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The Vampire of Zarožje: The Legend of Sava Savanović

The Vampire of Zarožje: The Legend of Sava Savanović

The story of Sava Savanović is one of the most famous and fascinating folk tales from Serbia. It is a story of love, loss, madness and ultimately the supernatural. The legend of Sava Savanović is one that has been deeply etched into the cultural memory of the Serbian people and continues to be retold to this day.

The beginning of the legend

The story begins in the small village of Zarožje, where Sava Savanović lived. He was a successful cattle trader and a brave hajducke, a member of society known and appreciated for both his courage and wealth. Sava lived unmarried with his brother and his brother's family in a common house.

One day Sava fell in love with the daughter of a local merchant. Despite his efforts to marry the young woman, he was denied because of the great age difference. This rejection led to a deep change in Sava. He became bitter, spiteful and quarrelsome. People began to avoid and fear him.

The turning point

One day, after a night of waiting outside, Sava sought out the young woman who was driving cattle to pasture. After a short exchange of words, he shot the woman and possibly others present. In the act, Sava also dramatically lost his own life - in some accounts by suicide, in others by strangulation by villagers involved.

After his death, as custom dictated, Sava was buried not in the churchyard but near the crime scene. But that was not the end of the story. The villagers reported that they had seen Sava at night or had even been followed by him.

The vampire of Zarožje

The situation escalated when several millers who worked and stayed overnight in the water mills on the Rogačica River were found dead. All of them showed bite marks on their necks. It was clear to the villagers that Sava had become a vampire.

In their fear, the villagers decided to take action. They opened Sava's grave and found an undecayed corpse inside. To break the curse, they drove a pointed stake through the vampire's heart.

According to some locals, "When they dug him up, Sava is said to have opened his eyes. They drove a stake through his chest. Supposedly a butterfly flew out and the priest failed to pour holy water in time. It is said that this butterfly plagued people for a long time, and many believe that it still plagues them today."

The historical significance

Sava Savanović is among the first known cases by name of a folk belief in vampires native to the Balkans. In Serbian folklore, he is usually considered the first vampire. The legend of Sava Savanović probably originated in the 17th or 18th century and is closely connected with the interest in vampirism in Western Europe at that time.

Reports of vampires and other mystical beings were not uncommon in those regions. There were reports of vampires until the late 19th century, and oral accounts of encounters with unknown beings exist until the first half of the 20th century.

Sava Savanović in culture

Sava Savanović appears in several cultural works related to the Serbian vampire legend.

In literature, he has already been adapted by Serbian realist Milovan Glišić in the story "Posle devedeset godina" ("Ninety Years Later").

The 1973 horror film Leptirica, starring Mirjana Nikolić and Petar Božović, is also based on the legend of Sava Savanović:

In the novel "Strah i njegov sluga" ("Fear and its Servant") by Mirjana Novaković, Savanović is also one of the main characters.

In 2010, the city of Valjevo even chose the mythical Sava Savanović as the tourist mascot of the city and the entire Kolubara region. Although Zarožje and Valjevo are located on different sides of the Povlen Mountains, both claim Savanović as their brand. The local community of Zarožje therefore initially threatened to sue, but then only complained to the police in Bajina Bašta that Savanović had been "stolen from them."

Thus, the mystical vampire legend has become deeply engraved in the popular culture of Serbia and is still taken up in literatures and films today.

The water mill of Sava Savanović

Remains of the water mill of Sava Savanovic

Although the stories surrounding Sava Savanović can never be fully proven historically, they are an essential part of Serbian folk tradition. The seclusion of his dilapidated mill contributes to an atmosphere shrouded in ominous mystery. For the curious tourist or vampire lover visiting western Serbia, the mill in Zarozje is an unforgettable destination.

Despite its collapse, parts of the structure have been preserved and stabilized. The mill is located in the middle of a dense forest along the babbling Rogačica River, which is now peaceful but still exudes an eerie presence if you know the legend. Guided tours are occasionally offered, during which the story of Savanović is told in exciting detail.

As long as the legends are passed down, the memory of the vampire lives on. Sava Savanović is remembered as one of the most eerie and fascinating legendary figures in Serbia.