Who isn’t fascinated with vampires, at least on some level? And why wouldn’t we be? Vampires are often portrayed as mysterious and sexy, immortal beings who have lived for centuries, seen and experienced things we can only dream of.
A Bit of History
For centuries, humanity has been both afraid and curious about things they don’t understand, things that hide in the dark and snatch children from their beds. For as long as there have been people, there have been monsters to haunt them. There are myths and legends all around the world that have some type of vampire-like creature. One thing they all have in common is that they drink blood.
In ancient Greece, the Libyan Princess, Lamia, became the object of Hera’s wrath after having an affair with the goddess’s husband, Zeus. In her rage, Hera killed all of Lamia’s god-spawned children. Grief-stricken and unable to take vengeance on the gods, Lamia turned on humanity and sucked the life from mortal babies. Over the years, lamia evolved into a legion of unearthly beings with the upper body of women and the tails of serpents.
With the rise of Christianity, the idea of vampirism became more wide spread. Still-born and unbaptized babies, those who led lives of sin or were born on holy days were often believed to become vampires or vampire-like creatures after death. The Bosnian lampir was considered the harbinger of disease and would crawl from its grave, a rotting corpse, for the sole purpose of spreading an epidemic. Vampires were blamed for the spread of disease or plagues. If the family of a recently deceased person suddenly became ill, the blame for it would fall on the deceased person. The corpse would be dug up, a stake driven through the heart and the head removed. In some places the mouth would be filled with garlic or a brick placed between the jaws. Sometimes, the dead were buried face down so that if they did come back to life, they would be unable to dig themselves out of the grave.
In the Media
Bram Stoker’s Dracula, published in 1897, is probably the most famous vampire novel of all time, but it was not actually the first. The Vampyre: A Tale was published in 1819 and broke away from traditional folklore. The vampire character, Lord Ruthven, was a handsome, self-possessed, evil aristocrat. This novel and the character of Lord Ruthven may very well have inspired Bram Stoker and influenced the character of Count Dracula.
In 1872, the mother of female vampires was “born.” Carmilla was the first vampire novel to have a female vampire character, one who preyed on young women and was intensely beautiful. This novel also set the idea of lesbian vampires.
The silent film Nosferatu in 1922, was the first unofficial (and unauthorized) adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Florence Stoker (Bram’s wife) filed a lawsuit against the film which drew huge public interest and within a decade Dracula would be the standard by which future horror would be measured.
To this day, the influence of Dracula and the man he is believed to be based on, Vlad Dracula, or Vlad Tepes, known as Vlad the Impaler, can still be seen in a wide variety of popular media. Novels such as the Cassie Palmer series by Karen Chance is influenced by the history of Vlad the Impaler using his older brother Mircea II as inspiration for the antihero character of Mircea. Even the popular Buffy the Vampire Slayer had an episode with the infamous Dracula.
The name Van Helsing has become synonymous with “vampire hunter,” inspiring movies like Van Helsing, a recent TV show of the same name based on a graphic novel series published by Zenescope Entertainment, and an anime/manga, Helsing.
Nearly every year since the invention of film, there has been a vampire movie released for the public’s viewing pleasure. Many are based on the most famous vampire novel and have the name Dracula in the title, while others have tried to go in a new, often comedic direction, with vampires from outer space or other unusual origins. There seems to be 3 usual types of vampires. The evil, grotesque monster that is repulsive and rotting, the “drawing room vampire” that is suave and sophisticated but evil and sadistic on the inside, and the “tortured vampire” like Louis in Interview with the Vampire. This type hates what they are, feeling that they are monsters who shouldn’t exist, who fight their nature and then wallow in guilt when they lose that fight and consume blood.
I think this may be the most popular type of vampire so far, as they still retain much of their humanity.
Literature likely has the most variety when it comes to vampires. They appear is various genres, such as Horror, Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. Each author puts their own twist on the vampire legends and makes their vampire their own. In L.J. Smith’s Night Word Series, vampires who are born, age and can reproduce are called lamia. In Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy Series, vampires who are evil and “undead” are called strigoi. In Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, vampires cannot reproduce or even have sex, and burned by sunlight. In some novels, like Patrica’s Briggs’ Mercy Thompson Series vampires are the undead and during the day when they sleep they become corpse like, not breathing and with no heart beat.
Over the years, vampires have become more and more popular in the Romance genre. Portrayed as strong, sexy alpha males who come along and sweep a mortal woman off her feet. The idea of “soulmates” or life partners of some type or another is predominant in these types of stories. Some even claiming that “only a vampire can love you forever.”
North America isn’t the only place fascinated by vampires. Japanese anime and manga featuring vampires have become extremely popular, not just in Japan but also in the US and Canada.
The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith
The NightWorld Series by L.J. Smith
Although as an adult, I don’t read as much YA novels, my favorite vampire novels are still the YA novels I read when i was in junior high. At that time, there weren’t nearly as many supernatural YA novels out there as there are now and the ones mentioned above were right up my alley!
Strangely, there aren’t a lot of vampire movies I really like. Perhaps because they are so often portrayed as soulless monsters that are always evil and therefore never “win.” Underworld’s vampires are much more real and likable, even if some of the characters as jerks lol. I’m putting Blood the Last Vampire here because, although it is anime, it is technically a movie. There was a live action adaptation as well, but it’s not nearly as good as the original.
Favorite Anime & Manga:
I love both the manga and anime adaptations of Hellsing and Vampire Knight The stories for these two anime/manga are vastly different. Hellsing is about an organization in England that hunts down and destroys rogue vampires, with the help of the ancient and incredibly powerful vampire, Alucard. Vampire Knight couldn’t be more different. It takes place in a high school where both humans and vampire attend. Though it may be a “teen girl” anime/manga, I still enjoy the mystery and the vampires themselves in this story.
I truly love the anime of Blood+, the manga not so much. The manga is quite different from the anime and is condensed to 5 volumes versus the 90 episodes of the anime. Saya (in the anime) is an interesting character. She has no memory of her life before one year ago and is still struggling to be “normal” when a monster attacks her at school and a mysterious man with a bandaged hand comes to her rescue. Over the span of 90 episodes, Saya really has a chance to grow into her own as she learns that she is the only person who can defeat the vampire-like creatures that are roaming the streets.
I’ve only read the manga for Rosario Vampire, not watched the anime. Although it is a harem manga geared towards teenage boys, I really enjoyed the manga. Once all the characters were introduced and it shed some of its silliness, the plot was very enjoyable.
Interested in any of the products I’ve mentioned? They can all be found on Amazon.