The Fantastic Vampire: Studies in the Children of the Night : Selected Essays from the Eighteenth International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts

The Fantastic Vampire: Studies in the Children of the Night : Selected Essays from the Eighteenth International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts

The Fantastic Vampire: Studies in the Children of the Night : Selected Essays from the Eighteenth International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts

The Fantastic Vampire: Studies in the Children of the Night : Selected Essays from the Eighteenth International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts

Synopsis

Contributors examine the vampire in fiction, film, folklore, and popular culture.

Excerpt

James Craig Holte

Vampires have always been shape shifters, and vampires have always been popular. Throughout their long history vampires have been able to transform themselves to satisfy their own needs as well as the needs of readers and viewers. From their homeland in central Asia, vampires and vampire legends moved outward into India, China, Eastern Europe, Greece, Africa, and the Americas. Wherever they existed in the imaginations of people they adapted themselves to customs of the local culture.

In the Western tradition, folklore asserts that vampires can transform themselves into a variety of shapes, including those of the cat, dog, wolf, rat, and bat, all creatures associated with the demonic. In addition, it has been believed that the vampire can take the form of mist, smoke, and fog.

The literary vampire is also a shape shifter. In nineteenth-century British fiction there are a number of famous vampires, each unique. In 1819 in The Vampyre, John Polidori introduced Lord Ruthven, the vampire as typical gothic villain, and established the vampire craze of the nineteenth century that resulted in a flood of German vampire poetry, French vampire drama, and British vampire fiction. In the mid 1840s English readers were treated to Varney the Vampire, or the Feast of Blood, which appeared in 109 weekly installments and later was published in a single 800 page volume. Varney was far more cruel and bloody than the brooding Lord Ruthven. Sheridan Le Fanu published the famous story “Carmilla" in 1872, introducing readers to an erotic lesbian vampire. In 1897 Bram Stoker published Dracula, fixing the character of the Transylvanian nobleman as the archetypal vampire firmly in the public imagination.

The transformations of Dracula himself are equally dramatic. In Bram Stoker's novel Dracula is a white-haired Eastern European patriarch with bad breath and hairy palms. In the film adaptations of Dracula, however, the vampire continually shifts shapes, creating in the public imagination a composite Dracula who has become a cultural icon. The images of Stoker's vampire that have appeared on stage and on . . .

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