Before Twilight, Vampire Diaries, True Blood or even Dracula, there used to be an entirely different perception and truth about vampires, little of which is known to the younger, more modern audience. What happened to the monsters that used to make both young and old so very afraid?
Apart from local folklore, western Europe and the slowly forming America were blissfully unaware of what came to be known to us as vampires. Sure, odd things happened at night – certainly the dead were to blame and various kinds of restless spirits made life so much harder for the living.
Yet, as eastern influences came seeping into those regions, so did the belief in vampires. Back then though, a vampire wasn’t some dashing undead nobleman with pretty features, an unending life and fangs to pierce the neck of an even more beautiful young lady.
The original attributes vampires had then, were usually a bloated body, dark and likely rotten skin and the urge to feed on energy. Mostly that meant blood, just as it does now. But it could also refer to the energy of a human being as such – and in some cases was even meant as nothing but a reference to money.
The idea of vampires was developed with the human need to explain some of the things people could not understand then, seeing as science, even when practiced, wasn’t public knowledge. Yet people tried to wrap their heads around things such as the decomposition of the human body once it was dead. What they eventually came up with is the myth we are facing now.
The creatures were considered so vile and horrible that graves were dug up and corpses staked post mortem, just to make sure. Sometimes even the living had to endure being suspected of vampirism, a serious accusation which could have dire consequences.
With his work “The Vampyre”, a short novel on vampires, John Polidori not only created the first fictional book about the fangs. He also conjured up the first version of fangs that managed to unite the vampire as it was understood then with the “modern” concept of mankind, taking us away from mindless creatures of the night to a sophisticated gentleman.
Now that things made more sense to people, writing fiction about vamps became quite the thing – most notably of course, Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”.
Sure, there was the occasional relapse to ugly, for example with Murnau’s “Nosferatu”. But with the 20th century came a steady development further away from the horrific vampire to the princes of the night presented to us now, read and seen in Anne Rice’s works to name but one.
What our ancestors once feared has become an ideal associated with beauty, immortality and most often wealth. We find them in books, movies, tv-show, but also games where we not only get to learn about them but actually play as one. How’s that for a hunger for power, folks?
However, with the only exception of children’s books, we are also constantly reminded that a vampire still is and always will be a predator, no matter just how sparkly his skin may be. So the shiver that runs down our backs when we think about some stranger taking a bite on us will always be there. And who can honestly claim to always feel perfectly safe at night with a handsome stranger passing them by…