Sex, Blood and Vampires

Posted: March 21, 2011 by udoblick in Reviews, Southern Vampire Mysteries, True Blood, Twilight, Vampires
Tags: , , , , ,

Vampires seem to be, to borrow a phrase from the fashionistas, the new black right now. Unsurprising, really. They are hot, they don’t age, don’t need botox and judging from Twilight’s Edward Cullen, and the raunchy HBO True Blood’s Eric Northman and Pam, they look good in anything – from a grey pea-coat to black and leather.

The word vampire has almost become synonymous with Bram Stoker’s Dracula, one of the best-selling books of all time. Stoker’s Dracula is said to owe something to Vlad III of Wallachia who lived in the 15th century and had a habit of impaling his victims on stakes. But Stoker’s conception of the vampire has shape-shifted and fragmented throughout the world in ways he would barely comprehend, and probably not even recognise.

Indeed, the vampire may seem to be a creature living on the margins of society, but we’ve always had a contradictory relationship with the vampire. Central to the stories humans tell each other, these creatures exist in folklore that stretch back through to ancient times. Almost every culture appears to have some sort of legend about vampires or hungry ghosts who feed on the energy of the living, in one way or another. Yet, very few of them bear any resemblance to Bela Lugosi descending the staircase, holding a flickering candle that improbably lights the cavernous great hall of his castle for the legendary cinematographer Karl Freund. And while some of these other folklores around the world are similar to the traditional Central European myths that have been incorporated into Gothic literature and cinematic lore, there are quite a few which depart from the traditional vampire lore.

The earliest account of these creatures of the night derives from Mesopotamia. Lamatsu was a serpent demon who reportedly stole children from their homes and devoured them. Another incarnation of Lamatsu appears later, in the guise of Lilith. In early Hebraic writings, Lilith took the form of a winged demon with the body of a woman with owl-like talons for feet. She was reported to be the first wife of Adam (before Eve was created). Lilith was formed of the same earth from which Adam was created, therefore she considered herself his equal. That being the case, Lilith refused to be submissive. She was subsequently banished to the demon realm. Lilith’s offspring were damned to become demons with Lilith taking the title of “Mother of Demons.”

In China, a vampire is created when a recently deceased corpse is possessed by a demon, usually after suicide or a violent death without a proper burial. Unlike the vampires in the West, the Chiang Shih (also known as Jiang Shi) is said to be covered with white or green hair over its entire body. It is also said to have long claws, teeth and glowing red eyes. I think it’s safe to say that it is hardly an attractive specimen when compared to the highly decorative vampires of True Blood. Breathing the Chiang Shih’s breath can be lethal but apparently, it can be repelled by garlic, salt and barriers of rice, thunder or a bullet.

In the Philippines, we have the Aswang. Apparently, the Aswang appears as a beautiful woman but at night, it is compelled to seek victims. It attacks by using a long tubular tongue to drink their blood. After feeding, it appears pregnant. One of the most fearsome creatures of Malay folklore is the Pontianak, a vampire like entity, she (the Pontianak is always female) is characterised by ear-piercing shrieks, long flowing hair and a penchant for the blood of children.

In Japan, we have the Gaki. Similar to the vampires in the West, it drinks the blood of corpses and appears pale-skinned, cold with hollow features. The can also shape-shift, transforming into animals or impersonating living people. Some of the oldest can stalk their prey invisibly. In Scotland, we have the BaoBahan Sith that usually disguises itself as a beautiful maiden who preys on young men, lured the victims to their deaths through song and dance. In folklore, it is said that this vampire always dresses in green to hide their cloven feet.

 

The Dearg-Due is a dreaded creature of Ireland whose name means blood sucker. An ancient vampire who dates back to Celtic times, it is still feared. The only way to curb its vampiric activities is to pile stones on the grave of any who might be suspected of housing such a beast. On the other hand, the Upier, a Polish vampire, is said to sleep in blood, rise at Midday and go to sleep at Midnight. It is also said to have a barbed tongue with which it consumes large amounts of blood. The Asanbosam, West African vampires, are unlike their European cousins, preferring to live in trees rather than coffins.  They take human form but instead of feet, they have iron teeth and hooks. 

Let’s face it: unfortunately, the vampires of folklore pale in comparison when compared to The Southern Vampire Mysteries’ Viking vampire, Eric Northman, who is really interesting. In Eric Northman, we have a powerful, dangerous, yet captivating 1000-year-old, leather-wearing, club owning vampire. Compare to these other loathsome creatures, what’s not to like about this particular Viking vampire?

oOOo

A version of this article originally appeared in truebloodnet.com

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