Should vampires sparkle?

Nooooo.... sparkly vampires!

Vampires are definitely in vogue right now. Browse through any bookstore's racks and you'll find a score of novels with ‘vampire' in the title. This theme is especially notable in the young adult lit sections, where the reader will observe pieces such as the Twilight series, Vampire Diaries, Vampire Kisses, Vampire Academy and, my personal favorite, Vampire Beach

Has anyone noticed a trend?

Today's vampire is ultra-modern. Today's vampire is sexy. Today's vampire (I shudder as I type this) sometimes sparkles in the sunlight. What in the name of Nosferatu is going on here?

While those who read these books may see vampire lit as something modern and trendy, the reality is that vampire literature goes back as far as the early 1700s.  In those dark times, vampires were not the glistening, sleek creatures that they are today; they were hideous reanimated corpses that feasted on human blood.

According to old legends, a person could become a vampire through many means: being killed by a vampire, being a werewolf (werewolves in life became vampires in death), being the seventh son of a seventh son and several others. If a corpse was suspected of vampirism, it was buried at crossroads instead of on holy ground. Vampires could not go out during the day because the sun would burn them. Some legends state that they couldn't cross running water, which is why they were confined to a small territory. They always drank blood.

During this time, people were truly vampire-crazy--so much so, in fact, that suspicion of vampirism was a good enough cause to exhume a dead body from the ground, cut off its head and burn it (traditional means of killing a vampire).

Much of the vampire lit of the 17th century was poetry, often about the dead returning from the grave to kill a former beloved. The poetry often featured a religious theme as well.

Vampires remained present in literature throughout much of the 1800s.  Varney the Vampire, a penny dreadful published in 1847, was the first vampire novel to explore the concept of a vampire entering a window at night to attack a sleeping maiden.

This was the dawn of the vampire as a sexual being, though not the overtly sexual being that it is in today's literature. The novella Carmilla, published in 1872, tells the tale of a female vampire who seduces the novel's heroine.

In 1897, Bram Stoker changed the vampire game entirely with his famous Dracula. Based on Irish legends and heavily influenced by Carmilla, Stoker introduced the concept of vampirism as a disease, the alluring female vampire, the region of Transylvania as a cliché home to vampires and, of course, the vampire hunter Van Helsing. Stoker's work had a strong influence on future literature, particularly in cinema. The 1921 film Nosferatu was a German adaptation of Dracula in which names were changed because the studio could not obtain film rights.

It was during the 20th century that writers of vampire lit truly began to play with the idea of what a vampire was, how it survived and what it represented. The 1954 novel I Am Legend (which is actually a vampire novel, believe it or not) portrays the hero, Robert Neville, as the sole survivor of a pandemic that turned the rest of the world's population in to vampires.

The second half of the twentieth century saw the rise of vampire book series, many of which portrayed the vampire as a sympathetic character. A popular example of this was the Vampire Chronicles series by Anne Rice. The series more or less follows the vampire Lestat from the 1700s to current times. Two novels in the series, Interview with the Vampire and Queen of the Damned, have been made into successful movies. Rice's works were also some of the first to explore paranormal romance.

In the 1990s, Joss Whedon brought the well-known movie and television series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and its spinoff, "Angel", to American television. Whedon's creation stuck with the idea that vampires are essentially evil, soulless creatures that needed to be destroyed--with a few exceptions.

In more recent times, vampires have been depicted as glamorous sex symbols, inspired perhaps by the Gothic decadence of Anne Rice's works. Modern vampire lit writers continue to pick at the traditional vampire mythos; some ignore it entirely. A perfect example of this is the Twilight series, which, through its immense popularity, has spawned countless copycat novels. In this series, Stephenie Meyer, the author, depicts vampires as immortal beings who drink blood and sparkle in the sunlight.

The vampire mythos has evolved heavily over the years from the simple tale of blood-sucking corpses to the erotic paranormal romance that is popular today. Some traces of the mythology, such as the drinking of blood, remain unchanged; others have changed so wildly as to be almost unrecognizable. Either way, the vampire mythology remains as popular today as it was in the 1700s.

Remember, kids, vampires did exist before Twilight, though not in the same sparkly form. Vampires, like literature itself, have evolved, and it will be interesting to see what the vampire trend of today turns into tomorrow. Hopefully those vampires don't sparkle.

 

-- written by Megan Sevigny

Fanged Films

Denmark, 1998
Angel of the Night / La Nuit des Vampires / Engel Der Finsternis
Mexico, 1974
Chosen Survivors

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  

Drawn to Vamps?

Vol. 1 No. 14
Curse Of The Vampire!
Vol. 1 No. 8
The Coffin of Dracula!