Alraune (German for Mandrake) is a novel by German novelist Hanns Heinz Ewers published in 1911. It is also the name of the female lead character.
The basis of the story of Alraune dates to the Middles Ages in Germany. The humanoid
root or Mandragora officinarum
was widely believed to be produced by the semen of hanged
men under the gallows
claimed that hanged men ejaculated
after their necks
were broken and that the earth absorbed their final "strengths". In some versions, it is blood instead of semen. The root
itself was used in love philtres
while its fruit
was supposed to facilitate pregnancy
. Witches who "made love" to the Mandrake root were said to produce offspring
which had no feelings
of real love
and had no soul
The novel deviates from the myth by concentrating on the issues of artificial insemination
and individuality: genetics
. A scientist, Professor Jakob ten Brincken, interested in the laws of heredity
, impregnates a prostitute in a laboratory
with the semen of a hanged murderer. The prostitute conceives a female child who has no concept of love, whom the professor adopts. The girl, Alraune, suffers from obsessive sexuality and perverse relationships
throughout her life. She learns of her unnatural origins and she revenges herself against the professor.
There have been a number of films based on the myth and the novel of Alraune.
- 1918 - Alraune, an 80 minute Hungarian movie which is now believed to be lost
- 1918 - Alraune, die Henkerstochter, genannt die rote Hanne, an 88 minute German movie directed by Eugen Illés
- 1928 - Alraune, also known as Unholy Love, a 125 minute black and white, silent German version directed by Henrik (Heinrich) Galeen. It starred Brigitte Helm as Alraune and Paul Wegener as the scientist Professor Jakob ten Brinken. It uses the novel and is regarded by critics as the definitive version of Alraune. When this film was first shown in Britain, film censors removed the details of the woman's origins, thereby making the story and motivations confusing to British audiences.
- 1930 - Alraune, also known as The Daughter of Evil, a 103 minute black and white German version directed by Richard Oswald and again starring Brigitte Helm as Alma Raune (Alraune). This is the sound version of the above film.
- 1952 - Alraune, or The Unnatural, a black and white German version directed by Arthur Maria Rabenalt. This had an all-star German cast including Hildegard Knef as Alraune and Erich von Stroheim as the scientist.
Several movies have shown the influence of the Alraune theme:
- Embryo (1976)
- The Species trilogy: