Vampire stories do not begin with Bram Stoker nor were they born with Vlad Tepes. The Slavic folklore is rich with curious creatures and people in the Balkans are often ready to share a story or two about an obscure event or character that lived a long, long time ago.
The most famous story about vampires in Serbia is the one about Sava, the vampire.
In the West-Central part of Serbia, there is a village, named Zarozje. The village is famous for being the home of Sava Savanovic, the vampire. Today, the village is an attractive destination for tourists who are attracted by the legend of Sava.
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Who was Sava Savanović?
According to the legend, Sava lived in an old watermill, bellow the springs of Rogacice river. He was active in the 1700s. He was rarely seen throughout the day and was visited only by villagers who wanted to buy flour. As the legend has it, they never returned from the mill.
One day, a customer who went to buy flour at Sava’s mill, found him dead. He had two blood spots on his neck, and a yellow butterfly came out of his mouth.
The mill was abandoned and rumor spread that it was haunted.
The Love Story of Strahinja and Radojka
After many years, a young man, named Strahinja fell in love with a girl called Radojka. He was a poor village man, while she was the daughter of a local merchant who didn’t approve of their love due to the different social statuses. However, Strahinja was determined to win over the merchant’s sympathies and marry Radojka.
Therefore, he decided to take over the abandoned, haunted watermill with the intention to start running it again so that eventually, he could acquire some wealth on his own. Even though Radojka begged him not to, Strahinja revived the mill.
Villagers started visiting the mill more and more frequently in order to buy grain, hence Strahinja’s business bloomed. But, there was a strange rattling noise each evening. Afraid of the legends about the place, he slept in a small, windowless room which he locked, and kept his gun next to his bed.
Although he was terrified, the thoughts of marrying Radojka kept Strahinja going.
The Kiss of the Yellow Butterfly
One evening, the rattling was even louder and more disturbing than ever before. The inside of the mill rattled, as did the door of Strahinja’s room until the lock broke and a strange man showed up. Shocked, Strahinja yelled in fear and asked the man who he was. It was Sava Savanovic.
Without hesitation, Strahinja fired his gun into the man’s chest. Sava screamed and flew away from the house, while Strahinja shouted for help.
Along with the villagers, he went to the graveyard, to the grave of Sava Savanovic. Curiously, the earth about the grave was wet. Strahinja started digging. He reached the coffin and opened it. Inside was the tall man who visited him in the mill that night. He had a fresh bullet wound through his chest. Strahinja hammered a metal spike through Sava’s chest. A little, yellow butterfly came out of Sava’s mouth as he died forever.
Strahinja ran to Radojka’s home to share the good news. As he got into her room, he noticed the opened window from where the yellow butterfly flew in and landed on Radojka’s lips. Before Strahinja could do anything, the butterfly disappeared into Radojka’s mouth.
She woke up as a vampire with two sharp teeth and attacked Strahinja, drinking his blood and turning him into a vampire. And that’s how they could finally be together forever.
The Legend of Sava Savanović and The Serbian Vampire Love Story
This is a story described in a book, a legend told by generations, and a history perpetuated in a movie.
In 1880, one of the most famous and beloved Serbian authors Milovan Glisic wrote the book “Ninety Years Later” rooting the story of the most famous vampire in Serbia, in literature. It was published 17 years before Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” was published in the United Kingdom.
In 1973, a film was made, based on the book. It is called “Leptirica” (the translation would be “A female butterfly”) and it is considered as the first Serbian horror film.
The vampire folklore goes deeper than a simple legend, and according to the research made about Serbian vampires, it is rooted in people’s beliefs and everyday life.
Many anthropologists, authors, and ethnographers have researched the topic of vampires in Serbia, collecting invaluable stories from local people.