Did you know that when Bram Stoker’s Dracula was first released, it was out-sold that same year by another horror novel written by Richard Marsh called The Beetle, a book about a polymorphous monster from ancient Egypt seeking revenge on a British member of Parliament. So in the year of our lord 1897, evil beetles were scarier and more popular than vampires
One of the most bizarre literary discoveries of recent years has to be the case of the Icelandic language translation of Dracula. In 1900, the Icelandic author and publisher Valdimar Ásmundsson translated Bram Stoker’s masterpiece (Stoker even wrote a preface for it). However, Ásmundsson took great liberties with his translation, entitled Makt Myrkranna–literally, “Powers of Darkness”; however, Ásmundsson revamped (sorry) both the characters and the plot to create a book that was almost completely different from its source. Literary researcher Hans Corneel de Roos has now translated the text back into English with plenty of annotations. Aptly titled, Powers of Darkness: The Lost Translation of Dracula, it’s available now in a gorgeous over-sized hardcover from Overlook Press.
This was a fantastic and very informative read, but if you don’t mind my
asking… if the creatures we tend to think of as “traditional”
vampires don’t come from Romanian folklore, is there a place where they do come from? Or are they really just a hodge-podge of complete fiction and misinterpreted myths from different regions?
Okay, I should preface this by saying that I’m not a folklorist and that I have no formal training in tracing the spread of folk beliefs and how they develop. I’m also going to fess up and note that while I personally am sold on the claim that strigoi are best classed as something other than vampires, there have been enough writers claiming them as vampires that I’m pretty sure that the line between them and vampires has blurred a little as a result. In particular, Emily Gerard (author of The Land Beyond the Forest and “Transylvanian Superstitions”) was a major influence on Stoker’s depiction of vampires and she cites a bunch of “vampire” myths that she claims to be Romanian in origin, and this has undoubtedly led to the modern vampire being a composite in which strigoi myths must play some part.
With that in mind, my general, not-terribly-exciting stance on the origin of vampires is that they come from Slavic-language-speaking regions that actually have mythical beings called something that sounds like “vampire” (Ex: vampir, wampir upir). I would be absolutely unsurprised if there was cross-pollination with other folkloric creatures, as is clearly the case with the strigoi at this point, and its very evident that a number of now deeply entrenched vampiric attributes are purely literary or cinematic inventions. However, at the end of the day, I’m inclined to give the original “vampire” to groups with monsters by that name, even if there is an inescapable hodgepodgeiness to the vampire we now consider “traditional.” This isn’t to say that there’s some static, singular Slavic vampire that’s the “real” thing, but rather that that’s the general direction in which one should look in trying to explore how our conception of vampires has evolved.
My basic guess as to the course of said evolution? I’m obviously not the ultimate authority on the topic, but if you want my general impression of how we got from the Slavic folkloric being behind the European newspaper stories of the 1730s and what we have today, here’s what I’d propose:
Pre-1700-1800s: Slavic vampires are a thing. They’re not particularly vampire-y by today’s standards. They’re basically zombies with a different dietary restriction, and they also sometimes steal your corn pudding, spook your cattle, wreck your crops and generally do the sort of nefarious stuff in your community that might prompt you and your pals to exhume some bodies and stab them in the hopes that the effects of plague, famine, and misfortune might be averted. You can generally kill these puppies via decapitation or staking; they sometimes have issues with apotropaic plants, running water, and/or religious symbols; and they always always always flee back to their grave when you are not asleep and being attacked.
1819: John Polidori does the one sort of competent thing in his life in that he writes a totally incompetent story about how Lord Byron is a vampire and incompetently gets it attributed to Byron himself. Vampires are now sapient people that can pass as human and are also predatory, libertine aristocrats. They are no longer jerkbag corpses that you can never seem to spot up and about; they can now hang out with you, entice you into gambling and debauchery, and murder your sister.
1820s-1890s: Lots of vampire literature happens, but it isn’t Dracula. Lots of literary vampire trends come in and out of fashion, but we tend not to remember them because they aren’t Dracula. Something that we don’t remember is how literary vampires had to either get married to keep being vampires or get married to stop being vampires. We also don’t remember that vampires, instead of burning in the sunlight, used to recharge in the moonlight. Back in the day, you could shoot/stab/strangle/whatev a vampire, and it would have the decency to die… only it would pop back up like a daisy if cold moonbeams hit it. This is sort of interesting, because stuff like the marriage and moonlight rules aren’t folkloric; they’re literary conventions that have just gone out of fashion. We do, however, remember some of the literary conventions that developed during this time, partially because some had folkloric backing, and partially because they appear in…
1897: DRACULA! Okay. Carmilla probably should get a brief mention because it was obviously on Bram’s radar enough that he initially thought of setting his book in Styria, but sadly Carm’s vampire mythos contributions pretty much get overshadowed at this point. Dracula happens and then vampires change. While the novel includes a lot of folklorically-derived stuff (some cribbed earlier vampire works, some taken from authors like Gerard), Stoker introduces some elements that are new (having to sleep in special dirt, having to be invited in, having no reflection, being really upset about garlic in particular instead of any of the gazillion other herbs vampires hate, etc…). Despite the fact that he appears to have made some of this up or ganked it from the attributes of Mephistolfeles in a recent production of Faust, this is the stuff that becomes vampire gospel. Our concept of the “traditional vampire” now does these things because Dracula is that big.
1922: Nosferatu happens. Orlok shows up, dissolves at the cock’s crow, nearly gets erased from history by Florence Stoker, but nevertheless gives vampires their pernicious sunlight allergy. I’m not the greatest at twentieth-century vampire media, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this attribute isn’t really set in stone until Christopher Lee starts catching fire in the 50s-70s.
1931: Dracula is soldified as the most important vampire thing in the history of vampires. The suavity of vampirekind also might have gotten a little off course in the journey from Ruthven to Orlok, and Bela shows up and reasserts that vampires are aristocratic in bearing and generally aesthetically pleasing. Additionally, Dwight Frye as Renfield sets up people’s expectations for the archetypal vampiric ghoul/servitor/minion for like… forever.
1950s-1980s: If you weren’t painfully aware of the fact that vampires are all about assaulting busty hapless women, Hammer Horror hammers home that vampires are -in fact- all about that, and it does so in glorious technicolor. In the meantime, Barnabas Collins helps to start the trend of vampires actually secretly being sympathetic characters full of vampires feelings, a trend that continues through various 1970s Dracula productions and eventually finds its best known expression in Lestat’s boyfriend bemoaning how dark the night is into a tape recorder.
1980s-Now: Vampires get more sympathetic, more punk, more trenchcoaty, and more popular. Then they sparkle, and everyone acts like this is some sort of travesty, because their non-Slavic, sapient, sympathetic, aristocratic, invitation-needing, sun-susceptible, trench-coat-wearing vampires are the real vampires™
and not just another iteration of a monster that’s been continually changing in popular culture for nearly three centuries.
October Reads Book Photo Challenge #8: Vampires oh my!
I mentioned that I really like vampire books, right? I started with Anne Rice when I was in middle school, and I never really stopped. In order of my favourites, the books on this list are:
Sunshine by Robin McKinley
The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
Blood and Gold by Anne Rice
Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice
Blackwood Farm by Anne Rice
Demon in my View by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
Pandora by Anne Rice
Dracula by Bram Stoker
In the Forests of the Night by Amelia Atwater Rhodes
The Tale of the Body Thief by Anne Rice
Vampire enthusiasts should start with Interview with the Vampire, which is the first of Anne Rice’s brilliant series. If you want to learn something about the psychology associated with traditional vampires, read Dracula, which will tell you everything you need to know about Victorian views on blood-drinkers, sex, and blasphemy. It’s also good background reading for anyone who likes the genre, since most modern adaptations of vampires draw from Bram Stoker. Don’t read The Historian until you’ve read Dracula, because you will be missing a lot of important information. It’s an absolutely brilliant historical fiction novel about a family whose lives have been shaped by the hunt for Dracula. Amelia Atwater-Rhodes is a good place for young readers to start on vampires, because they’re easy-to-read and short, but reasonably well-written. Sunshine is still the best of the lot, and can stand alone without trouble.
hello everyone. im looking for new people to follow. my dash is lacking content im interested in, so if you blog any of the content in the list below, please give this post a like or reblog! if you do so, i’ll check out your blog. please don’t be disheartened if i don’t follow.
animanga like hunter x hunter, durarara!!, pandora hearts, code geass, death note, studio ghibli, kuroshitsuji, noragami, natsume yuujinchou, shoujo in general (ouran, maid sama, akatsuki no yona, hnr, etc)
anime and manga in general. i need more anime and manga on my dash.
musicians from the west: ed sheeran, vampire weekend, twenty one pilots, foxes
infinite (the kpop group). this is the only kpop group im really looking for, but girl groups are welcomed too. if you’re a bts blog, the chances of me following you are low tbh.
harry potter and other fantasy series
tbh even if you don’t post any of these things / people and you want me to check out your blog anyways, then like/reblog this post.
i would appreciate it if mutuals would give this a reblog and help me ^^ thank you.
A penny dreadful was a type of British fiction publication in the 19th century.These serials started in the 1830s, originally as a cheaper alternative to mainstream fictional part-works, such as those by Charles Dickens for young working class males. The stories themselves were reprints, or sometimes rewrites, of famous Gothic thrillers as well as new stories about famous criminals. These stories were poorly written and overdramatic,but they introduced important literary figures such as Sweeney Todd. They also introduced the figure of the vampire in the occidental culture.
We always think of vampires as really regal, dignified creatures, but honestly imagine how many grudges and petty feuds would build up over the years. But no, seriously, Count Olaf still not talking to Lady Irabella after the dinner fiasco with Lord Andrews in 1785. Dutchess Katrina is still sour over rumors that Elsbeth spread back during the plague and sending her a bouquet of garlic every year. Lilly Wellington cutting the breaks to Count Dramonus’s hearse after their messy breakup.
Charles Nodier (April 29, 1780 – January 27, 1844)
An influential French author and librarian who introduced a younger generation of Romanticists to the conte fantastique, gothic literature, and vampire tales. His dream related writings influenced the later works of Gérard de Nerval. (Wikipedia)
From our stacks: Cover and frontispiece from Contes Fantastiques. Charles Nodier. Paris: Georges Crès et Cie. Londres: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., c.1914.