruusement) that was awarded the title of the film of the century.

It might be interesting to know that actress Mari Möldre played Toots when she was 47 years old already and it has remained one of the most legendary Tootses on stage.


Oskar Luts

Oskar Luts

7 January 1887 – 23 March 1953

Oskar Luts is the favourite writer for several generations of readers. He wrote novels, stories, plays, memoirs and feuilletons. His very first work Spring (1912-1913) played an essential role in the Estonians’ awareness of their self-worth and peculiarities and today it is considered to be one of the basic texts in Estonian literature. The archetypal characters of the story Spring and its sequels (Summer, Autumn and others) have become almost mythical in Estonia. The books have been made into popular plays and films, a musical and a ballet. Luts’s work is realistic and warmly humorous, his narrative flows naturally, his language is popular, the characters expressive. Luts has been compared to Dickens, even called an Estonian Dickens. He had to earn his living as a pharmacist for 17 years (in Tartu, Narva, Tallinn and Russia). Luts became a member of the Estonian Writers’ Union in 1922, was awarded the title of the People’s Writer of the ESSR in 1945. Since 1936 he had lived in his own house at 38, Riia Street in Tartu, where in 1964 his house-museum was opened. Tartu Town Library, Palamuse Gymnasium and the Parish School Museum all bear the name of Oskar Luts.


Luts started his literary career as an original lyrical realist in 1912. His story Spring descends from traditional culture and popular narrative style. The neo-romantic movement Noor Eesti was influential at that time in Estonian literature and art. The time witnessed the appearance of several other important Estonian writers like A.H. Tammsaare, Friedebert Tuglas, August Gailit, poets Ernst Enno, Villem Grünthal-Ridala and some others.

At that time Estonia was a province of tsarist Russia, independence was declared only in 1918. The national awakening that began in the mid-19th century and that even the strict censorship and Russification could not suppress was a formidable basis for sovereignty. It goes without saying that the rise and development of literature in the native language was important indeed. Spring excelled in its more optimistic and dynamic atmosphere; the rest of literature dealing with social problems was different and often rather gloomy. The readers were delighted with Luts’s expressive characters and his warm humour. The archetypal characters were accepted as one’s own and quickly became almost mythical.

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