This is a case that was not around the web 10 years ago when I started my original blog [yeah, yeah…had an original vampiresrealm in Romanian back in 2010 xD ] so I was excited to dive into the research for this one. As far as I can tell this account is still so fresh that it is not 100% defined and it even has a few twists… plus a controversy or two 😉
While Sava Savanivic is one of the most well known vampires from Serbia there is a bit of a debate going on as to whether or not he is also the oldest one. Personally I am of a mind that the oldest strigoi of the region is Petar Blagojević [aka Peter Plogojowit] as he is documented in 1725 by the Habsburg officials and the legends pertaining to Sava did not surface untill the mid 1800s.
So here is what we know… according to the folk tales
Sava Savanovic was a miller in the village of Zarozje and he was in charge of an old watermill on the river Rogačica. Not much is known about his life so we can take it that he had a long and peaceful time that was not flourished even after his legend started to gain track.
All that we are given is that he died in the mid 1700s and that two curious wounds were observed on his neck. As the vampire hysteria had not reached their remote area yet, the villagers buried their old miller according to the usual customs and not much happened in the immediate aftermath.
The mill itself came into focus in the sense that its upkeep was not picked up by someone else and it slowly started to decay. As the years passed the villagers came to believe that the abandoned mill was cursed and they started to avoid the area – deeming it a dark and cold ravine.
As the people started to feel the economical misgivings of the forced closure of the mill, they started to look for solutions to reopen the site.
Enter a pair of lovers that did not have the blessing to wed and a father that required the young lover to make something for himself before he could be taken into account as a husband prospect!
The two remain unnamed [makes me think that it is a flourish] but it is mentioned in so many sites that I decided to go with it – and it is said that their love was so powerful that it made the young man ignore the folklore and take up the position in the decrepited mill.
By now it was the mid 1800s and as he started to repair the mill it would stand to reason that he disturbed old Sava – both the new miller and various villagers started to complain from nightly visits that would leave them drained of energy for the following day. As the vampire hysteria was now in its bloom it was soon concluded that Sava Savanovic was responsible and he was dug up for the necessary rituals to be performed so that things could go back to normal.
As advised in the beginning of the article, there are a couple of folk twists in this case. The main one that I will be covering pertains to the idea that the soul of the dead can be seen at the moment of death exiting the body in the form of a butterfly. However, should said butterfly happen to be yellow it was taken as a sign that something nefarious was happening.
In this twist we are given the additional information that Sava died in the presence of a couple of his friends who noticed a yellow butterfly exiting his mouth soon after. Years later, when the hype about the revisiting Sava was on everyone`s mind, many villagers claimed that there were a lot of yellow butterflies about.
When the vampire was dealt with, again a mysterious yellow butterfly exited his mouth but no one gave it much importance.
A little while passed and the young man managed to save up enough money to present himself in a better light, however when he arrived at the house of his intended he discovered that she had recently died – he walked into the mourning room he noticed that a yellow butterfly had just entered her mouth.
Note: Sava Savanovic and this particular twist is actually mentioned in the novel “90 days later” written by the Serbian realist writer Milovan Glišić who is believed to have taken the story out of folklore almost in its entirety.
In 1973 there was a horror film called “Leptirica” inspired by the story – the first Serbian horror movie that remains a staple for the genre to this day.
Sava is also featured in the novel “Fear and his servants” written by Mirjana Novaković.