In the world of classic monsters, there are a few big names: Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Werewolf. These were all monsters adapted multiple times into movies, books, and stories throughout the years. However, another famous monster can list herself among that elite group, and by the second Castlevania game, she'd even joined up with them in video game form. The monster is Carmilla, and she gave the series its second vampire, and second female monster.
Carmilla wasn't invented for the Castlevania series. An original creation by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Carmilla was the featured villain in a series of stories that were later collected into the novella Carmilla. Although that book didn't gain the same level of fame as a certain vampire novel by Bram Stoker, she became an indelible part of pop culture and one of the few consistently used female monsters.
Of course, for those of purient interests, some of her attention may have been due to the overt lesbian tones of the story (only emphasized in some of the theatrical adaptations of her book). Most of that didn't make it into the Castlevania series, naturally. Still, her story gave audiences something a little different from the normal vampire story, and we gained a new villain for our favorite video games.
Castevania II: Simon's Quest
A loyal servant of Dracula, Carmilla (written as "Camilla" in this game due to poor translation) was entrusted with the Magic Cross, the only item capable of granting access to the ruins of Dracula's castle. At the time of Dracula's death (seven years prior), the dark lord laid a curse upon Simon Belmont, dooming the hero to death unless Dracula's body parts were collected and brought to the ruins which would, in turn, resurrect the demon once more.
Hiding in the Laruba Mansion (near the Camilla Cemetery), Carmilla waited for the hero to arrive, trusting in her vampiric powers to protect her and defeat the Belmont. Unfortunately, Simon had spent his time in the countryside becoming more powerful so that, but the time he reached the final chamber of the mansion, he was no match for Carmilla. Defeated, her essence returned to the grave once more while Simon was finally able to move on and defeat Dracula for a second time.
Although simply known as the "vampiress" in her first appearance, the graveyard near her mansion was named the "Camilla Cemetery". Additionally, later entries in the series reused elements of her boss fight, namely her giant, demonic mask, in her various boss fights. It's now fully acknowledged that Carmilla is the vampiress from Castlevania II, marking this as her first official appearance.
Castevania Dracula X: Rondo of Blood
Resurrected a century later, Carmilla aided Dracula in his plot to defeat Richter Belmont, the current wielder of the powerful Vampire Killer. Dracula minions went out into the Romanian countryside and captured four maidens to serve as bait for the Belmont. Meanwhile, Carmilla took her own consort, Laura, to amuse her during the proceedings.
Eventually, Richter reached Carmilla's chamber near the end of the castle dungeons. There, She battled the hero while Laura paced the grounds in an attempt to grab the hero and hold him down. Although together they proved a difficult fight, Richter was still more powerful and, eventually, defeated them both, sending the vampiress back to her grave once more. Her mission failed, Richter was able to eventually ascend the castle, save all the girls, and defeat Dracula once more.
This game marks the only time that Carmilla has had a consort in the main series. Although a nice nod to the Laura character from the Carmilla novella, this character was not brought back again for reasons only the series creators know.
Castevania: Circle of the Moon
Brought back to life by her followers at her ancestral castle in Austria, Carmilla once more pollted the resurrection of Dracula. This time around she had to contend with a trio of vampire hunters that could mess up her plans: Master Morris and her two trainees, Hugh Morris and Nathan Graves. To that end, she planned a trap for the heroes. Once they'd entered her castle and came to the main chamber, the Audience Room, Carmilla struck, capturing the elder Morris and casting his two aprentices into the pits of the castle below where, she assumed, they'd die. Master vampire hunter in her control, she planned to use him as a sacrfices at the height of the full moon to fully restore Dracula's powers.
What she didn't count on was Nathan making headway through her castle. She attempted, repeatedly, to stop his progress, sending her servant, the Necromancer, after him. Then she took control of Hugh Morris's mind, using the young vampire hunter's jealousy of Nathan as a way to worm in and turn him to the side of evil. Nathan defeated the Necromancer and, later, freed his friend from the evil of the vampiress.
Luring Nathan to the Underground Waterway, she eventually did battle with the hero in one last attempt to stop his progress. Although unsucessful, eventually falling in battle to the lad, she was at least assured that the ritual to raise Dracula was nearly complete. By the time th hero would get to him, the vampire lord would be alive once more. She went back to ger grave in hopes that her Dark Lord would once again rule the countryside.
Of course, Nathan then went on to face Dracula in the Audience Room. Though the battle was pitched, Dracula's resurrection provied short lives as the young vampire hunter defeated the vampire lord. Both Carmilla and Dracula had failed, while the three vampire Hunter left the castle assured that the demonic evil was at rest once more.
Circle of the Moon features Carmilla in her most prominent role in the series, making her integral to the story of the game. This is also one of the few main series titles that doesn't take place in or around Dracula's castle, instead focusing on Carmilla's ancestral home. That's part of the reason many of the classic tropes of the series, such as the Clock Tower and the Castle Keep, were not featured in the game at all.
When the evil demon Galamoth attempts to remove Dracula from time (thus ensuring Galamoth would be the new, evil ruler of the world), a time agent, Aeon, gathers together a force of heroes and villains. The plan was for them to do battle until one warrior was left standing. This warrior would then go on to defeat the Time Reaper, the agent of Galamonth who was destroying time, thus saving the timeline.
As one of the warriors on the evil side, Carmilla fought bravely for her dark lord. A devoted follower of Dracula throughout the centuries, Carmilla proved a worth contender, a warrior of grace and power. Her encounters with the other warriors allowed her to show off her fighting ability, as well as her evil wit, tauning the heroes as she bested them one by one.
However, two of her fights took a slight turn. First, her battle with the living Golem was strange as, apparently, she had created the golem years before. Shocked at his sentience, she was also confused (and a little disgusted) when it called her its "mother". She quickly disavowed the beats of this, besting him before moving on to more interesting battles. Then she encountered Maria Renard, a young girl absolutely obsessed with her bust size (seriously). Carmilla was a little weirded out by this, but did her job and fought cunningly and bravely.
Through her efforts she helped to ensure that the Time Reaper was eventually brought down. She was returned to her timeline so that, once again, she could plot to ensure the eventually sucess of Dracula. We're still waiting for that last part to happen (but we're not holding our breath).
Her appearance in Castlevania: Judgment is different from previous entires. Here, Carmilla doesn't ride a large mask, instead using a whip. About the only connection she has to previous forms is the pink color of her (very skimpy) outfit. Seriously, Judgment is just an odd game.
Castlevania (Netflix Series)
Arriving in season two of the Castlevania anime, Carmilla is one of Dracula's generals, a lesser noble summoned to the Dark Lord's castle to aid in his war against humanity. Carmilla, though, has other plans and, through her own machinations, plots to take over Dracula's throne and rule the world herself. It's hard to say she subtle about it, as it's pretty clear from the get-go that the vampiress has plans beyond serving the Dark Lord, but as we see during the course of the season season, she is quite effective in her schemes and plots.
Her depiction in the series stands in direct contrast to how she's shows in the game series (and other movies). Here, she's a stark blond nordic vampiress (instead of a dark-haired, southern European lass) and her loyalty to Dracula is never in question because it doesn't exist. She's no willing servant, one to work in resurrection Dracula time and again. She hates all the old guard and wishes to see the whole lot of ancient vampires wiped from the world. She makes for an interesting villain, even if (or maybe because) she isn't a version of the character we've seen before.
Lords of Shadow History:
Castevania: Lords of Shadow
Originally a source for good, Carmilla, along with Zobek and Cornell, founded the Brotherhood of Light, an organization dedicated to ridding the land of evils. Working tirelessly throughout her life for good (including the imprisonment of the evil, god-like demon, the Forgotten One), Carmilla eventually ascended to Heaven, leaving her body behind as her soul moved on to it's well-earned reward.
Unfortunately, her body was taken over by evil, becoming the Dark Queen of Vampires and one of the three Lords of Shadow. The evil Carmilla killed her servants, enslaved the mad scientist Friedrich Von Frankenstein (to use him and his experiments for her own gain), and kidnapped (and embraced) the orphan girl Laura, creating a new evil family for herself. She then summoned forth two vampires to lead her army, Brauner and Olrox. Finally, she plunged her lands into eternal winter and night, securing her hold over the territory and ensuring her rule.
However, a hero, Gabriel Belmont, came to the Vampire Castle to confront Carmilla and end her reign of terror. When her first attempts to sway the warrior to her cause failed, Carmilla revealed her true vampiric form, leading to an epic battle. The epic fight ended with the castle in ruins. Carmilla was defeated, and Gabriel staked her, ending her rule and riding the land of one of the Lords of Shadow.
Castevania: Lords of Shadow 2
Although defeated in 1047, the evil form of Carmilla returns over a thousand years later. Still proclaiming herself the ruler of Vampire Castle, Carmilla attempts to once again sway Gabriel (now a vampire himself, going by "Dracula"). Her repeated attempts eventaully tempt Dracula to feed on her blood, poisoning him. However, the ghost of his long-lost wife, Marie, comes to his aid. Saying she was sent by God to aid Dracula, Marie gives of her own blood, curing the vampire lord.
Chasing Carmilla through the rooftops of the city, he confronts her once more. This time she tries to trick him by taking on the appearance of Marie. This attempt at confusion, though, doesn't work as Gabriel is able to tell the two women apart. He then attacks Carmilla, leading to another epic fight before Dracula finally kills the resurrected Carmilla, staking her once more and sending her evil essence back to Hell.
Fighting Against Carmilla:
In her first appearance, Carmilla isn't much of a threat. In comparison to the bosses in the original Castlevania, the foes of Castlevania II are pretty tame, and Carmilla is no exception. When you walk into her boss chamber, her giant mask will begin circling the room, over and over. As long as you remain at a safe distance and attack with your whip and/or daggers, Carmilla should never even come close to touching you.
Her return apperance in Castlevania Dracula X is much more impressive. If you fail to save Annette you'll have to fight Carmilla at the top of the clock tower. There, she will ride atop a giant, demonic skull, dodiging your attacks. The eyeballs of the skull will fly out at you, sometimes homing in on your location, sometimes alight with fire, and sometimes casting lightning bolts at you. It can be a frenetic battle but good pattern recognition, and quick dodging, will be your friends.
Her battle in Dracula X Chronicles is a bit different. This time she'll still ride her giant skull (which bursts forth from a giant mask, in a nice touch), but instead of having the skull's eyes attack you, she'll drop acid flames, forcing you to dodge a lot of incidental damage. Additionally, Laura will run around the bottom of the room the whole time, attempting to grab you and drain away your hearts. Once you've damaged Carmilla enough, she'll die and Larua will transform into a very agile, ninja-like appearance. A couple of more quick attacks will finish off both vampires, winning the day.
Although she's one of the prime villains in Circle of the Moon, her boss fight isn't actually that threatening. She will, once more, ride her giant demon skull, slowly flying across the room, spewing out poison bubbles. A good shiled (like the rotating ice spheres or the dash shield) will help you clear out the poison. Make judicious use of the space by the doors to the room as Carmilla will not have the room to attack you physically up there. Then, just watch out as occasionally she blast out a wave of air blades. If you layer on the damage enough, she'll quickly fall.
As a fighter in Judgment, Carmilla is quick and agile. He wields a chain that she uses like a whip, giving her a decent ranged attack. This, combined with a poisoned gas attack she can unleash to damage fighters over time, with her ability to wailing on her foes with flurries of blows, can make her a hard opponent to take down.
In the first Lords of Shadow, Carmilla's battle is a multi-phase affair. First, she'll summon forth a horde of vampires. These are easy enough to manage by either layering on the damage or getting in close and using a Quick Time Event to stake them. Just watch out as Carmilla was unleash a powerful lightning attack so be ready to dodge. Once you've killed enough of her minions, Carmilla will reveal her true vampiric form (while also destroying parts of the boss arena, leaving less room for you to maneuver). She'll attack like many of the other vampires, dodging in close and attacking with her wings and claws. She'll also continue to summon forth more minions, making for a very frenetic battle.
Once you've damaged her enough in this phase, you'll have to wade through a Quick Time Event as Gabriel stabs repeatedly at Carmilla in close combat. She'll then fly up, unleash more lightning, and destroy a further section of the arena. The battle, though will largely progress as before with you and her dodging around, trying to get in melee damage. She will also occasionally fly up and summon bats to swarm in and attack you. And, she can cast lightning at the ground, causing a limited, but very damaging, blast radius.
Damaged enough, Carmilla will fly up one last time, leading the last set of Quick Time Events. She'll cast lightning at you that you'll somehow absorb and use against her. Down on the ground Gabriel will try to stake her, but she'll attempt to fly away. Gabriel will catch a hold and fly with her, throwing his whip through her chest. On the heighest peak of the castle, Garbiel will pull Carmilla down, staking her on the roof and causing the castle the crumble. Both will then tumble to the ground before Grabiel gets the last blows in, destroying the vampiress.
Her return fight in Lords of Shadow 2 is a different affair. This time she'll float around the initial boss room in a protected bubble while summoning demonic knights to fight for her. Like her previous vampire minions, these can be killed via enough damage or an up-close Quick Time Event. Carmilla will also occasionally cast a lightning bolt that sprays a wave of damage across the ground (forcing you to jump to avoid it). With a powerful enough attack you can damage the bubble, stunning Carmilla. Repeat this process enough times (minions first, and then attack the bubble), and you'll break her shell, moving the battle to the next phase.
Now Carmilla will assult you more directly, teleporting around the room (with a very stylish bat effect) before moving in close or launching more lightning at you (sometimes as blasts and sometimes as homing bolts). More of her minions, too, will join the fight, keeping the pressure on you. Damaged enough her and Carmilla will then start creating duplicates of herself. These versions will summon a tightening ring of lightning that hs a different timing from before, forcing you to adjust your dodging jumps. You'll have to take out the duplicates to reveal the real Carmilla.
After a cinematic moment where Gabriel steals the power of mist from Carmilla, she will then change her attacks up, summoning a ghostly version of her vampiric form, using it to capture you, deal out powerful melee blows, and unleashing combos of lightning attacks. This will lead to the final Quick Time cineamtic that sees Gabriel finish off the vampiress with a stake in bloody fashion.
Carmilla in Popular Culture:
Carmilla is directly based on the title character from Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's 1872 novella Carmilla. In it, she's a vampire who preys on young women, usually by posing as a young woman herself in need of a place to stay. Once settled into a manor, she'll slowly feed from the women around her, draining them of life force. Many aspects of her story were maintained for her appearances in the Castlevania series beyond just the vampirism. In multiple games, she appears floating on a giant, demonic mask, an obvious nod to the climactic costume ball set near the end of the novella. Then there are the lesbian overtones of the novel, mirror in Dracula X where Carmilla has a young servant (often named Laura after the character in the book) that the player has to fight.
Other parts of her story were excised from the series, such as her constantly changing her name (although even that is amusingly mirror, see below), bouncing from "Carmilla" to "Mircalla" to "Millarca" -- always variants of her name. Also missing from her character in the series was Carmilla's ability to transform her shape, usually into that of a large cat or great beast.
Beyond Castlevania, Carmilla has had a number of appearances throughout popculture. She's show up in a number of movies, from the 1932 Vampyr to the first of the Hammer "Karnstein" trilogy of film, The Vampire Lovers and even featuring in Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. She's also featurd prominently in a number of other books, stage plays, radio productions, comics, and video games. She may, in fact, be the second most adapted vampire in pop culture, only after Dracula.
Due to a translation error in Circle of the Moon, Carmilla's name was written as "Camilla" in that game. That, coupled with Circle's already nebulous place in the Castlevania timeline has lead many fans to consider Carmilla and Camilla two different characters. It worth noting that her name was similarly misspelled in Castlevania II, but that game had a notoriously bad translation, so errors like that were just par for the course.
Of course, we at the Inverted Dungeon consider all (non-explictly remake) entries in the series as cannon, so for discussion sake, Carmilla and Camilla are the same person, translation error or no.
In her original story Carmilla would often use aliases, respellings of her name, to hide from those that might hunt her. Going as "Camilla" instead of "Carmilla" in Circle is just a nice play on that trick, even if it was unintentional.
Originally, Carmilla was planned for inclusion in Castlevania for the Nintendo 64. An early model of her was debuted with her riding atop her demonic skull (much like in later entry Circle of the Moon), but by the time the game was released she had been removed.
Another sighting of her can be found in Harmony of Dissonance, this time as a sculpted relief of her iconic mask. This is a nice nod towards her, although she wasn't otherwise in the game.