rejectedprincesses:

If you aren’t American, there’s a fair likelihood you’ve never heard of the next Rejected Princess: Beloved, from Toni Morrison’s novel of the same name.
Beloved is the story of Sethe, a freed slave in post-Civil War era Kentucky. In order to keep her two-year-old daughter from slavers, she ends up slitting the baby’s throat, killing her. Fast forward about a decade, and Sethe is living a fairly settled and peaceful life, when she stumbles upon a beautiful young woman, who appears confused, homeless, and and halfway drowned. This is Beloved.
Beloved moves in with Sethe, and the other various characters in the story start noting how similar she is to Sethe’s dead daughter: she’s the same age that the dead daughter would have been had she lived; she has a scar across her throat; her breath smells like milk; her temper is mercurial, like a child’s; even her name, Beloved, is what was written on the two-year-old’s gravestone.
Sethe begins to see it, basically losing everyone in her life in capitulating to the increasingly erratic whims of her spectral houseguest. Eventually Sethe’s other daughter, Denver, arrives with a posse to exorcise Beloved from the house. A fracas ensues (Sethe stabs a white man that Denver brought along — it’s complicated), and Beloved disappears in the process.
The book is about a lot of things, but primarily the effects of slavery on one’s mind — Sethe is trying to make a clean start, but coming up with a new personality as an adult, while keeping her past sealed away from memory, proves too difficult for her to manage. As a result, she’s literally haunted by her past.
You should read it. It’s a great book, even if I did just spoil all of it for you. Not good for kids though.
Art notes:
The dress is very loosely based off of one that she wears in the movie adaptation. It may not be super period-appropriate, but I liked how it came out, so I kept it.
Beloved has a tiny, hard-to-see scar on her neck. It’s there, I swear!
She is tossing rotten roses on her own gravestone (which was pink). Rotten roses are a motif throughout the book.
The mist behind her is built up a bit more, to give her a faint ethereal glow.
The mountains in the background are based off a picture of the Black Mountain area in eastern Kentucky. 
The tree is a chokecherry tree, also a motif from the book: the scars on Sethe’s back from being whipped are said to make the pattern of a chokecherry tree.

rejectedprincesses:

If you aren’t American, there’s a fair likelihood you’ve never heard of the next Rejected Princess: Beloved, from Toni Morrison’s novel of the same name.

Beloved is the story of Sethe, a freed slave in post-Civil War era Kentucky. In order to keep her two-year-old daughter from slavers, she ends up slitting the baby’s throat, killing her. Fast forward about a decade, and Sethe is living a fairly settled and peaceful life, when she stumbles upon a beautiful young woman, who appears confused, homeless, and and halfway drowned. This is Beloved.

Beloved moves in with Sethe, and the other various characters in the story start noting how similar she is to Sethe’s dead daughter: she’s the same age that the dead daughter would have been had she lived; she has a scar across her throat; her breath smells like milk; her temper is mercurial, like a child’s; even her name, Beloved, is what was written on the two-year-old’s gravestone.

Sethe begins to see it, basically losing everyone in her life in capitulating to the increasingly erratic whims of her spectral houseguest. Eventually Sethe’s other daughter, Denver, arrives with a posse to exorcise Beloved from the house. A fracas ensues (Sethe stabs a white man that Denver brought along — it’s complicated), and Beloved disappears in the process.

The book is about a lot of things, but primarily the effects of slavery on one’s mind — Sethe is trying to make a clean start, but coming up with a new personality as an adult, while keeping her past sealed away from memory, proves too difficult for her to manage. As a result, she’s literally haunted by her past.

You should read it. It’s a great book, even if I did just spoil all of it for you. Not good for kids though.

Art notes:

  • The dress is very loosely based off of one that she wears in the movie adaptation. It may not be super period-appropriate, but I liked how it came out, so I kept it.
  • Beloved has a tiny, hard-to-see scar on her neck. It’s there, I swear!
  • She is tossing rotten roses on her own gravestone (which was pink). Rotten roses are a motif throughout the book.
  • The mist behind her is built up a bit more, to give her a faint ethereal glow.
  • The mountains in the background are based off a picture of the Black Mountain area in eastern Kentucky. 
  • The tree is a chokecherry tree, also a motif from the book: the scars on Sethe’s back from being whipped are said to make the pattern of a chokecherry tree.
rejectedprincesses:

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you undoubtedly one of the strangest Rejected Princesses: Corn Maiden, mythological Native American figure. 
Corn Maiden figures into a vast number of tribe mythologies, all of which are slightly different from one another. This much is generally agreed upon across most of the stories:
Corn Maiden was a pretty neat lady who settled down with the tribe in question, a long time ago.
Somehow, whenever she was around, the corn storehouses would overflow! Corn for everyone! It was pretty great!
But, she warned, never try and check out why or how that’s happening.
Eventually someone did, only to find Corn Maiden secretly rubbing corn off her skin in the most delicious case of leprosy ever recorded. 
In some versions, it’s hinted that she was actually pooping it out into bucket after bucket, bag after bag, like a chunky firehose.
From there, one of two things happened:
1) The tribe chased Corn Maiden out of town, subsequently ran out of corn, realized their terrible mistake, and attempted to find her/make amends, or:
2) The tribe decided to kill her for witchcraft, at which point Corn Maiden was like, “Okay cool, but after you kill me, drag my gruesomely-murdered corpse around the field, and corn will pop up wherever you go. Taking one for the team here, guys!”
I probably don’t need to tell you which one is my favorite.
The variations across this legend are innumerable. In the Arapaho tradition, to get rid of her, they tied her up and tossed her in the river. In the Zuni telling, instead of the tribe as a whole driving her off, she was frightened off by the erotic gyrations of the male dancers — only to be later found, after the head rain priest climbed a giant tree to look for them, hiding underneath the shadow of a duck’s wing, deep in the ocean.
Undoubtedly the absolute zaniest Corn Maiden tale is the Tepecano version. Due to a lot of exposure to European cultures, their legend got warped into a sort of hyperactive medieval fanfiction that was easily twice as long as any other tribe’s version. Try and follow me here.
This guy, let’s call him Joe, is lazy and stupid. He finds Corn Maiden in a clearing and is like, “Hey God!” — yes, we’re talking Christian Jesus here — “can I marry her?” and God is like, “Sure why not.” So he marries Corn Maiden, despite never having seen her face or apparently talked to her. On the way to their house, a personalized cloud forms around Corn Maiden’s head, obscuring her features. She then retires to a private room the first night in his family house, and in the morning, it’s full of corn. How mysterious!
From there, it is a comedy of errors how poorly things go for poor Corn Maiden:
Joe’s mom makes some corn tortillas and burns the shit out of them, which in turn burns the shit out of Corn Maiden’s clothes and skin.
Joe starts cheating on Corn Maiden with a turtle, whom I cannot tell is actually human or a literal turtle. For hilarity’s sake, I am imagining a literal turtle.
The turtle makes some corncakes, burns the shit out of them, which, again, burns the shit out of Corn Maiden.
Joe then cheats on Corn Maiden with a raven. Again, picturing a grown man screwing a literal bird here. 
The raven then steals some grain, which pisses off Corn Maiden some more.
Corn Maiden, sick of Joe’s shit, runs off.
Joe goes to God on bent knee, promises he’ll be better, and God is like, “Okay, I believe you. Hey Corn Maiden, get back with Joe.” And she does. I mean, what you gonna do?
At this point, Joe is pretty curious as to what Corn Maiden actually looks like. So, despite being told — by God — in no uncertain terms NOT to look at her face, Joe waits until she’s asleep and lights a lamp. She is, of course, beautiful.
Joe then drops the lamp on her face, again burning the shit out of her.
Corn Maiden gets the fuck out of his house and runs off before someone else sets her on fire.
From there, it gets EVEN WEIRDER. Joe goes searching all over the world for Corn Maiden, but nobody has seen her, not even God. Eventually Joe finds her in the magical city of Merlin, where the wind does not blow. He then has to bust her out of Merlin prison, fighting off the palace guards in the process, alongside his buddy, Wind — who is an anthropomorphic embodiment of the concept of wind.
Told you it was like medieval fanfic.
Immediately after exiting the citadel of Merlin, Corn Maiden turns into a bunch of corn in a field, and says, “Hey Joe! Look after me for one month, I’ll be back, I just have to do this one thing.”
Joe makes it a whole fifteen days before getting married to some other girl. Who, presumably, was yet another form of wildlife.
At the wedding, Corn Maiden shows up, drags Joe up in front of God, and is like, “THIS GUY IS A TOTAL DICKBAG.” 
God finally agrees and turns Joe into a weird vegetable-man-thing, with his head planted in the soil and his feet dangling in the air. 
Art notes:
Her dress is designed to look like corn, with the skirt being the eaves and the shirt being corn-patterned. In many versions, she was responsible for blue corn more than other colors, so I made the kernels blue.
Joe is visible on screen right.
Ducks are flying overhead, as she was found underneath their wings in the Zuni version.
Lastly: I would like to thank the inimitable Kate Johnson for suggesting Corn Maiden. Without her, this illustration would not exist.

rejectedprincesses:

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you undoubtedly one of the strangest Rejected Princesses: Corn Maiden, mythological Native American figure. 

Corn Maiden figures into a vast number of tribe mythologies, all of which are slightly different from one another. This much is generally agreed upon across most of the stories:

  • Corn Maiden was a pretty neat lady who settled down with the tribe in question, a long time ago.
  • Somehow, whenever she was around, the corn storehouses would overflow! Corn for everyone! It was pretty great!
  • But, she warned, never try and check out why or how that’s happening.
  • Eventually someone did, only to find Corn Maiden secretly rubbing corn off her skin in the most delicious case of leprosy ever recorded. 
  • In some versions, it’s hinted that she was actually pooping it out into bucket after bucket, bag after bag, like a chunky firehose.

From there, one of two things happened:

1) The tribe chased Corn Maiden out of town, subsequently ran out of corn, realized their terrible mistake, and attempted to find her/make amends, or:

2) The tribe decided to kill her for witchcraft, at which point Corn Maiden was like, “Okay cool, but after you kill me, drag my gruesomely-murdered corpse around the field, and corn will pop up wherever you go. Taking one for the team here, guys!”

I probably don’t need to tell you which one is my favorite.

The variations across this legend are innumerable. In the Arapaho tradition, to get rid of her, they tied her up and tossed her in the river. In the Zuni telling, instead of the tribe as a whole driving her off, she was frightened off by the erotic gyrations of the male dancers — only to be later found, after the head rain priest climbed a giant tree to look for them, hiding underneath the shadow of a duck’s wing, deep in the ocean.

Undoubtedly the absolute zaniest Corn Maiden tale is the Tepecano version. Due to a lot of exposure to European cultures, their legend got warped into a sort of hyperactive medieval fanfiction that was easily twice as long as any other tribe’s version. Try and follow me here.

This guy, let’s call him Joe, is lazy and stupid. He finds Corn Maiden in a clearing and is like, “Hey God!” — yes, we’re talking Christian Jesus here — “can I marry her?” and God is like, “Sure why not.” So he marries Corn Maiden, despite never having seen her face or apparently talked to her. On the way to their house, a personalized cloud forms around Corn Maiden’s head, obscuring her features. She then retires to a private room the first night in his family house, and in the morning, it’s full of corn. How mysterious!

From there, it is a comedy of errors how poorly things go for poor Corn Maiden:

  • Joe’s mom makes some corn tortillas and burns the shit out of them, which in turn burns the shit out of Corn Maiden’s clothes and skin.
  • Joe starts cheating on Corn Maiden with a turtle, whom I cannot tell is actually human or a literal turtle. For hilarity’s sake, I am imagining a literal turtle.
  • The turtle makes some corncakes, burns the shit out of them, which, again, burns the shit out of Corn Maiden.
  • Joe then cheats on Corn Maiden with a raven. Again, picturing a grown man screwing a literal bird here. 
  • The raven then steals some grain, which pisses off Corn Maiden some more.
  • Corn Maiden, sick of Joe’s shit, runs off.
  • Joe goes to God on bent knee, promises he’ll be better, and God is like, “Okay, I believe you. Hey Corn Maiden, get back with Joe.” And she does. I mean, what you gonna do?
  • At this point, Joe is pretty curious as to what Corn Maiden actually looks like. So, despite being told — by God — in no uncertain terms NOT to look at her face, Joe waits until she’s asleep and lights a lamp. She is, of course, beautiful.
  • Joe then drops the lamp on her face, again burning the shit out of her.
  • Corn Maiden gets the fuck out of his house and runs off before someone else sets her on fire.

From there, it gets EVEN WEIRDER. Joe goes searching all over the world for Corn Maiden, but nobody has seen her, not even God. Eventually Joe finds her in the magical city of Merlin, where the wind does not blow. He then has to bust her out of Merlin prison, fighting off the palace guards in the process, alongside his buddy, Wind — who is an anthropomorphic embodiment of the concept of wind.

Told you it was like medieval fanfic.

Immediately after exiting the citadel of Merlin, Corn Maiden turns into a bunch of corn in a field, and says, “Hey Joe! Look after me for one month, I’ll be back, I just have to do this one thing.”

Joe makes it a whole fifteen days before getting married to some other girl. Who, presumably, was yet another form of wildlife.

At the wedding, Corn Maiden shows up, drags Joe up in front of God, and is like, “THIS GUY IS A TOTAL DICKBAG.” 

God finally agrees and turns Joe into a weird vegetable-man-thing, with his head planted in the soil and his feet dangling in the air. 

Art notes:

  • Her dress is designed to look like corn, with the skirt being the eaves and the shirt being corn-patterned. In many versions, she was responsible for blue corn more than other colors, so I made the kernels blue.
  • Joe is visible on screen right.
  • Ducks are flying overhead, as she was found underneath their wings in the Zuni version.

Lastly: I would like to thank the inimitable Kate Johnson for suggesting Corn Maiden. Without her, this illustration would not exist.

rejectedprincesses:

Fredegund: the Assassination Princess (mid 500s-597)
Here is the most cartoonishly evil woman I have ever come across: Fredegund. This woman was a 6th-century Merovingian queen consort with a penchant for killing people. Her notable life went roughly as follows:
She works her way into the palace of Chilperic I as a serving woman for the queen, Audovera.
Chilperic I, although married to Audovera, takes Fredegund as a concubine.
Fredegund convinces him to divorce Audovera and send her to a nunnery.
Fredegund then quietly kills Audovera.
Chilperic then marries another woman, Galswintha.
Galswintha turns up strangled in her own bed.
Chilperic marries Fredegund a couple days later, presumably getting the hint.
Fredegund kills Chilperic’s brother Sigebert (the two brothers had been fighting). She also tries to kill Sigebert’s son.
Chilperic turns up mysteriously dead.
Immediately thereafter, Fredegund takes all his money, skips town, and starts living in Notre Dame Cathedral (sanctuary, indeed!) under the protection of Chilperic’s brother, Guntram.
Three years later she tries to assassinate Guntram.
Ten years later, Fredegund dies (how, I do not know).
If Fredegund had a foil, it was Galswintha’s sister (and Sigebert’s widow), Brunhild. For forty years, the two of them fought — resulting in endless warfare and, you can be sure, at least one assassination attempt. In the end, Brunhild outlived Fredegund, but even from beyond the grave, Fredegund had the last word.
Sixteen years after Fredegund’s death, with Brunhild now a sixty-something woman, Fredegund’s son killed her in as brutal a manner as I’ve ever heard. First, torture on the rack. Next, each of her extremities was tied to a different horse, and they were all set to run in different directions, tearing her apart. Lastly, they burnt her body.
But none of these are the craziest thing Fredegund ever did.
So what is the craziest thing she ever did? Well, you see, she had a daughter, Rigunth. Rigunth, as princesses do, was looking forward to one day being queen herself. One day, exasperated by her daughter’s “I want to be queen nowww” whining, Fredegund told her to go look inside Chilperic’s treasure chest and pick out some jewelry for herself.
When Rigunth poked her head in the treasure chest, Fredegund slammed it shut on her neck. Had servants not stopped her, she would have killed her own daughter.
Fredegund: cartoonishly, overwhelmingly evil.

Art notes:
She has non-complementary colors, to emphasize how off she is (roughly the same color scheme as the Joker!).
Her costume is as period-appropriate as I could figure. I found getting period reference for this character pretty difficult.
I’m not happy with the disco light effect cause by light glinting off of the armor, but I maintain it could work. I just need to give it another go down the line.
This was originally posted to the web on Mother’s Day.
MAJOR thanks to Chad Denton for helping me expand upon Fredegund’s story.

rejectedprincesses:

Fredegund: the Assassination Princess (mid 500s-597)

Here is the most cartoonishly evil woman I have ever come across: Fredegund. This woman was a 6th-century Merovingian queen consort with a penchant for killing people. Her notable life went roughly as follows:

  • She works her way into the palace of Chilperic I as a serving woman for the queen, Audovera.
  • Chilperic I, although married to Audovera, takes Fredegund as a concubine.
  • Fredegund convinces him to divorce Audovera and send her to a nunnery.
  • Fredegund then quietly kills Audovera.
  • Chilperic then marries another woman, Galswintha.
  • Galswintha turns up strangled in her own bed.
  • Chilperic marries Fredegund a couple days later, presumably getting the hint.
  • Fredegund kills Chilperic’s brother Sigebert (the two brothers had been fighting). She also tries to kill Sigebert’s son.
  • Chilperic turns up mysteriously dead.
  • Immediately thereafter, Fredegund takes all his money, skips town, and starts living in Notre Dame Cathedral (sanctuary, indeed!) under the protection of Chilperic’s brother, Guntram.
  • Three years later she tries to assassinate Guntram.
  • Ten years later, Fredegund dies (how, I do not know).

If Fredegund had a foil, it was Galswintha’s sister (and Sigebert’s widow), Brunhild. For forty years, the two of them fought — resulting in endless warfare and, you can be sure, at least one assassination attempt. In the end, Brunhild outlived Fredegund, but even from beyond the grave, Fredegund had the last word.

Sixteen years after Fredegund’s death, with Brunhild now a sixty-something woman, Fredegund’s son killed her in as brutal a manner as I’ve ever heard. First, torture on the rack. Next, each of her extremities was tied to a different horse, and they were all set to run in different directions, tearing her apart. Lastly, they burnt her body.

But none of these are the craziest thing Fredegund ever did.

So what is the craziest thing she ever did? Well, you see, she had a daughter, Rigunth. Rigunth, as princesses do, was looking forward to one day being queen herself. One day, exasperated by her daughter’s “I want to be queen nowww” whining, Fredegund told her to go look inside Chilperic’s treasure chest and pick out some jewelry for herself.

When Rigunth poked her head in the treasure chest, Fredegund slammed it shut on her neck. Had servants not stopped her, she would have killed her own daughter.

Fredegund: cartoonishly, overwhelmingly evil.

Art notes:

  • She has non-complementary colors, to emphasize how off she is (roughly the same color scheme as the Joker!).
  • Her costume is as period-appropriate as I could figure. I found getting period reference for this character pretty difficult.
  • I’m not happy with the disco light effect cause by light glinting off of the armor, but I maintain it could work. I just need to give it another go down the line.
  • This was originally posted to the web on Mother’s Day.

MAJOR thanks to Chad Denton for helping me expand upon Fredegund’s story.

rejectedprincesses:

Next Rejected Princess for you all: Pasiphaë, mythological Greek queen. Pasiphaë is best known for two things. The first, and better known of the two, was that she had an insatiable need to have sex with a bull. Not just any bull, but a bull that Poseidon gave her husband, king Minos. So the legend goes, her husband was supposed to sacrifice the bull back to Poseidon, but decided to keep it. In response, Poseidon was like, “Hey Pasiphaë, you know what’d be real good right now? Bull penis.” So she had the court inventor, Daedalus, build her a hollowed-out wooden cow so that she could have sex with the bull. She later gave birth to the Minotaur. Daedalus got busy building a labyrinth. The second thing she was well-known for was ruining her husband’s sex life. Being a powerful sorceress (her sister was Circe) and knowing that her husband was cheating on her, she made a charm such that if he slept with anyone save her, he would ejaculate serpents, scorpions, and millipedes. Gross.Now, here’s where it gets weird. Her husband’s mother, Europa (after whom Europe itself is named), had almost the exact same story. In her story, Zeus took the form of a beautiful bull, approached her, carried her out to an island in the ocean, and mated with her. She then had three kids, one of whom was king Minos - Pasiphaë’s husband. Notably Europa’s tale didn’t have the whole arachnid-semen part of the story. So what’s the deal? As best as historians are able to determine, they were the same legend. Europa was the Minoan version, and Pasiphaë the Greek one. When the Greeks rolled through and conquered Crete, they essentially rewrote things. Instead of her being a powerful and in-charge woman, she was a depraved and lustful pawn. Their way of breaking Minoan traditions and bending it to their own ends. Dick move, guys. Artistic notes: 
Her laurel garland makes two horns (she was often depicted with a horned crown, being a bull goddess). 
The night sky in the background is the Taurus constellation, naturally. 
The setting is a direct copy of king Minos’s palace at Knossos (which really exists). 
The cow is modeled after a native breed local to that region called the Greek shorthair. 
The only severe inaccuracy I’m aware of is that the cow was supposed to be on wheels - probably a reference to an actual statue that the ancient Minoans used.  I liked it better with hooves though.
Oh, and the lady in the background is wiping scorpions off her chest and there are some in her hair. Make of that what you will.

EDITS: an earlier version of this post referred to ancient Crete as Minoa — how embarrassing! Thanks to bachvevo for the correction!

rejectedprincesses:

Next Rejected Princess for you all: Pasiphaë, mythological Greek queen. 

Pasiphaë is best known for two things. The first, and better known of the two, was that she had an insatiable need to have sex with a bull. Not just any bull, but a bull that Poseidon gave her husband, king Minos. So the legend goes, her husband was supposed to sacrifice the bull back to Poseidon, but decided to keep it. In response, Poseidon was like, “Hey Pasiphaë, you know what’d be real good right now? Bull penis.” So she had the court inventor, Daedalus, build her a hollowed-out wooden cow so that she could have sex with the bull. 

She later gave birth to the Minotaur. Daedalus got busy building a labyrinth. 

The second thing she was well-known for was ruining her husband’s sex life. Being a powerful sorceress (her sister was Circe) and knowing that her husband was cheating on her, she made a charm such that if he slept with anyone save her, he would ejaculate serpents, scorpions, and millipedes. Gross.

Now, here’s where it gets weird. Her husband’s mother, Europa (after whom Europe itself is named), had almost the exact same story. In her story, Zeus took the form of a beautiful bull, approached her, carried her out to an island in the ocean, and mated with her. She then had three kids, one of whom was king Minos - Pasiphaë’s husband. Notably Europa’s tale didn’t have the whole arachnid-semen part of the story. 

So what’s the deal? As best as historians are able to determine, they were the same legend. Europa was the Minoan version, and Pasiphaë the Greek one. When the Greeks rolled through and conquered Crete, they essentially rewrote things. Instead of her being a powerful and in-charge woman, she was a depraved and lustful pawn. Their way of breaking Minoan traditions and bending it to their own ends. Dick move, guys. 

Artistic notes:

  • Her laurel garland makes two horns (she was often depicted with a horned crown, being a bull goddess).
  • The night sky in the background is the Taurus constellation, naturally.
  • The setting is a direct copy of king Minos’s palace at Knossos (which really exists).
  • The cow is modeled after a native breed local to that region called the Greek shorthair.
  • The only severe inaccuracy I’m aware of is that the cow was supposed to be on wheels - probably a reference to an actual statue that the ancient Minoans used.  I liked it better with hooves though.


Oh, and the lady in the background is wiping scorpions off her chest and there are some in her hair. Make of that what you will.

EDITS: an earlier version of this post referred to ancient Crete as Minoa — how embarrassing! Thanks to bachvevo for the correction!

rejectedprincesses:

Sita: the Blues-Singing Princess
Next in the line of rejected princesses: Sita, from the Ramayana.
For those unfamiliar with the Ramayana, you should seriously read it, it’s incredible, but here’s a cliffs notes version: for 90% of the book, it’s basically Mario/Princess/Bowser by way of Tarantino. Bad guy (Ravana) kidnaps princess (Sita), good guy (Rama) goes on bloody rampage for years in order to get her back. Kills Ravana, gets back the princess, yay for everyone.
But then there’s that last 10% of the book.
About 5 pages after they get back, cut to Rama talking to his advisors. 
"Advisors," he says, "what are the people saying about me?" 
"Oh man, Rama, they totally love you. Way to rock it with killing that demon guy." 
"Wait, EVERYONE loves me? No way. There’s gotta be SOMEONE who’s not on board." 
"Well, I mean, there’s some knucklehead…" 
"Well, what’s the knucklehead saying?" 
"He’s saying that Sita totally hooked up with the bad guy, but, I mean, he’s a knucklehead." 
"Wait, what? People are saying that? Oh crap. Hey Sita! Baby, I’m sorry, I can’t be seen with you. Some guy is saying you hooked up with Ravana. Now, I know you’ve passed like, my hundred other purity tests, but still. You should go live in the forest for the rest of your life."
She then goes into exile - pregnant with their kids.
Cut to many years later, Rama’s having a festival, and some awesome guys show up. They wow everyone, and Rama’s like, “oh hey, who are YOU guys? You’re awesome!” They’re like, “SURPRISE! We’re your kids! Also, Sita’s alive and in the forest.”
Rama: “Oh snap! Yeah, that whole thing with Sita was totally my bad. Hey, can we get her in here? I got some smoothing over to do.”
Sita shows up, and is like, “no, guys, it’s cool! Hey, I’ll settle this once and for all. Everyone listening? Okay, so if I did NOT hook up with the demon guy, may the earth swallow me whole.”
Bam, lava, the end.

Now, that’s the overview, but if you go in depth, there’s more at play here:
In some versions, Sita was Ravana’s daughter in a previous life, and was reincarnated as Sita in part to help purge him of evil (he was a pretty nasty dude).
While Sita is generally described as the world’s most beautiful human, she was actually fairly supernatural — her birth basically involved her springing up out of the ground, with her later brought up as a princess. Thus when she jumps into the ground at the end, it’s kind of a return to her roots (no pun intended). She was also a reincarnation of Lakshmi, the goddess of beauty/wealth/love, while Rama was a reincarnation of Vishnu.
Even all that taken into account, I still hold my reading of “I’d rather jump into a pit of lava than be with you” is a valid one. Your mileage may vary.
Ravana’s kidnapping plot all began when Ravana’s sister, a demon named Shurpankha, unsuccessfully hit on Rama’s brother — who promptly cut off her nose when he refused her and things escalated. Shurpankha then tells Ravana, who first swears revenge. She goes on to tell him about Sita and how attractive she is, and Ravana gets ideas. Gross ideas.
…and it goes on. The version of the Ramayana that I read was around 600 pages long, so there’s a lot in there. Seriously, read it, it is utterly metal. Characters turn it from night to day by piercing the sky with arrows, one of the bad guys has a chariot pulled by snakes, and a monkey leaps across the Indian subcontinent while carrying a mountain on its back. In parts it reads like a Hindu Dragon Ball Z. What more could you want?
[thanks to Varun Rana, Shubha Ashok, and Annesha Das for holding my feet to the flame and insisting I don’t gloss over the details!]
If you’d like to see an animated version of Sita’s life, you’re in luck — there is an independent short movie called Sita Sings the Blues that is available to watch for FREE online. You should go check it out, it’s pretty great. [thanks to the 10,000 people who emailed to remind me of this]Art notes:
That’s Rama in the back, doing his best “what I’d do, baby?” face.
Sita is doing a traditional Bollywood-style pose, except her upper hand is flicking Rama off.
The palace architecture is loosely based off of designs from some Indian palaces, but to be honest, I am not satisfied with it.

rejectedprincesses:

Sita: the Blues-Singing Princess

Next in the line of rejected princesses: Sita, from the Ramayana.

For those unfamiliar with the Ramayana, you should seriously read it, it’s incredible, but here’s a cliffs notes version: for 90% of the book, it’s basically Mario/Princess/Bowser by way of Tarantino. Bad guy (Ravana) kidnaps princess (Sita), good guy (Rama) goes on bloody rampage for years in order to get her back. Kills Ravana, gets back the princess, yay for everyone.

But then there’s that last 10% of the book.

About 5 pages after they get back, cut to Rama talking to his advisors. 

"Advisors," he says, "what are the people saying about me?" 

"Oh man, Rama, they totally love you. Way to rock it with killing that demon guy." 

"Wait, EVERYONE loves me? No way. There’s gotta be SOMEONE who’s not on board." 

"Well, I mean, there’s some knucklehead…" 

"Well, what’s the knucklehead saying?" 

"He’s saying that Sita totally hooked up with the bad guy, but, I mean, he’s a knucklehead." 

"Wait, what? People are saying that? Oh crap. Hey Sita! Baby, I’m sorry, I can’t be seen with you. Some guy is saying you hooked up with Ravana. Now, I know you’ve passed like, my hundred other purity tests, but still. You should go live in the forest for the rest of your life."

She then goes into exile - pregnant with their kids.

Cut to many years later, Rama’s having a festival, and some awesome guys show up. They wow everyone, and Rama’s like, “oh hey, who are YOU guys? You’re awesome!” They’re like, “SURPRISE! We’re your kids! Also, Sita’s alive and in the forest.”

Rama: “Oh snap! Yeah, that whole thing with Sita was totally my bad. Hey, can we get her in here? I got some smoothing over to do.”

Sita shows up, and is like, “no, guys, it’s cool! Hey, I’ll settle this once and for all. Everyone listening? Okay, so if I did NOT hook up with the demon guy, may the earth swallow me whole.”

Bam, lava, the end.

Now, that’s the overview, but if you go in depth, there’s more at play here:

  • In some versions, Sita was Ravana’s daughter in a previous life, and was reincarnated as Sita in part to help purge him of evil (he was a pretty nasty dude).
  • While Sita is generally described as the world’s most beautiful human, she was actually fairly supernatural — her birth basically involved her springing up out of the ground, with her later brought up as a princess. Thus when she jumps into the ground at the end, it’s kind of a return to her roots (no pun intended). She was also a reincarnation of Lakshmi, the goddess of beauty/wealth/love, while Rama was a reincarnation of Vishnu.
  • Even all that taken into account, I still hold my reading of “I’d rather jump into a pit of lava than be with you” is a valid one. Your mileage may vary.
  • Ravana’s kidnapping plot all began when Ravana’s sister, a demon named Shurpankha, unsuccessfully hit on Rama’s brother — who promptly cut off her nose when he refused her and things escalated. Shurpankha then tells Ravana, who first swears revenge. She goes on to tell him about Sita and how attractive she is, and Ravana gets ideas. Gross ideas.

…and it goes on. The version of the Ramayana that I read was around 600 pages long, so there’s a lot in there. Seriously, read it, it is utterly metal. Characters turn it from night to day by piercing the sky with arrows, one of the bad guys has a chariot pulled by snakes, and a monkey leaps across the Indian subcontinent while carrying a mountain on its back. In parts it reads like a Hindu Dragon Ball Z. What more could you want?

[thanks to Varun Rana, Shubha Ashok, and Annesha Das for holding my feet to the flame and insisting I don’t gloss over the details!]

If you’d like to see an animated version of Sita’s life, you’re in luck — there is an independent short movie called Sita Sings the Blues that is available to watch for FREE online. You should go check it out, it’s pretty great. [thanks to the 10,000 people who emailed to remind me of this]

Art notes:

  • That’s Rama in the back, doing his best “what I’d do, baby?” face.
  • Sita is doing a traditional Bollywood-style pose, except her upper hand is flicking Rama off.
  • The palace architecture is loosely based off of designs from some Indian palaces, but to be honest, I am not satisfied with it.
rejectedprincesses:

Lolita: the Seriously-Don’t-Even-Think-of-Animating-This Princess
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the first Rejected Princess ever illlustrated, and poster child for childhood sexual abuse.
Vladimir Nabokov’s book and its titular character have entered common lexicon at this point, but as a recap: the main character, Humbert Humbert (a man so nice they named him twice), is rooming at a place in New England, where he meets 12-year-old Dolores — whom he calls Lolita. He gets obsessed with her, going so far as to marry her mother so he can be close to her. 
When the mom dies, Humbert starts shacking up with Lolita, and the two end up going on an incredibly long and epically uncomfortable-to-read-about road trip. Eventually she runs away from him, hooking up with a shady playwright, who later tries getting her into porn. Years later, Lolita, now abandoned, destitute, and pregnant, seeks out Humbert for help. Humbert proceeds to kill the playwright, get thrown into jail, and write the book you’ve been reading, as his memoirs.
Despite the book being named after her and her being the main character, even at the end, we don’t know much about Lolita — because the narrator, Humbert, is so incredibly unreliable. He comes across as a charming man with creepy predilections, but once you take a step back, you realize this is all coming from the viewpoint of a pedophile who is in jail for murder, and perhaps her actions, as described, should, you know, not be taken at face value.
Since it is the sort of book that requires a lot of between-the-lines interpretation, there is more written about Lolita than I could possibly hope to cover. Some of the wackier readings of the book I’ve come across: 
- It’s a metaphor for Russian imperialism and tyrrany from the viewpoint of the tyrant.
- It’s a metaphor for the decay of American culture and morals.
- It’s a metaphor for the exploitative nature of capitalism.
- It’s a metaphor for the women’s liberation movement gone mad (no, seriously, I found a jackass on a webforum arguing this, despite it having been published easily ten years before the 1960s women’s lib movement — I can only presume he read a different book)
Art notes: she has gray eyes, just as described in the book. The motel number, 342, is the actual room number were she and Humbert consummated their relationship. Everything in the scene, save Lolita herself, is a purposely sickly, desaturated color, making her stand out all the more. 
And yes, the placement of her flipped-up sandal in front of Humbert is intentional.

rejectedprincesses:

Lolita: the Seriously-Don’t-Even-Think-of-Animating-This Princess

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the first Rejected Princess ever illlustrated, and poster child for childhood sexual abuse.

Vladimir Nabokov’s book and its titular character have entered common lexicon at this point, but as a recap: the main character, Humbert Humbert (a man so nice they named him twice), is rooming at a place in New England, where he meets 12-year-old Dolores — whom he calls Lolita. He gets obsessed with her, going so far as to marry her mother so he can be close to her. 

When the mom dies, Humbert starts shacking up with Lolita, and the two end up going on an incredibly long and epically uncomfortable-to-read-about road trip. Eventually she runs away from him, hooking up with a shady playwright, who later tries getting her into porn. Years later, Lolita, now abandoned, destitute, and pregnant, seeks out Humbert for help. Humbert proceeds to kill the playwright, get thrown into jail, and write the book you’ve been reading, as his memoirs.

Despite the book being named after her and her being the main character, even at the end, we don’t know much about Lolita — because the narrator, Humbert, is so incredibly unreliable. He comes across as a charming man with creepy predilections, but once you take a step back, you realize this is all coming from the viewpoint of a pedophile who is in jail for murder, and perhaps her actions, as described, should, you know, not be taken at face value.

Since it is the sort of book that requires a lot of between-the-lines interpretation, there is more written about Lolita than I could possibly hope to cover. Some of the wackier readings of the book I’ve come across: 

- It’s a metaphor for Russian imperialism and tyrrany from the viewpoint of the tyrant.

- It’s a metaphor for the decay of American culture and morals.

- It’s a metaphor for the exploitative nature of capitalism.

- It’s a metaphor for the women’s liberation movement gone mad (no, seriously, I found a jackass on a webforum arguing this, despite it having been published easily ten years before the 1960s women’s lib movement — I can only presume he read a different book)

Art notes: she has gray eyes, just as described in the book. The motel number, 342, is the actual room number were she and Humbert consummated their relationship. Everything in the scene, save Lolita herself, is a purposely sickly, desaturated color, making her stand out all the more. 

And yes, the placement of her flipped-up sandal in front of Humbert is intentional.

rejectedprincesses:

Elisabeth Bathory: the Blood Countess (1560-1614)
First off: I know the text on these can be long. I adjusted the styling on the RP tumblr to make it easy to see the pic and the text at the same time, so if you’re getting this in your tumblr feed, you may want to click here to see it on the RP page. It’ll be easier to read.
Second off: trigger warnings. All of the trigger warnings. No trigger unwarned. (okay, fine, it’s actually just triggers for gore, violence, rape, incest, and murder. I think that’s it. but, um, tread lightly regardless.)
Now then, let’s take a step into the life of one of the most vilified women in history. On December 29, 1610, a garrison of soldiers stormed the Hungarian castle of Cachtice and arrested Elisabeth (Erzsebet) Bathory. They accused her of roughly a hundred Saw movies worth of torture, and took her into custody. As the story goes (and please keep in mind, absolutely NONE of this should be taken at face value), they caught her in the act, finding a freshly-buried corpse and a cowering servant, badly beaten but still alive.
The subsequent questioning of over 300 people into the doings of the Blood Countess (as she’d later become known) has put her in the record books as easily the most prolific female serial killer in history, by an order of magnitude. The low-end estimate for her body count (and this was the number given by her closest associates and allies, mind you) was *just* in the thirties. The high-end estimate was 650, all servant women. The collected testimonials contained a litany of charges against her so vile that they have literally become legend – she would later be used as one of the primary inspirations for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and her story has been referenced in hundreds of books, movies, songs, you name it. There were literally so many charges levied against her that when I typed them all out, it took up 10 single-spaced pages (I’ve since edited it down).
So let’s make a drinking game of it. The rules are simple: every time you’re grossed out, take a shot. I hope you have a full bottle or a strong stomach. Here we go, then! 
According to the surviving testimonials, she and/or her closest servant/confidants:
Kept her servants chained up every night so tight their hands turned blue and they spurted blood.
Beat them to the point where there was so much blood on the walls and beds that they had to use ashes and cinders to soak it up.
Beat a servant in Vienna so loudly that her neighbors (some monks) threw clay pots at the walls in protest.
Strangled a servant to death with a silk scarf (a harem technique known as “the Turkish way”, a euphemism I now endeavour to work into my daily life).
Burned her servants with metal sticks, red-hot keys, and coins; ironed the soles of their feet; and stuck burning iron rods into their vaginas.
Stabbed them, pricked them in their mouths and fingernails with needles, and cut their hands, lips, and noses with scissors.
Used needles, knives, candles, and her own freaking teeth to lacerate servants’ genitals.
Stitched their lips and tongues together.
Made servants sit on stinging nettles, then bathe with said stinging nettles. During the bath, she’d pushed the nettles into their shoulders and breasts.
Had them stand in tubs of ice water up to their necks outside until they died.
Smeared a naked girl with honey and left her outside to be bitten by ants, wasps, bees, and flies.
Kept them from eating for a week at a time, and, if they got thirsty, made them drink their own urine.
Forced them to cook and eat their own flesh (usually from the buttocks), or make sausages and serve it to guests.
Heated up a cake to red-hot temperatures and made a servant eat it.
Baked a magical poisonous cake in order to kill a rival magistrate, George Thurzo (who was also the guy who arrested her — more on him in a bit).
Cast a magic spell to summon a cloud filled with ninety cats to torment her enemies. Okay, that’s actually kind of awesome.
Had an ongoing affair with some guy named “Ironhead Steve” (no, really).
Stuffed five servants’ corpses underneath a bed and continued to feed them as if they were still alive.
Buried them in gardens, grain pits, orchards, and occasionally cemeteries. Sometimes with rites, often without.
And that’s just the charges levied against her in her lifetime! After she died, more details were added to the picture:
She bathed in virgins’ blood! (a lie dreamed up centuries afterward. also would’ve been impossible due to coagulation. I checked.)
She was syphilitic from centuries of inbreeding! (maaaaybe? seems perfectly with-it in her letters though)
She was epileptic! (well, she did once mention her eye hurt in a letter…?)
She was raped when she was young. (uh, doubtful. she was one of the most powerful women in the region, practically from birth)
Her aunt Klara was a bisexual or lesbian (possible!). The two had an incestuous relationship! (uh… reaallly doubt it…) After having numerous affairs, Klara was raped by an entire Turkish garrison before having her throat cut! (augh, no! what the fuck!?)
She was menopausal, and thus crazy! (sounds like someone is afraid of lady bits)
Her cousin Gabor (whom I will talk about below) slept around a lot (true), was bisexual (maybe?), had an incestuous relationship with his sister Anna (not true), who was herself accused of sleeping with a silversmith (super not true) and being a witch (super ultra not true).
So after all this went down, the sentences went into effect almost immediately. Her female “accomplices,” all old ladies, first had their fingers torn off with iron tongs, and, once fingerless, were bodily tossed into a large fire. Her one male “accomplice”, being less of a participant to the supposed crimes, was shown a tremendous amount of mercy: he was decapitated *before* they tossed his body into a fire. And Elisabeth Bathory herself was “immured” — which is to say, bricked up into a room in her own castle, where she died four years later.
In conclusion: the aristocrats!
Well, actually, no. That is not the conclusion. Buckle up, for I am about to dump the biggest bucket of cold water on all this malarky as I can possibly muster. Based off of the evidence, there is a case to be made (one which I believe to be true) that Elisabeth Bathory is innocent.
You heard me.
Now, this is not to say she was a nice person. The overwhelming impression one gets from reading all these documents (an act I do not recommend you do in one sitting — learn from my mistakes) is that she was a take-no-crap kind of lady. Her husband was off at war, and she had to manage an INCREDIBLE amount of stuff in his absence, even before he died – thousands of servants, governing the local populace, and handling an amount of property second to none. 
And so, Elisabeth Bathory needed everyone around her to know one thing, and one thing only: she was Head Bitch in Charge, and she had no time for your shit.
Her surviving letters illustrate this beautifully with their overwhelming curtness (even to her husband!). My favorite thing she ever wrote was to an encroaching squatter: she ended it by saying “do not think I shall leave you to enjoy it [settling illegally on my land]. You will find a man in me.” — a saying that translates roughly to “I will crush you.”
So no, she was not warm and cuddly. I absolutely believe she made life shitty for misbehaving servants (or, more likely, had her head servants do it for her). It is beyond questioning that she beat the hell out of them, and some undoubtedly died from it – I mean, she had thousands of servants in an age before penicillin. In fact, one scholar claims that the more outlandish tortures (stinging nettles, metal rods, amateur acupuncture) were contemporary folk remedies. Tough, mean lady? Yes. Cartoon supervillain? Hell no.
So what happened? George Thurzo – Palatine of Hungary and dickass extraordinaire – did.
Now, I already said Elisabeth was powerful, but you need to get the magnitude of the target she was: the Bathorys were like the Hungarian Kennedys and had been for centuries. By the time all this went down, Elisabeth’s cousin Gabor (earlier mentioned) was gunning for the throne (literally was starting a war), and Elisabeth was widowed, with more money than god. So Thurzo was like, “oh hell no, I am not letting those two partner up,” and decided to take Elisabeth down.
Now, the details of the plot are a bit murky. Thurzo was a known schemer who’d made a career out of backstabbing people, so a plot wouldn’t be much of a surprise. There’s evidence in correspondence with his wife (who kept forgetting to write in code) that Thurzo was moving against Elisabeth over a year earlier. He’d been in contact with the local church leaders, who were whipping up the general populace against the Bathorys by telling them stories – stories that would, with minor variations, be repeated over and over in the proceedings against Elisabeth, passed off as “I heard this” but with very few saying they’d actually seen it.
And that’s just the cooperating witnesses. In all likelihood – it was standard operating procedure at the time – the members of Elisabeth’s household were tortured before testifying. Their testimonials, which are confused and contradictory, lend credence to that.
The only way to get rid of such an entrenched power as Elisabeth was to catch her committing a horrific act red-handed – which Thurzo said he did, although it took him 24 hours to produce said evidence. Afterwards, they never had a trial (despite the king demanding one for three years straight). Elisabeth never got to speak in her defense and her family records were mostly destroyed. There is very little to go on in determining what sort of a person she actually was.
So, even if she did commit said acts (which is possible, although  nowhere near the scale of the accusations), ask yourself what is more likely: an incredibly outlandish list of violence perpetrated by a cadre of old women over decades; or, an orchestrated persecution against a powerful, harsh, and independent woman – in the age of actual witch hunts, no less!
It is a bit sad to think of Elisabeth’s last several years, imprisoned in her own castle (she was not literally bricked up, Amontillado-style). I imagine her looking out the window, confident that history would clear her name — blithely unaware of the centuries of mudslinging to come after her death. She deserved better. It feels odd to come to her defense, since, best-case scenario, she was occasionally abusive to the point where she would have been arrested nowadays, but I can’t help it. Call it sympathy for the devil.

Around a hundred people wrote in to suggest Lady Bathory over the past three weeks, but the credit for the original suggestion must go to my friend Astrid Phillips Mayer (genius brand strategist and champion of female empowerment!), who suggested it way back in February, when I first had the idea to do this project.

Art notes
Oh boy, I spent a lot of time figuring out just how to represent Lady Bathory. I am happy with how it turned out. Here’s the thought processes and callbacks:
I wanted to have the viewer see through her eyes, as best as possible.
We never see her, just a reflection in a dusty mirror. Her expression is meant to be somewhat inscrutable, without you being able to tell what’s on her mind. She’s purposely stiff and posed.
She’s got her back turned to Thurzo (in background, with feathered cap in silhouette) bricking her up, with her image caught in her own shadow – sort of symbolizing how her true story’s been locked away and obscured.
The whole composition is meant to feel claustrophobic, with her not only caught inside the mirror, but surrounded by the shadows cast from the bricked-up wall.
Her outfit is from one of the two surviving portraits of her, and all the furniture and whatnot are period-accurate. 
The mirror is a Venetian glass mirror (one of the only types of mirror at the time – each one was as expensive as a battleship!), and the scratches and cloudiness are actually characteristic of that type of mirror.
She’s washing her hair, a reference to the blood-bathing legends. Is that water reflecting the red candlelight and her dress, or…?
The symbol at the top of the mirror (the dragon) is the actual Bathory family crest, believe it or not. The candle holders are callbacks to that dragon.
Everything on the desk (and the bleeding candles) are related to a different torture rumor. The chest with the small mirror is a scrying box that witches were said to use.
Very barely visible in the darkness of the reflected room, up above a balcony, are a bunch of cats, a reference to the 90-cat curse.
Citations
Primarily, I cited Tony Thorne’s “Countess Dracula: the life and times of the Blood Countess, Elisabeth Bathory.” I looked at some other sites and books to gather a more complete list of the rumors against her, but given Thorne’s extremely extensive work (his book is exhaustively sourced), I felt comfortable relying mostly on him.

Next week on Rejected Princesses
Stepping away from violent women for a while, and heading back 7 decades before Rosa Parks.

TW: rape, incest, gore, murder

rejectedprincesses:

Elisabeth Bathory: the Blood Countess (1560-1614)

First off: I know the text on these can be long. I adjusted the styling on the RP tumblr to make it easy to see the pic and the text at the same time, so if you’re getting this in your tumblr feed, you may want to click here to see it on the RP page. It’ll be easier to read.

Second off: trigger warnings. All of the trigger warnings. No trigger unwarned. (okay, fine, it’s actually just triggers for gore, violence, rape, incest, and murder. I think that’s it. but, um, tread lightly regardless.)

Now then, let’s take a step into the life of one of the most vilified women in history. On December 29, 1610, a garrison of soldiers stormed the Hungarian castle of Cachtice and arrested Elisabeth (Erzsebet) Bathory. They accused her of roughly a hundred Saw movies worth of torture, and took her into custody. As the story goes (and please keep in mind, absolutely NONE of this should be taken at face value), they caught her in the act, finding a freshly-buried corpse and a cowering servant, badly beaten but still alive.

The subsequent questioning of over 300 people into the doings of the Blood Countess (as she’d later become known) has put her in the record books as easily the most prolific female serial killer in history, by an order of magnitude. The low-end estimate for her body count (and this was the number given by her closest associates and allies, mind you) was *just* in the thirties. The high-end estimate was 650, all servant women. The collected testimonials contained a litany of charges against her so vile that they have literally become legend – she would later be used as one of the primary inspirations for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and her story has been referenced in hundreds of books, movies, songs, you name it. There were literally so many charges levied against her that when I typed them all out, it took up 10 single-spaced pages (I’ve since edited it down).

So let’s make a drinking game of it. The rules are simple: every time you’re grossed out, take a shot. I hope you have a full bottle or a strong stomach. Here we go, then!

According to the surviving testimonials, she and/or her closest servant/confidants:

  • Kept her servants chained up every night so tight their hands turned blue and they spurted blood.
  • Beat them to the point where there was so much blood on the walls and beds that they had to use ashes and cinders to soak it up.
  • Beat a servant in Vienna so loudly that her neighbors (some monks) threw clay pots at the walls in protest.
  • Strangled a servant to death with a silk scarf (a harem technique known as “the Turkish way”, a euphemism I now endeavour to work into my daily life).
  • Burned her servants with metal sticks, red-hot keys, and coins; ironed the soles of their feet; and stuck burning iron rods into their vaginas.
  • Stabbed them, pricked them in their mouths and fingernails with needles, and cut their hands, lips, and noses with scissors.
  • Used needles, knives, candles, and her own freaking teeth to lacerate servants’ genitals.
  • Stitched their lips and tongues together.
  • Made servants sit on stinging nettles, then bathe with said stinging nettles. During the bath, she’d pushed the nettles into their shoulders and breasts.
  • Had them stand in tubs of ice water up to their necks outside until they died.
  • Smeared a naked girl with honey and left her outside to be bitten by ants, wasps, bees, and flies.
  • Kept them from eating for a week at a time, and, if they got thirsty, made them drink their own urine.
  • Forced them to cook and eat their own flesh (usually from the buttocks), or make sausages and serve it to guests.
  • Heated up a cake to red-hot temperatures and made a servant eat it.
  • Baked a magical poisonous cake in order to kill a rival magistrate, George Thurzo (who was also the guy who arrested her — more on him in a bit).
  • Cast a magic spell to summon a cloud filled with ninety cats to torment her enemies. Okay, that’s actually kind of awesome.
  • Had an ongoing affair with some guy named “Ironhead Steve” (no, really).
  • Stuffed five servants’ corpses underneath a bed and continued to feed them as if they were still alive.
  • Buried them in gardens, grain pits, orchards, and occasionally cemeteries. Sometimes with rites, often without.

And that’s just the charges levied against her in her lifetime! After she died, more details were added to the picture:

  • She bathed in virgins’ blood! (a lie dreamed up centuries afterward. also would’ve been impossible due to coagulation. I checked.)
  • She was syphilitic from centuries of inbreeding! (maaaaybe? seems perfectly with-it in her letters though)
  • She was epileptic! (well, she did once mention her eye hurt in a letter…?)
  • She was raped when she was young. (uh, doubtful. she was one of the most powerful women in the region, practically from birth)
  • Her aunt Klara was a bisexual or lesbian (possible!). The two had an incestuous relationship! (uh… reaallly doubt it…) After having numerous affairs, Klara was raped by an entire Turkish garrison before having her throat cut! (augh, no! what the fuck!?)
  • She was menopausal, and thus crazy! (sounds like someone is afraid of lady bits)
  • Her cousin Gabor (whom I will talk about below) slept around a lot (true), was bisexual (maybe?), had an incestuous relationship with his sister Anna (not true), who was herself accused of sleeping with a silversmith (super not true) and being a witch (super ultra not true).

So after all this went down, the sentences went into effect almost immediately. Her female “accomplices,” all old ladies, first had their fingers torn off with iron tongs, and, once fingerless, were bodily tossed into a large fire. Her one male “accomplice”, being less of a participant to the supposed crimes, was shown a tremendous amount of mercy: he was decapitated *before* they tossed his body into a fire. And Elisabeth Bathory herself was “immured” — which is to say, bricked up into a room in her own castle, where she died four years later.

In conclusion: the aristocrats!

Well, actually, no. That is not the conclusion. Buckle up, for I am about to dump the biggest bucket of cold water on all this malarky as I can possibly muster. Based off of the evidence, there is a case to be made (one which I believe to be true) that Elisabeth Bathory is innocent.

You heard me.

Now, this is not to say she was a nice person. The overwhelming impression one gets from reading all these documents (an act I do not recommend you do in one sitting — learn from my mistakes) is that she was a take-no-crap kind of lady. Her husband was off at war, and she had to manage an INCREDIBLE amount of stuff in his absence, even before he died – thousands of servants, governing the local populace, and handling an amount of property second to none.

And so, Elisabeth Bathory needed everyone around her to know one thing, and one thing only: she was Head Bitch in Charge, and she had no time for your shit.

Her surviving letters illustrate this beautifully with their overwhelming curtness (even to her husband!). My favorite thing she ever wrote was to an encroaching squatter: she ended it by saying “do not think I shall leave you to enjoy it [settling illegally on my land]. You will find a man in me.” — a saying that translates roughly to “I will crush you.”

So no, she was not warm and cuddly. I absolutely believe she made life shitty for misbehaving servants (or, more likely, had her head servants do it for her). It is beyond questioning that she beat the hell out of them, and some undoubtedly died from it – I mean, she had thousands of servants in an age before penicillin. In fact, one scholar claims that the more outlandish tortures (stinging nettles, metal rods, amateur acupuncture) were contemporary folk remedies. Tough, mean lady? Yes. Cartoon supervillain? Hell no.

So what happened? George Thurzo – Palatine of Hungary and dickass extraordinaire – did.

Now, I already said Elisabeth was powerful, but you need to get the magnitude of the target she was: the Bathorys were like the Hungarian Kennedys and had been for centuries. By the time all this went down, Elisabeth’s cousin Gabor (earlier mentioned) was gunning for the throne (literally was starting a war), and Elisabeth was widowed, with more money than god. So Thurzo was like, “oh hell no, I am not letting those two partner up,” and decided to take Elisabeth down.

Now, the details of the plot are a bit murky. Thurzo was a known schemer who’d made a career out of backstabbing people, so a plot wouldn’t be much of a surprise. There’s evidence in correspondence with his wife (who kept forgetting to write in code) that Thurzo was moving against Elisabeth over a year earlier. He’d been in contact with the local church leaders, who were whipping up the general populace against the Bathorys by telling them stories – stories that would, with minor variations, be repeated over and over in the proceedings against Elisabeth, passed off as “I heard this” but with very few saying they’d actually seen it.

And that’s just the cooperating witnesses. In all likelihood – it was standard operating procedure at the time – the members of Elisabeth’s household were tortured before testifying. Their testimonials, which are confused and contradictory, lend credence to that.

The only way to get rid of such an entrenched power as Elisabeth was to catch her committing a horrific act red-handed – which Thurzo said he did, although it took him 24 hours to produce said evidence. Afterwards, they never had a trial (despite the king demanding one for three years straight). Elisabeth never got to speak in her defense and her family records were mostly destroyed. There is very little to go on in determining what sort of a person she actually was.

So, even if she did commit said acts (which is possible, although  nowhere near the scale of the accusations), ask yourself what is more likely: an incredibly outlandish list of violence perpetrated by a cadre of old women over decades; or, an orchestrated persecution against a powerful, harsh, and independent woman – in the age of actual witch hunts, no less!

It is a bit sad to think of Elisabeth’s last several years, imprisoned in her own castle (she was not literally bricked up, Amontillado-style). I imagine her looking out the window, confident that history would clear her name — blithely unaware of the centuries of mudslinging to come after her death. She deserved better. It feels odd to come to her defense, since, best-case scenario, she was occasionally abusive to the point where she would have been arrested nowadays, but I can’t help it. Call it sympathy for the devil.

Around a hundred people wrote in to suggest Lady Bathory over the past three weeks, but the credit for the original suggestion must go to my friend Astrid Phillips Mayer (genius brand strategist and champion of female empowerment!), who suggested it way back in February, when I first had the idea to do this project.

Art notes

Oh boy, I spent a lot of time figuring out just how to represent Lady Bathory. I am happy with how it turned out. Here’s the thought processes and callbacks:

  • I wanted to have the viewer see through her eyes, as best as possible.
  • We never see her, just a reflection in a dusty mirror. Her expression is meant to be somewhat inscrutable, without you being able to tell what’s on her mind. She’s purposely stiff and posed.
  • She’s got her back turned to Thurzo (in background, with feathered cap in silhouette) bricking her up, with her image caught in her own shadow – sort of symbolizing how her true story’s been locked away and obscured.
  • The whole composition is meant to feel claustrophobic, with her not only caught inside the mirror, but surrounded by the shadows cast from the bricked-up wall.
  • Her outfit is from one of the two surviving portraits of her, and all the furniture and whatnot are period-accurate.
  • The mirror is a Venetian glass mirror (one of the only types of mirror at the time – each one was as expensive as a battleship!), and the scratches and cloudiness are actually characteristic of that type of mirror.
  • She’s washing her hair, a reference to the blood-bathing legends. Is that water reflecting the red candlelight and her dress, or…?
  • The symbol at the top of the mirror (the dragon) is the actual Bathory family crest, believe it or not. The candle holders are callbacks to that dragon.
  • Everything on the desk (and the bleeding candles) are related to a different torture rumor. The chest with the small mirror is a scrying box that witches were said to use.
  • Very barely visible in the darkness of the reflected room, up above a balcony, are a bunch of cats, a reference to the 90-cat curse.

Citations

Primarily, I cited Tony Thorne’s “Countess Dracula: the life and times of the Blood Countess, Elisabeth Bathory.” I looked at some other sites and books to gather a more complete list of the rumors against her, but given Thorne’s extremely extensive work (his book is exhaustively sourced), I felt comfortable relying mostly on him.

Next week on Rejected Princesses

Stepping away from violent women for a while, and heading back 7 decades before Rosa Parks.

TW: rape, incest, gore, murder

vinebox:

My Life

[It’s a different phase in your life. You meet new people ’cause you’re a couple ... and then you just ... let your old friends slip away.]

It won’t be like that.