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Vampire Evolution Through Fiction

Ever since Bram Stoker published Dracula in 1897, vampires have captured the imagination of people of all ages and all walks of life.  They are more widely popular today than ever before and show no sign of releasing their hold over us.    

For me personally, I really noticed the rise of the vampire from cheesy B-movie villain to a more complex character with the release of the movie Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  I really felt sorry for this Dracula, unlike all the other movies I have watched where he is evil and I wanted him to die (permanently).  Since then we have seen vampires evolve from soulless monsters in search of blood to real characters with compassion, self-denial, and a really lonely existence.  

With the release of the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the popularity of the vampire (and indeed all things supernatural) has been raised even further.  Joss Wheldon created his own vampire world in Sunnydale and gave us the character of Angel, a vampire with a soul.  Angel was tortured by the memories of all the bad things he had done when he was soulless because with the return of his soul came compassion and a conscience.  He then spends the rest of his undead life trying to atone for his sins by saving humans from the forces of evil.  This is a very different type of vampire to the original Dracula!

The vampire has evolved and is still evolving today.  This is a fact of life for every being on this planet, evolve and adapt or die.  In the case of the vampire, there are only a limited number of ways you can tell stories of evil vampires.  By creating vampires that solve crimes, do good or have a conscience, it has pushed the boundaries of what would otherwise be a very limiting genre.  This keeps our interest in vampires piqued and extends the life of vampire fiction even further.

People first started to be entertained by vampires when they ceased to believe in real vampires.  This happened for the educated classes during the 18th century.  It was slower for the uneducated classes because to them the vampire had been the reason for all sorts of natural phenomena, especially in Eastern Europe where the vampire myth was strongest.  Prior to this time, all the writings on vampires had been folk tales or texts in the form of how to recognise a vampire and ‘kill’ it.  By today’s scientific understanding, the ways of identifying a vampire and the ideas people of the time had about how you became a vampire are laughable but it was what they believed then.  You can read more about vampire myth and lore at Vampires: myth, legend and lore this is also a really good place to find out the basics about the origins of vampire myth.

The first fictional English vampire story was ‘The Vampyre’ written by John Polidori in 1819.  The vampire of his story is hardly recognisable as what we tend to think a vampire is today, although at the time this was a huge leap forward for the vampire character.  Polidori’s vampire, Lord Ruthven, was a strange paradox of unattractive yet irresistible, he was also clever, cunning, aristocratic and socially adept.  He didn’t seem to have any special strength and it is unclear from the story whether he had any fear of daylight or the other vampire weaknesses.   This is quite a change from the vampires who went before Lord Ruthven, who were mindless revenants from the grave with base instincts, animal cunning and an insatiable lust for blood. 

Vampires started out as somewhat limited, loathsome creatures with a whiff of the grave about them.  Then they became more socially adept, attractive yet strangely repulsive, creatures who wanted to steal the virtue of good god-fearing girls.  Now they have evolved into a wide variety of characters.  Current authors now create their own vampire worlds with their own vampire rules.  Perhaps it’s because crosses, satin capes, garlic and mouldy castles have been done to death by previous movies and books but whatever the reason, with the wide variety of vampire writings on offer today there really is a vampire for every one.

What ever kind of vampire you are looking for I hope to help you find them here in the LoveVampires web pages.
Amanda - LoveVampires Editor

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