Vampires are fascinating creatures that have captured the imagination of many people for centuries. They are often portrayed as immortal, powerful, and seductive beings that feed on the blood of humans or animals. But what is the origin of these legends? And how have they evolved over time in different cultures and media?
In this blog post, I will explore some of the historical and literary sources that have influenced the modern concept of vampires. I will also discuss some of the scientific and psychological explanations that have been proposed to account for the vampire phenomenon. Finally, I will examine some of the ethical and moral implications of vampirism, and how they relate to our own society and values.
The word “vampire” comes from the Slavic term “upir”, which means “to drink”. The earliest references to vampires can be traced back to ancient Mesopotamia, where they were associated with demons and spirits that preyed on the living. In ancient Greece and Rome, vampires were also linked to underworld deities and revenants, or corpses that returned from the grave to haunt the living. These early vampires were usually depicted as monstrous and grotesque, with pale skin, red eyes, sharp teeth, and claws. Some examples of these ancient vampires are Lilith, Lamia, Empusa, Striges, and Vrykolakas.
However, the most influential source of vampire lore comes from Eastern Europe, especially from regions such as Transylvania, Romania, Serbia, and Bulgaria. Here, vampires were believed to be undead humans who rose from their graves at night to suck the blood of their relatives or neighbors. They were often blamed for causing plagues, epidemics, droughts, and other misfortunes. To prevent or destroy a vampire, various methods were used, such as staking, decapitating, burning, or burying them upside down. Some examples of these folkloric vampires are Arnold Paole, Peter Plogojowitz, Jure Grando, and Elizabeth Bathory.
The first literary work that introduced the vampire to Western audiences was John Polidori’s The Vampyre (1819), which was inspired by a fragment of a story by Lord Byron. The Vampyre featured a charismatic and aristocratic vampire named Lord Ruthven, who seduced and killed young women in London and Greece. This novel set the template for many subsequent vampire stories, such as Varney the Vampire (1847), Carmilla (1872), and Dracula (1897).
Dracula, by Bram Stoker, is arguably the most famous and influential vampire novel of all time. It tells the story of Count Dracula, a Transylvanian nobleman who moves to England to spread his curse and create more vampires. He is opposed by a group of brave men and women led by Professor Van Helsing, who use various weapons and tactics to fight him. Dracula combines elements of Gothic horror, romance, adventure, and mystery, and creates a complex and compelling character in the titular vampire. Dracula has inspired countless adaptations in film, television, theater, comics, games, and other media. Some examples of these adaptations are Nosferatu (1922), Dracula (1931), Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), Dracula Untold (2014), Dracula (2020), Castlevania (1986), Van Helsing (2004), Hotel Transylvania (2012), The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (1999), Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995), etc.
In the 20th and 21st centuries, vampires have become more diverse and nuanced in their portrayal. They have been depicted as sympathetic anti-heroes (Interview with the Vampire), rebellious outcasts (The Lost Boys), romantic lovers (Twilight), comedic figures (What We Do in the Shadows), social metaphors (True Blood), and even superheroes (Blade). They have also been mixed with other genres and themes, such as science fiction (I Am Legend), fantasy (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), crime (Dexter), and history (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter). Some examples of these modern vampires are Lestat de Lioncourt, Edward Cullen, Spike, Nandor the Relentless, Eric Northman,
Blade Wilson , Robert Neville , Buffy Summers , Dexter Morgan , Abraham Lincoln , etc.
Vampires have also been the subject of scientific and psychological inquiry. Some researchers have suggested that vampirism may be explained by certain medical conditions or disorders,
such as porphyria , rabies , anemia , or schizophrenia . Others have argued that vampirism may be a form of paraphilia or fetishism , involving erotic attraction to blood or biting . Still others have proposed that vampirism may be a cultural phenomenon or a collective fantasy that reflects our fears and desires . Some examples of these scientific and psychological perspectives are Paul Barber’s Vampires , Burial , and Death , David Dolphin’s Porphyria , Vampires , and Werewolves , Richard Noll’s Vampires , Werewolves , and Demons , Katherine Ramsland’s The Science of Vampires , etc.
Vampires also raise interesting ethical and moral questions . What does it mean to be human ? What are the rights and responsibilities of a vampire ? How should we treat those who are different from us ? How do we balance our individual needs with those of others ? How do we cope with mortality and immortality ? These are some of the issues that vampires challenge us to think about . Some examples of these ethical and moral dilemmas are Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles , Stephenie Meyer’s The Twilight Saga , Charlaine Harris’s The Southern Vampire Mysteries , Joss Whedon’s Angel , etc.
In conclusion , vampires are more than just fictional monsters . They are a rich and diverse source of cultural expression and exploration . They reflect our history , our psychology , our values , and our creativity . They invite us to question ourselves
and our world . They are not only creatures of the night but also creatures of the light .
© Colin Lawson Books