Elizabeth Báthory was a notoriously violent and bloodthirsty 16th-17th century Hungarian Countess, who reportedly murdered hundreds of young women.
The influence of Elizabeth Báthory in popular culture has been notable from the 18th century to the present day. Since her death, various myths and legends surrounding her story have preserved her as a prominent figure in folklore, literature, music, film, games and toys.
Historical Background of the real Elizabeth Báthory
The real Elizabeth Báthory
– August 21
) was a sadistic mass murderer
, as well as a Countess
in the Kingdom of Hungary
, now modern day Slovakia
. She is regarded as the most prolific and bloodthirsty serial killer
in history .
Báthory and her collaborators are reported to have abducted, imprisoned, tortured and brutally murdered as many as 650 innocent young women and girls in Čachtice Castle over a period of several decades. When her crimes were later discovered and brought before a tribunal, the community was appalled at both the number of victims as well as her exceedingly cruel and diverse methods of torture. Eventually found guilty in 1611 of over 80 sadistic killings, she was imprisoned in the tower of her own castle, permanently bricked in, where she died alone three years later at age 54 .
Báthory's penchant for draining the blood of her victims in the belief that applying it on her skin kept her youthful was a contributing element in the evolution of vampire lore, and has inspired many stories. Perhaps the most notorious legend attributed to her (though widely believed to be fictional) is that she would fill a bathtub with the blood of her virgin female victims, then soak in it to retain her youth. A scene in Eli Roth's 2007 film Hostel: Part II was based on this alleged event .
Despite numerous accounts about Báthory's perverse blood lust as a motivation for her acts, it is acknowledged that she killed primarily to satisfy her insatiable desire to sadistically torture and kill other human beings .
Following her imprisonment and death, all records of Báthory were sealed by local authorities for more than a century, and her name was forbidden to be spoken in Hungarian society .
She is remembered as the "Blood Countess", "Bloody Lady of Čachtice", and several other morbid nicknames.
Elizabeth Báthory in folklore and literature
The case of Elizabeth Báthory inspired numerous stories and fairy tales
. Eighteenth and 19th century writers liberally added or omitted elements of the narrative. The most common motif
of these works was that of the countess bathing in her victims' blood
in order to retain beauty or youth. Frequently, the cruel countess would discover the secret of blood bathing when she slapped a female servant in rage, splashing parts of her own skin with blood. Upon removal of the blood, that portion of skin would seem younger and more beautiful than before.
This legend appeared in print for the first time in 1729, in the Jesuit scholar László Turóczi’s Tragica Historia, the first written account of the Báthory case.
When quoting him in his 1742 history book, Matthias Bel was sceptical about this particular detail, he nevertheless helped the legend to spread. Subsequent writers of history and fiction alike often identified vanity as the sole motivation for Báthory's crimes.
Modern historians Radu Florescu and Raymond T. McNally have concluded that the theory Báthory murdered on account of her vanity sprung up from contemporary prejudices about gender roles. Women were not believed to be capable of violence for its own sake. However, while popular prejudice of the time is noted, these scholars' view is neither the only, nor the most accepted interpretation of the actual events.
While there is no doubt today that Báthory was responsible for the death of many young girls, the vanity motivation has been in doubt for some time in serious academic circles. At the beginning of the 19th century, the vanity motif was first questioned, and sadistic pleasure was considered a far more plausible motive for Báthory's crimes. In 1817, the witness accounts (which had surfaced in 1765) were published for the first time, demonstrating that the bloodbaths or blood seeker for vanity aspect of Báthory's crimes were legend rather than fact.
The legend nonetheless persisted in the popular imagination. Some versions of the story were told with the purpose of denouncing female vanity, while other versions aimed to entertain or thrill their audience. Some versions of the story incorporated even more elaborate torture chamber fantasies than recorded history could provide, such as the use of an iron maiden, which were not based on the evidence from Báthory's trial. Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, whose name inspired the term masochism, was inspired by the Báthory legend to write his 1874 novella Ewige Jugend ("eternal youth")
Elizabeth Báthory and the vampire myth
The emergence of the bloodbath or blood seeker for vanity myth coincided with the vampire scares
that haunted Europe in the early 18th century, reaching even into educated and scientific circles. The strong connection between the bloodbath or blood seeker myth and vampiric myth was not made until the 1970s. The first connections were made to promote works of fiction by linking them to the already commercially successful Dracula
story. Thus a 1970 movie based on Báthory and the bloodbath or blood seeker for vanity myth was titled Countess Dracula
Some Báthory biographers, McNally in particular, have tried to establish the bloodbath myth and the historical Elizabeth Báthory as a source of influence for Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula, pointing to similarities in settings and motifs and the fact that Stoker might have read about her. This theory is strongly disputed by author Elizabeth Miller.
Meanwhile Báthory has become an influence for modern vampire literature and vampire films.
- Báthori Erzsébet by Hungarian poet János Garay.
- The Blood Countess, Erzsébet Báthory of Hungary (1560-1614: A Gothic Horror Poem of Violence and Rage) by Robert Peters.
- Bathory: Memoir of a Countess is a novel by A. Mordeaux.
- Báthory is a major character in the alternative history/fantasy novel This Rough Magic by Eric Flint, Dave Freer and Mercedes Lackey.
- Báthory is the ancestor of protagonist Christopher Csejthe in the Half/Life series of novels by Wm. Mark Simmons and figures prominently in the second book, "Dead On My Feet" with a plot twist that hinges on the questionable innocence of Katarina Beneczky (Katalin Benick) among the Countess' collaborators.
- Báthory is a major character, depicted as a half-breed vampire, in Daughter of the Night by Elaine Bergstrom.
- The Blood Countess is a novel by Andrei Codrescu.
- The Bloody Countess by argentinian writer Alejandra Pizarnik was a short gothic work of fiction (1968, reprinted in The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales, ed. Chris Baldick)
- In the science fiction short story Rumfuddle by Jack Vance, a baby who would have grown up to be Elizabeth Báthory is taken to a different time and place in history.
- In the novel 62: A Model Kit by Julio Cortázar, the countess and her story are recurring themes.
- In David Eddings series The Elenium a character appears who revels in the killing of young women. This character is a significant villain, serving to forward the story.
- Colombian writer Ricardo Abdahllah has written several pieces of short fiction around Bathory's myth.
- In the novel Daughters of the Moon by Joseph Curtin, she is portrayed as coming back to life as a vampire, and is also called Lizabet Bazore. She also preys upon a guitarist for an upcoming rock band, GloryDaze, named Vinnie "the Razor" Rosario.
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer book Tales of the Slayer vol. 1, she is the villain in the story "Die Blutgrafin".
- The 2006 novel The Blood Confession by Alisa M. Libby
- Báthory's legend is used as a basis for the Japanese anime Ghost Hunt's seventh file/case mystery "Blood-Soaked Labyrinth", shown from episode 18-21.
- Báthory is a prominent character in Lord of the Vampires, the final volume of The Diaries of the Family Dracul by Jeanne Kalogridis.
- In the novel Anno Dracula Báthory appears as a relative of Dracula.
- "The Trouble with the Pears" by Gia Bathory Al Babel.
- The 2007 Brazilian novel O Legado de Bathory by Alexandre Heredia.
- She appears, 'resurrected' as a vampire, in the latter books of The Vampire Huntress Legend Series by L.A. Banks
There have been several films about or referring to Elizabeth Báthory
Recently, several filmmakers expressed interest in doing a film on the Bathory tale. Other than Juraj Jakubisko's film, none of these came to fruition as of 2007.
film director Zdeněk Troška
apparently worked on the idea of the Báthory movie since 1990s. He wrote a screenplay based on a novel by Jožo Nižňánsky
. In summer 2005 after Jakubisko's movie was announced, Troška complained, accusing Jakubisko of copying (stealing) his idea. Jakubisko's company refused accusations, claiming that their screen play is genuinely original and it has nothing to do with the novel. Troška stated also that he had no intention to start a lawsuit. His project was suffering from the lack of finances and its current status is unclear.
Báthory Erzsébet szerelmei
Hungarian film director Márta Mészáros
has expressed interest in making a film about Elizabeth Báthory but has not been able to secure the needed funds for the project from the Motion Picture Public Foundation of Hungary for it to be classified as a Hungarian production. Six million euros have been acquired from various production companies so far including 20% funding from András Hámori's Canadian company H20 Motion Pictures. Funding has also been provided by Slovak Producer Rudolf Biermann, Turkish producer Aydin Sayman, and Austrian producer Dr. Veidt Heiduschka from Wega Films.
The script for the film, titled, Báthory Erzsébet szerelmei, (The Loves of Elizabeth Báthory), is written by Éva Pataki and Pál Bokor who is also one of the film's producers.
Various foreign actresses have expressed interest in the leading role according to Hungarian entertainment sources. Some of the names mentioned to play Elizabeth Báthory include Tilda Swinton, Angelina Jolie, and Nicole Kidman. If the film is made it will be shot on location in Hungary and Austria at the historic castles of Sárvár and Lockenhaus once inhabited by Elizabeth Báthory. Other locations planned will be in Turkey for the battle scenes and the Orava castle in Slovakia.
No further details on this project have appeared since July 2005.
- 1865 - Báthory Erzsébet: Történeti szomorújáték, 5 felvonásban (Erzsébet Báthory: An Historic Tragedy in Five Acts), by Hungarian poet Zoltán Balogh.
- 1985 Báthory Erzsébet by Hungarian playwright András Nagy.
- 1994 - In the Service of Beauty by Melbourne playwright Sam Sejavka, exploring the final days of the Countess after she has been imprisoned in her castle.
- 2000 - Bathory by Canadian playwright Moynan King.
- 2004 - Erzsebet by Michael Stever and Amy LeBlanc. Link
- 2007 - Bathory: The Blood Countess, written by John DiDonna and produced by The Empty Spaces Theatre Co Link to Article
The bloodbath myth served as a major component of some games:
- In the VCR/DVD boardgame Atmosfear: a playable character portrayed as a vampiress
- In the video game Castlevania: Bloodlines, Bathory is a major character, though her name is mistranslated as Elizabeth Bartley in the American version.
- In the MMORPG Ragnarok Online, Bathories are witch-like enemies fought on the 4th level of Clock Tower.
- In the MMORPG DarkEden, Lady Elizabeth Bathory is a game "boss" alongside Lord Vlad Tepes who players are able to kill in an instanced level known as a "lair".
- The Countess of Blood is a super unique monster from Blizzard Entertainment's popular dungeon-crawler Diablo 2. The following passage is read in a rotting tome and initiates the quest:
"...And so it came to pass that the Countess, who once bathed in the rejuvenating blood of a hundred virgins, was buried alive... And her castle in which so many cruel deeds took place fell rapidly into ruin. Rising over the buried dungeons in that god-forsaken wilderness, a solitary tower, like some monument to Evil, is all that remains. The Countess' fortune was believed to be divided among the clergy, although some say that more remains unfound, still buried alongside the rotting skulls that bear mute witness to the inhumanity of the human creature."
- In the video game Vampire Hunter D, the main antagonist addresses herself as Elizabeth Bartley Carmilla
- The Butcheress from the video game Bloodrayne claims to be a descendent of her.
- In the video game Ninja Gaiden 2, the female villain named Elizabet is similar to Bathory in that in one scene in the game, she is seen bathing nude in a pool of blood and her demonic power seems to be that of using blood to attack her foes.
Báthory is featured in McFarlane Toys 6 Faces of Madness
series, a collection of action figures, including Rasputin
and Vlad the Impaler
. Báthory is depicted bathing in blood while the heads of some of her victims are impaled in a candelabrum
. Bathory was also made as a doll in the Living Dead Dolls series.
- The Ohio hardcore/thrash band, Erzsebet Bathory, take their name from Elizabeth.
- The Heavy metal band Murder Rape make reference to Elizabeth Bathory in their song "Mistress Of The Gloomy Nights" from their only album "Evil Shall Burn Inside Me Forever (2001)"
- Countess Bathory by the English black metal band Venom from their highly influential album Black metal, released in 1982
- A Bestia: Báthory Erzsébet véres legendája (The Beast: The Bloody Legend of Erzsébet Báthory), is a Hungarian rock opera by Béla Szakcsi-Lakatos and Géza Csemer.
- Erzsébet: Elizabeth Bathory: The Opera, is by Dennis Báthory-Kitsz (he claims he may be related to her)
- The influential Swedish black metal band Bathory take their name from Elizabeth, and mention her in songs such as "Woman of Dark Desires".
- The band Cradle of Filth dedicated their album Cruelty and the Beast (1998) entirely to her, telling her story with a certain degree of artistic license but keeping the main details of her story intact.
- The German band Untoten made a concept album about her, called Die Blutgräfin.
- French singer Juliette (Nourredine) mentions La Bathory in her song Tueuses from her 1996 album Rimes Féminines along with numerous famous female criminals.
Songs about Elizabeth Báthory include:
- Elizabeth is a song by progressive power metal band Kamelot comprised of three parts - Part I: Mirror Mirror, Part II: Requiem for the Innocent, and Part III: Fall From Grace, from their 2001 album Karma.
- Elisabeth Bathory by Hungarian black metal band Tormentor, which was covered by Swedish black metal band Dissection
- Bathory's Sainthood by American hardcore band Boy Sets Fire (2003)
- Bathory Erzsebet by experimental doom metal band Sunn O))) A cover of A Fine Day To Die by Bathory
- Countess Erzsebet Nadasdy by Finnish black metal band Barathrum
- Villa Vampiria by death metal band God Dethroned
- Transylvanian Pearl by Russian metal band Nocticula
- The Sonology Of Sex II (Le Comtesse De Sang) by the British industrial band Clock DVA
- Erzsebet by dance-punk artist Jay Tea (2007)
- Resurrection and Schwarzer Engel by Spanish Gothic metal band Forever Slave tell the story of Erzsebet Bathory whos' life and names are similar to Elizabeth Bathory.
- Bathe In Blood by Evile (taken from 2007's Enter the Grave).
- ROSE OF PAIN from the album BLUE BLOOD by X JAPAN
- The song An Execution, a b-side on the Cities in Dust single by Siouxsie and the Banshees, was based on the "myth" of Countess Bathory. Banshees guitarist John Valentine Carruthers states, "She (Siouxsie) was reading this book about Countess Bathory, called Was Dracula A Woman? or something. She used to (sic.) bath in the blood of virgins in the vain hope it would keep you young".
Notes and references