Love is one of the great themes throughout history—a history that stretches back far beyond our modern age into a time of legend and folklore. So it figures that many folktales seem to revolve around matters of the heart. In true Halloween spirit, let's recount seven bone-chilling folk tales that are scarier than any horror movie in your Netflix queue.
1. A Bride from Beyond the Grave
From the Falkenberg region of Germany comes the haunting tale of Liba and Guntram, which shows that true love cannot always halt the forces of evil if lovers stray from their paths. Betrothed to the beautiful Liba from birth, Guntram the knight is called away from their scheduled nuptials by an urgent diplomatic mission. Upon his delayed return, he gets lost in the woods and stumbles upon a haunted castle. Spending the night there, he is seduced by the spirit of an evil maiden who slips a ring on his finger just as she transforms into a dried up corpse in his arms. Fleeing back to his true love Liba the following morning, he finds that their love has fallen under a curse of his own doing. When the couple attempts to get married as planned, the ghost of the jilted maiden returns to claim the knight, who promptly dies...right after uttering his marriage vows.
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2. The Fall of Don Juan
Stories of Don Juan's infamous bedroom conquests are still familiar in Western culture, yet according to legend, this Renaissance ladies' man met an end fraught with terror. After seducing the alluring Dona Ana by pretending to be her fiancé, Don Juan was assailed by Don Gonzalo, her enraged father. Don Juan proved triumphant, however, slaying the old man in the ensuing duel. But it didn't end there. When Don Juan encountered a stone statue of the old man that adorned his tomb, in his foolish pride he mockingly invited the statue to dine with him. Unfortunately, the statue was more than happy to oblige—and afterward, even happier to drag the prideful Don Jaun down to the flames of Hell, where he could exact revenge upon him for all eternity.
3. A Love Engraved in Stone
The ancient Aztecs told the story of star-crossed lovers Popocatepetl (Popo) and Ixtaccihautl (Ixtla), kept apart by the manipulation of a vengeful interloper. Popo went off to war to prove his worth to Ixtla, the daughter of the Aztec emperor. But another man, who sought the love of Ixtla, tricked her into thinking Popo had been killed in battle and that she was to marry him instead. Distraught over the loss, Ixtla died of grief during her wedding to the deceiver. When Popo at last returned to discover his beloved dead, he carried her to the peak of the highest mountain and grieved for days. Taking pity on them, the gods turned them both into stone. To this day, the volcano Popocatepetl stands alongside the mountain Ixtaccihautl, awaiting the day when the volcano will erupt and the two will once again become one.
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4. Demon Lover
In ancient China, marrying for love was frowned upon, as parents arranged the unions of their children. Thus spread the cautionary tale of Shushuan, the humble son of a working class family who encountered Lady White, a mysterious noblewoman, while visiting his parents' gravesite. The two fell instantly in love, and Lady White begged Shushuan to marry her. When Lady White was revealed as a demonic apparition, Shushuan's parents sent him away to another town to escape her. Yet Lady White soon found him and put him under her spell. The two were wed, and it took the intervention of local monks to break Lady White's spell and free Shushuan. The demon was captured in a magical bowl and reverted to her true form — that of a white serpent. Although buried under a pagoda on holy ground, legend tells that when the pagoda burned down centuries later, the serpent was released. Keep reading...
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