The Dearg-Due is a terrible, infamous monster with a tragic origin which is remembered in Ireland. The name is pronounced (DAH-ruh-guh DU-ah) in Irish. Translated, it means “red-blood sucker.” She was a woman who lived around 2,000 years ago. This woman was incredibly beautiful and she was recognized far and wide for her blood-red lips and silver-blonde hair. More magnetic than even her legendary beauty was her pure heart, and she was beloved by all for her kindness and gentle spirit which brought joy and light to everyone around her. She is now remembered for what she eventually became rather than for who she was, so her name in life is no longer spoken or remembered. Her tale is known to many, and the people of Ireland have recalled the terror that she now brings and the tragedy which birthed her, but her name has disappeared from memory.
The legends say that this beautiful and innocent woman fell in love with a peasant in her village, who was as kind and beautiful she. Unfortunately for the hopeful young lovers, his station in life was that of an impoverished and lowly farmhand. The woman was born to noble blood, and so it was unthinkable that she be wed to a filthy stable boy of ignoble birth. How could she be expected to start and support a respectable home and family with a man without a penny to his name? When her father found out that she had fallen in love with this peasant, he acted quickly to ensure his daughter’s hand in marriage to a man more worthy of her. This man was unfortunately much older than she was, and he was said to have been very ugly, but far worse than that was extremely cruel.
The father was pleased with his arranged pairing and was satisfied with the wealth that came along with his daughter’s new husband. He paid no attention to the horrible things that his daughter was forced to endure behind closed doors. Her husband was violent, controlling, and mean-spirited. He would curse at her, call her names, control her every move, and would even beat her when she had failed to please him. This man found satisfaction when his violence drew blood from her pale and unblemished skin. Her porcelain beauty was being scarred and destroyed with each strike he laid upon her. His need for control and his unbridled jealousy eventually led him to lock her away in a tower, where none but he could see, touch, or speak to her. But when he went to her, he would hurt her and hit her even more. The power that he had over her intoxicated him and he grew ever more violent and vicious.
The woman waited month after month while she prayed in the cold darkness of her prison tower for someone to come and save her. She hoped that the handsome peasant she had loved would come looking for her and would scale the tower walls to free her from the hell she had been thrown into. This hope kept her spirits from falling for a very long time, but eventually she realized that no one was coming to rescue her. In the lowest depths of despair, she realized that she would never be free from her horrible husband so long as she lived, and so she took her own life. Death was the only place where he could no longer touch her, hurt her, and spill her blood. While she was locked away however, she had no means of making her suicide quick. The only way for her to cause her own death was to starve herself. So each day when she was given her small ration of food, she would hide it all away rather than eat it. Doing this day after day, she slowly deteriorated and died of starvation and malnutrition.
It is said that in those final days before she finally succeeded in her long, painful suicide, she had grown hateful and was overcome with thoughts of vengeance. Her soul had been tarnished with rage and desperation, and so her spirit transformed into that of a monster. It was custom in those days to lay rocks upon the new graves of those who had died so that their bodies would not rise and walk the earth again. The townspeople had not done this for the young woman, because they believed her to be pure of heart. The night that she was supposedly lain to rest, she rose from the earth again as a vicious monster: The Dearg-Due. She was fueled by the anger, the sorrow, the need for revenge, and the memories of her suffering and the blood that stained her porcelain skin in those months before she died.
When she rose from her grave, pulled back to the earth by her overwhelming need for retribution, she went to her father’s home and killed him. She then drank every last drop of blood that came from his body. She had had her first taste of revenge and her first taste of blood. She went from there to her husband’s home to find him without sorrow or remorse in her passing, and she took her bloody vengeance upon him as well. According to the tales, each time she satisfied her need for revenge and drank the blood of one who wronged her, she grew more alive and found within her even more strength. She continued to wander the night to find more blood to drink so that she could continue to stay strong and to walk the earth.
Now, she is doomed to wander the night committing horrible acts of violence to those she finds while trapped alone with her painful memories. It is said that she drains and drinks the blood of innocents, but particularly that of young men. She has also been known to feed on children. She sings a haunting song through the hills that calls people to her and entrances them so that they are easy prey. Her voice otherworldly and enchanting just as her beauty had been in life. When she has lured her victims to her and sedated them with her song, she tears the flesh from their throats with her teeth and feeds on their blood.
The Impact of Her Legend
For centuries following the birth of the legend of The Dearg-Due, unexplained deaths and disappearances would be blamed on her blood lust. It was believed that if a child fell mysteriously ill and died, it was because they had heard her song and were cursed by her. The people of Southeast Ireland have known the dangers of wandering alone in the night for a very long time, and children especially are told to take heed of the ancient, tortured vampire.
The Dearg-Due is the first popular example of a female vampire to originate in Ireland or the surrounding area, and it is hypothesized that her legend gave birth to the vampire stories that came later. Many have noticed parallels that suggest that Bram Stoker was in some way influenced by her story when he wrote Dracula, although he was likely more influenced by the story of Abhartach, the original Irish vampire. Her grave site is said to be located in a churchyard in Waterford County, Southeast Ireland. If you find yourself in the area, I suggest piling some stones upon her grave to help avoid running into her while you stay.