Literary Analysis — The Pale Lady: The Brankovan Castle

Castle in the middle of a forest in the mountains and shrouded in fog.

Resumen: Upon arriving at the castle, Grégoriska receives more attention than Kostaki because of his status as master. And as soon as possible, Grégoriska orders a woman to take Hedwige to the waiting chamber. 

There, Hedwige admires the decorations and realizes she's in the most beautiful room in the castle. Then, the servants took the baggage she was carrying with her.

Soon after, Grégoriska knocks on the door, and Hedwige lets him in, speaking to him in French. Grégoriska is pleased to know they have a language in common with which to communicate, although he knows Polish and could have understood her anyway.

Grégoriska is interested in the circumstances that led Hedwige, a noblewoman, to go to the Carpathian Mountains. Hedwige then tells him that, since Poland and Russia are at war, her two brothers died at the hands of the Russians. Because of that, her father sent her to seek refuge in the monastery of Sahastru, where her mother could stay when she was young, living in similar circumstances to hers.

Grégoriska understands his protégée's situation and assures her that being an enemy of the Russians will be of great help to her in the castle, as they're preparing to confront them soon too. Along with this, Grégoriska tells her about him and his family to make her sure she'll be safe with them. 

Hedwige learns that she's in the Brankovan castle and that Grégoriska and Kostaki are half-siblings. Smérande, the last princess of the family and mother of both, married Prince Serban Waivady and had Grégoriska. However, as Serban was always abroad, Smérande's heart ended up belonging to Count Giordaki Koproli, a bandit leader, just like her son Kostaki.

Smérande wanted the divorce and had sent a letter to Serban asking for it, but he never knew about it because he died of an aneurysm. Instead, Grégoriska received it and had no choice but to watch over her mother's happiness. Grégoriska had intended to stay in France or Germany because he didn't want to meet Count Koproli. However, his plans changed when he learned that the man he loathed died at the hands of his father's Cossacks. 

Worried about his mother, Grégoriska returned to his homeland. And upon arriving at the castle, he met his half-brother Kostaki.

Grégoriska tells Hedwige that while he's the master of the castle, Kostaki is the master of the forest and the mountains. Kostaki only listens to his mother since he's an untameable creature who only obeys his passions. And if she wants to live, she should stay in the castle. Outside of it, he cannot guarantee her safety.

Hedwige understands the situation, and Grégoriska asks her to speak in Polish and that he'll translate to his mother and brother only what it's convenient to say.

Grégoriska guides Hedwige to the dining room, where Princess Smérande Brankovan welcomes her. 

Grégoriska tells Kostaki he can speak to Hedwige in French since she knows the language. However, Kostaki's French isn't the best, and Hedwige can't understand anything. 

The dinner is sad, but Smérande treats her guest as part of her family. At the end of dinner, Grégoriska tells Smérande that Hedwige wants some time alone, so they respect her decision.

Returning to her chamber, Hedwige soon notices everything is at her disposal. Upon opening the windows, she realizes the room faces an abyss. Grégoriska chose the room to prevent her from escaping into the forest.

Style: Grégoriska wants to protect Hedwige at all costs, so he takes the necessary measures to ensure his mother receives her well. He also warns Hedwige not to continue her journey because once she enters the forest again, Kostaki won't let her go. Grégoriska warns her he might die trying to protect her from his brother's passions. 

Point of View: Hedwige narrates the events from her arrival at the castle until she meets the Brankovan family.

Tone: Cautious

Transversal Literary devices:

  • Transversal Themes:
    • Friendship and Enmity
    • Freedom and Tyranny
  • Transversal Symbols:
    • Castle
    • Abyss

Mutable literary resources:

  • Symbols:
    • Statues
    • Cavern
    • Torches

Chapter theme:

  • Caution and Recklessness

Conflict: Caution vs. Recklessness

Thematic elements:

  • Caution vs. Recklessness:
    • Grégoriska takes the necessary precautions so that Hedwige doesn't leave the castle and exposes herself to the danger of the forest and Kostaki again. The first is to make his protégée feel safe by telling her about himself and the Brankovans. The second is to agree with her to speak only Polish, and he'll translate only what's convenient for his half-brother and mother. And the third measure is to choose a room facing the abyss, preventing Hedwige from fleeing.
  • Friendship and Enmity:
    • The Brankovans welcome Hedwige as one of them.
    • Although Grégoriska and Kostaki are brothers, they're also enemies, as they're opposites.
    • Count Koproli dies at the hands of the old Cossacks of Prince Serban Waivady, Grégoriska's father.
  • Freedom and Tyranny:
    • There's a new mention of the circumstances that forced Hedwige to escape from Poland and depart for the Sahastru monastery. And Grégoriska tells Hedwige that being an enemy of the Russians will be of good help for her within the castle, as they must prepare for the fight against them in due course too.


  • Castle: As it's a transversal symbol, it represents protection and safety in all chapters. Hedwige has nothing to fear as long as she's there. Grégoriska tells Hedwige not to leave it and pretend she has fallen into a cavern of bandits and that only the Brankovan castle offers her safety.
  • Abyss: Like the castle, it's a transversal symbol. It represents hell.
    If Hedwige leaves the castle, she'll be exposed again to the danger of the abyss, its demons, and its leader: Kostaki.  
  • Statues: The statues represent generations and ancestors. The three statues of the Brankovans on the sides of the stairs represent Smérande, Grégoriska, and Kostaki. But they also announce some mysteries related to their ancestors that Hedwige will discover in the fourth chapter of the story.
  • Torches: Among the many meanings of fire is hospitality. Seeing that torches lit the interior of the castle was lit with torches, Hedwige realizes that the Brankovan family arranged them to make her feel welcome with them.


  • Romania
    • Carpathian Mountains
      • Forest
        • Brankovan Castle


  • Brankovan Castle: By the mention of Peter I and the Cantemirs, it's hinted that the Brankovan family descends from Constantin Brâncoveanu, ruler of the Wallachian principality between 1688 and 1714. Grégoriska's father is named after Constantin's predecessor, Serban.


  • Foreshadowing lines:
    • Grégoriska: Just imagine that you have fallen into a lair of bandits, and that only your courage can get you out of it, and only your sangfroid can save you.

      This line relates to the events of the fourth chapter, in which Hedwige must summon up courage and patience to overcome the physical effects of the infernal curse that falls upon her.


  • Hedwige: Grégoriska and Kostaki take her to the Brankovan castle. Upon arrival, the servants greet her and take her to the best room. While there, she receives her bags and then a visit from Grégoriska. Since Hedwige had heard him speak French when he defended her from Kostaki, she speaks to him in that language. Although Grégoriska understands and speaks Polish, he's glad Hedwige speaks French.

    When Grégoriska asks Hedwige why a noblewoman like her has gone into the Carpathians, she tells him her reasons. She was on her way to the monastery of Sandomeirz when Kostaki and his bandits' ambushed her.

    Grégoriska tells her he could help her by chance, as he was out hunting when he heard gunshots that led him to deduce that his brother was carrying out a raid on his sister's hand.

    Hedwige feels more welcomed by Grégoriska when he tells her about him and the Brankovans. Hedwige learns that Grégoriska and Kostaki are half-brothers and both princes of different fathers who died years ago.

    Grégoriska is Prince Serban Waivady's son, and Kostaki is Count Giordaki Koproli's son. His mother, Princess Smérande, is the last Brankovan. Her true love was Count Koproli, as Serban spent more time out of the country than in Romania.

    Hedwige agrees to follow Grégoriska's instructions and to speak only Polish at dinner. Grégoriska will translate to his mother and half-brother only what is appropriate to say to ensure their welcome at the castle.

    At dinner time and as the guest, Hedwige makes Kostaki sit next to his mother (*).

    (*): Hedwige chooses this because she learned from Grégoriska Smérande's preference for her youngest son and must gain her trust so she can protect her from Kostaki's desires.

    Grégoriska tells Kostaki that he can speak French to Hedwige, but she doesn't understand him when he utters a few words to her in that language.

    Smérande interacts with Hedwige more with gestures than words, but she's warmly attentive to her all the time.

    After the sad dinner, Hedwige returns to her room and opens her window, only to find that it looks out into the abyss where she was ambushed.

    She then picks up a folded card on the small table next to the head of the sofa. Opening it, she reads a message from Grégoriska asking her to rest and to fear nothing, for she has nothing to worry about as long as she's inside the castle.  
  • Grégoriska Waivady: Arriving at the castle, he orders the servants to take Hedwige to the best room and bring her bags. Grégoriska doesn't take too long in the preparations and knocks on Hedwige's door to introduce himself and welcome her to his home.

    Grégoriska asks Hedwige what a noblewoman like her was doing in the forests of the Romanian Carpathian Mountains. On learning that she fled Poland for the Sahastru monastery, he hastens to tell her about himself and his family to put her at ease.

    Grégoriska tells her that he and Kostaki are half-brothers. Their mother is Princess Smérande Brankovan. His father was Prince Serban Waivady, while Kostaki's father was Count Giordaki Koproli.

    Smérande fell in love with Count Koproli because Serban didn't spend much time with her or in their homeland, so Kostaki became her favorite son. When Smérande's husband and lover died, Grégoriska returned to Romania to support her. Once back in his country, he met his half-brother Kostaki. He defines him as a wild creature who only obeys his passions. Grégoriska warns Hedwige that he's not sure he can save her again from his brother if she tries to follow her way to the monastery of Sahastru.

    Grégoriska assures Hedwige that Smérande will protect her from Kostaki's passions, that she need only be polite, and that her mother will love her. He then takes the opportunity to tell her that it's enough just to look at her to fall in love with her, expressing his feelings of love at first sight.

    Before dinner, Grégoriska advises Hedwige to speak Polish, as he's the only one who understands the language. He'll convey whatever is necessary to win his mother's trust and affection (*).

    (*): Grégoriska seeks, at all costs, to protect Hedwige from his half-brother. The only thing that can stop him is the power his mother has over Kostaki, so he'll do everything he can to make his plan go well.

    Hedwige takes the advice and speaks only Polish at dinner. Grégoriska tells Kostaki that he can talk to her in French. But when he tries, Hedwige can't understand a word.

    Before his protégée returns to her room, Grégoriska leaves a note asking her to rest and be sure that no harm will come to her while she's in the castle (*).

    (*): Grégoriska has chosen a particular room for Hedwige. By turning this one towards the abyss, Hedwige won't try to do something as foolish as going back into the forest. If she does, Kostaki will most likely end up getting his way. And Grégoriska would die defending her from his whims.
  • Kostaki Koproli: He takes Hedwige on his horse to the castle. He's separated from her until dinner when he learns from Grégoriska that he can communicate with her in French. Unfortunately, be it because he's not very proficient in the language or because he's too nervous, Hedwige fails to understand a word he says to her.
  • Smérande Brankovan: The last Brankovan princess. Widow of Prince Serban Waivady, with whom she had Grégoriska. In turn, she lost her lover, Count Giordaki Koproli, the love of her life and father of Kostaki, her favorite son.

    Smérande is a tall woman with long white hair braided around her head. She welcomes Hedwige and prevents her children from getting too close to her. Smérande speaks neither Polish nor French, but Grégoriska translates. However, Smérande ends up communicating more by sign language. After dinner, she bids Hedwige a fond farewell. As if Hedwige were her daughter.
  • Serban Waivady: Grégoriska's father. Serban was the prince of a less illustrious family than the Brankovans and spent much of his time abroad.

    Being away from Romania for extended periods, Smérande eventually became fixated on another man who did care for her, Count Giordaki Koproli. Serban never found out about the relationship between his wife and the Count because he died of an aneurysm before receiving a letter from Smérande asking for a divorce.

    Serban brought up Grégoriska as a European and diplomatic man, and it's for this reason that his son is fluent in languages and holds illustrious decorations.
  • Giordaki Koproli: He's Kostaki's father and Smérande's true love. Giordaki was a Romanian count who led bandits, just like his son Kostaki, who inherited that wild side from him.
    According to Grégoriska, Giordaki died at the hands of Serban Waivady's old Cossacks.

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