“Never before nor since has Estonia been so closely connected with Western Europe as it was over the course of the 15th century.”

“It was a time, when the German Order's power was finally consolidated in the region; when towns and bastions were constructed, when guilds and monasteries flourished.”

“A constant inflow of colonizers and the golden age of the Hanseatic League ensured dense shipping connections with German and Scadinavian harbors.”

“Never before had Estonia been so strongly involved in the wars waged by European rulers for dominance on the Baltic Sea.”

“The Victual Brothers, borne of disputes between the German dukes and the Kingdom of Denmark, plundered the shoreline areas of Estonia cruelly; yet were also allies of the Tartu bishops in their internal quarrels with the German Order.”

Solving mysteries in medieval Tallinn

Apothecary Melchior stories are detective stories taking place in the medieval town of Tallinn. Melchior Wakenstede is a fictional character created by an Estonian writer Indrek Hargla. Melchior lives in the 15th century Tallinn. He has his own pharmacy shop and a good knowledge of all kinds of medicines. Therefore he is a respected citizen of the town. However, he is not a regular apothecary — one of his skills is solving all sorts of mysteries and crimes. These kinds of crimes, murders in the peaceful town of Tallinn are disturbing the calm everyday life from time to time. Melchior needs to step in as he feels the urge not only to solve the crimes and catch the murderer but also to keep his hometown safe for his family and all the good fellow citizens. With his friend, the town's Court Vogt Wentzel Dorn, they form a pair with Dorn having the authority to bring the criminals to justice and Melchior the logical reasoning skills to do so.

Solving mysteries, Melchior himself suffers from a mystical disease that may attack him in the most unpleasant situations. It is a mental disease and to avoid the unpleasant consequences of the attack, he even deliberately knocks himself out. Despite knowing a lot about all kinds of diseases, even Melchior does not know how to fight his own — it is the curse of his family, the curse of Wakenstede. He is afraid that the curse is going to carry on to his son.


“Melchior Wakenstede resembles the famous character Hercule Poirot of Agatha Christie’s stories.
[…] The similarities are, however, superficial, as Hargla is an independent writer who has based the apothecary’s character on the archetypical man who seems mysterious to strangers but is nevertheless a man of flesh and blood.”
— Peeter Helme, Estonian Literary Magazine

“Best Estonian export in international book markets.”
— Books_To_Film

“First in the series of gothic murder mysteries, featuring Hanseatic Tallinn and an apothecary as a detective,
the novel has received positive reviews and been one of the best selling fiction books of 2010”
— Books_To_Film

“A serial killer haunts a medieval town. The key to the bloodthirsty crimes is hidden in an old legend.”
— Books_To_Film

“The best Estonian writer in the field of science fiction, fantastic horror and heroic fantasy.”
— Estonian Literature Center

“A (story) that enables a most wonderful glance into a European Hanseatic port of the Middle Ages: into a budding, adventurous townscape.”
— Estonian Literature Center

“There is a mystery and a truly fascinating situation: monasteries, guilds, various brotherhoods, the town council and its political factions, merchants and their links with overseas towns.”
— Peeter Helme, Estonian Literary Magazine


The author tells us a bit about the curse of Wakenstede in this short interview:


The Melchior stories have been greatly inspired by real historical events, but are still fully fictional. Reading the books gives you the feeling of traveling back in time as the author does not only demonstrate his good knowledge of historical facts, but also depicts the everyday life of the medieval town, values and customs of the time, clothes, the streets of the town and the houses from exterior to interior. Even the menu cards of the feasts are presented in spectacular detail. At the same time the stories follow the schema of a good detective novel, where it is hard for the reader to put down the book before the mystery is solved by Melchior.

  • Apothecary Melchior and the Hangman's Daughter (novel)
    Published by Varrak , 2011. pp. 431
  • Apothecary Melchior and the Ghost of Sternsod (novel)
    Published by Varrak, 2010. pp. 288
  • Apothecary Melchior and the Mystery of St Olaf´s Church (novel)
    Published by Varrak , 2010. pp. 312

To date Hargla has written four books and two short stories, where Melchior demonstrates his puzzle and mystery solving skills.

One feature length followed by a TV series

There is going to be one feature length fiction and a TV series based on Indrek Hargla’s Apothecary Melchior stories.The series presents legends of Tallinn’s mysteries that Melchior sets out to solve, each of which is a stand-alone episode. Melchior would also visit other important Hanseatic towns in the series.

The Apothecary Melchior Wakenstede Gothic thriller series could start with the young Melchior losing his father to the mysterious Wakenstede’s illness and him taking over his father’s apothecary business with the hope of solving the mystery of this cursed illness as he carefully starts carrying out studies on remedies and their effectiveness.


Script editor Wendy Wolfgarius about the Melchior project:


Melchior is unsuccessful until the end of his life in finding a remedy for this horrible life-threatening illness onset by secret circumstances, even though he has a talent for solving mysteries and is a skillful detective. This trail leads him to Estonia where he falls in love with his future wife, Keterlyn, an Estonian and a witch’s daughter.

The series ends with a big iconoclasm in Tallinn – a bloody battle between the catholics and the protestants, during which nearly all holy paintings in churches were destroyed, monks were murdered and catholic monasteries were liquidated.

Melchior, by this time in his 70s, is the head of a large family. His apothecary shop is located on the main square, the Town Hall Square of Tallinn, and he is one of the most respected citizens in the town. As he is investigating the legend of the disappearance of the Renaissance Master Bernt Notke’s famous Death Dance, he himself gets involved in this fatal dance and loses his life to the Wakenstede’s curse.

Full of history here and now

Tallinn's Old Town is in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Now being the capital of Estonia, Tallinn has always been an important town in the Baltic Sea region. Tallinn, called Reval back then, was granted the Lübeck law in 1248 and became the member of the Hanseatic League in 1285. The town was developing rapidly during the Middle Ages as it was a significant point in the merchant route connecting the Western Europe with the East, Russia.

The town was divided into two parts — the fortress which was on the hill of Toompea already before the arrival of the Christian crusaders in the beginning of the 13th century was rebuilt and strengthened during the centuries to follow first by the Danes and then by the Livonian Order; the lower town was inhabited by merchants of German origin who settled here in the 13th century.

The Old Town of Tallinn was mainly built up from the 13th to the 16th centuries, with such examples as the St. Olaf's Church first mentioned already in 1267 — as the church was constantly rebuilt during the times, it reached a height of 159 meters around the year 1500, being allegedly the tallest building in the world at that time; or the St. nicholas' Church built also already in the 13th century.

The town hall of Tallinn as we know it today was finished in 1404. The 15th century was a period of great transformation for the town when the wooden houses of the merchants were replaced by the stone houses. There was a wall to protect the town already in the 13th century, but it was enlarged and built stronger in the following centuries.

The first half of the 15thcentury, when the Melchior stories took place, was a time when the town was flourishing and therefore improving constantly. The Old Town we see today still has this medieval feeling with its churches, narrow streets and old merchant houses. A lot of Melchior's fans have said that the stories have triggered their interest in the Old Town as the author Indrek Hargla has put a lot of effort in depicting the town in the early 1400s.

The town will be the playground

Apothecary Melchior App trailer 2013


Melchior experience starts in Tallinn with a feature film and an interactive locative narrative. Using mobile devices and augmented reality, users travel back in time to 15th century Hanseatic town to track the story “in real time”. We empower the audience to uncover clues, secret items and additional content hidden in the Old Town. It will be a whole medieval adventure mixing the real world with the application content: The users are expected to seek the clues from various locations, ask information from the characters appearing on their mobile screens on each spot, explore the medieval surroundings or ask for information from real world characters at some locations to move closer to solving the new puzzle hidden in the town.

Follow our app prototype development online!


In May 2013 we started the production of
the app prototype which will be used in the
Old Town of Tallinn. Using a mobile device
in the Old Town, the user gets access to a
medieval map, guiding him to locations
relevant to the stories in the town.

In locations, the users are presented with
interactive videos, which take them back in time
on site offering a 360 degree medieval
view of the location.

The users are expected to ask questions
from the characters appearing on the screen
in each location, gather information from
them and clues from the site to solve a puzzle,
or just have fun getting to know the town
in the 15th century with Melchior or other
characters from the stories to answer their questions
in these locations. Melchior app development
has just started and you can
follow our work in progress here online.

UPD: Performance tested in latest versions of
Safari and Firefox; Chrome support coming soon.

Bricks & mortar medieval “pharmacy” helps players and fans keep track of the story and exchange ideas for coming Melchior adventures.

The storyworld can be expanded in other Hanseatic cities with a TV series and interactive games allowing user-generated content to create a scalable transmedia format. In each of planned 6–12 episodes the story leads to a new place to uncover new characters and perspectives of the narrative. A town-specific mobile gameplay accompanies every episode creating an international experience.

Webisodes launched between the episodes of the series will fill the gaps and give new insights into the story and help understand the background of the characters. A point&click game is developed for mobiles: it will be a whole new story serving as a prequel to the first film.


Interview with Indrek Ibrus about the Melchior project

Contacts & Addresses

  • Book author INDREK HARGLA
  • Film producers (Exitfilm) PEETER URBLA
  • Transmedia (Bloomingfern) HANNES SARV
© 2012, Apothecary Melchior film project. All right reserved by EXITFILM, OÜ and BLOOMINGFERN, OÜ.