Mythical Monday: The Cossack and the Vampire by Mae Clair

In the spirit of Halloween, I thought I’d share some spooky shenanigans for Mythical Monday this month.

bigstock-Village-Hotel-Engraving-by-Fl-31216964I want to start with an old tale from Russia about a Cossack who encountered a mysterious stranger one evening while traveling to rejoin his regiment. He’d walked for days, sometimes stopping to shelter from the cold when a farmer offered the hospitality of his barn. More often than not, the villagers he encountered scattered through the harsh countryside were wary of him, making the sign of the cross when he approached.

One evening as twilight was gathering, he spied a man camped along the side of the road. Though dressed raggedly, the stranger had kindled an inviting fire and was calmly mending a pair of boots. He did not react fearfully or superstitiously as the villagers had. The traveling soldier thought it odd the man had chosen to erect his camp beside an old graveyard, but was not deterred by the thought of the dead. Greeting the man with a brotherly hello, he gratefully warmed his hands by the fire.

The stranger’s reply was curt. “I call no man kin.”

Finished with his mending, he donned his boots and kicked dirt over the fire. Without a word, he set off down the road. Undaunted by his behavior, the Cossack followed.

“I will walk with you. Where do you go?”

The stranger’s response was brief, a few grunted words informing the Cossack he sought amusement. It wasn’t long before the lights of a village glimmered in the darkness and the sound of laughter and singing wafted to them on the air. On the edge of the village a small cottage stood with its door ajar, a wedding reception taking place within.

The two men were cheerfully welcomed inside and the Cossack joined in the celebration. The raggedy stranger elected to cling to the corners and sulk in the shadows. Enjoying himself, the Cossack gave little thought to the man’s unsocial behavior. Shortly after midnight, he was pleased to see the stranger approach the bride. These villagers were friendly. Finally the man was going to pay his respect!

The Cossack watched as the stranger knelt before the glowing bride. When she lowered her hands to his accept his well wishes, he buried his face in her palms. Within seconds, she grew pale and swooned, but the stranger’s face was flushed when he stood.

As the wedding company gathered around the distraught bride, the Cossack followed the stranger outside. “I know what you are.”

bigstock-Halloween-night-scene-in-a-spo-37249273The man sneered, his teeth stained with blood. “I’ve had my amusement. Leave me alone before I decide I need more.” He fled down the road to the graveyard where the Cossack had first encountered him. Enraged by what he had done, the valiant soldier chased in pursuit.

“You cannot kill me,” the vampire proclaimed. “The thing that lives inside me can survive even the scourge of fire.” Lunging at the Cossack, he grappled him around the waist.

Strong from many years of soldiering, the Cossack fought back as no man had before. All through the long night he struggled with his adversary. The two fought hand-to-hand, punching and kicking, twisting and rolling on the ground. When dawn arrived with the heralding cry of a cock, the vampire released the Cossack and slithered into a grave.

Injured, but determined, the soldier returned to the village where he gathered up the men. Armed with scythes and shovels, they filled a cart with kindling cut from stout rowans and birch trees. At the graveyard, they set it ablaze, using their pitchforks to heave the vampire’s body onto the pyre. When the ghoul’s charred skeleton crumbled to ash, a raucous shriek splintered the pungent air.

Maggots, rats and lizards surged from the flames; a funnel of dark-winged scavenger birds burst into the air. Swiftly, the villagers set upon the vermin, beating the foul creatures with their weapons. The twitching bodies were heaved back into the fire where they were quickly consumed. Even then more spewed forth in a seemingly endless hoard.

The killing went on for many long hours until finally the hellish creatures stopped coming. Exhausted, the villagers let the fire die and scattered the vampire’s ashes into the wind. Had even one of the nightmarish beasts survived, the vampire’s spirit would have roamed free in search of another host.

Satisfied the vampire’s evil had been thwarted, the Cossack bid the villagers good-bye and continued on his way. In one village at least, he would be remembered fondly.

~ooOOoo~

Although familiar with tales of vampires, this story was new to me. I’d never heard of a vampire’s spirit being released in the form of a rat, lizard or other creature – – or being able to escape the torrent of fire and roam free until finding another host. I’m not sure exactly how old this tale is, but I would guess 15th or 16th century. Were you familiar with this part of vampire lore?

I did stop to wonder why the vampire didn’t just bite the Cossack while they were fighting but maybe he couldn’t because he’d shared a fire with him. What do you think?

28 thoughts on “Mythical Monday: The Cossack and the Vampire by Mae Clair

  1. Well, that was an interesting tale! I haven’t heard that one before. You’re such a vital part of my education! I’m pondering why the vampire didn’t give him a nibble during their first meeting — although I better not ponder too hard or a new story idea might appear. LOL

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    • Good point, Donna. He could have just had his amusement there…although maybe he thought the Cassock would put up too much of a fight. I’m so glad I’m keeping you educated on these important matters, LOL!

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  2. Well, that was just creepy…the stuff of nightmares, indeed. But then again, that particular part of the world has quite a few strange tales to offer. Stokes the imagination thought, doesn’t it… Great post Mae!

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    • There are definitely a lot of eerie tales from those part yonder! I think this one would have made a good horror movie, especially with all those nasty things exploding from the fire. Ugh! Thanks for reading, Debbie!

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  3. I’ve never heard of this one either, but it definitely had me intrigued. I was wondering the same thing of why he didn’t bite the cossack. Very strange.

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  4. This tale reminds me so much of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The vermin, the strange almost hostile companionship of the vampire, the brazen taking of the woman’s blood. Very cool. Thanks for sharing, Mae!

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    • So there were vermin in Dracula? You know, I don’t believe I ever read it. I really should one of these days. It definitely sounds creepy based upon your comment, Jessi. Thanks for sharing!

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    • In Vampire lore its often very dificult to kill a vampire. Burning usually works but most other methods are really just preventative measures. Impale the body to the ground and it can’t rise from the coffin (stake through the heart), cut the head off and put it between the legs where it won’t be found that kind of thing. Even the classic sunlight thing was a creation of Holywood (like here in lore vamps return to the grave instead of dying in the sun).

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      • Hi, Kevin. Thanks for stopping by and sharing that info. It’s amazing how legends have mutated and twisted over time. And, of course, as you said, Hollywood adds its own variations. The vampire myth has certainly inspired many takes on movies, books, and TV shows, and I’m sure it will continue. I think I prefer the older myths the best!

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  5. I think you’re probably right about the date of it. The fear of vampires runs deep in central and eastern europe even today. Only recently a set of vampire graves were opened and the local community wasn’t at all happy about it. Research is one thing, disturbing the undead another. Thanks for this new twist to the tale.

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    • *shudder* Yeah, digging up a grave is much too freaky to contemplate…especially of a reputed vampire. Isn’t it something how old fears still have the power to haunt after generations. Thanks for sharing that info, Daisy!

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  6. No I never heard of it either. The vamp transposed his soul into the other man? wow!!

    I was going to do my presentation in Nov on Vampires. But they are dear to my heart and the group is not paranormal oriented, so I will switch topics
    I’ve started to write fantasy – have no idea why but really enjoying it

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    • Well, in this case he didn’t, but had one of those vermin things lived and escaped, he could have.

      So you’re writing fantasy, Sue? That was my writing genre of choice many years ago and I still love it. One of these days, I’ve got to polish up a fantasy trilogy I did. With the exception of the last half of the third book, it’s written (and dear to my heart).

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  7. Ooo, chilling. No, I hadn’t heard that one before. I love that this guy couldn’t be destroyed with a mere clove of garlic, a crucifix, and beheading. Vampires, in some myths, can be downright scary. In the original Dracula, he could, after all, walk around in daylight.

    About the fire, I don’t know. There are so many odd rules, especially regarding hospitality, in such stories. Then again, perhaps its creator didn’t have beta readers to point out its flaws. 🙂

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    • LOL! I love your take on 15th century beta readers, Laura.

      I do think it probably had something to do with the hospitality of sharing the fire originally. And I found out something new about the original Dracula…he could walk around in daylight! Can you tell I’m much better with werewolf legends, LOL!

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  8. Hi Mae! Never heard this story before, but I’m no expert on vampire lore. Interesting that he bit her on the hands? or wrists perhaps? But we don’t know as he buries his face in them. Nice start to October! Do you feel that Halloween is getting bigger and bigger every year? I feel it is!

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    • I thought it was weird that he bit her hands too (or maybe it was her wrist). It seems a lot of the old vampire tales have victims being bitten in places other than the neck.

      I think people like the make-believe aspect of Halloween (at least I do). It’s kind of like a huge masquerade ball. I still remember the episode “Masks” from the TV show Beauty and the Beast with Linda Hamilton and Ron Perleman. It was the one night of the year where the Beast could walk the city streets and not be worried about the way he looked, because everyone was dressed in costume.

      Thanks for dropping by, Cd!

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  9. This sort of reminds me of a portion of Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series. There are 3 brothers (the Wroths) that were turned vampire, though they refused to drink blood. I believe they were Estonian. She calls the ones who don’t drain humans forbearers.

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    • Interesting. I like the fact that they refused to drink blood.

      As weird as it may seem, I’ve read very few books with vampires. Lots of werewolves, ghosts, elves and faeries, but hardly any vamps. Hmm. Maybe I’ll have to check a few out!

      Great to see you here, Kitt!

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      • Well, they drank a little, but only from voluntary donors (usually lovers) and never to draining point. In her world, when you drink the blood you gain their memories, which is why they usually don’t or when they do, they’re very selective.

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  10. Oh, boy– that was scary. I don’t like vamp stuff!! Been that way since I was a kid, and the aversion to them remains. But — you pulled me in, Mae — once again! You know how to tell a tale and I’m glad I read this earlier in the evening, rather than later. Lots of lights on, too– whew!! It’s been awhile since I’ve been on your blog, and I’m glad to see you still drawing folks in with your words and posts. Great creepy pics, too, BTW. Hope to be back soon, my friend.

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    • Venice, I’m honored that you actually read the folktale, because I know how much vampires freak you out! I like the fact that good triumphed over evil. In almost all of these old legends that’s the case.

      Glad to hear you’ll be back soon…I owe you an email. And I’m gearing up for NaNoWriMo. Hope you’re still planning on joining in the fun!

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      • Still planning on NaNoWriMo, my friend! I’m looking forward to it. Yesterday I downloaded Scrivener Novel Writing Software to help me bring some kind of order into the madness of those 30 days. We’ll be talking, Mae! And, writing– lots and lots of writing!!! 🙂

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