Vampires: Myths and Metaphors of Enduring Evil

By Peter Day | Go to book overview

Introduction

Peter Day

Terry Pratchett points out that vampires are relatively fragile entities, with literally dozens of ways to dispatch them quite apart from the traditional burst of sunlight or stake through the heart. He points out that:

Classically, they spent the day in some coffin
somewhere, with no guard other than an elderly
hunchback who doesn't look all that spry, and should
succumb to quite a small mob…They choose to live in
old castles which offer so much in the way of ways to
defeat a vampire, like easily torn curtains and wall
decorations that can readily be twisted into a religious
symbol.1

Despite such a precarious existence, vampires have proved to be incredibly adaptive survivors, flourishing in the media and thriving in the popular imagination of modern societies. Indeed the very concept of the vampire appears to have the same power and longevity attributed to the legendary creature itself. Long before Bram Stoker published Dracula in 1897, vampires proliferated in folklore, legend and literature. Peter MarioKreuter's paper gives an insight into the proliferation of vampire lore, particularly throughout Eastern Europe. He traces the origins of the very word “vampire” in his geo-historical linguistic investigation, explaining that, “The word “vampire” started its success in the European languages shortly after 1732 when Austrian… military doctors heard about vampires… attacking the people and bringing illness, weakness and death.” The fact that the words societies have used to name vampires have evolved and changed over time and across national boundaries highlights the importance of vampire belief throughout history. For diverse cultural groups vampires presented a reality that differs radically to the majority contemporary modern view. Darren Oldridge reminds us that, “We live in a culture that does not permit corpses to stir; and this basic assumption has condemned vampires to the realm of fiction. This was not always the case. The belief that revived cadavers - or 'revenants' - could return to menace the living was common in the pre-modern world.” As Christianity became the prevalent religious belief across Europe and believers looked forward to the hope of resurrection the concept of the vampire as an unholy reanimated body came to symbolise dark perversion of a central Christian article of faith. Such a seemingly blasphemous parody simply added to the

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