From Graveyards to High Schools: The Evolution of the Literary Vampire

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4. Present-day Vampires


After Rice’s initial creation of a complex, functioning vampire society, this aspect had become an inspiration and a staple for many authors after her. Namely for instance the Irish author Darren O’Shaughnessy, also known by his pen-name, Darren Shan. Thanks to Shan, the phenomenon of vampires had finally made its way into the young-adult literature genre at the dawn of the twenty-first century. And presumably since Shan’s books were primarily meant for youngsters, the twelve-piece Saga of Darren Shan, or Cirque du Freak Series, as it is also known, Shan completely reworks and rewrites almost everything that the readers knew about vampires so far.

The first and the most striking difference of all, the protagonist of the series, carrying the same name Darren Shan as his literary father, is a young boy of twelve. Even though creating children vampires is technically illegal in the world of the Saga, Darren is turned into a creature of the night in exchange for his friend’s life. The way the turning happened is very peculiar and unique in the general vampiric lore. Instead of the vampire creator biting into the jugular vein of the new fledgling, the blood exchange happens through small cuts on the fingertips of all ten fingers:

He raised his left hand and pressed the nails of the right into the fleshy tips of his left-hand fingers. Then he used his other set of nails to mark the right-hand fingers in the same way. … He dug his nails into the soft tips of my fingers, all ten of them at once. … He put a couple of my fingers in his mouth and sucked some blood out. I watched as he rolled it around his mouth, testing it. Finally he nodded and swallowed. “It is good blood,” he said. “We can proceed.” He pressed his fingers against mine, wound to wound. For a few seconds there was a numb feeling at the ends of my arms. Then I felt a gushing sensation and realized my blood was moving from my body to his through my left hand, while his blood was entering mine through my right. It was a strange, tingling feeling. I felt his blood travel up my right arm, then down the side of my body and over to the left. When it reached my heart there was a stabbing pain and I almost collapsed. The same thing was happening to Mr. Crepsley and I could see him grinding his teeth and sweating. The pain lasted until Mr. Crepsley’s blood crept down my left arm and started flowing back into his body. We remained joined for a couple more seconds, until he broke free with a shout. I fell backward to the floor. I was dizzy and felt sick (A Living Nightmare 80).

Curiously though, Darren is not turned into a full-fledged vampire, but rather only a half-vampire by his creator Mr. Crepsley’s choice. If he would want to turn Darren into a full vampire, they would have to stay joined longer, so more of the vampire's blood enters the body. (A Living Nightmare 80).

Shan’s vampires are different from any others for a multitude of reasons. First of all, unlike any other literary vampiric specimen listed previously, they are not to be considered beautiful in any way. Most of them are heavily scarred and rather unattractive, as is obvious from Darren’s first description of Larten Crepsley:

The lights went down low and a creepy-looking man walked onto the stage. He was tall and thin, with very white skin and only a small crop of orange hair on the top of his head. He had a large scar running down his left cheek. It reached to his lips and made it look like his mouth was stretching up the side of his face (A Living Nightmare 32).

Also, Shan’s vampires are nowhere near to the living standards of their predecessors. While most of them are scattered around the world, their home is in the bowels of a mountain and rather lacedaeamonian and very old-fashioned, as the reader discovers in the fourth part of the saga, The Vampire Mountain.

Secondly, the way they feed. They do not possess the traditional set of fangs, but rather only very hard and resilient teeth. These are, however, not used for the extraction of blood from their victims, for this purpose they use their just as hard and sharp fingernails – they make a small incision on one of the large veins on human body, for example under the knee, from which they extract blood for either immediate consumption or for storage and later use (The Vampire’s Assistant 13).

This extraction is rarely ever fatal for the victim, for Shan’s vampires do not kill when feeding and they generally value human life, contrary to other vampiric specimen listed above. A curious detail about Shan’s vampires feeding is also the fact that they cannot consume blood of cats, snakes and rats, since it is poisonous to them.

Similarly to Rice, Shan also omits the traditional fear of crosses or garlic, the ability to shape-shift or immortality. His vampires also do not have the rapid healing factor at their disposal, and even though they are fitter and more resilient than humans – having stronger bones, for example – it is possible to kill them with enough damage inflicted. They also do not immediately combust upon contact with sunlight like Rice’s vampires, but the sun burns them and if they spent too much time in the sunlight, it would kill them nevertheless. They are able to move at a very fast speed, – in Shan’s cannon this is called “flitting” – to the point where human eye is unable to follow their movements. This ability is similarly used by Louis in the first chapters of The Interview with the Vampire:

The vampire reached across the table now and gently brushed an ash from the boy's lapel, and the boy stared at his withdrawing hand in alarm. “Excuse me,” said the vampire. “I didn't mean to frighten you.”
“Excuse me,” said the boy. “I just got the impression suddenly that your arm was ... abnormally long. You reach so far without moving!”
“No, I moved forward much too fast for you to see. It was an illusion.” “You moved forward? But you didn't. You were sitting just as you are now, with your back against the chair.”
“No,” repeated the vampire firmly. “I moved forward as I told you” (Interview with the Vampire 19).

Contrary to Dracula, Shan’s vampires do reflect in mirrors. On the other hand, it is impossible to take a photograph of them since, as Mr. Crepsley explains, the atoms of a vampire body are moving too fast for the camera to capture and therefore the pictures always turn out to be blurry. Generally, most of the abilities of the Saga’s vampires are explainable by reason and obey the laws of physics instead of relying on the supernatural.

Following the idea of a vampiric society, Shan also created one for his Saga of Darren Shan and The Saga of Larten Crepsley4. Rice’s vampires usually create small familial groups and are brought together as a clan only in the events of Prince Lestat (2014), the eleventh installment of The Vampire Chronicles. Shan’s vampiric society is more sophisticated in detail.

Throughout the Saga of Darren Shan, the protagonist and subsequently the reader gets familiar with many aspects of the society and its values – which the whole society holds as true, rather than each and every group having their own – from their strict, almost military-like hierarchy to their approach towards love and romantic partnership.

One of the values is the value of human life. While Shan’s vampires consider human race to be somewhat inferior to their own, they generally value human life, occasionally even mingling with mortals and creating friendly or romantic relationships with them. On top of that, as was stated before, they never kill when feeding.

That is, however, not true for every vampire and Shan therefore creates a unique schism, splitting the society into two large groups according to their opinion in the matter of human life. The other group under the name of “vampaneze,” consider humankind as a source of nourishment only. When they feed, they kill their victims by consuming all of their blood. As a consequence, their skin gains a reddish or purple color. The vampaneze are an elegant rollback to the inherently evil vampire revenants from the folk tales. (See chapter 1.)

This vampiric dichotomy between good and evil had seeped into several other vampire-themed young-adult novels, such as the vastly popular four-part romance series penned by Stephanie Meyer, Twilight. While Darren Shan’s books are presumably more fit for the male part of the young adult audience, Meyer had largely popularized the vampire-themed literature in the girls department. Since then, the romantic aspect had become largely used, as well as the patterns of vampires living an ordinary life among the mortals. The addition of romance also caused a new boom in the vampire-themed literature. Notable titles in this category are for instance Ellen Schreiber’s Vampire Kisses (2005 – 2013), Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy (this series of novel combines a plethora of other supernatural creatures though) or L. J. Smith’s The Vampire Diaries.

Conclusion


Even though many books had been written in the vampire genre, the creatures are still being wrongfully accused of being generic and one-dimensional characters. Strictly speaking, this statement would be true for the very first literary vampire specimen. These characters were, in fact, defined by their inherent blood-drinking. Their purpose in the stories of which they were the antagonists, was to wreak havoc and to bring destruction upon mankind. Nevertheless, this is definitely not true for the characters that had evolved ever since.

Nowadays, however, the reader no longer encounters vampires in decrepit castles and graveyards only. Gradually, they integrated into the high society and to their palaces and ballroom of great cities such as London or New Orleans. As the time passed, they even started to mingle with “the common folk,” and they became ordinary high school students, parents, modern families, lovers even. As they gained more and more intelligence, they started forming complex societies of their own, both secluded and hidden in plain sight of the mortals. They created their own rules and values, adding more diversity to the years-old vampiric lore and some of them even started to rewrite it by large – explaining or refusing the characteristics that their predecessors flaunted. By that, they became more believable and closer to the reader.

As the education and understanding of the natural occurrences of the people grew, they stopped believing the supernatural folk tales. They discovered a scientific explanation for the superstitions of their ancestors – the natural decomposition of the body or the porphyria sickness, for example. The vampire disappeared from the minds of the general public and became a creature of pure fantasy. At that instant, basically any characteristic could be ascribed to them. In many ways, they started to resemble the “mortals,” more than ever, while still keeping their sovereign flare that makes them exclusive.

Most importantly, however, vampires are a reflection of their literary “mothers” and “fathers” and the era in which they were born. Every single author, that ever decided to give life to another vampiric creature, has the leisure to describe their literary “children” any way they want, and every author contributes their own unique tinge to the broad spectrum that are the vampires.

Bibliography

Primary Sources

Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan. Carmilla. Rockville, MD: Wildside, 2005. Print.

Polidori, John William. The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008. Print.

Rice, Anne. Interview with the Vampire. New York, NY: Ballantine, 2014. Print.

---. The Vampire Armand. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998. Print.

---. The Vampire Lestat: Book II of The Vampire Chronicles. New York, NY: Ballantine, 1989. Print.

---. Prince Lestat: The Vampire Chronicles. New York: Anchor, 2015. Print.

---. The Queen of the Damned. New York: Knopf, 2006. Print.

Rymer, James Malcolm. Varney the Vampire; or The Feast of Blood. Booklassic, 2015. Electronic.

Shan, Darren. Cirque Du Freak: A Living Nightmare. New York: Little, Brown, 2001. Print.

---. Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant. Boston: Little, Brown, 2001. Print.

---. Trials of Death. New York: Little, Brown, 2003. Print.

---. Vampire Mountain. New York: Little, Brown, 2004. Print.

Stoker, Bram. Dracula. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2000. Print.


Secondary Sources

Jøn, Allan Asbjørn. “From Nosferatu to Von Carstein: Shifts in the Portrayal of

Vampires.” Australian Folklore: A Yearly Journal of Folklore Studies (2001): 97-

106.Www.researchgate.net. 10 Apr. 2017. Web.


.

---. “Vampire Evolution.” METAphor 2003.3 (2003): 19-23. 20 Apr. 2017. Web. 30 Feb. 2017. .

Kalužová, Anežka. Rebuking of Victorian Values in Bram Stoker's Dracula. 2017. TS

Konstantinos. Vampires: The Occult Truth. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2010. Print.

Liška, Vladimír. Upíři a Vlkodlaci v Českých Zemích. Prague: XYZ, 2011. Print.

Righi, Brian. Vampires through the Ages: Lore & Legends of the World's Most Notorious Blood Drinkers. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2012. Print.

O'Rourke, James. “The 1831 Introduction and Revisions to ‘Frankenstein’: Mary Shelley Dictates Her Legacy.” Studies in Romanticism, vol. 38, no. 3, 1999, pp. 365–385., www.jstor.org/stable/25601400. PDF.

The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “Lilith.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia

Britannica, Inc., 15 Mar. 2017. Web. 27 Apr. 2017. .

Turner, Ernest Sackville. “Chapter 1 – Gothic Hangover.” Boys Will Be Boys: The Story of Sweeney Todd, Deadwood Dick, Sexton Blake, Billy Bunter, Dick Barton Et Al. London: Faber and Faber, 2012. Web.

Miller, Elizabeth. Dracula: Sense and Nonsense. Desert Island, 2006. Print.

Pallardy, Richard. “Vlad the Impaler.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 22 Nov. 2016. Web. 27 Apr. 2017. .

Pelaia, Ariela. “Where Does the Legend of Lilith Come From?”  ThoughtCo. N.pag.,

24 Feb. 2017. Web. 16 Apr. 2017. .

Summary


The aim of this thesis is to analyze the shifts in the portrayal of the literary archetype of a vampire. This evolution shall be illustrated on the key works of the genre. These include John Polidori’s The Vampyre, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and Darren Shan’s The Saga of Darren Shan.

The literary character of a vampire had first appeared in Polidori’s short story, The Vampyre. While mostly sticking to the folkloric origins of the creature, Polidori introduces the archetype of a royal vampire. Also, his vampires are freely mingling within the mortal society, rather than being a mindless revenant stuck to the patterns of their previous lives. Le Fanu later includes women into the vampiric race and also starts the precedent of vampiric hypersexuality.

Inspired by his predecessors, Bram Stoker builds off of the characteristics portrayed in the novels preceding Dracula on one hand, yet on the other omits some of them and adds several traits of his own invention. Sexuality is again an issue, yet Stoker treats it more candidly than for example Le Fanu, reflecting the traditional values of the Victorian England. Anne Rice deepens the precedents set by previous authors and adds a unique trait of emotional life and the ability of critical and philosophical thinking to her vampires.

Centering his work around the idea of a child vampire, as Anne Rice introduced it, Shan offers a completely different view of the vampiric lore. He proposes a complex and self-functioning vampire society independent of the human world. In the context of young adult vampire literature, the aspect of romance is added, vastly popularizing the genre.

The conclusion of this thesis is that the literary vampire had underwent a dramatic development and had been mythologized and de-mythologized several times. In the end, however, the portrayal of the vampire is always in the hands of the author and the authors reflect themselves and the era they live in through the creature.

Résumé


Hlavním záměrem této práce je analýza změn ve zobrazování literárního archetypu postavy upíra. Tato evoluce bude ilustrována na klíčových dílech žánru, jakými jsou například Polidoriho The Vampyre, Carmilla Josepha Sheridana Le Fanu, Dracula Brama Stokera, série The Vampire Chronicles Anne Riceové a The Saga of Darren Shan od stejnojmenného autora.

Upír se jako literární postava poprvé objevil v povídce Johna Williama Polidoriho The Vampyre. Ačkoliv se autor veskrze drží folklorního původu upíra, zakládá také archetyp upířího šlechtice. Jeho upíři se také volně pohybují v lidské společnosti, než aby byli pouze bezduchými navrácenci fungující na vzorcích chování z jejich minulých životů. Le Fanu později zavádí precedent upíří hypersexuality a představuje do žánru i ženy – upírky.

Inspirován svými předchůdci, Stoker na jedné straně staví na vlastnostech upíra popsaných v předešlých dílech, na straně druhé však některé z nich vypouští a na jejich místo doplňuje vlastnosti své vlastní invence. Sexualita je opět výrazným tématem, Stoker se k ní však staví otevřeněji, než například Le Fanu. Tím také odráží tradiční hodnoty společnosti viktoriánské Anglie. Anne Riceová prohlubuje precedenty dané předchozími autory a přidává svým upírům schopnost kritického a filozofického uvažování a též emoční život.

Darren Shan staví svoji sérii The Saga of Darren Shan na principu dětského upíra, jak ho představila Anne Riceová. Díky tomu uvádí oblast upíří literatury v kompletně novém světle. Představuje také komplexní, soběstačnou upíří komunitu, nezávislou na světě lidí. Do kontextu young adult upíří literatury je také uveden aspekt romance, který upíří žánr velmi zpopularizuje.


Závěrem této práce je, že literární upír prošel dramatickým vývojem a byl několikrát mytologizován a naopak. V konečném důsledku je však zobrazení upíra v rukou autora a ten na svých upírech reflektuje sám sebe a také dobu, ve které píše.



1“He may not enter anywhere at the first, unless there be some one of the household who bid him to come.” (Stoker 112)

2 Similarly to Lucy, a young newlywed wife, preying on a child, when she should be striving to conceive and provide for a child of her own.

3 The healing speed explains why Lestat was able to survive being poisoned, his throat being cut and then he himself being dumped into a bog by Claudia and Louis during the events of The Interview with the Vampire.

4A four-part prequel to The Saga of Darren Shan, describing the life of Darren’s creator, Larten Crepsley. First part was released in 2010.



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