For several years, I’ve been on a fact-finding mission focused on the history of traditional Halloween “monsters” including their origins and evolution in folklore, literature, and pop culture.
Today, let’s take a look at FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER.
Of all the Halloween-related monsters, this one is perhaps my favorite. Sounds crazy, right? Vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and now even zombies have become sexy. Though how you make rotting flesh and eating brains sexy is a question for another day.
These days monsters are written into paranormal romance novels and movies as the romantic heroes. But not Frankenstein’s monster. Poor guy. And I have to wonder why not?!? (I mean if zombies can make the list…)
Frankenstein, to a certain extent, is the most unusual of today’s traditional Halloween monsters. The monster, rather than deriving its original from cultural beliefs, was conceived by a woman–which is freaking awesome. Mary Shelley wrote the book and published it anonymously in 1818. It was written as a bet between herself, her eventual husband Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and John Polidori. The bet was to see who could come up with the most terrifying story. And, for originality, I would say Mary won it hands down.
In 1819, Polidori wrote The Vampyre – what is considered to be the literary precursor to all vampire books, including Bram Stoker’s Dracula which wasn’t published until 1879. But Polidori’s book was still based on local folklore. Shelley’s was purely from her own imagination. And what makes Shelley’s book terrifying is the reality of the situation. While vampires are scary in their other-worldly powers, Frankenstein’s monster is a tragic figure, born of modern science.
The real monster is Dr. Viktor Frankenstein himself. The “monster” created at the hands of Dr. Frankenstein, and then rejected outright by that man, is, in my opinion, someone to be pitied, helped, and loved. Granted, in the end the monster murders several people, but those acts are direct response to the life of cruelty he must endure alone. And the murders are acts of revenge against his creator.
While Mary Shelley does describe the monster–who is never given a name–as hideous, it wasn’t until Boris Karlof’s portrayal in the 1931 move Frankenstein, that the green skinned, flat headed version with the bolts in his neck became the popular and iconic image. In my opinion, this image is part of why this monster hasn’t transitioned in literature and movies the way his peers have.
Personally, I feel there is great potential here for this monster to find his place among the contemporary romantic heroes like vampires and werewolves. If you go back to the basic concept, this person is actually just a bunch of body parts from many different people, sewn together and then stimulated to bring it to life. The scars would be very much a part of who he is. But the original monster only wanted to be loved and accepted. He even asked for a female counterpart to be made so that he wouldn’t be lonely.
So next time you think about writing a paranormal romance, consider taking on Frankenstein’s monster – and give the poor man a name while you’re at it. Even monsters need love. “…once I falsely hoped to meet the beings who, pardoning my outward form, would love me for the excellent qualities which I was capable of unfolding.” – Frankenstein’s monster
Interested in the history and evolution of other traditional Halloween “monsters” in folklore, literature, and pop culture? Check out my other posts…
TRADITIONAL HALLOWEEN “MONSTERS”
Great post! I always did feel sorry for Frankenstein’s Monster, but do see how it would be hard to put him into a position as a romantic hero. I even have trouble seeing zombies as heroes.
And I would have to vote for the vampire as my favorite monster. My first encounter with a vampire hero was Barnabas Collins of Dark Shadows. I was very young then, but he captured my imagination and was one of the reasons I later chose to write romance, also most of my books are historical, but I do have a few paranormal romances mixed in.
Enjoyed your post! Yes, I always sympathized with the Monster and felt he got a raw deal at the hands of the villagers and his creator. Shelly beautifully portrayed the issues of the time, using the monster as a trenchant symbol of the elementary changes everyone faced. I think that’s another reason why Frankenstein’s monster has not evolved the way the vampire did.