Continuing my fact finding mission focused on the traditional Halloween monsters (werewolves, vampires, Frankenstein, etc.) and their evolution in folklore and literature. Lets take a look at vampires.
While the mythologies differ, almost every culture around the world has some type of ancient supernatural creature who drinks blood or consumes flesh. In early history, these creatures were thought to be demons or spirits. (IMO this could also go into the zombie myth.) Particularly interesting to me was the fact that many early creatures who exhibited this blood/flesh consumption behavior feature were femaleLillith/Lilitu, the Estries, the Empusae, the Lamia.
Despite a few other similar-sounding stories popping up in the Middle Ages, the myths surrounding current-day vampires didnt really start up until the 17th & 18th centuries, particularly in Eastern Europe. Not all of the mythological creatures were called vampires. Other names for them included strigoi, shtriga, and vrykolakas. But they all drank blood.
One of the earliest recordings of vampiric activity came from modern Croatia, in 1672, when a villager was said to have returned from the dead to drink blood. During the 1700s, despite the quelling of many other folklore creatures, vampiric tales rose dramatically. The result was similar to what happened with wiches: hunting parties, social driven hysteria, and real stakings or burning at the stake.
Over time, certain abilities or features or characteristics now regarded as a given were introduced including:
- vulnerability to sunlight
- the cloak with a high collar (still the most common Halloween depiction)
The vampires remained a figure of evil. A monster to be feared, until the later 1900s when they started to shift to a more tragic and heroic figure. Still to be feared, but also to be desired. Anne Rices series of novels, and eventual movies based on those books, particularly perpetuated this shift. Now, in the 21st century, the vampire can still be a monster, but more often than not is depicted as powerful and sexy. Just look at series including Twilight, the Vampire Academy, Vampire Diaries, Underworld, and True Blood, to name a few. While most started 10 or more years ago, most have continued to be popular.
Over the last 5-7 years, writers have been told by the industry that the vampire story-line is old. However, readers and viewers continue to crave a good vampire story with a twist. In fact, every time I ask the question, Whats your favorite supernatural creature? the split is almost 50/50 vampires and shifters. So the vampire is certainly not dead. Then again, they are immortal. 😉