The Blood Is the Life: Vampires in Literature

By Leonard G. Heldreth; Mary Pharr | Go to book overview

6
ANNE RICE'S PROTESTANT VAMPIRES

Lloyd Worley

In 1976, when Anne Rice introduced her vampires Louis and Lestat in Interview with the Vampire, first readers could not have known that the New Orleans author had radically altered the familiar figure of the suave, predatory revenant. Before 1976, the iconography and tradition of vampires were familiar to everyone, even to a schoolchild who was yet to read Bram Stoker's Dracula, and everyone knew that the evil vampires flee the sacred and the holy because recognizable evil is repelled by definable good. The tradition is represented in the famous bedroom scene from Stoker's Dracula where having hypnotized her husband, the Count forces Mina Harker to drink his vampire blood. Suddenly, the vampire hunters Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, Arthur Holmwood, and Quincey P. Morris break into the locked bedroom:

[Dracula's] eyes flamed red with devilish passion; ... and the white sharp teeth, behind the full lips of the blood dripping mouth, clamped together.... With a wrench ... , he turned and sprang at us. But ..., the Professor ... was holding towards him the envelope which contained the Sacred Wafer. The Count suddenly stopped, ... and cowered back. Further and further back he cowered, as we, lifting our crucifixes, advanced. The moonlight suddenly failed, ... and when the gaslight sprang up under Quincey's match, we saw nothing but a faint vapour. This, as we looked, trailed under the door.... (Stoker 249)

Dracula is afraid of and repelled by the consecrated Host and the crucifix. All the vampires in Stoker's novel share these fears, and readers were comforted that in the battle between good and evil that vampire stories represent, they had on their side divine powers that would protect them from an otherwise overwhelming evil.

However, in 1976, readers were shocked (and fascinated) to find that Anne Rice had shifted the tradition. In Rice's early vampire novels, things at first did not seem to be much different. Rice's vampires still took the warm blood of the living, they still made humans into vampires

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