November 16, 2018
Bloody or not bloody
What makes vampires so interesting? Is it the fact that that they suck our blood for their beneficial gain? Or is it the fact that stories of vampires are so enticing to hear? Vampire folklore has been renowned all over the world through different cultures. It even dates back to the Mesopotamian times where similar accounts and embodiments of vampires existed. They are depicted as blood sucking creatures who feast on the living as they are more active in the night. With the vampire culture similar around the world, their image was quite different centuries ago to the vampires we see in today’s media. According to the Ted-ed video, the Mesopotamian “Lamashta” was their version of a vampire who had a head of a lion and a body of a donkey. In Greek mythology, the “striges” was a vampire with wings who fed on human flesh and blood. Stranger variations of Vampires include the Philippine “Manananggal” who would sever her body into half and spread her bat like wings to fly. The Malaysian “Penenggalan” was a vampire with a flying female head with inner organs dangling out. Lastly, the Australian “Yara-ma-ya-who” which resembles a frog-like man with red fur, abnormally large head with no teeth and suckers on the ends of its hands and feet. Although, these vampires sound drastically different from each culture, they all share a common attribute: the thirst for creature’s blood. This shared attribute is what defines a vampire. After explaining numerous accounts of vampire folklore, Vampires are monstrous beings who are feared by all humans. The thirst for human blood is what makes vampires nightmarish to us. But over time pop culture has revolutionized the thirsty blood-sucker into a teeny bopper icon.
So we discussed about vampire folklore and we will now dig into the origins of vampires and how they came to be. The word vampire came from the old Slavic tongue which translates to “Upir”. According to the ted Ed video, the 17th and 18th century was ravaged by plagues. With a lack of sanitation and technology, diseases such as rabies and pellagra killed off so many people With so many deaths occurring, the living were burying the dead at great rate until they have discovered something about the corpses. They discovered that the corpses seemed very much alive as their fingers and hair were grown. Their bellies have been bloated and blood coming out of their mouths. The living would mistaken the corpses as vampires as they begin to participate in odd rituals so the dead could not rise up from the grave and feast on the living. The rituals include burying a body full of garlic and poppy seeds, staking the body to the coffin to prevent it from getting up. They would go to extreme measures and burn the body at the cross and even behead the corpse. As technology advanced, we would then realize that the hair growth and bloated bellies were just normal symptoms of what the body goes through as it decomposes. “When a body decomposes, the skin dehydrates, causing hair and finger nails to extend. Bacteria in the stomach creates gases that fill the belly which force out blood through the mouth.” (Ted Ed video). Even with the vampire hunts have died down, stories and legends survived in local superstition. With such influence at hand literary works were produced such as Plidoris’ “The Vampyre”, La Fanu’s “Carmilla” and most famously, Bram stoker’s “Dracula”
Dracula today still remains one of the most famous vampires in folklore as it is still relevant in today’s media. “Bram Stoker’s novel, published in 1897, tells the story of a predatory vampire who lives in a ruined castle, high in the Carpathian Mountains. Most of the action unfolds in Victorian London, but it is the description of Transylvania—dark, wild, untouched by science and modernity—that is the novel’s most evocative achievement” (Light). Stoker was influenced by the Vampire folklore which caused him to make similar adaptations to Dracula from the real life vampire hunts that had happen. The Transylvanian setting was fitting due to the vampire hunts in Europe. Stoker adapted the use of garlic and stakes as a strength to human beings to ward of Dracula. Stoker then added more conjunct attributes such as the fear of crucifixes, weakness to the sun and the inability to see their own reflection in the mirror. Stoker did a fantastic job on elaborating upon and expanding the myth of vampires. Another well-known vampire was Carmilla which actually came out before Dracula. Le Fanu’s Cramilla “was a Victorian writer whose tales of the occult have inspired horror writers for more than a century. Seemingly by happenstance, the mysterious and beautiful Carmilla comes to stay with the young and virtuous Laura. Laura, who has been living a lonely existence with her father in an isolated castle, finds herself enchanted with her exotic visitor. As the two become close friends, however, Laura dreams of nocturnal visitations and begins to lose her physical strength. Through much investigation, the gruesome truth about Carmilla and her family is revealed. Though the basic premise of the story, that of evil targeting pure innocence, is familiar to anyone who is vampire savvy, this haunting tale is surprisingly fresh, avoids cliche and builds well to its climax. Particularly interesting are the sexual overtones that develop between the two women. Follows’s reading is flawless. In particular, her ability to capture Laura’s naivete so convincingly will have listeners feeling almost as shocked as Laura as the unwholesome truth unravels.” (Le Fanu). The character Carmilla is an example of a lesbian vampire, expressing romantic desires toward the protagonist. Even though Le Fanu’s novella came out before Stoker’s Dracula, Carmilla still ended up as the lesser known of the 2 as Dracula was considered master work of that specific genre. Carmilla and Dracula do share common traits asides from thirsting for blood.
In Jeffery Cohen’s monster culture he discusses the seven theses of what makes a monster a monster. In the first thesis “The monster’s Body is a cultural body” Cohen states: “the monster is born only at this metaphoric crossroads, as an embodiment of a certain cultural moment—of a time, a feeling, and a place. The monster’s body quite literally incorporates fear, desire, anxiety and fantasy (ataractic or incendiary), giving them life and an uncanny independence.” (Cohen, 4). What this quote is simply saying is that Vampires came at a time where the circumstances of vampires can be apparent. An example of this would be the villagers digging up graves to find corpses seemingly “alive”. It gave them an uncanny sense of fear, and anxiety knowing that those creatures could be very much be real. In Thesis 2 “The monster always escapes” “We see the damage that the monster wreaks, the material remains (the footprints of the yeti across the Tibetan snow, the bones of the giant stranded on a rocky cliff), but the monster itself turns immaterial and vanishes, to reappear someplace else.” (Cohen, 4) The vampire always hunts for its prey at night, stalking and stalking while waiting for the right moment to strike. The dead human it itself was the damage that the vampire created, leaves and vanishes into the night.
As vampires remain one of the most talked about monsters throughout of folklore, their image has evolved over time through pop culture. Cohen states: “In each of these vampire stories, the undead returns in slightly different clothing, each time to be read against contemporary social movements or a specific, determining event.” (Cohen, 5) examples of this include the Twilight series, where a family of vampires disguised as human beings try to live a normal life but behind the mask lies within a vampire amongst themselves. They are able to be out during the day, but if exposed to a lot of sunlight, their whole body will sparkle. In other Vampire T.V. series/ movies, we see a movement of Vampires falling in love with humans and actually defending human beings from other forms of evil. The Vampire culture is a fascinating world to watch and read. Over time, the vampire evolves and still continues to change due to our influence and how we want to see them. Decades from now, how will vampires see fit and through the eyes of the new generation to come?
Works Cited Page
- Light, Duncan. “Romania’s Problem with Dracula.” History Today, vol. 67, no. 5, May 2017, pp. 62–65. EBSCOhost, chaffey.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=122332425&site=ehost-live.
- “CARMILLA (Book Review).” Publishers Weekly, vol. 247, no. 49, Dec. 2000, p. 32. EBSCOhost, chaffey.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=3854857&site=ehost-live.
- Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. Monster Theory. University Of Minnesota Press, 1997.