BRAM STOKER'S Dracula first published in 1897, is one of the most successful pot-boilers ever written. Yet the novel, for all its popularity, has attracted little attention in its own right. Most devotees of Dracula, asked if they have read the book, reply that they have only seen the movie: for the novel has been overshadowed by innumerable spin-offs in the cinema and other media. Not content to rest between the covers of a book, vampires have now invaded every sphere of popular culture, spawning films, TV soaps, comics, pop-up books, fanzines, bubble-bath, pencil-sharpeners, breakfast cereals, and chocolates. Jonathan Harker's fear that Dracula might breed 'a new and ever widening circle of semi-demons to batten on the helpless', although averted in the novel, has been realized in the popular proliferation of the myth. With every celluloid resuscitation, Dracula increases his dominion, holding his spectators in willing thrall while devouring their money.
Bram Stoker's achievement was to free vampires from literature and restore them to the realm of folklore. For the Undead now live an independent life in the collective imagination, in which the details of Stoker's over-complicated narrative have long since been eclipsed by the luminous simplicity of myth. Unlike novels, myths depend on transformation for survival, each repetition altering the story while preserving its essential elements. The anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss has argued that the true substance of myth 'does not he in its style, its original music, or its syntax, but in the story which it tells'.1 The stronger the style, the weaker the story: a creaky novel like Bram Stoker's nurtures myth more effectively than the subtlest artistry. In Dracula there is no development of character, no complexity of thought, no choiceness of expression, to distract us from the elementary components of the myth. The dead rise____________________