Dearg-Due: Irish Vampire
Content warning: blood, abuse, suicide
Welcome to Weird Wednesday! This week we have a tragic tale of lost love and revenge from beyond the grave.
The story goes like this: once upon a time (in Waterford, Ireland, perhaps), there was a young woman of such wondrous beauty that news of it spread far and wide. She cared little for that, and fell in love with a poor, young farm laborer. The young woman’s father, however, saw a chance for cold cash, so he betrothed her instead to a cruel but wealthy man.
So the young woman was wed to a man who proved monstrous, one who abused her so horribly that she committed suicide by starvation. Now, if you know your tales of the supernatural, you will recognize that this is Not a Good Way to Die. Not if you’d like to stay dead, anyway.
Thus, on the night of her burial, the young woman rose from her grave as the Dearg-Due (pronounced DAH-ruhg DU-ah or DAH-ruh-guh DU-ah, and probably mistranslated as red-blood-drinker or red-thirst) and attacked first her father, then her husband, stealing their breath and blood. As tends to happen with vampires, the taste of blood only made her hunger and rage more acute, and so she moved on to whoever else was nearby, slaying more people each night.
To stop her murderous rampage, the locals piled heavy stones on her grave to keep her from digging her way out. Some say that the Dearg-Due crumbled to dust from lack of food, but others say that if those stones ever get moved, we are in for a bit of trouble.
And now for some bloody writing prompts!
- Undead shenanigans: The Dearg-Due’s got a swinging night life. She’s one of the more seductive vampires (as opposed to those who wear the “I just climbed out of my grave” look). She’s as beautiful in death as in life, so it’s not terribly hard for her to find victims. In fact, it’s said children will even follow her out into the woods, not to mention the hordes of admiring men. So there are at least two ways to go here: either you’ve got a woman still hung up on the beauty thing (for without her looks, no cruel wealthy man would have been interested in her) and anxious to take revenge on men in general, or you’ve got an all-out monster with no human emotions left, who preys on innocent adults and children alike.
- Oops. Perhaps over the centuries, everybody forgets about the grave and the importance of the stones on top of it. The pile might get moved by weather, people building something out of stone, or people who wanted to make a different pile of stones in some other place, for reasons. Or maybe people do remember the grave, and the stones are moved on purpose: either skeptical people taking souvenirs from a famous grave, or a believer with a motive. Perhaps another wronged woman might want to free the Dearg-Due. Or somebody who wants a certain man killed and is hoping a vampire might lend a hand. Or somebody who just wants to watch the world bleed. In any case, the stones get moved and that is Not Good.
- Whatever happened to What’s-his-name? You know, that whole true love with the farm laborer thing? Some versions of the story have the young woman’s low-class lover promising rescue, but never showing up, and some versions forget about him entirely. It’s a vampire trope to have a lover wish to follow their newly-turned love to the grave, encouraging a bite that will give them eternity together. But the Dearg-Due is not a vampire who makes other vampires. So think what it must be like for this guy, watching his love story switch genres to horror. Would he be the first to pile stones on her grave, or the guy who removes them? Does he think she’s justified in what she does? Does he want her to call to him or leave him alone? There’s also an opening here for true love’s kiss bringing peace of some kind. And of course, if you want her to be able to make other vampires, go for it. It’s your story, after all.
- A gory story. There is a kind of icky version of the story (well, more icky, anyway) where the abuse of the young woman by her husband involves blood-letting. There’s a whole bit about how he likes red blood and pale skin, and I can’t imagine how this guy thought this wasn’t going to come back and bite him later— literally. But it makes for a good splatter story. Or you could get artsy with it. There’s a lot of vibrant color to work with here— white skin, golden hair, green eyes, red blood… throw in black grave dirt and pale stones and you’ve got some bloody poetry (pun intended).
- Tweak the plot. With a few alterations to the original tale, you’ve got a bunch of new pathways. For example: pregnancy. Maybe the young lovers managed to get pregnant so they’d be allowed to marry. Or maybe a baby comes from the unwanted marriage. Another possibility: paranormal powers. Maybe the farm laborer can see the future, or the young woman is descended from witches. Perhaps her cruel husband likes to summon demons. Or might she be buried with a magic artifact? Dare to dream dark, my friends.
I hope you’ve enjoyed spending your Weird Wednesday here, and remember: pile of stones? Leave it alone!
If you like monstrous tales, feel free to check out Dark Cheer: Cryptids Emerging from Improbable Press, which contains my story The Enfield Monster. And if you’re into vampires, you can read my free queer vampire romances Tollense and Life is Good.
Sources & further reading:
Maberry, J., & Kramer, D. F. (2009). They bite: Endless cravings of supernatural predators. Kensington Publishing Corp. On Goodreads
Dearg Due: An Irish Woman Turned Blood Thirsty Vampire: The Irish Road Trip
Irish Faerie Folk of Yore and Yesterday: The Dearg-Due: Got Ireland
The Dearg Dur – the origin story of the Waterford legend: Irish Central
Monster Monday: Dearg-Dul: J Matthew Saunders
Photos in this post were taken by Dannye