'86 Rabbit

A FANGirl's Forkstress of Solitude

On Vampire Lore

I read a lot online about how Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight sucks because it goes against vampire canon. I have to wonder how much the people who say this actually know about vampire lore. I’ve read lots of books and seen lots of movies. Just how many, I have no idea. Vampires have been a favorite of mine for as long as I can remember. I’ve never liked the ugly, pure evil, demonic, Nosferatu types. Yep, it’s a demon. Clearly we’re not letting that one in. Stake it if you can. A little too straight forward and blunt for me. I’m not a fan of horror for horror’s sake. For me it’s always been about the sexy ones. That’s where the true terror is. Demons who are good-looking, to whom you might be attracted, with whom you might be friends, who might just kill you, now that’s scary to me. It gives me more to think about. There just tends to be more story there.

Already we are talking about two very different types of vampires. How can canon reconcile this? To understand this I think you have to understand a bit about the history of vampire lore.

In the beginning, vampires were generally undead, walking corpses bent on stealing your life force, usually blood. Most cultures have some form of vampire legend. According to Wikipedia the term vampire did not become popular until the early 18th Century though. At that time there was an increase in vampire superstition in Western Europe from places in Eastern Europe where vampire legends were frequent, such as The Balkans.

Different traditions say different things. The vampire might be a soul not at rest who rises from the grave to cause mischief. It might be a person who made a pact with a sorcerer or witch, trading their soul for immortality or some such thing. It might also be the sorcerer or witch him- or herself. This is what people really thought back in the day. It is largely thought that because graves weren’t marked incredibly well that when bodies were exposed, either through the digging of the new grave or by animals digging, people thought they were seeing vampires who had left their graves. During decomposition hair and nails appear to grow. It’s really just the skin receding, but it gives the appearance of growth, giving anyone not educated in these matters thoughts of the ‘living dead’. Furthermore, gases bloating the body and fluids escaping through the mouth give the impression of the belly being full, having feasted on flesh or blood. Worse yet, the death shroud, being exposed to these fluids, would have been eaten by microbes first, giving the appearance that the corpse itself ate the shroud.

Pretty gruesome stuff, huh? At least it makes sense how we got the whole image of vampires as ugly demons. What about the sexy vampire though? Where does that come from?

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July 13, 2009 Posted by | Essays, Stephenie Meyer, Twilight, Twilighters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments