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Alraune (German for Mandrake) is a novel by German novelist Hanns Heinz Ewers published in 1911. It is also the name of the female lead character. The book originally featured illustrations by Ilna Ewers-Wunderwald.
The basis of the story of Alraune dates to the Middles Ages in Germany. The humanoid-shaped Mandrake root or Mandragora officinarum was widely believed to be produced by the semen of hanged men under the gallows. Alchemists claimed that hanged men ejaculated after their necks were broken and that the earth absorbed their final "strengths". In some versions, it is blood instead of semen. The root itself was used in love philtres and potions while its fruit was supposed to facilitate pregnancy. Witches who "made love" to the Mandrake root were said to produce offspring which had no feelings of real love and had no soul.
The novel deviates from the myth by concentrating on the issues of artificial insemination and individuality: genetics versus environment. A scientist, Professor Jakob ten Brinken, interested in the laws of heredity, impregnates a prostitute in a laboratory with the semen of a hanged murderer. The prostitute conceives a female child who has no concept of love, whom the professor adopts. The girl, Alraune, suffers from obsessive sexuality and perverse relationships throughout her life. She learns of her unnatural origins and she avenges herself against the professor.
In other media
There have been a number of films based on the myth and the novel of Alraune.
- 1918: Alraune, an 80-minute Hungarian movie which is now believed to be lost
- 1918: Alraune, die Henkerstochter, genannt die rote Hanne, an 88-minute German movie directed by Eugen Illés
- 1928: Alraune, also known as Unholy Love, a 125-minute black and white, silent German version directed by Henrik (Heinrich) Galeen. It starred Brigitte Helm as Alraune and Paul Wegener as the scientist Professor Jakob ten Brinken. It uses the novel and is regarded by critics as the definitive version of Alraune. When this film was first shown in Britain, film censors removed the details of the woman's origins, thereby making the story and motivations confusing to British audiences.
- 1930: Alraune, also known as The Daughter of Evil, a 103-minute black and white German version directed by Richard Oswald and again starring Brigitte Helm as Alma Raune (Alraune). This is the sound version of the above film.
- 1952: Alraune, or The Unnatural, a black and white German version directed by Arthur Maria Rabenalt. This had an all-star German cast including Hildegard Knef as Alraune and Erich von Stroheim as the scientist.
- 1998–2004: Alraune, a series of black and white German comic books illustrated by Tony Greis. Only a single issue was published each year, the last being volume 8 in 2004. The comic books deviate significantly from the novel. The main character is cursed and must live as if she is Alraune until she can find a way out from under the curse.
- 2009–present: artist and musician iamamiwhoami is heavily inspired by the Alraune tale.
- 2010: Цвет пламени or The Color of the Flame, a Russian series of twelve 45 minutes episodes directed by Igor Moskvitin (Игорь Москвитин). In this series the father of the girl is unknown. People who love her while she doesn't love them, die, without her conscious involvement. She does love someone, the man who found the prostitute.
Several movies have shown the influence of the Alraune theme:
Alraune also appears in several video games as enemies or even familiars:
- In the Castlevania series, their is enemies called Alura Une is an Une (weed-like enemy that feeds on blood) that appears as a giant rose with a nude maiden in the center of it, surrounded by many thorns. In Castlevania: Symphony of the Night they are called Venus Weeds in the English localizations, where they appear in two types: the normal Alura Une and stronger variant the Blue Alura Une which sits in the middle of a blue rose. In Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, Alura Une appears as both an enemy and a Guardian Soul which acts as a healing familiar for the games' protagonist Soma Cruz. In the games, sequel it appears again as a Guardian Soul though this time it can attack Soma's enemies with her vines and fire rose darts. If the Une Bullet Soul is equipped she will drop Unes from her vines as well. Alura Unes also appear in Castlevania: Circle of the Moon and Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin.
- In Bayonetta 2, Alraune is Demon from Inferno the series version of Hell and is one of games main antagonists and the one responsible for dragging the soul of Umbra Witch Jeanne after she is killed trying to save Bayonetta from rogue summon Gomorrah, leading to the game's events. Bayonetta travels to Inferno to rescue Jeanne soul before it is consumed and her apparent reason for wanting to devour Jeanne's soul is to obtain enough power to conquer all of Inferno and become its Queen. Bayonetta enters Alraune's palace and Alraune is surprised to find she is an Umbra Witch who has made a pact with Madame Butterfly a demon she has hated for millennia and attacks Bayonetta planning to kill Madame Butterfly and Bayonetta for destroying her palace. She appears as a boss fought in two forms: her first form is quick and agile making her hard to hit and capable of blocking some of Bayonetta's attacks. Her second form is larger and slower making her easier to dodge and damage as she loses the ability to block attacks. She is defeated when Bayonetta pulls Jeanne's soul out of Alraune's second form but is stop from killing her by Rodin, Bayonetta's ally and demonic weapon smith, who tells Bayonetta to save Jeanne's soul while he converts Alraune's soul into a Demonic Whip, called Alruna which he gives to Bayonetta. Alraune's in-game bestiary entry reads: "A woman who doused herself in mandrake poison and took her own life as a means of getting revenge on the husband who left her. The poison continued through her skin and devoured her soul. Consumed by delusions and hallucinations, she was at last reincarnated in Inferno. Myth places her as the young daughter of a noble estate, but none of her past visage can be determined from her current demon form. She searches the bottom of hell for the most exquisite souls. then injects poison into their nerves to make them eternal "lovers" at her palace. Insatiable desire and obsession have painted her heart so thickly that she will never know peace. Not even with the sacrifices of a thousand souls, or a million...".
- Artificial insemination
- Nature versus nurture
- List of films made in Weimar Germany
- Toni Greis (b. 30/8/1973, Germany) lambiek.net