Taken from my university assessment portfolio.
Want to read more about the Strigoaicǎ?
Read the short story, The Strigoaicǎ – Published in the 2014 Blue Fringe Arts Short Story and Poetry Anthology
Read the poem, Strigoaicǎ
The beast, Strigoaicǎ, had birthed from the sombrous earth, her sleep interrupted, disturbed by my presence. Her body moved, as the sun melted away, toward the sienna-painted sky. From the hoar frost-coated creepers, and pearlescent gloom of the wintergreens, she emerged gracefully. Skin of alabaster and russet hair, the Strigoaicǎ was the very vision of beauty; exquisite and rare. She approached me, a fallow-struck haunting tinge. How did I get here? Branches of trees clawed into the velvet sky and I was lost among the protruding crosses of the shallow earth; the cemetery appeared from nowhere. It was intentionally placed, so far from life, near the crossroads. I was alone. No one would hear me die at her hand. Torn silks and satins of ivory adorned her beautiful form. The Strigoaicǎ, unnamed for she lost her name many years ago – a value no longer one to her, for what is a name without existence? – bathed in the icy breeze as it lashed from the woodland surrounds. Her stunning features far surpassed any I had ever seen before in a woman. There was something keeping me from running, something in her eyes which pleaded with me to stay. Stay. Her loneliness, and sad, watering eyes hit me deep within. She lured me. The melancholic siren sang her song; a call by the creature of the night, to lead me to her domain.
Her whispers were cold breaths, dissipating into the woods. If only her sorrow would too.
‘I sleep with the suicides. They are lonely creatures.’ The Strigoaicǎ announced, in a soft voice.
‘Why am I here?’ I asked hesitantly.
‘To show you what I am, what I have done. I no longer wish nor need to be in this world. I have lingered here for years in aching misery. I only desire for someone to know my story, so I can leave a part of me behind. Perhaps he is waiting for me.’
My mouth agape, I could not respond but rather watch her in deafening silence. Behind her, spotted flycatchers danced, hopping in the bluebells. I witnessed the Strigoaicǎ praying silently to herself, and in that instant our minds locked and became one. She took me to her past. I saw her misery through my eyes, and I felt her grief through my heart.
Denied love from this world, my darling took another creature. From then I became condemned to a fate far worse than death.
We were to be wed on the eve of my sixteenth birthday, at the Densuș Church. Strokes of fallow, umber, and auburn within the sky wove in between the azure dusk, it was a sublime background on that wondrous night. I walked into the sanctuary of our Lord, down the aisle of despairing onlookers. My eyes searched for the cause of such dread. My family wept when he didn’t show, yet I was only numb and frozen from shock. I sat in silks and satins atop the cold surface of the stone steps. Anger surfaced momentarily, but was followed quickly by self-pity, then self-loathing. He had left me waiting, hours. When the night’s sky loomed above the slowly scattering guests of the wedding, a messenger came. He delivered me news of my fiancé. The agony in my heart was far too much to bear, and yet I knew that there would be more for me to suffer. I took the letter from the messenger, my hands smoothed over the rough paper, as though it were precious to me.
I cannot take your hand, for my heart belongs to another. I am sorry that I cannot be the man that I promised I would be.
It would have been a betrayal of his heart, he said in the letter, if he were to be mine. I collapsed to the cold, cold, earth hoping death would ensnare me with her harsh, unyielding grasp. Weakness and emptiness stole my body. I desired never to leave where I had laid, beneath the willows, beneath the carrion crows, above the lonely souls, where I wished to weep forever. Drops from the heavens were cast down onto me, and I savoured the moment. The Lord must take me. I felt my life slipping away from me, yet it was only my heart, begging for its aches of heartbreak to burn to cinders. And around me, the raucous cries of the carrion crows deafened the woods. They screamed, relentlessly, wishing for me to leave. Leave.
Damning all the angels who have cursed and mocked me, I desired the sorrow which had latched onto me so fervently. The angels’ love was bitter now. Forcing myself up, I rejected the cross and found solace in the lonely walk upon the pewter cobblestones, towards the town’s lake. The muted greys of faces which passed me were a blur. An emptiness surged within my body and soul. Numbness took a hold of me as I found my way to the bridge, through the haze. My hands reached its icy, stone edge. Tears descended, warming my cheeks, and yet my heart could not be met by this same warmth. I knew what would become of me, if I took my life. Her. I would become her. I envisioned what I would have to do in order to survive. I envisioned the life I would take.
Peering over the ledge, my eyes struggled against the bracing winds. The lake had not frozen over yet, but it would by morning, and that is when they would find my body. Before I could think anymore, I raised myself up, clambered over the rail and plummeted into the depths below. His lover will be my first victim. The waters embraced me as they swirled around me, freezing my flesh and blood.
Will he forget me? He loved me once, I know it.
In the winter of that year, I was confined in the earth. Without my love; a counterpart to share my soul, I was destined to become her; the creature that walks no longer in daylight, but with the night’s shadows. I became the Strigoaicǎ.
Rationale: Currently I am studying the Gothic and Romantic periods, and Romanian mythology for my own personal project. For this particular assessment I wanted to explore a story of a strigoaicǎ, a female vampire. In Tale of the Strigoaicǎ, I focus on the tale that can be overlooked, the creation of the vampire.
The Strigoaicǎ (strih-gwah-ih-kah) has her roots in Romanian mythology. Her origins defy the modern vampire, in culture and creation, for the strigoaicǎ is full of so much depth and character. In my story, Tale of the Strigoaicǎ, the creature was created in dying before marriage, by suicide. Without a husband, she is doomed to become a vampire. Dying unwed and suicide are two ways in which a woman can become the strigoaicǎ. The male equivalent is the strigoi. The folklore is rich with ‘procedures’ to be carefully followed when burying the dead:
“In Roumania, bodies are disinterred at an interval of three years after death in the case of a child, of four or five years in the case of young folk, and of seven years in the case of elderly people. If decomposition is not then complete, it is supposed that the corpse is a vampire.” (Murgoci 320)
It has been very difficult finding information of the Strigoi or Strigoaicǎ, especially in English. What little I could find of the myth and funeral traditions was from a Romanian book titled, Datinile poporului român la înmormântări (Traditions of the Romanian people at funerals). Rough translations indicate that the aforementioned deaths (before marriage and by suicide) are only two examples of how a person can become a strigoi or strigoaicǎ.
I wanted to encompass what I feel are the key conventions of the Gothic (and vampire) genre: unrequited love and revenge. The Strigoaicǎ is left at the altar. Her fiancé falls in love with another woman. Driven by revenge, the heroine turns herself into a vampire. I do not reveal the details of her revenge, it is only implied that she has successfully done so. Although she is so full of fury that she decides to side with evil, when she speaks to the second character (in her later years), a softness is there. Perhaps the Strigoaicǎ did not find the satisfaction she was looking for in her revenge. She is burdened still by her love for her ex-fiancé that she desires death; an end to her misery as an immortal creature.
The date in which the Strigoaicǎ turned is significant, for the Gothic has its roots in medieval literature and culture. The lovely Richard Davenport-Hines makes the distinction between ‘Goths’, Scandinavian and eastern European tribes of the Middle Ages, and ‘Gothic’, referring to the architectural movement and also literature – much to my delight. “[The Gothic] has provided fantasies of dystopia – invoking terror, mystery, despair, malignity, human puniness and isolation – which since the seventeenth century have gratified, distressed or chilled consumers…” (Davenport-Hines 1) According the Davenport-Hines, the fear associated with the Gothic, originates from “the Goths’ ferocity” (1). I digress, however the point is that although the opening of the story, Tale of the Strigoaicǎ is set in the nineteenth century, predominantly it is set in the medieval period, as the Strigoaicǎ’s past is revealed. The aim ultimately was to show a connection between the two periods of time.
The heroine, facing the reality of unrequited love, deliberately becomes a vampire in order to seek revenge on her fiancé’s lover. She desires to haunt – “a fundamental part of Gothic Fiction.” (Giuffre 1)
The journal entry (or letters) is a popular convention in Gothic literature, as demonstrated by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I echo that idea, even if only in a small way with the use of the dates in the beginning of each segment.
Setting is very important in Gothic fiction: a desolate wasteland far removed from the real world, populated by extreme characters, or referred to as ‘excess’ by Susanne Becker. Jerrold E. Hogle notes:
“…a Gothic tale usually takes place (at least some of the time) in an antiquated or seemingly antiquated space – be it a castle, a foreign palace, an abbey, a vast prison, a subterranean crypt, a graveyard, a primeval frontier or island, a large old house, an aging city or urban underworld, a decaying storehouse, factory, laboratory, public building, or some new recreation of an older venue, such as an office with old filing cabinets, an overworked spaceship, or a computer memory. Within this space, or a combination of such spaces, are hidden some secrets from the past (sometimes the recent past) that haunt the characters, psychologically, physically, or otherwise at the main time of the story.” (Hogle 2)
In Tale of the Strigoaicǎ, I detail the setting in relation to Hogle’s definition, and apply the use of a cemetery. Of course, I did wish to dabble in Becker’s idea of excess as well. However, for my particular story, I wanted to create excess in the form of setting; I use emotive writing to detail the scene. The setting is unknown in the first segment, however it does move to Romania when the Strigoaicǎ recounts her tale.
Becker, Susanne. Gothic Forms of Feminine Fictions. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999. Print.
Burada, Teodor T and Oprişan, I. Datinile poporului român la înmormântări. Bucharest: Saeculum, 2006. Print.
Davenport-Hines, Richard. Gothic: Four Hundred Years of Excess, Horror, Evil and Ruin. London: Fourth Estate, 1998. Print.
Guiffre, Dr. Liz, Week 7: Gothic Fiction and Vampirism. Genre Writing. Curtin University. Perth, date unknown. Lecture notes.
Hogle, Jerrold E. The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Print.
Murgoci, Agnes. “The Vampire in Roumania.” Folklore. 37. 4 (December 1926): 320-349.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. New York: Bantam Classic, 2003. Print.
Stoker, Bram. Dracula. London: Harper Press, 2011. Print.