Academic journal article Text Matters

Wendigos, Eye Killers, Skinwalkers: The Myth of the American Indian Vampire and American Indian "Vampire" Myths

Academic journal article Text Matters

Wendigos, Eye Killers, Skinwalkers: The Myth of the American Indian Vampire and American Indian "Vampire" Myths

Article excerpt

Text Matters, Volume 6, Number 6, 2016 DOI: 10.1515/texmat-2016-0012

Corinna Lenhardt

University of Mnster

We all know vampires. Count Dracula and Nosferatu, maybe Blade and Angel, or Stephenie Meyers sparkling beau, Edward Cullen. In fact, the Euro-American vampire myth has long become one of the most reliable and bestselling fun-rides the entertainment industries around the world have to offer. Quite recently, however, anew type of fanged villain has entered the mainstream stage: the American Indian vampire. Fully equipped with war bonnets, buckskin clothes, and sharp teeth, the vampires of recent U.S.lm productions, such as Blade, the Series or the Twilight Saga, employ both the Euro-American vampire trope and denigrating discourses of race and savagery. It is also against this backdrop that American Indian authors and lmmakers have set out to renegotiate not only U.S.Americas myth of the racially overdrawn savage Indian, but also the vampire trope per se.

Drawing on American Indian myths and folklore that previous scholarship has placed into direct relationship to the Anglo-European vampire narrative, and on recent U.S.mainstream commodications of these myths, my paper traces and contextualizes the two oppositional yet intimately linked narratives of American Indian vampirism ensuing today: the commodied image of the Indian vampire and the renegotiated vampire tropes created by American Indian authors and lmmakers.

Wendigos, Eye Killers, Skinwalkers: The Myth of the American Indian Vampire and American Indian Vampire Myths


Corinna Lenhardt

The Vampire is not universal by any means. Native Americans do not have vampires.

(Dundes 161, emphasis in the original)

Itook that traditionthe vampire traditionfrom where Iwas, and made it mine.

Istretched it and made it work for my own purpose. And that was fun. (Carr, qtd. in Arriv 11)


Vampires are the ultimate cultural chameleons. Between their humble mythological roots as little more than ashambling and mindless (Punter and Byron 268) revenant, nosferatu or vrykolakas in eighteenth-century Eastern European folklore, and their triumphant and worldwide advance in literature, lm, music, on stage and computer screens, as well is in subcultures and fetishes, the vampire has proven to be aculturally ultra-adaptable trope. Without adoubt, contemporary Euro-American instantiations of the tropeAngel, Blade, Stefan Salvatore, and Edward Cullen to name just fourhave successfully added to the domestication (Gordon and Hollinger 2) of the vampire and concluded its transformation from blood-sucker to ascetic and from monster to yuppie (Tomc 96). If indeed every age embraces the vampire it needs, as Auerbach (145) argues, we are apparently living in an age in need of subjective narratives of humanized, exotically and pleasingly deviant semi-villains, who have long outlived the need to embody the monstrous epitome of the evils of aristocracy, Catholicism, industrialization, and sexual permissiveness; rather, todays vampire is composed in such away that he embodies both monstrosity and normality within one endlessly struggling character (Lenhardt 112).

Despite the vampires continuous domestication, one can easily trace consistencies in the modern and contemporary, non-scholarly receptions of the trope. As Hughes argues, it is hardly exaggerated to claim that we have conceptualized an archetypal vampire in primarily visual terms, i.e. more precisely, through the modern cinematic adaptations of Bram Stokers Dracula:

The stylistic consistency of lm portrayals of the vampire Count, by actors from Bela Lugosi to Christopher Lee, Frank Langella and Gary Oldman, has concretized acultural image of the vampire as saturnine, noble, sophisticated, mesmeric and, above all, erotic. (252)


Wendigos, Eye Killers, Skinwalkers

If we consider in this respect contemporary U. …

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