ZMAJEVAC
The legend of a redheaded Martha

Once upon a time, in a small village in Baranya lived a noblewoman named Martha. She had long red hair and was beautiful but also very bad. She was called Redheaded Martha (Hungarian: Vörös Márta).

Marta charged a fee of one gold piece for crossing the Danube, and she forced the unfortunate poor people who did not have the means to pay to work in her vineyard for days in order to earn it. She was very rough and hit people, including her farmers, with a stick and a whip.

The story of her wickedness spread over the land to the town of Buda. When king Matthias Corvinus, who was known as a strict but fair king who did not tolerate injustice, has heard about Martha’s ways he came to Baranya to check if this was true. The king disguised himself as a peasant and headed to the Danube ferry. When he had to pay a gold piece for transport, he said that he had no money at the moment, but will pay on his return. Faced with the prohibition of crossing, he said that he personally knew king Matthias, and that the king would pay for him when he got the news about crossing the river Danube. Martha laughed at his face and sent him into the vineyard to earn a gold piece. The king tried once more to persuade her by telling that she would get a terrible punishment when king Matthias found out about her wickedness, but Martha remained unrelenting. As the king was digging in the vineyard, he tossed a gold coin to the ground in front of him, so that no one noticed. He called Martha and told her that he had found a gold coin and could now pay for the ferry. But Martha took the coin from him and told him it belonged to her because he found it on her property. While working in the vineyard, king saw the conditions in which farmers lived and worked, and when he returned to the Buda he wrote Martha a letter.

When Martha found out that Corvinus himself was with her in the vineyard, she knew she would get a severe punishment.

She dressed in the most beautiful white dress, harnessed white horses in a white carriage, loaded all her gold coins to the carriage and drove off a cliff into the Danube.

To this day, when the sun shines on the river Danube, you can see the gleam of her gold coins that were never retrieved. The place where Danube washed her body ashore has been called Vörösmart (Redheaded Martha) ever since.

Martha’s stick that she used to hit her farmers with, was found on the coast of the river Danube. The nearby village of Batina got it’s name after this stick (Batina is Croatian word for “stick” or “getting beaten”).

Legend has it that the local people of Zmajevac and surrounding villages, for years after Martha’s death, saw during the sunset a red haired woman hovering over their village and overseeing the vineyards which, after her death, magically started to bear fruit.