Whilst immortal, the dark demon does change shape through the ages
Once widely feared as a nightmarish monster who would creep into your room at night to feast on your blood, they are now adored by millions across the world for their iconic behaviour and aesthetic. Vampires have evolved and nowadays, can be separated into two categories: “old” and “new”. The “old” vampire is true to its folkloric origins and is morally corrupt with a greater resemblance to a demon than a human being. On the other hand, the “new” vampire has been modernized so that readers can sympathise with their struggles and in turn, relate to them.
Dracula, written by Bram Stoker in 1897, is perhaps the definitive literary portrayal of a vampire and to which all other iterations of this creature are compared. At first glance, Count Dracula appears to be the common discerning nobleman who comes off as charming and scholarly albeit prone to fits of uncontrollable rage. However, we shortly learn that this is merely a mask of cordiality that hides his primal and predatory disposition towards humans. Likewise, he is particularly proud of his warrior heritage and relishes in controlling the weak.
Already, we can begin to see how Dracula embodies the “old” vampire through his villainous and cunning behaviour. What is more, the Count is synonymous with darkness – his supernatural powers (such as shapeshifting, hypnotism, and teleportation) are strongest at night and so, that’s when he prefers to act. During the day, he lays in a coffin to rest, in what could be described as a deathlike state of sleep, with his eyes eerily wide open. Additionally, he requires soil from his home, Transylvania, nearby to enter this rest when in a foreign land. Of course, he also must consume fresh human blood to survive and rejuvenate. Curiously, it is stated in the book that Dracula’s preferred victims are women.
It is worth noting that although he is the protagonist, we are never exposed to Dracula’s point of view as the story is entirely presented through journals, letters, and newspaper articles. This particular style of narration can be considered a stroke of genius on Stoker’s part since by omitting the monster’s side of the tale, he adds another nightmarish quality to the character.
By Mandy Wan: Literature Columnist
We cannot predict what atrocities he will do next and so, this taps into our innate fear of the unknown. In essence, Dracula is painted as a wicked and ever ominous figure who lurks in the back of our heads waiting for the opportune moment to pounce.
A truly horrifying creature, right?
Stephenie Meyer disagrees in her notorious Twilight saga (2005-2008), a series of books that have captivated fans all over the world with its dreamy protagonist, Edward Cullen, who is decidedly one of the “new” vampires. Whilst he is infamously obsessive and self-deprecative, it is clear that he cares deeply for his loved ones. To strangers, he is introverted and polite. Moreover, Edward possesses a great number of supernatural abilities (including but not limited to telepathy, superhuman strength, and increased regeneration) but does not use them for malicious reasons. In other words, we are shown that he places great value on self-discipline and thus follows a strict moral compass.
Ironically enough, when comparing Edward to Dracula, the two are like night and day despite both being the same species. The former’s relationship with the dark is less significant as he can operate during the day with no hindrances. Sunlight does not restrict any of his powers but instead causes his skin to sparkle which exposes his inhuman nature. Furthermore, he does not need to sleep and is not affected by the type of soil under his feet. Arguably the most important difference, and controversial, is his “vegetarianism”. Rather than preying on the humans he lives amongst, Edward, and his vampiric family, only drink animal blood. More specifically, he prefers carnivores (and so predators) which can be argued to be an environmental message to readers.
All in all, the concept of the vampire has been altered drastically throughout the years since its origins in folklore. Likewise, they have moved on from dominating the horror genre to fantasy and even romance. Yet, that is not to say that “old” vampires have been entirely erased from modern media. Take The Historian (2005), for example, where author Elizabeth Kostova reimagines the age-old myth of Count Dracula by weaving in the chilling tales of Vlad the Impaler, his real-life counterpart. Frankly, how could you ever be bored of this fascinating creature with so many interpretations available?
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