Early Vampire Stories
Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Tales – Bram Stoker – 1914 posthumous publication
Dracula – Bram Stoker – 1897
Carmilla – Sheridan LeFanu – 1872 (Themes- Disease, romantic love, superstition, isolation, dreams.)
The Vampyre – John Polidori – 1819
Lord Byron’s fragment of a Gothic Novel, written 1816
So what were the first Vampire stories based on?
- The Historical figure of Vlad Tepes, and other issues around aristocracy, power and political unrest
- Folklore about supernatural creatures (Brothers Grimm is a useful reference for this)
- Paranoia, superstition, religion, due to lack of scientific knowledge
- Beliefs about death, the afterlife, suicide, burial, dying in a state of sin, purgatory and limbo, found in Christian teachings.
- Disease, Carmilla particularly talks about an epidemic among the peasants
- Travel to Eastern Europe. The landscape and the remnants of old feudal scuffles, as well as the religious iconography could have inspired some writers.
Eastern Europe and its Tyrants
Vlad Dracula was a prince in what is now Romania (1431–1476). Some historians argue that Vlad Dracula was a bloodthirsty sadistic figure, because of his military campaigns and public executions. Others argue that he was defending his people from the expansion of the Ottoman Empire (Turkish, Empire lasted from 1299 to1923.) The bloodlust motif found in vampire stories may have come from the particularly grotesque executions and tortures practiced in Eastern Europe in Mediaeval times. But drinking blood is a motif found in the folklores of many countries, Joseph Campbell notes an Aztec tale of the gods drinking blood, for example.
Bram Stoker based his character Dracula on the historic figure of Vlad Dracula. His hard cruel face is described in the text, Stoker may have based it on real images of Vlad Dracula.
These are two 20th Century Gothic stories which use Eastern Europe as a setting –
The Bloody Countess – Alejandra Pizarnik – 1968
Based on the story of Elizabeth Bathory, a real historical figure, but steeped in myth, the story uses a frame narrative, the voice is a scholar piecing together her life and crimes. It has no epiphany, apotheosis or catharsis. It is written to appeal to the part of us that is fascinated by dark things.
The Vampire of Kaldenstein – Frederick Cowles – 1938
Uses the same imagery as Dracula, but makes a comment on the aristocracy draining the life from the peasants through taxes or tithes. None of the erotic imagery of other Vampire stories. Set in Eastern Europe, playing on the distant, mysterious, remote and backwards nature of parts of Eastern Europe.