The socially sophisticated Undead in Folklore

The original vampires of folklore have been given some hard knocks these days in comparison to their most popular literary descendants. For example, in Anne Rice's novel, INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, Louis and Claudia encounter in Eastern Europe only dim-witted, savage vampires.

no one here but us vampires!I agree that, in many cases from folklore, the vampire does match such an image. Sometimes their flesh still rots as the prowl at night. Nonetheless, in folklore there are special cases of vampires who closely approximate the modern literary vampires in regard to both intelligence and ability to pass as normal mortal human beings.

One Romanian folktale, recorded in the city of Botosani in the Romanian province of Moldavia, published in a Romanian journal of folklore **Ion Creanga**, vol. iv, p. 202 and reprinted in "The Vampire in Roumania" by Agnes Murgoci in FOLK-LORE, vol. xxvii, no. 5, 1926 begins with:

There was a time when vampires were as common as leaves of grass, or berries in a pail, and they never kept still, but wandered round at night among the people. They walked about and joined the evening gatherings in the villages, and, when their were many young people together, the vampires could carry out their habit of inspiring fear, and sucking human blood like leeches.


In the article "The Romanian Folkloric Vampire" by Jan Perkowski, published in the September 1982 issue of the journal, EAST EUROPE QUARTERLY, there is the following tale recorded by the eminent Romanian linguist, Professor Emil Petrovici, in the Romanian town of Ohaba, in southwestern Transylvania, on June 21, 1936:

Once a strigoi [i.e., a vampire] turned into a handsome young man and a young girl fell in love with him. They were married, but the girl also wanted a religious wedding. He rejected this idea. Her parents insisted, so he agreed to go to the church, but when they emerged from the church he looked at his wife in a strange way, baring his teeth. She became afraid and told her mother about it. Her mother said, 'Don't be afraid. He loves you. So that's why he bared his teeth.' When their parents came to visit them, they couldn't find them. They had locked themselves in, but the people could see them through the window. He was sucking her blood. When the people saw it, they shot him through the window.


There are also cases where undead vampires who have survived long enough after their burial reach a stage where they can not only pass as normal mortal humans, but can successfully maintain a regular job and marriage to a mortal woman, and raise children.

Matthew Bunson in his book, THE VAMPIRE ENCYCLOPEDIA, p.156, under "Life of a Vampire", says that in both Serbia and Albania it was believed that, if an undead vampire wasn't destroyed within thirty years after burial, it would become "human" and travel the world under a different name. Also, on page 148, under "Kukudhi", Bunson says that in some regions of Albania it was believed that the vampire grew stronger with time until it reached a final stage where it is called a kukudhi, and is no longer required to return to its grave and can live in a home during the day, and typically travels to other lands as a merchant.

In her article, "The Vampire in Roumania", Agnes Murgoci writes on page. 327:

If the vampire is not recognized as such, and rendered innocuous [i.e.: if it is not recognized that a person dead and buried has become a vampire, and steps such as exhuming the corpse and driving a stake through its heart or cremating it are not taken], it goes on with its evil ways for seven years. First it destroys its relations, then it destroys men and animals in its village and in its country, next it passes into another country, or to where another language is spoken, and becomes a man again. He marries, and has children, and the children, after they die, all become vampires and eat the relations of their mother.


In his book, MYTHOLOGIE DU VAMPIRE EN ROMANIE, Adrien Cremene adds some more details to this. He states that, after seven to twelve years from the time of burial, the strigoi, the Romanian vampire, will have reached a stage where he is no longer tied to his grave, and will go forth in the world, moving to another village, marrying, and raising a family. At the beginning of this phase, the strigoi ceases to prey upon humans but instead attacks wild and domestic animals. But then he reaches the point where he can sustain himself on a normal diet and it is then that he goes off to another village where he passes as a normal mortal human. But even when the strigoi is living incognito in another village with another family and doesn't have to take nourishment from the living, he is still bound by the requirement of living for short periods of time as a vampire. Usually, these times are from Friday night until Sunday morning. During this time, he might find a resting place in a nearby cemetery or go cavorting with other strigoi. Being bound by this necessity of joining his own kind for this period each week, this type of strigoi must learn to be very cautious about his doings so as not to arouse suspicions about his true nature. This is a very hard thing to do for a long time, and also these strigoi are not affected by sickness or aging, so they have the reputation of being nomads. They wander into a village or town, take a wife, have children, and eventually find it necessary to wander again and make a new life somewhere else.

In HOME OF NYMPHS AND VAMPIRES, published in 1924, the author George Horton gives several tales about the Greek vampire, the vrykolakas that he heard during his travels among the Greek isles. One of these involves the advanced class of undead vampire, though here it takes the vampire little more than a week to reach the advanced stage. He then leaves ihis home island and goes to another where establishes himself as the proprietor of a general store, marries a mortal woman, and has children. Here too the vampire, after he reaches the advanced stages, regresses from Friday night to Sunday. But he actually returns to his original grave on his home island during this time.

Another example of this class of vampire is given in TWELVE YEARS' STUDY OF THE EASTERN QUESTION IN BULGARIA by S. B. G. St. Clair and Charles A. Brophy (London: Chapman and Hall, 1877). Much of what the authors say about Bulgarian beliefs in vampires called obours can be found reprinted in the THE VAMPIRE IN EUROPE by Montague Summers, pp. 315-19.

According to St. Clair and Brophy, the Bulgarians in the village that they themselves were then currently living in believed that nine days after a person predisposed to become an obour is buried, "he returns to upper earth in aeriform shape", invisible except that in the dark he gives off sparks "like those from a flint and steel", and in the light he casts a shadow. His harm is confined to such activities as roaring out in a loud voice or calling out cottage dwellers in endearing terms and then beating them black and blue, and entering cottages to turn things topsy turvy like a poltergeist, spit blood on the floors, and smear cow dung everywhere.

But St. Clair and Brophy add that, after forty days from burial, the obour arises from the grave in bodily form and is able to pass himself off as an ordinary mortal human being "living naturally and honestly."

They give as an example an episode alleged to have happened thirty years before in the village they themselves were living in. According to what the villagers told them, a stranger arrived in the village, established himself in a trade, and married a wife. The newly wed wife's only complaint was that every night he stayed out until dawn. It was soon noticed that there were many dead horses and cattle about, partially eaten. This came to an end, but then cattle grew sick and died, and it was noticed that the blood had been drained out of them. When the villagers learned from the stranger's wife that her husband was always out all night, they suspected that he was a vampire responsible for the animal deaths They examined him and found that he had only one true nostril - a sure sign that he was a vampire. So, they bound him, took him to a hill outside the village, and burned him alive.


Source: written by Patrick Johnson

Fanged Films

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

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