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Old 03-07-2021, 10:29 AM   #11 (permalink)
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When I said "just" I meant "only". It's been like a decade since I read it.
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Old 03-10-2021, 10:08 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Born to Darkness: Recipe for a Vampire

Following on from the above, the Slavic countries seem to have held very firm ideas about how one became a vampire, so let’s have a look at some of them here.

Dabbling in the black arts, being a conjurer or magician
Being a person of poor moral fibre
Unnatural death
Untimely death
Suicide
Born with a caul
Born with a tail
Improperly buried
Animal jumping or bird flying over the corpse or the empty grave
Incest between mother and son
Living a life that was not pious
Dying alone or unseen
Corpse swelling or turning black before burial


Some Slavic regions believed the genesis or birth of the vampire was a gradual event which went in stages. In the first forty days the vampire was most vulnerable, as it started out as an invisible shadow (?) and then as it fed gradually got stronger, forming an invisible (again) boneless, jelly-like mass before finally taking on a full human body. It was then free to roam, even visiting its widow or other women and having children by them. These children had the special sight that resulted in their being the dhampirs as noted above, preparing them for a life as vampire hunters. Not quite following in father’s footsteps, then!

So much for “real” vampires, so far at least. We’ve explored how vampires are supposed to be created, how they can be killed or thwarted, we’ve looked into some of the beliefs surrounding them (and will again later, going a little deeper) and we’ve theorised about who or what the very first vampires were, where they came from. We’ve outlined the characteristics, powers and the various Achilles heels of vampires, and seen the role religion, especially Christianity plays or played in keeping them at bay or destroying them.

But where vampires really started to come to life, so to speak, was in the pages of eighteenth and nineteenth century literature. Gothic fantasies, horror stories, even romances as humans began to have encounters with these evil but fascinating beings. In fact, were it not for the various stories and novels written about them, it’s likely the vampire would be forgotten now as an ancient remnant of an ignorant belief, the name Dracula would mean nothing to us, and Hollywood would have had to look elsewhere for its big moneyspinners.

So let’s look next at vampire literature, and media later, but written material first. And if I can, I want to try to do this chronologically. Which means we begin with this.
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Old 03-10-2021, 10:16 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Timeline: 18th century

Title: Lenore
Format: Poem
Author: Gottfried August Bürger (mmm… burger!)
Nationality: German
Written: 1773
Published: 1774
Impact*: 10

Refers to not only the impact on vampire and gothic literature, but also on the wider world. Scored from 1 to 10.


Although neither the first real reference to vampiric beings in literature, nor strictly speaking a vampire piece, Lenore is accepted as one of the first poems to actively portray someone ostensibly coming back from the dead, and was a huge influence on the later genre of vampire and gothic fiction. A product of its time, it also cautions against pissing God off, as we’ll see.

Synopsis: A woman, upset at the failure of her husband to return from the wars in Prussia, rails against God for taking him. Her mother tells Lenore to repent, or God will punish her and she will go to Hell, but she will not. She says God has never done her any good. Some time later she is visited by a stranger who takes her on horseback by night to where he says is their marriage bed. Lenore, thinking that this is her husband returned, is happy until, at sunrise, they arrive at the cemetery gates and it’s clear that the figure is in fact Death. He takes her to her husband’s grave and she realises she is dead, Death telling her she should not have spoken out against God.

Again, although this is not considered a vampire story, the nascent elements of what would become vampire and gothic fiction are here. A figure, not standing by the foot of the bed or over the sleeping girl, as would become the motif for vampire fiction, but nevertheless arriving mysteriously at night, offering her a choice: come with him and discover what he has to show her or remain where she is, and remain ignorant of the fate of her husband. A fascination with death and the unknown, a veiled threat of death, gothic images such as dancing skeletons, moonlight, black horses and graveyards, all to become features of vampire books, stories and later films.

Bürger uses a phrase here that will crop up again and again in not only vampire or gothic literature, but in other genres too, even used by Dickens a hundred years later, when Lenore asks Death, riding before her on the horse, why they are galloping so swiftly, and he replies “the dead travel fast.” The phrase is also used in the opening chapter of what must surely be the seminal vampire novel, Bram Stoker’s Dracula


Title: Thalaba the Destroyer
Format: Poem
Author: Robert Southey
Nationality: English
Written: 1800
Published: 1801
Impact: 3

Noted here only because it’s said to be the first time an English author/poet references vampires, “Thalaba the Destroyer” is a long, epic, Arabian Nights-style saga set in the Middle East, and the only point at which a vampire is mentioned is during one of the hero’s adventures, as detailed below. Other than that, I can’t see that it’s of any interest to us.

Synopsis: I have no intention of summarising the entire, twelve-book (!) poem, as ninety-nine percent of it has nothing to do with vampires. But the part that does concern us is when the hero, Thalaba, stands by his wife’s graveside, mourning her passing. A spirit appears and chides him, telling him God is not happy with him. But Thalaba recognises the spirit as a vampire, and kills it. Yeah, that’s it. Hardly worth it, huh?

Title: Christabel
Format: Poem
Author: Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Nationality: English
Written: 1797/1800
Published: 1816
Impact: 7

Said to have been a possible influence on what is generally regarded as one of the first proper vampires novels, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla as well as Edgar Allen Poe’s poem The Sleeper. Also, as an aside, possibly (though I have no idea) the first inference of lesbianism in Gothic - or indeed, any - fiction. Maybe.

Synopsis: Having gone into the woods to pray, Christabel finds a woman hiding behind a tree, who says she has been abducted and left there. Christabel offers to pray with her, but the woman, whose name is given as Geraldine, refuses, but agrees to accompany her rescuer back to her house, where they spend the night together. Though not actually confirmed as a vampire, she is barked at a by a dog, finds it impossible to cross an iron gate and has, when she disrobes, undefined but obviously worrying marks on her back which seem to mark her as a child of the devil. The poem, though written in two parts, was never finished, so unfortunately we never learn if Coleridge had intended for her to be taken as a vampire.
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