The Myth in the Books: Vampire

The very first vampire I met was Dracula from the Bram Stoker novel of the same name.

I think, for that reason, Count Dracula will always be my favorite vampire, even though he was a total dick. I love the movie Bram Stoker’s Dracula with Gary Oldman as the title character (Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder almost make the movie comical at parts. Keanu doing an English accent? Get ready to laugh!), even though I kind of think this take on the Count is a bit too romantic and not asshole-ish enough.

Ahh, vampires and romance. Whose stupid idea was that? Someone who didn’t know balls about vampire lore, clearly. I heard someone once try to blame Bram Stoker for romanticizing vampires, but I disagree. There was nothing romantic about Dracula, unless you count that sometimes he was physically attractive.

But that makes him all the more monstrous, right? A beautiful man with a rotting soul. Actually, I think the beautiful antagonist is a cliche now. Boo. 😦

It saddens me that for many young people these days

romantic vampires are the first–and perhaps only–exposure they have to this wonderful breed of monster. But come on! Edward Cullen? Sooki Stackhouse? Some… other vampires… that I don’t know about… because I don’t… read those… books…

Anyway.

I mentioned before that Max has a messed-up sense of amusement, and part of what got him amused was slaughtering a bunch of people–but leaving one alive, so they could run off and tell stories of the monster that attacked them.

And that’s how vampires were born.

Everything You Didn’t Know About Vampires

We all know about vampires, right? Blood suckers, allergic to sunlight and garlic, sleep in coffins, enjoy the company of bats… Vampires!

Considering that vampires are completely fictional, some of their lore seems strange. Hating garlic? What’s that all about? Do vampires have to avoid Gilroy, CA? And why don’t they like sunlight? Moonlight is just reflected sunlight. Wouldn’t that hurt them, too? Are atheist vampires still afraid of crosses?

  1. Blood-Drinking. Okay, so if you’re a vampire, your #1 most identifiable trait is the craving for human blood. You don’t have to actually slurp it up, but you do have to want to. It’s kind of a no-brainer where this myth came from. Since the dawn of time, people have been making up imaginary creatures that either drink blood or eat flesh. Demonizing them was probably a pretty decent way to establish a social taboo on the consumption of body fluid and solids, because diseases like Creutzfelt-Jakob Disease and Hepatitis (among others) can be spread easily through such practices. Also, drinking too much blood can actually cause iron poisoning and kill you that way. Good call, early humans, good call.

  2. Sunlight. If a vampire walks into sunlight–POOF! Up he goes into smoke. Alternatively, he twinkles. Either way, something happens in sunlight, therefore vampires don’t really enjoy tanning. (On a side note, they must have pretty brittle bones, since exposure to sunlight encourages Vitamin D synthesis, which is essential for bone growth. Vampire osteoporosis!) This, like blood-sucking, is kind of obvious. Humans are diurnal as opposed to nocturnal. We lack the night vision to be successful nighttime creatures, and our circadian clocks are set to snooze at sunset. Protohumans were also diurnal, but many larger predators were nocturnal. Nighttime was a very dangerous time for ancient humans, and that resulted in an inherent fear of the dark in people that persists to this day. Why are we afraid of the dark? Because there are bad things in the dark!

    Have fun sleeping tonight.

    It’s believed that porphyria might be a pathogenic origin of vampire myths. It’s a complicated inherited condition (which is, thankfully, treatable with modern medicine) sometimes characterized by extreme sensitivity to light. Even brief exposure will scorch skin in some cases. It can also cause mental disturbances and insanity (England’s King George III is thought to have suffered from porphyria), which might have caused sufferers to attack other people, thus giving rise to a sun-hating violent creature myth.

  3. Garlic. Okay, garlic. What? Garlic is delicious! How could someone hate garlic? Well, if you’re a demon or some other kind of evil entity, the glorious smell of garlic makes you want to just shoot yourself in the face. Apparently. According to the Ancient Egyptians. They’re the first ones who started using garlic as a healing agent, and also to ward off evil. Garlic is actually pretty bad-ass for health purposes, and has been used in traditional medicine for centuries for colds, coughs, surgeries, beriberi, scurvy, and a whole load of other things that plague humankind. If garlic can get rid of scurvy, then it can for sure get rid of a vampire, right?

  4. Creepy Critters. Vampires have the weirdest best friends. Bats. Snakes. Rats. Wolves. A bunch of things with sharp, pointy teeth.

    Look at the BONES!

    But why do vampires need fluffy, flying, slithering pals? Well, it all goes back to traditional evil. In fact, the animals that vampires can control (or sometimes shape-shift into) are nocturnal, predatory, and usually associated with disease or death. In some areas of the world, a corpse can become a vampire if an animal jumps over the body. It’s not an uncommon trait for evil things to be able to have some kind of power over animals.

    Witches with cats, for example.

    This trait is actually something I borrowed heavily from for the Vorator. Since I made four types of Vorator (the four main classifications of terrestrial mammalian carnivores), I also gave each class of Vorator powers over their particular flavor of animal. Connor is a Canine Vorator, so he has an uncanny affinity with dogs and other canids. But cats? Pffttt no way. He’d sooner set a cat on fire than pet it, and the cat would rather be set on fire than have him pet it. The Augs are the same way. A Feline Aug would make a phenomenal lion trainer, but they should definitely stay away from the circus’ bears.

  5. Religious artifacts. Make the sign of the cross, and a vampire will skedattle. This trait is losing popularity amongst modern vampires, though, probably because vampires are no longer religious-based demonic spirits. But once upon a time, they were agents of Satan, and there’s nothing agents of Satan hate more than a crucifix!

    “Horror of Dracula”

  6. Other Weird Stuff. Vampires have some lesser-known traits that have fallen out of observation lately but which are a very important part of the lore. Because early humans mistook normal decomposition for supernatural attributes, vampires were originally described as:
  • Being bloated. When corpses decompose, gas will build up in the body cavities. Eventually it makes its way out (sometimes with a farting noise or moaning), but at first, it looks like the dead body is actually gaining weight. How could it be gaining weight? From yummy blood, of course!
  • Having long fingernails. After death, your hair and nails stop growing, but it appears that they continue. How? Due to shrinkage (hey, it’s cold in those crypts!) of the skin. As skin pulls away from hair and nail beds, it appears that the hair and fingernails are still growing. The Vorator’s fingernails grow longer when they change into their icky form, but that’s more connected to werewolves than vampires.
  • Bloody around the mouth. Undeniable proof that a corpse is a vampire is when that corpse has blood around its mouth (or nose or ears or all three!). How could it possibly have fresh blood around its mouth if it’s not a vampire!? Well, back before modern embalming techniques, the same decompositional forces that cause the bloat would also cause a fun goopy-goo to form within the corpse. It would leak out of any orifice it could get to, and sometimes that meant it came out of the mouth and nose. It wasn’t blood, but it sure looked like it.

If you really get down to it, the original vampire was just a walking corpse that ate people. A zombie. Vampires were the same thing as zombies.

Now, I don’t want to necessarily go back to that kind of vampire; however, I do find the new cuddly, romantic vampire to be kind of ugghhhh lame. Vampires are supposed to be scary! You’re supposed to be afraid of them, not want to have sloppy makeouts with them!

In a very, very early draft of The Herxheim Chronicle, Connor was still actively eating people. The opening scene was of him in a goth nightclub in NYC, picking up some chick. They left the club, making out in some alley, and he revealed to her that he was a supernatural creature… and she was turned on.

“Are you going to bite me?” she asked.

“Yes I am,” he said.

“Am I going to be a vampire, too?” she said, breathless.

A smile. “No.”

And then he killed her in the most horrific way possible. End chapter one.

That’s not Connor anymore. He doesn’t eat people (at present) and he doesn’t go to nightclubs (young people and their crappy music, am I right?), but he still retains that attitude. And he’s very tired of the glorification and romanticification (Romantization? Romanticization?) of monsters.

Connor would say, “Sexy vampires? What next, Horny Sasquatch? Foxy Chupacabra? Titillating Boogeyman? Give me a break.”

3 thoughts on “The Myth in the Books: Vampire

  1. theparisreviewblog

    I read dracula in college and it really opens your eyes to the meaning and purpose of vampires in literature and culture. It is so strange how people have changed their representation over time. As someone with a literary blog, I really loved reading this post. Insightful!

    Reply
    1. Taylor L Scheid Post author

      It drives me crazy when people think Dracula is a romance story! But I guess with the way vampires are going now, associating vampires and romance is kind of second nature. When pitching my novel, the second I said “vampire-like creatures,” I’d get asked, “so is this a romance?” And it almost made my head explode.

      Although, as a joke, I started calling it my Vampire Bromance. 😛

      Thanks for reading! I’m glad you enjoyed it. ^_^

      Reply
  2. Pingback: A Posit | Taylor L Scheid

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