How One Prince Prevented Vampirism

Spoiler: He Had Them Tear Out His Heart

There was once a nobleman who ordered his own heart removed for the sake of those he loved.

If this sounds like some black-clad rocker’s most overwrought lyric, then we agree.

This odd account first appeared in an 1878 book by pioneering folklorist Wilhelm Mannhardt, and later in an 1901 book by Hans Bächtold-Stäubli, and yet again in the rare 1931 book “Eingeweide” by Ernst Bargheer.

I was the first person to check this copy from the library since 1985

A Romanian nobleman, called either a prince, a duke, or a count (depending on translation) by the name of Borolajowac, had been living in exile in Paris. The people of his homeland, for unexplained reasons, believed members of his family were destined to turn into vampires upon their death.

You don’t have to speak German to catch the key word in the dead middle of the paragraph

Mannhardt notes that the nobleman died on Oct 5, 1874. Days before his death, he made the curious request to his host that his heart be cut out upon his passing.

He was not donating his body to science.

Ich hab euch etwas mitgebracht
Hab es aus meiner Brust gerissen
Mein Herz brennt
Mein Herz brennt

I brought you something
Have ripped it out of my chest
My heart is burning
My heart is burning

Borolajowac’s private journal or German metal rockers Rammstein

This request is less curious when you reflect that removing a corpse’s heart (often followed by burning it) was a normal part of dealing with suspected real-life vampires in folklore — a practice that crossed quite a few cultural and geographic boundaries. It shows up from Russia to Rhode Island, all the way up to the turn of the 20th Century.

And if the nobleman in question accepted that his family would indeed turn into vampires upon their death… suddenly the math works out and his actions seem less weird and more, well, noble.

What does make the account odd is that this Borolajowac guy was living in Paris, where vampire scares were not a thing; if anything, they were laughed off as the superstition of backwards Slavs to the east. Apparently the Count Formerly Known As Prince was damn proud of his heritage, by God, and would not be brought down by those Parisian libtards with their book-learnin’.

No, Duke/Prince/Count Borolajowac made a true sacrifice of his heart, even though he did so in death. And if ripping out your dead heart isn’t a move deserving of a death rockin’ gothic nu metal masterpiece, I don’t know what is.

I’d call the track “The Heartless Prince”, but you’re the musicians.

Did this event truly happen? Mannhardt was publishing a mere four years after the nobleman’s death, so it’s not as if he was retelling an old tale. He does provide an exact date, which is promising — apocryphal legends don’t usually do that. But good luck finding additional information on the Romanian Duke Borolajowac. I’ve done everything I can, short of flying to Romania and poring through church archives for genealogical records, to find info on his lineage.

I’m kidding. I stopped waaaaay short of translating Cyrillic genealogy records.

I’m inclined to believe something kinda, sorta, a bit like this account happened, a few details aside (like name, place, date, and all relevant facts).

See, plenty of hearts were removed from the deceased over the centuries for fear that the corpses were shells for vampires; that much we know. It stands to reason that at least a few conscientious folks, on their deathbeds, requested a preventative post-mortem cardiodectomy. That’s reasonable, right?

Janis? Not you, too!?

Do you put stock in this tale? Are you familiar with the Borolajowac clan? Did you inherit the charred remains of a heart from a 19th Century Romanian nobleman? Let’s talk.

Toothpickings has a Patreon page. If you find these diversions are worth your time and you’d like to indulge in extra content and help me write more, please peruse https://www.patreon.com/toothpickings

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image credits: Shutterstock, Clan of Xymox, Google, vampire Janis Joplin I guess?

Support your libraries! They helped me track down these old books.

Special thanks to Gerhard Riautschnig for translating 19th Century German. A true German, Gerhard makes amazing brats that you can eat and he did not ask me to say that; it just happens to be true.

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Investigating the Western fascination with vampires, one dad joke at a time.

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Toothpickings

Toothpickings

Investigating the Western fascination with vampires, one dad joke at a time.

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