The history of vampires is shrouded in a mystery that is not too unlike the creatures themselves. Before their appearance in literature, there was no definitive vampire.
Where the Mythology Began
Ancient European and Asian folklore (along with many others, I’m sure) did have vampire-like creatures. They were usually demons, succubi, shape-shifters, or simply the undead. Nefarious qualities such as blood sucking, murdering small children, taking away mens sterility or simply walking around dead, were common qualities for the almost-vampires of olden days.
After thousands of years of horror over these mysterious beings, Bram Stoker took the collective knowledge of the centuries and created Dracula. He coined the term ‘vampire’ a word with German origins, and created a cultural phenomenon that would rule the entertainment world. His books have been remade into several popular movies, and they have inspired millions. (my personal favorite Dracula movie stars Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves)
Although there have been many adaptions, and varying spins on what a vampire’s exact powers and appearance is, Stokers image of a suave vampire who lived a luxurious lifestyle, and preys on beautiful young women, has stayed consistent even over a century later. (Source)
The Journey from Dracula to Lestat
There has been one theme in vampire lore that has changed rather dramatically in the centuries since its creation.Authors, film producers, and the like, have all done something rather unexpected to vampires. The soulless monstrous undead creatures, who drank blood and killed things, have become dramatically humanized. They are now questionably souled undead lovers who drink blood and kill things.
Anne Rice, the New York Times Bestselling author of The Vampire Chronicles, took a very well known step in humanizing vampires. Her beautifully haunting gothic novels gave fantasy fans their first look into the (still) hearts and (damned) souls of vampires. Louis and Lestat were wondrous monsters that readers both loved and hoped to never encounter in a dark alley. These characters were so popular that the movie adaption of her first book had the two of most famous actors in Hollywood playing the parts: Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. (They are, too!)
Joss Whedon, a fantasy and sci-fi genius (I don’t even need to source that one, right?), added to the phenomenon with his television shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and its spin-off Angel. These vampires all had a Jekyll and Hyde personage (seriously creepy faces when in vamp mode) and had a lot to be afraid of when it came to a tiny beautiful blonde girl named Buffy Summers. Her love affair with Angel, the vampire cursed with a soul, made for a tragic love story.
Stephanie Meyer, a housewife from Arizona, took the vampire mythology and did something really different. In the world of Forks vampires could not only stand sunlight, but sparkled in it, probably had souls, and didn’t even have to drink human blood. Whoa! Her book holds significance because she helped the Young Adult genre become even more popular, and brought YA and vampires to film in a big way. (There is definitely some controversy in what Mrs. Meyer did to vampires. Feel free to discuss and even rant below)
This isn’t all.
The sheer amount of authors and film writers who have contributed to the vampire genre is simply huge. Massive. Some predate Dracula, and some are doing amazing things now. Thankfully I have an entire blog to fill. This was just a taste of what I have to say about the vampires and the people who have written about them.
Readers, writers, watchers? What is your favorite vampire story? What do you think of the undead?