Literary Analysis — The Pale Lady: The Monastery of Hango

Monastery in the middle of the snowy mountain forest.

Summary: Hedwige regains consciousness in her room and asks for Grégoriska, but he has left for the monastery of Hango. 

Kostaki's sudden death thwarts their escape plans.

For three nights, Hedwige has strange dreams in which she sees Kostaki staring at her. On the third day —the day Kostaki was to be buried—, Hedwige sees Smérande for the first time after the incident. She has prepared a black dress for her as if in mourning for the occasion. Smérande kisses her on the forehead and tells her that Kostaki loves her. Now, those words reflect the otherworldly love the deceased feels for her, the love of a dead man who appears to her at night.

Hedwige feels so many emotions during Kostaki's funeral that she loses strength, which makes Smérande think Hedwige was in love with her dead son. To comfort her, she asks Grégoriska to be her translator. She tells Hedwige that since she mourns her son, she now has a homeland, a mother, and a family. And that they must be strong to be worthy of Kostaki, she as a mother and Hedwige as his wife.

Hedwige doesn't know how to react and just lets out a sob.

The next night, at the hour Kostaki had lost his life, Hedwige starts to feel grief, and a strange terror and invincible sleep take hold of her. Weak, she falls onto her bed and feels such a sharp pain in her neck that she faints.

Hedwige regains consciousness at midnight and hastens to look in a mirror to determine what is causing the pain in her neck. Upon seeing her reflection, Hedwige realizes that she has a wound made by something similar to a needle. Exhausted, she returns to her bed and falls asleep. 

The next day, Hedwige wakes up with no strength and is surprised to notice a peculiar pallor on her face. She feels fatigued throughout the day and can't move without feeling even more tired. At a quarter to nine —the hour Kostaki lost his life—, Hedwige experiences the same symptoms as the night before. And although she tries to call for help, she fails to reach the door and falls on her bed, feeling a twinge in her neck. The event repeats for three nights in a row. 

On the fourth day, Hedwige is determined to go to Smérande's room no matter how weak she feels. But just at that moment, Grégoriska visits her, and Hedwige falls onto the couch, unable to stand. Grégoriska wanted to see her and bid farewell, as he's been deprived of her presence and love. He'll go to take refuge in the monastery of Hango. Hedwige clarifies that although they cannot see each other, she loves him. Grégoriska then regains his hope and asks if she'll pray for his sake. Hedwige tells her, yes, but she won't be able to do so for long. Grégoriska asks the reason and notices the extreme pallor of her beloved. 

Hedwige tells him what has been happening to her for the past few days at a quarter to nine. Grégoriska believes her every word, for the Brankovan family is peculiar. After examining Hedwige's neck, Grégoriska knows what's wrong with her and why. He also tells her that she may not live more than eight more days if she doesn't follow his instructions. Hedwige agrees to do whatever it takes to avoid death.

Grégoriska then explains to her that in Poland and Romania, there are beings that feed on the blood of others, and their victims die on the fifteenth day. In Poland, to kill vampires their hearts are driven through with a stake, and then their bodies are incinerated. However, in Romania, and for the Brankovans in particular, that isn't enough.

Grégoriska tells Hedwige that the first step to breaking the curse is gathering energy and making her own way to the chapel, where they'll receive the nuptial blessing. Once married, they'll return to the room and wait for the ghost together. Hedwige promises to do everything as instructed, and they say goodbye.

At seven o'clock in the evening, Hedwige gathers all her strength and goes downstairs to the chapel, where Grégoriska awaits her together with Father Bazile of the monastery of Hango. Father Bazile holds a sacred sword that will help break the curse that has befallen her.

Father Bazile marries them and consecrates them to God, giving them strength to fight the enemy of humans.

They both return to the room together, as they had agreed. Before Hedwige goes to sleep as she always does, Grégoriska passes her a blessed boxwood so that she can resist the vampire's attack with divine help and then hides. 

At a quarter to nine, Hedwige feels the same numbness, terror, and shivering as usual. But thanks to the blessed boxwood, the first sensation fades, and she's able to remain conscious and see Kostaki's corpse enter her room with her eyes more alive than ever. Hedwige defends herself by bringing the blessed branches closer to him. Kostaki retreats.

Grégoriska appears holding the sacred sword Father Bazile gave him. Kostaki answers him with the edge of his saber, although he's no match for his half-brother's holy blade. Finding himself at a disadvantage, Kostaki asks Grégoriska what he wants. Grégoriska makes Kostaki confess that he didn't kill him and that he sought his own death by throwing himself on his sword. 

Kostaki has returned from the dead with a hellish mission. Regardless, Grégoriska forces him to return to his grave and stay on the other side. Kostaki objects and declares that he'll take Hedwige with him, but Grégoriska tells him that Hedwige belongs to him. Then, he thrusts the sacred sword into Kostaki's death wound and forces him to retreat and return to his tomb in the monastery of Hango. 

Before forcing him to return to his eternal rest, Grégoriska allows him to entrust himself to God. However, Kostaki doesn't regret entrusting himself to the power of hell. The two brothers cross swords, and Grégoriska thrusts the sacred sword into Kostaki, killing him for good. 

Fighting a dead man, however, has its price, and Grégoriska is left dying. In his last moments, he has Hedwige apply earth mixed with Kostaki's blood to his neck to break the curse and save her life. Then he asks her to leave the Romanian lands so that she'll be safe. Before taking his last breath, he and Hedwige kiss.

Finding herself amid two corpses, Hedwige calls for help. Father Bazile and other priests come to take care of her and the two corpses.

Upon learning of the death of her sons, Smérande goes to the monastery. There, Hedwige tells her everything that has happened. Smérande listens attentively to her words and soothes her by telling her everything she says is true. The Brankovan family is cursed up to the third and fourth generations because an ancestor killed a priest. But now that the lineage ended with the death of Grégoriska and Kostaki, the curse is broken.

Smérande asks Hedwige to take the money that Grégoriska has left her and promises that, when she dies, everything that belongs to her will be inherited.

Hedwige leaves Romania for France eight days later, never again to be tormented by Kostaki. However, her pallor remains forever as an eternal memory of having been kissed by a vampire.

Style: Life and death are represented through the love of Grégoriska and Kostaki, respectively. Kostaki kisses Hedwige at night, taking her life, his passage to the afterlife being represented by the pallor he leaves on her after sucking her blood. On the other hand, Grégoriska brings him back to life by marrying her, for their love is liberating and breaks the curse of Kostaki's love of the afterlife on Hedwige.

The conflict is again represented in the duel to the death between Grégoriska and Kostaki. One of them being alive and the other dead.

Point of View: Hedwige narrates the supernatural events that begin to happen to her after Kostaki's death and how she feels an invincible sleep at the hour of his death, only to discover, later, that she becomes paler and paler.

Tone: Defiant

Fixed literary devices:

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

Mutable literary devices:

  • Symbols:
    • Pallor
    • Sacred sword
  • Chapter theme:
    • Life and Death

Conflict: Life vs. Death

Thematic elements:

  • Life vs. Death:
    • Kostaki consumes Hedwige's life every time he bites her, condemning her to have only fifteen days to live from the very moment he lost his life. His love, then, is a synonym for death. In contrast, Grégoriska breaks Hedwige's curse when she accepts his love. They're united in marriage, for this stops Kostaki from continuing to suck her blood, as in life, Kostaki declared that he'd kill her before yielding her to another man. However, since Grégoriska has claimed her as his own as long as he lives, he frees Hedwige from the vampire's curse. In this way, Grégoriska's love is equivalent to live.
    • Grégoriska is a representative of life and Kostaki of death. They duel for each side, just as they represent the divine and the infernal.
    • Grégoriska defeats his half-brother in a duel and comes out unscathed. However, death takes him along with Kostaki because he promised his mother that he would kill his brother's murderer and family in the name of the Brankovans' curse. Although accidentally, Grégoriska is his brother's murderer and, failing to keep his promise to his mother, death claims his life.
  • Friendship and Enmity:
    • Hedwige treats Grégoriska as a friend, as he's her ally and the one who will help her break the curse Kostaki has placed on her.
    • Grégoriska and Kostaki are enemies, as one represents heaven and the other hell.
  • Freedom and Tyranny:
    • Just as the historical context involves the rivalry between Russia and Poland in 1825, freedom and tyranny are also represented by the freedom offered by the kingdom of God and the tyranny imposed by the kingdom of Hell. Kostaki wants to take Hedwige with him and makes her a victim of his will even once he dies. In contrast, Grégoriska frees her from his brother's cursed love through sacred help.


  • Castle: As in chapter three, the Brankovan Castle is still overrun by an enemy, for although dead, Kostaki still visits it at night to kiss Hedwige. The protection it offers, symbolically, isn't enough against the attack of a vampire.
  • Forest: This symbol retains its sense of danger, and its infernal connotation is even more evident as Grégoriska crosses it holding a sacred sword. Its divine power allows him to walk through it without riding his horse and to confront his brother, who has returned from the dead. Since Kostaki is the master of the forest, he can cross it without protection. However, he has no power when something sacred enters his territory.
  • Monastery: Symbolizes the house and the power of God and the sacred. Those not consecrated to Satan can enter the place. In the case of the Brankovan Castle, Kostaki can access it because it was his home in life.
  • Abyss: Symbolizes the infernal abyss and its depth. This symbol becomes stronger with the emphasis placed on the figure of the Exterminating Angel to describe Grégoriska when he forces Kostaki to return to his tomb. It makes explicit that Grégoriska is an angel of death who forces his brother, a vampire —a demonic being— to return to the depths of the abyss just as Abaddon did with Satan.
  • Pallor: Symbolizes the loss of life and death. Hedwige becomes paler and paler every time Kostaki kisses her at night, communicating that she's losing time of life as the fortnight of the curse progresses.
  • Sacred sword: The sword symbolizes power and authority and, being blessed, acquires a connotation of authority and divine power. Grégoriska wields this sword, a character who, in the first chapter, is compared to the archangel Michael, with whose sword he fights the hosts of hell. In some representations, the Exterminating angel also carries a sword.


  • Romania
    • Carpathian Mountains
      • Forest
        • Brankovan Castle
          • Chapel
      • Monastery of Hango
        • Cemetery


  • Exterminating Angel: Known as Abaddon or Apollyon, the exterminating angel, of death, or of the abyss, is one of the numerous princes and angels of death, among them: Sammael, Kafziel, Kezef, Satan, Suriel, Yehudiam, Michael, Gabriel, Metatron, and Azrael.

    In Latin, Abaddon means Exterminans (destroyer).

    In Revelation 20:1-4, this angel is mentioned as the one who seals Satan for a thousand years in the abyss:

    And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
    And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
    And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that, he must be loosed a little season.

    In The Pale Lady, this angel is referenced when Grégoriska wields her sword against Kostaki, forcing him to return to his grave. It should be noted that the Brankovan Castle is right next to an abyss. Therefore, Grégoriska represents not only the archangel St. Michael but also the exterminator since he's the one who forces his demonic brother to remain in the realm of death and the abyss.


  • Pinprick: The wound on Hedwige's neck announces that behind the events tormenting her is a vampire.
  • Vampire Myth: 
    • “No, no, Hedwige, tell me, I beg you; we are here in a country like no other —and in a family like no other. Tell me, tell me all, I beg you.”

      With these lines, Grégoriska anticipates that what happens to Hedwige is related to a vampire and a family curse.

      Romania is where the classic vampire myth is born, and the Brankovans are a family directly related to it.


  • Hedwige: As soon as she regains consciousness after succumbing to the flashing gaze that Kostaki's corpse gave her, she asks for Grégoriska. The servants tell her that he has departed on his way to the monastery of Hango.

    Unable to flee with her beloved as they had planned, Hedwige remains in the castle.

    During the three days leading up to Kostaki's burial, Hedwige has strange dreams about him and sees his afterlife gaze haunting her in them and wakefulness.

    For the burial of the deceased, Hedwige puts on a mourning dress that Smérande gives her. Together with Grégoriska and other companions, they leave for the monastery of Hango.

    Hedwige feels strange as if she were Kostaki's widow and not Grégoriska's fiancée.

    Seeing her so weak and affected, Smérande asks Grégoriska to be her translator and to tell Hedwige that, since she mourns Kostaki —whom she thinks she loved—, she now has a new homeland, a new mother, and a new family in the Brankovans. There are so many emotions that Hedwige feels that she's speechless.

    Returning to the castle, Hedwige goes back to her room. And at quarter to eight, feelings of grief, terror, and paralyzing shuddering send her into a kind of sleep that makes her fall onto her bed. Before she completely loses consciousness, she hears footsteps approaching her door.

    Hedwige comes to at midnight, feeling pain in her neck. With difficulty, she stands up and looks in the mirror only to discover a wound in her neck. Being so tired, Hedwige returns to her bed and falls asleep.

    The phenomenon repeats for three consecutive nights at the same hour. And feeling so exhausted, Hedwige can't leave her room for the entire time.

    On the fourth day, Hedwige intends to go to Smérande's room. However, she receives a visit from Grégoriska, who, unable to bear being deprived of her presence and love, will leave for the monastery of Hango.

    Hedwige tells him that although he's deprived of her presence, she loves him. Grégoriska asks her to pray for him, but Hedwige tells her that she doesn't think she can do it because she's dying. Grégoriska then notices his pallor and asks what is wrong with her.

    Hedwige hesitates to tell the truth because she thinks Grégoriska will take her for crazy. Grégoriska tells her that he'll believe her words because they're in a country very different from others and in a family, even more particular.

    Hedwige tells him what she has been experiencing at a quarter to nine for the last few nights. Grégoriska believes every word as she understands that her beloved is being kissed by a vampire and taking her to her death with her love, as she has no more than eight days to live.

    Grégoriska asks her about how people kill bloodsuckers in Poland. Hedwige replies that they're staked through the heart and incinerated. Grégoriska tells her that the same method is applied in Romania, but that for them —the Brankovans— that's not enough and that she'll have to follow their instructions to get rid of the curse. Grégoriska wishes to meet the vampire and confront him hand-to-hand. He asks Hedwige to commit to doing whatever he tells her to do to end the nightmare.

    Hedwige worries for Grégoriska because if the vampire turns out to be Kostaki, he won't hesitate to kill him. Grégoriska calms her and tells her not to fear anything. At about seven o'clock in the evening, she should overcome her weakness and go down to the castle chapel. There, Father Bazile will be waiting for them to marry them.

    Hedwige proves she has the will to live and manages to reach the chapel, where Grégoriska awaits her with a sacred sword in her hands. Father Bazile marries them and blesses them so they'll have the necessary strength to fight against the enemy of humanity.
    When they return together to the room, Grégoriska gives Hedwige a sprig of blessed boxwood to take with her when she lies down and thus have divine help to resist the attack of the vampire that torments her. Grégoriska then hides, and they both wait for a quarter to nine, when Hedwige feels the usual numbness and terror. She manages to overcome those feelings and when she opens her eyes, she sees Kostaki's corpse with his gaze.

    Grégoriska comes out of his hiding place brandishing the blessed sword, a weapon with which he bends Kostaki and uses as a threat to make him confess to Hedwige that he didn't kill him but that he himself sought his death by throwing himself against his sword in a lunge on horseback.

    Grégoriska then forces her brother to return to his grave, and how Kostaki refuses to do so if he doesn't take Hedwige with him. Grégoriska brings his sword to his chest and forces him to retreat and return to the cemetery in the monastery of Hango.

    Before throwing him into his grave for eternal rest, Grégoriska asks Kostaki to repent for having consecrated himself to Satan. However, Kostaki refuses and asks Satan to help him in the duel against Grégoriska, who invokes God's help. After a minute of fighting (*), Grégoriska pierces his brother's chest and ends his threat, although he also dies in the process, for he had sworn to kill his brother's murderer and, if he didn't, he'd die because he swore it in the name of the family curse.

    (*): Time in heaven and hell runs at a different pace than in the human realm. The duel between the two brothers could have been longer or shorter, but in the mortal realm, it's perceived as a minute.

    Hedwige hears her husband's last words and follows the instructions to apply earth with Kostaki's blood mixed in her neck to break her death curse. Then, she promises to follow his advice and leave Romania for a faraway place since only the distance can guarantee her a peaceful life. Before dying, Hedwige kisses Grégoriska.

    Being between two corpses, Hedwige tries to call for help, but the priests come out in time to help her. The same priests tell Smérande that Hedwige is in the monastery with the lifeless bodies of her children.

    Hedwige tells Princess Brankovan everything that happened. Smérande believes every word. Smérande reveals to Hedwige that the Brankovan lineage is cursed to the third and fourth generation because a Brankovan killed a priest, consecrating the family to the Devil. Since she's the last Brankovan and the lineage ends with the death of her sons, there's nothing for Hedwige to fear anymore.

    Smérande tells Hedwige to flee the country and that when she dies, she'll bequeath everything she owns to her.

    After the curse has passed and she survives the eight days she has left to live, Hedwige leaves for France. She is never again kissed by a vampire, although she retains the pallor he leaves her for the rest of her life.
  • Grégoriska Waivady: He's the key character in the chapter as he's the one who reveals all the mysteries related to what happens to Hedwige.

    Kostaki's death thwarts his plans to escape with Hedwige. And for some reason he doesn't understand, Hedwige starts to spend several days locked in her room. During his brother's wake, Grégoriska translates his mother's words to Hedwige and comes to believe that Hedwige actually loved Kostaki and not him. His beliefs gain more weight when a few days pass, and he doesn't see Hedwige in the castle, for she hasn't left her room. Feeling deprived of her presence and affection, he visits her to announce that he'll be spending some time at the monastery of Hango.

    Hedwige states that she loves him and will pray for him on his journey, but she doesn't think she can do so for long, as feels she's dying. At that moment, Grégoriska notices Hedwige's unusual pallor and asks her to tell him the story behind it.

    After hearing her story and the strange event that happens to her at a quarter to eight, Grégoriska suspects that Kostaki has returned from the dead as a vampire who kisses Hedwige to take her to the afterlife with him (*).

    (*): Kostaki declared in chapter three that if Hedwige wasn't his, he'd kill her. His love is tantamount to death, as Grégoriska told her in the same chapter.

    Now, Kostaki takes his word by returning as a vampire and loving her as a creature of the darkness.

    Grégoriska tells Hedwige that while in Poland vampires are killed by staking them through the heart and incinerating them, the Brankovans take other measures since they don't use to face ordinary vampires (*).

    (*): The Brankovan are cursed because an ancestor killed a priest and consecrated the lineage to Satan. Therefore, when a Brankovan dies, they don't become a traditional vampire, but one that can only be killed with a holy relic.

    Grégoriska asks Hedwige to follow his instructions if she's to survive Kostaki's love. To prevent her brother from kissing her, she must first overcome the lethargy that invades her at nightfall and go down to the castle chapel. The second thing she must do is to marry him in the name of God (*).

    (*): Hedwige must first prove that she has the will to live, that's to say, that she is still part of the kingdom of the living. Then, since she belongs to Grégoriska under a holy vow, Kostaki no longer has power over her. She would belong to Grégoriska before Kostaki manages to kill her in the fifteen days that her curse lasts. Marriage would break Hedwige's curse of death since Grégoriska's love means life and frees her from Kostaki's fatal love.

    Father Bazile marries and blesses Hedwige and Grégoriska. Moreover, to have the divine forces and face the vampire consecrated to Satan, the enemy of humanity.

    Grégoriska returns with Hedwige to the castle, and they enter the room together. Grégoriska carries all the holy elements that will help defeat the vampire, including a blessed boxwood that he hands to Hedwige, and the sacred sword Father Bazile gave him.

    At the stroke of a quarter to nine, Grégoriska sees that the vampire is indeed Kostaki and, as his brother no longer has the power to suck Hedwige's blood, Grégoriska confronts him using his blessed sword.

    Grégoriska wants Hedwige to know that he didn't kill his brother but that it was something that both he and Kostaki didn't foresee (*).

    (*): According to the dialogue between the two brothers, the following is deduced:
    • Kostaki had gone to meet his brother to take his life because of the jealousy he felt because Hedwige's heart wasn't his. 
    • Grégoriska, seeing himself pursued by someone, held his weapon high. Kostaki didn't foresee that Grégoriska would carry his knife with him. And when he charged him, he ended up with the blade of his rifle buried in his chest, losing his life on the spot.
  • Grégoriska asks Kostaki to return to his eternal rest, but he insists he won't return to death without taking Hedwige with him. Not wanting to return to his grave by hook or crook, Grégoriska forces him to do so by bringing the edge of the sacred sword to him, making him retreat to his grave in the monastery of Hango.

    Before taking Kostaki to his eternal rest, Grégoriska gives him the opportunity to repent for having consecrated himself to Satan and save his soul by choosing God. However, Kostaki refuses the offer and invokes the power of his master to fight against his brother. Grégoriska invokes the power of God, and the two engage in a duel to the death.

    Grégoriska is victorious, but having faced death, it claims him (*).

    (*): There are two reasons why Grégoriska loses his life, despite not having suffered a mortal wound:
    • The first is because he swore to his mother, under the family curse, that he'd kill his brother's murderer and his family. Although involuntarily, Grégoriska is Kostaki's murderer. And by not killing himself, the family curse takes over his life and takes him and his brother to the afterlife.
    • The second reason is symbolic since Grégoriska is the figurative representation of the Exterminating angel, which is also described as the angel of death in the Bible.
    • The Exterminating Angel inhabits the abyss and is who sealed Satan for a thousand years in it, just as the Brankovans inhabit a forest facing an abyss and Grégoriska punishes his brother Kostaki for being a follower of Satan.
    • Moreover, the angel of death belongs to the realm of death, so he cannot leave that realm.
  • Before dying, Grégoriska tells Hedwige to apply to her neck a mixture of Kostaki's blood with the earth in which he lies dead to break the curse completely. He then tells her to escape from Romania, as only being far away from there will guarantee her survival. He then asks for a kiss (*) and dies in Hedwige's arms.

    (*): This kiss is another symbol since it is the kiss of death. Grégoriska rests in peace after being kissed by Hedwige.
  • Kostaki Koproli: He torments Hedwige in visions for three days after his death and then in nocturnal visits at a quarter to eight. At that time, he enters the room of the woman he claimed as his in life and whom he'd kill before giving her to another man.

    On the seventh night, Kostaki fails to bite Hedwige because he has failed to kill her before handing her over to another man and because she now has divine protection.

    Grégoriska confronts him with a sacred sword, a weapon against which he's weak because he's an undead devoted to Satan's power. Kostaki ends up admitting that Grégoriska didn't kill him and that it was an accident since when he tried to chase him, he ended up crashing and stabbing the blade of Grégoriska's rifle in his chest, dying immediately.

    Kostaki refuses to return to his tomb without Hedwige. However, he cannot resist Grégoriska's command, who, using his sacred relic, forces him to retreat step by step to his tomb in the monastery of Hango.

    Grégoriska gives him the last chance to renounce Satan and consecrate himself to God. Regardless, Kostaki has no intention of redeeming his soul. After invoking Satan's help, he engages in a duel against Grégoriska, who invokes God's help. Kostaki loses to his brother and the sacred power and falls dead in eternal rest in hell.
  • Smérande Brankovan: As soon as the priests tell her that Grégoriska has died in a duel and that Hedwige is in the cemetery, she leaves the castle to the monastery. 

    In the monastery, Hedwige tells her everything that has happened, and Smérande believes every word. She knows everything is true because the Brankovans are a cursed lineage. After all, an ancestor killed a priest, consecrating three to four generations to Satan. The Brankovans become vampires upon death, and only consecration to the power of God can save them.

    As Hedwige's curse is broken, she tells her to follow Grégoriska's advice and leave Romania. She must find a place where God doesn't allow the things she has seen and experienced to happen. She also tells Hedwige that she'll inherit everything she owns.
  • Father Bazile: Like the Brankovans, he knows about the family curse and helps Grégoriska and Hedwige to break it. He provides Grégoriska with a sacred and blessed sword after marrying him and Hedwige. Later, he blesses them in their fight against Kostaki.


  • Davidson, G. (1994). Dictionary of angels. The Free Press. NY, USA.

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