Elizabeth Báthory in popular culture  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The influence of Elizabeth Báthory in popular culture has been notable from the 18th century to the present day. The real Elizabeth Báthory (August 7?, 1560August 21, 1614) was a Hungarian countess, considered to be the most infamous serial killer in Slovak and Hungarian history. 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.

The real Elizabeth Báthory, along with four alleged collaborators, was accused of torturing and killing numerous girls and young women. In 1611, she was imprisoned in Čachtice Castle, where she remained until her death three years later.

The Báthory case inspired many stories, featuring the Countess bathing in her victims' blood in order to retain her youth. This inspired nicknames like the "Blood Countess", or the "Bloody Lady of Čachtice".

Contents

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.

At the beginning of the 19th century, this certainty was questioned, and sadistic pleasure was considered a 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 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 more elaborate torture chamber fantasies, 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 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 myth and vampire 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 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.

Fiction

  • 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.
  • The Blood Countess is a novel by Andrei Codrescu.
  • The Bloody Countess by argintinian 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/Modelo para armar by Julio Cortázar, the countess and her story is one of the 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 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.

Film

There have been several films about or referring to Elizabeth Báthory:

Unproduced films

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.

The Countess

In the March 2005 Julie Delpy expressed her intent to film the movie based on Báthory story, mentioning Chris Hanley as a potential producer. Two months later (May 2005) a report was published stating Delpy was in final talks to star in Báthory together with Ethan Hawke. It was supposed to be her directing debut, working from her own script. Bauer Martinez was supposed to finance, produce and distribute the movie. No more relevant news regarding the project appeared after May 2005.

Čachtická pani

Czech 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 of 2005.

Games

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".
  • From the video game, Diablo 2:

"...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.

Toys

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.

Music

Songs about Elizabeth Báthory include:





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Elizabeth Báthory in popular culture" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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