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Vampires in Twilight

By Jean Teller, Sr. Assoc. Editor


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Quite a few books starring vampires live on my bookshelves. Anita Blake, the heroine of Laurell K. Hamilton’s series, loves a vampire named Jean-Claude and a werewolf named Richard. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher features vampires from the Red Court, the Black Court and the White Court. Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty series stars a shapeshifter while a few vampires make appearances, too. A number of authors, including Maggie Shayne and Charlaine Harris, combine love and mystery with a healthy (unhealthy?) dose of the undead. And of course, Ann Rice’s Vampire Chronicles are classics.

Blood Noir is the latest Anita Blake novel by Laurell K. Hamilton.  Charlaine Harris writes the Southern Vampire Mysteries, which are now the basis of the HBO series True Blood.

On television, I still miss the recently cancelled Moonlight, which I understand is to be repeated in the near future on Sci-Fi Channel. Lots of us watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, both series featuring Angel, the vampire with a soul, and Spike, a not-so-nice vampire we loved anyway, as well as a host of others.  Forever Knight, a cop drama with a vampire on the night shift trying to atone for his un-life and yearning to become human, was a favorite of mine back in the day. TV’s love of vampires goes back to the daytime drama Dark Shadows, at least in my memory. I’m sure there were other such programs in television’s early years.

The cover of a DVD set for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles star as Sam and Dean Winchester in CW's Supernatural.

Nowadays, the Winchester brothers in Supernatural have been known to stake a few vampires, among other things that go bump in the night. And HBO’s new series (based on books written by Charlaine Harris with protagonist Sookie Stackhouse) True Blood captures new fans each and every week.

Bela Lugosi as Dracula.

At the movies, who can forget Interview With the Vampire, a hit for Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt? Or the classics with Bela Lugosi? There are too many movies to mention, including parodies made famous by George Hamilton and Leslie Nielsen.

Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart are Edward and Bella from Twilight the Movie.

Now we have the latest vampire phenomenon, a series of books beginning with Twilight and written by novice author Stephenie Meyer. The movie from the first book, released last weekend and starring Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, grossed nearly $70 million in its first weekend, almost twice what it cost to make. Summit Entertainment immediately announced plans to film New Moon, the second book in the series.

What’s the fascination with vampires? No matter the medium, vampires draw attention, keeping their secrets in the midst of human communities, whether they be the villain of the tale or an anti-hero like Edward Cullen in Twilight. Even in the two Twilights – both of which, unfortunately, move too slowly and left me wishing for something other than what they are –vampires enthrall readers and moviegoers.

A quick study on Wikipedia shows the vampire phenomenon began long ago, probably with the story of Vlad III, born in Transylvania and the ruler of Wallachia (a region of Romania) from 1456 to 1462. Vlad was known as Dracula and Vlad the Impaler. He killed tens of thousands of people, impaling most on a sharp pole, with some accounts saying his victims included up to 100,000 Turkish Muslims. At the time Romania was fighting off an invasion from Turkey, and Vlad was a folk hero to many Romanians.

The name Dracula means son of Dracul. That term is the title given to Vlad II by a secret order of knights known as the Order of the Dragon, an order that vowed to uphold Christianity and defend Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia and the Holy Roman Empire from the Ottoman Turks. Vlad II wore the emblem of the order and as ruler of Wallachia, his coins bore the dragon symbol.

Many stories have used the Dracula theme, including an 1819 short story by John Polidori, The Vampyre, and an 1871 story, Carmilla, by Sheridan Le Fanu. Then Bram Stoker, in his research of Romanian history, found the name and used it for his villain in his 1897 novel of the same name. The rest, as they say, is history.

The vampire quickly bewitched his way into mainstream literature, spawning discussions in every medium, college classes and websites. The undead remain, to the delight and horror of millions of readers, moviegoers and television fanatics, promising to lure each of us into their spell. I consider myself under such a spell, so vampire novels will continue to appear on my bookshelves. I just can’t help myself!

jean teller
12/1/2008 8:32:57 AM

And the last sentence: But I feel that accurate knowledge of the cultural history of the vampire tradition is important. A lot of misinformation has become "common wisdom" among readers, and it's a shame, because the real facts are much more interesting! I totally agree, Inanna! Thanks!


jean teller
12/1/2008 8:31:42 AM

Thank you, Inanna, for setting the record straight. I definitely fell into the "too-quick-research" mode with that one! Unfortunately, our system cut off a portion of Inanna's comments. So here's the continuation: ....Rare Article Archive (http://bylightunseen.net/artarch.htm ). Vampire folklore is specific to European culture. At the beginning of the Twentieth Century, folklorists George R. Stetson, Dudley Wright and Montague Summers argued for a Universal Vampire Myth, claiming that "every culture in the world has a type of vampire." They were quite wrong. These writers fell into the same Eurocentric fallacy of many scholars of their era, such as Sir James Fraser. They added up superficial similarities and decided that any folk belief with any one of the characteristics of vampires as described in the Eastern European panics was "a type of vampire." If it drank blood, returned from the grave, was a supernatural creature that preyed on children and babies, or pestered people for sex, it was "a type of vampire." Everyone has seen the long catalogs and encyclopedia of "vampires" from every known country and era. But each of these creatures has its own cultural context and origin, and they're no more "types of vampires" than the native peoples encountered by Columbus were really misplaced Hindus. Bram Stoker basically recreated vampire fiction conventions with his novel Dracula. He freely invented a number of the conventions that became "vampire canon," including the vampire's lack of a reflection, vampires having to be invited before they could come inside, the vampire needing special earth to sleep in, and the association of vampires and bats. None of these are found in folklore or earlier fiction. Vampire fiction writers have complete freedom to create the kinds of stories they and their readers enjoy. But I feel that accurate knowledge of the cultural history of the vampire t


inanna arthen
11/30/2008 12:41:39 AM

I'm always delighted to encounter another vampire fiction enthusiast, but I'm afraid you've stumbled into one of the pitfalls of doing research on Wikipedia. Prince Vlad Tepes Dracula had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the origins of vampire folklore. The notion that Vlad was "the first vampire" or "the inspiration for vampire legends" is a fanciful extension of the older misinformation that Vlad Tepes was "the inspiration for Bram Stoker's character of Dracula" which is also completely untrue. (See the work of Dr. Elizabeth Miller, http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~emiller/) Vlad Tepes was about as bloodthirsty and ruthless as most other 15th century warlords. His deeds are only widely remembered today thanks to the book by Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu (In Search of Dracula, 1973), which did not compare Vlad's record with that of his contemporaries. Vlad was and is a national hero in Romania, where they consider our association of him with vampires to be insulting. He was viewed as a great Christian warrior against the Muslim empire, and if he was "a devil," it was only to his enemies. He probably learned his famous "impaling" technique from the Turks, who were still practicing it in 1700, according to De Tournefort. Vampire folklore as we know it became widespread when an epidemic of panics began to spread across areas of Europe predominated by the Orthodox Church in the mid-17th century (200 years after the time of Vlad Tepes). These panics continued for over a century and bamboozled academics and scientists who investigated them. It was these myths that became widely known in English speaking countries by the early 18th century, and which were the basis for early fiction like The Vampyre and Carmilla. At that time, Vlad Tepes was virtually forgotten outside of Romania. You can read some of the early non-fiction works discussing vampire legends in my Rare Article Archive (http://by


jean teller
11/28/2008 4:17:15 PM

Hi, Cindy, I'm not familiar with the song you mention. I'll have to check out Godsmack! I wasn't sure I would continue with the Twilight series - as I ended Twilight, I thought to myself, "Nope, not going to get caught up in this series." Then I read the promo chapter from New Moon. Darn, I'm hooked!


cindy murphy
11/28/2008 8:22:52 AM

Hi, Jean. Don't forget music in your list of mediums in which the vampire appears. Reading your post, I was immediately reminded of a song simply titled "Vampires" by one of my favorite alt-metal bands, (the tune will now be stuck in my head all day). The lyrics echo what you wrote: "The mystery of the undead will continue to fasinate the living. Vampires. Few creatures of the night have captured our imagination like Vampires. What explains our induring fascination with Vampires? And what dark and hidden part of our Psyche are aroused and captivated by the legends of the undead?" I have Rice's Vampire Chronicles - favorites since they first came out. Bram Stoker's Dracula - the book and the 1992 movie - for me is the quintessential vampire story; I'm a sucker for a romance. I haven't read the Twilight series yet; nor have I seen the movie. My daughter and her friends had big plans to see it last weekend when it was released, but had to postpone them: the movie won't come to our small theater for another two weeks. I had no idea the books were so big among the middle-school age crowd. I didn't even know Shelby read the first in the series in school, and has been waiting for months to read the second; the books are always checked-out at the school's library, and she hasn't been able to get her hands on book two yet. Sounds like a good Christmas gift for her, and one that I may have to sink my teeth into too.