Posts Tagged ‘Sookie Stackhouse’

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When Polidori wrote The Vampyre in 1819, he spawned two branches of vampire fiction: an aristocratic romantic hero of Gothic fiction, and the vampire as undead monster. But if Polidori spawned the vampire, the most well known vampire was created by Bram Stoker in 1897. However, before Polidori, Heinrich August Ossenfelder published the German poem The Vampire in 1748. Even Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights made a reference to the vampire when the housekeeper suspected Heathcliff of being a vampire.

Unsurprisingly to us, at least, it seems that our gorgeous blood sucking friends have long dwelled among us; a highly adaptable species, they have changed with the times and have moved into the 21st century barely recognisable from their original incarnations. Originally regarded as an alien nocturnal species, sleeping in coffins, living in the shadows, drinking the blood of humans in secrecy, vampires are too easy to stereotype, but it is their variety and adaptability that makes them survivors.

They may seem to be creatures living on the margins of society but they have been central to the stories humans tell each other and these stretch back through to ancient folklore. But as long as there are beliefs in the existence of vampires, there also exist beliefs in methods of protecting ourselves against the undead. In some folk legends, for example, it was believed that eating blood bread, a bread made from vampire blood and flour, would give immunity against vampire bites. And as long as people believe that the undead walk amongst us, they also believe that there are ways and means of hunting down the vampire.

In some folklore traditions, it is said that the killing of the vampire can only be performed by vampire hunters, priests and monks. In the folklore of the Balkans, for example, the tales of the vampire hunters were as much part of the Romani beliefs about the vampire. Referred to as a dhampir in Romani or a vampirovic in Serbian, these folklores depict the vampire hunters using other less well known methods to entice the vampire to their traps. Aside from the well known methods of execution, such as staking, decapitation, crucifixes and holy water, it was also believed that vampires can be drowned in clear flowing water.

In literary fiction, the most well known vampire hunter is Professor Van Helsing from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But now that the undead are returning with a vengeance to walk among us again, a new generation of vampire hunters also stalk among our midst. When thinking of a vampire slayer, Buffy and Blade no doubt comes immediately to mind.

Judging from their portrayals in Blade, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and From Dusk till Dawn, the arsenal of the modern day vampire hunter usually includes holy water, firearms with silver ammunition, silver nets, the appropriate religious symbols, crossbows that fire wooden stakes and even waterguns filled with holy water.While predominantly human, there are also other examples of vampire hunters. Blade, the eponymous hero of the movie and comic books, is said to be a hybrid, half human and half vampire.

In HBO’s True Blood, we encounter a particularly vile species of the vampire hunter in the first episode of Season 1. They are the Rattrays. From the minute Sookie Stackhouse lays eyes on Vampire Bill, her curiosity is piqued. Her friend Tara is not amused: “That’s trouble, looking for a place to happen. Tall, dark….and dead”. And Tara is right. Within half-an-hour, panic ensues in the vicinity of Merlotte’s bar when there’s an attempted murder and people are being beaten up. Sookie, the feisty heroine, played by Anna Paquin, comes to rescue Vampire Bill from the Rattrays, vampire hunters who are draining his blood to sell on the black market. “Low rent backwoods trash”, Sookie hisses as she sends them running with their tails between their legs. The Rattrays don’t take too kindly to Sookie‘s disruption of their draining of Vampire Bill; inevitably they return to seek their revenge.

In Alan Ball’s hands, the True Bloodvampires are unlike the crucifix-fearing vampires of legend and folklore. Having emerged from the coffin and with the synthetic blood Tru Blood designed to satisfy their thirst without having to resort to draining humans, the vampires of True Bloodshatters the traditional mythology of the vampire. Based on the Southern Vampire Mysteries, the vampires of True Blood reveal that they have been tricking humans that the traditional vampire mythology is true when they actually aren’t at all. Now, our vampires can pick up a case of True Blood at the local Wal-Mart and pop a bottle of ‘O’-positive in the microwave to satisfy their hunger. They own businesses, like our very own Eric Northman, the 1000-year-old Viking vampire who owns Fangtasia; they pay taxes, they go to bars and they are highly fashion conscious denizens of the night. There are tourists who go to vampire bars; ‘fangbangers’ who lust after vampires and long to be used by these creatures and there are the ‘drainers’ who hunt vampires for their blood because of its extraordinary properties. And then there is the Fellowship of the Sun who believes vampires are an abomination and should be destroyed. It doesn’t take a genius to see the clever socio-political themes lying just beneath the surface of HBO’s True Blood. In Ball’s hands, a new vampire mythology emerges, particularly the energising side effects drinking human blood has on the body.

Vampire killing kit (walnut case) circa 1800

This brings us to the question as to whether these antique vampire killing kits, recently up for auction, are capable of harming our Louisiana vamps. Some of these kits are incredibly well-designed and beautiful objects. Made out of rosewood or mahogany, these beautiful ornate cases come complete with the usual assortment of items designed to kill vampires. They include silver daggers, wooden stakes, garlic powder, a syringe (for injecting a garlic solution), an ivory crucifix, metal teeth pliers, and revolvers with the requisite silver bullets. These are definitely not cheaply made plastic novelty items; they seemingly tap into our utmost primal fears and fascination about these creatures of the night. Dwight Stevens, of Stevens Auction Company, has sold four vampire killing kits in twenty-seven years as an auctioneer, most recently in Natchez, Mississippi, for $14, 850. He states:

“I don’t believe in vampires – I’ve never met one. But somebody believed in them, something drove people to believe […] From New Orleans to Vicksburg, these old boxes remain”.

 

Apparently, some of these kits date to circa 1880 Romania. Another was supposedly a Victorian kit, and was purported to have been sold at The Great Exhibition in London 1851 for $12,000. Tapping into our primal night-time terrors, these kits capture our fears of the undead originally evoked in those early folklores and legends, and there are indeed several of these kits in existence. One was seemingly made by a Professor Ernst Blomberg and was believed to be genuine. However, a man named Michael de Winter has stepped forward recently, claiming that he created these kits and made up the name of Professor Blomberg.

And while hoax and urban legends seem to pile up whenever the vampire is concerned, one does wonder if these vampire killing kits are even capable of harming our modern Louisiana vampires. Could they harm our quixotic, cunning 1000-year-old Eric Northman? Or will our Viking see them off easily? And if the drainers come armed with these vampire killing kits, is Edward Cullen capable of protecting himself? Will Vampire Bill require the services of our heroine, Sookie Stackhouse?

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