Why the lure of the vampire?

The Vampire genre is popular, especially in the past few decades - from Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire (well, her Vampire Chronicles), to a blast from my teenage past - the film, and its TV spin-off of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (which then spawned the Angel spin-off) .

Last week I read Twilight (prompting me to re-read Dracula - the book defined as bringing the lure of the Vampire into modernity), and Kate recommended I check out new TV series, True Blood. This recent influx of Vampires into my life got me thinking. Where did the Vampire myth spring from?

Of course, I know the association of Bram Stoker's Dracula fuelling the myth, but where did Bram get his inspiration from? Polidori's: The Vampyre (interestingly this was the result of the boredom task Lord Byron set at Lake Geneva, which also resulted in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein) is the progenitor spawning the Vampire genre, although Stoker is the one who the credit is usually attributed to. The term was popularised in the 18th Century, with the first appearance of the the word Vampire been in 1734.

Before the Industrial Revolution, knowledge of body decomposition meant it wasn't realised bodies could decay at different rates, hence it was believed bodies that weren't decomposing as fast as was believed to be "normal" were actually Vampires - illustrated by the Arnold Paole case.

Mass hysteria in Eastern Europe in the 18th Century led to Vampire hunts, which only ended when laws were passed prohibiting opening graves and desecrating bodies. The Vampire went on living instead in the world of pupular culture, but why?

For me, I think the exotic glamour of ever-lasting life (ignoring the blood-sucking, evil, death connotations) is what makes the Vampire so appealing. The use of the Vampire brings about human issues of life and death - the natural and the supernatural - the Vampire serves as a juxtaposition to remind us of our mortality. It highlights the forbidden to us, serving as a reminder every human being will face within their life - we live, then we die.

The Vampire shows us it is wrong to long for ever-lasting life. We are usually told they have no soul, that they are as cold as ice. This makes them incomplete, without life. It is interesting to note the cold Vampire dies in the sunlight; the sun is what allows us humans to inhabit the Earth and to live.

I think the Vampire rose to prominence when it did, because at that time people were beginning to unlock the "secrets" of life through technological and societal advancements. The Vampire was put in place in popular culture to reassure us in some way - to keep the hope of the unknown and everlasting out there by highlighting the forbidden ever-lasting life.

This is the lure of the Vampire - whilst ever we face this struggle between life and death, the Vampire will flourish because it goes against all scientific explanation.

For a creature depicted as being damned to the night, the Vampire remains as a light bringing us hope... in the form of excellent cultural entertainment! Any more books/films/tellybox shows I should check out? What lures you to the myth of the Vampire?

1 comment

  1. Even though it's more commercial based, Underworld was a fairly interesting look at the Vampire versus Werewolf/Lycan culture.

    I heard that Ultraviolet has some vampiric elements, but honestly I've never watched the movie. I do like the song by Jem, though.