Autolithographs by Evald Okas





People have gathered around a pyre to mourn their heroes killed in war. The victims include
 Lembvald, son of Lembitu.



Priest Alobrand and monk Hendrik, sent as envoys by the Livonian chief Kaupo, arrive at Lehola stronghold the men are also collaborators of the order master Folkvin and spies. The monks tell Lembitu that his other son called Meelis, also thought to be dead, is actually alive and imprisoned by Kaupo. On behalf of Kaupo, they want to trade Lembitu’s son for Kaupo’s daughter Mare who, in turn, is held in prison by Lembitu.
Lembitu is all for the exchange and decides to travel all the way to Toreida on this occasion.



Mare is happy to return home, yet sad to say farewell: she is reluctant to leave Lehola
where Lembitu treated her like his own daughter.




Knights are revelling at Toreida castle. Priest Alobrand returns from Sakala and tells the order master about the outcome of his trip, and mentions that Lembitu had made a military pact with the Prince of Novgorod.
Folkvin is excited about the news. Several defeats by Estonians have made the order master cautious. The knights need more troops. Kaupo is summoned – he is given a message by the Pope and declared the King of Livonia. Kaupo’s ambitions are fulfilled and he promises to give three thousand men, though he is not sure about their willingness to help because he knows that he has lost people’s trust. The order master and knights are happy to see that “simple-minded” Kaupo has become their obedient servant. A message is delivered that Lembitu himself has arrived in Toreida, and Mare is with him. Bewildered by Lembitu’s courage, the knights want to kill him. The order master, however, is more cunning: “Why should we kill Lembitu? This is not a clever thing to do. Let Kaupo influence the guest.” Kaupo, however, fails to talk Lembitu into betraying his people. Lembitu gets his son back.




Over the past six years, Meelis has been trained as a monk who has estranged even from his own father. When Meelis is about to leave Toreida, Alobrand follows the command by the order master and gives Meelis a dagger for killing Lembitu. The priest persuades Meelis that it would please the church if he killed his pagan father,
 and takes an oath from him.



The stronghold is being reinforced in Lehola. Manivald who accompanied Lembitu on his trip to Toreida is telling the builders amusing stories about life abroad. Meelis, clad in his monk’s attire, is tormented by his promise, given to the church, to kill his father. Gripped by religious frenzy, he is about to attack Lembitu but at the last moment realises the atrocity of his intentions. He asks for his father’s forgiveness and declares himself Lembitu’s son again. The people and their leader are happy for Meelis. Everybody’s high spirits are cut short by Mare’s arrival. She has escaped from Toreida and delivers a message that large troops of the order have crossed Sakala’s border. Men are preparing for the battle.




An autumn night at Lembitu’s war camp. Everybody is in suspense. Lembitu is deeply concerned about the next day. He recalls an old battle song… Meelis and Mare who have fallen in love with each other meet again. The young lovers are very happy, but...


The dawn is already breaking, there is the sound of a war horn,
 and Meelis joins the troops heading to the battle.



Kaupo is deadly wounded. Before dying he realises that it was a grave mistake to trust his knights. Alobrand who is sneaking past robs the dying Kaupo of his money. Meelis catches him red-handed and kills him. Mustering his last strength, the seriously wounded Lembitu returns from the battlefield, supported and helped by his companions. The dying leader persuades his people to fight for their freedom.











In the early 13th century, German Crusaders were slowly moving their campaign to Christianize Europe north into Livonia / Estonia.  The resistance was led by Lembitu, an elder of Sakala County.  The events recorded by Henry of  Livonia in his Livonian Chronicle of Henry (Heinrici Cronicon Lyvoniae tell of Limbutu, after numerous successes, assembling an army of 6,000, and in the decisive battle near Viljandi, on St. Matthew's Day (September 21, 1217), Lembitu was killed.  The victorious Livonian Brothers of the Sword established their stronghold on the shore of Lake Viljandi, where the ruins of the Castle remain yet today.  St. Matthew's Day is also still observed in remembrance of the struggle for freedom and independence.  Lembitu is the first recorded leader of the Estonians and is remembered with a statue near the town of  Suure-Jaani near Viljandi

 Juhan Sütiste 1899-1945), an Estonian writer, poet and playwright,
 wrote a play entitled
"Ristikoerad in 1945 shortly before his death.  It was published in 1950 as Lembitu and illustrated by Evald Okas with a number of two-color autolithographs.  The play was made into an opera by Estonian composer
Villem Kapp (1913-1964) in 1961 and soon appeared in the repertoire of the Estonian National Opera. 

Only one edition of the play Lembitu was ever published, that of the 1950 edition.
  These Okas illustrations are from that edition

Evald Okas (1915-2011) was the grand master of Estonian art. 
Primarily a painter, his lithographs and engravings, appearing mostly as ex libris  prints, are in the richest tradition of graphic art.  These illustrations are autolithographs, printed in two colors, where the artist himself drew onto the metal plates
 that were used in the printing process, a technique not used today.  In 1959 Okas went on to create 100 one-color autolithographs for the centenary edition of Kalivepoeg. 

The text  accompanying the above images is from the English synopsis of the opera Lembitu by Villem Kapp, based in the Juhan Sütiste play.  The premiere of Lembitu took place at the Estonian National Opera on August 23, 1961.

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