Friday, October 1, 2010

Dracula: Dead and Buried?

Pretty sure this guy doesn't glitter...
If I were Dracula (and I mean, the original Dracula, Bram Stoker stylee), I'd be turning over in my coffin, unable to get a good days sleep.  Why? Cos there are unscrupulous bastards out there, perverting the real image of me and my kind (again, if I were Dracula, that is.  I'm not a vampire. Really)

Yes, you've guessed, I'm talking about twilight, and its glittery, namby pamby, silly excuses for vampires.
I'm not going to get into a big rant about twilight here, as I see it as more of a romance story, which incidentally has vampires and werewolves in it.
What I AM going to rant about, is how we had the image of something which was... animal, visceral, terrible, but wondrous, beautiful, and enchanting; and that image has been taken, and somehow moulded into some whimpering, emotional eternally-teen, who could be mistaken for any other whimpering, emotional teenager, except he drinks blood occasionally.

For the last century and a half or so, there has been a very real fascination with the vampire myth, particularly the version of it put forth by a Mr. Stoker. It's pretty hard to say where this fascination comes from, however. According to who you ask (or where you do your research), the vampire myth evolved (somehow) from the ever-present myths of dozens of cultures, involving unquiet spirits, devils who inhabited improperly buried corpses, graveyard ghouls, bodysnatchers, and sometimes, actual real cannibals.  For example, in Greek culture, there is the vrykolakas; in Germany, the Nachtzehrer; the Russian Upyr, the Slovenian kudlak..and in other parts of the world, there are the Chiang-shi of China, and the African Obayifo, to name a few.
Most of these share themes familiar with the 'traditional' vampire that we're all familiar with: undeath, the drinking of blood(or at least, preying on the living to drain some sort of life essence), and some rather exotic ways of killing them.

Some say the first instance of a 'homogenising' of the various 'undead revenant' myths was actually instigated by the Catholic church, in an attempt to provide a tangible threat to scare people into the churches, praying for salvation (and filling the coffers via the collection plate, of course..) Some say it was an inevitable 'evolution', happening as it did during a time of literary renaissance, where more traditional and familiar myths were taken and refined.
Why does the vampire hold such a sway, though? It's a compelling archetype certainly, but this doesn't really explain how popular the vampire myth actually is. Perhaps, in some way, the vampire reminds us of a much earlier archetype?


  1. maybe it's the eternal youth ideal that comes with it that people are fascinated with

  2. I personally think that the 'eternal' part of that is the major attraction. I've always been fascinated with the idea of immortality, if only to be able to sit back and watch the tides of time. Reading about history is one thing, having lived it would be quite another.

    Mind you, in a way we all do that, everyday...

  3. A lot of our modern vampire myths are actually associated with Vlad the Impaler, of Wallachia, on which Count Dracula was based on in the classic novel.

  4. This is indeed partly true, Mr. Disillusioned, and it was entirely remiss of me not to mention good ol' Vlad. I'd like to make a slight amendment to your statement, to wit: Bram Stoker based his myth on the myths surrounding Vlad. This is another case of history being written by the victors - Vlad is actually hailed as a hero in some parts of the Carpathians, with statues and (I believe?) a national holiday in his honour. How much of this is due to the fame brought about by Stokers novel? Granted, probably a fair bit.
    My point though, is that much of what is 'known' of Vlad was written by people who wanted to colour him as a bloodthirsty fiend. Did he impale his enemies on a forest of pikes? Yes, it is generally accepted as fact that he did. But why would he do such a thing? I'll leave that for you to discover.

    In the end, your point is essentially sound - most of what we know of vampires (ie, the "Hollywood vampire" if you will), is in fact due to the novel Dracula, and the many plays and early movies that were based upon it. Which brings me to my point - there was something 'pure' or distilled about Stokers Dracula - and while he may have been among the first to introduce the concept of the vampire as a seductive, hypnotic being capable of passing unnoticed in society (as opposed to the half rotting revenants that traditional vampires were), he still kept the beast. Modern vampires are almost pathetic in their normalcy - imagine being an immortal with teenage angst for your entire life? Just stake me now!