Just a reminder: Bewitching Blog Tours will be sponsoring a blog tour for myself and my book, “Drasmyr,” during the month of May. The tour will begin on May 7th. The particulars of the tour, including which sites I will be visiting, will be announced at some point in t
All right. This is a completely silly post which has no bearing on the real world, or on literary criticism, or on whatever else, but I’m in an odd mood.
Some people have fantasy football (do people still do that these days?); I’ve got my fantasy monster fight. The question before me is: who would win in a fight? A vampire? Or a werewolf? Whole book series and movies have been written on this topic. In the Underworld movie series, for example, vampires and werewolves are in a state of perpetual warfare. And in the Twilight books… uh, I really don’t know because I refuse to read them, but I understand that there is a love triangle involving a human, a werewolf, and a vampire. Re-reading that, that sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. “A human, a werewolf, and a vampire enter a bar…”
Anyway, if a vampire and a werewolf came to blows, who would win? For those of us geeky gamers who used to play AD&D, the winner is obviously the vampire. Just look at the creatures’ stats in the Monster Manual. But trying to evaluate the match through literature is a little bit more difficult. One can only assess the situation by evaluating strengths and weaknesses.
Both vampires and werewolves are supernaturally strong. Both tend to be on the prowl or at their peak strength during night time hours. One on one against the typical human, the typical human doesn’t stand a chance. Both vampires and werewolves procreate by biting humans. And typically such transformations are a one way deal. What about weaknesses?
As far as humans are concerned, the only way to kill a werewolf is with a silver bullet. And I suppose fire works as well. The ways to kill a vampire, depending upon which particular myth you are dealing with, include: wooden stakes through the heart, decapitation, immersion in running water, sunlight, a silver bullet, and holy water. And I don’t think they are fond of fire either. The vampire also has several other weaknesses, although none of them are fatal. These include invitations, garlic, and roses. Clearly, if one considers weaknesses alone, the werewolf has the advantage. At least, it is clear that a human will find it more difficult to kill a werewolf than a vampire.
The vampire, however, does have two more important advantages: it can fly (or transform into a bat) and it always retains a human-like intelligence. Since it is intelligent, a vampire is more likely to seek out a gun and silver bullet if it is about to face a werewolf than vice versa. If one nixes the transforming into a bat bit, and simply gives the vampire the power of flight with a gun and several silver bullets, the vampire’s going to win quite easily. Actually, unless one grants the werewolf the ability to harm the vampire with its claws and bite, the vampire will always have the advantage of intellect over animalistic brawn. It should win pretty much every confrontation on those grounds: a snarling, drooling werewolf simply won’t think to use a wooden stake or a bowie knife. But if the vampire and werewolf can both harm each other with their respective natural weapons, all bets are off.
Regardless, as far as humans are concerned: it is better to fight a vampire. You have more options to kill, repel, or, at the very least, escape from a vampire than you do a werewolf. So, remember that the next time you are out wandering through a graveyard beneath a full moon. Go with the guy clawing his way out of the ground rather than the strange beastie howling at the moon.
Vampires have been a staple of modern mythology for the last two centuries or so, from Bram Stoker’s aristocratic and sinister Count Dracula, to the sparkling Edward Cullen of Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series. The last twenty years or so has seen an uptick in vampire interest; indeed, it is nearly a frenzy. But what is it that makes vampires so intriguing, so alluring?
In the beginning, vampires were portrayed as sinister forces of darkness that seduced women and turned them into agents of the devil. Now, they are just semi-dangerous love interests. Throughout they have been associated with sexuality, at least to a certain degree. The drinking of blood summons images of bestial, carnal urges, while the penetration of human flesh by vampire teeth summons images of… well, you get the idea.
In Dracula’s time, sexuality was still viewed as a vice, something of the devil that should be avoided. So, making Dracula seductive and human-like in appearance, resonated well with his nature as the prince of darkness. He existed to tempt women, to draw them away from the path of virtue, and corrupt their very souls. His sexuality at that time was synonymous with his corruptive influence; it was his avenue to damnation. We’ve moved beyond that now. Courtesy of Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series, vampires have become perfectly respectable dance partners, dates, even husbands. I don’t know what that says about us… but it probably isn’t good.
There is a third aspect to the vampire that we also find alluring. That of the soul-searching creature of the night. We’ve turned from the vampire as tormentor, to the vampire as tormented. It began with Anne Rice (I think) and the vampire Louis from “Interview with a Vampire.” Now, the vampire broods and ruminates, suffering ungodly horror for his fate. He endures incomprehensible moral anguish for every human he kills. This window into a dark soul entices us, it hopes to offer a better understanding of our own human condition—we with all our faults and failures, and our own anguish for the things we’ve done that eat away at our soul. Perhaps we can find relief and meaning from the experiences of a creature condemned like Louis.
In the end, the vampire is a complicated amalgam of forces. It is seductive and intriguing in many ways; it is a monster with a human soul, a sexual lure into darkness, or perhaps… a potential boyfriend with a spotty past. Whatever the case may be, its pull on us mere humans is undeniable.
This seems to be a common theme on a number of web sites I’ve stumbled across. I got nothing else to write about today, so I might as well address it. There are people who, in all seriousness, are asking whether vampires really exist. Take this article, for example. The writer suggests that there is evidence for the existence of real vampires (specifically the similarity in certain vampire-like legends across multiple cultures) and then goes on to argue that since it has not been proven one way or the other, he/she chooses to remain open to the possibility to the extent that he/she takes precautions.
It may be worthwhile to analyze this question objectively. I studied analytical philosophy in college, so I have a better grasp of epistemological concerns than most people. And though the “existence” of a vampire is a metaphysical concern, our knowledge or lack thereof is an epistemological one.
Is it possible that vampires exist? Yes. It is possible. Just… not… bloody… likely! One of the first tenets of rational thinking I learned in philosophy is that you can’t prove a negative. You can’t prove that vampires DON’T exist because the universe is just two vast and varied. Proving they don’t exist would entail somehow being aware of everything happening in all of reality all at once. Human minds are finite. Even when grouped together. There will always be some corner of reality that remains unexplored where the vampire might be hiding. Let me correct myself, though. Some things you can prove don’t exist because they aren’t even thinkable; specifically, contradictions. Contradictions are objects which possess at least two characteristics which effectively negate each other. For example, round squares do not exist. There is no object that is both round and square in the same way at the same time; and no, octagons do not count as a counter-example. Then there is the realm of the silly. Such things might exist if there are no natural bounds on reality and all our scientific “knowledge” is either false or just far too-limited to encompass reality. Traditional vampires, nosferatu, undead, werewolves, fairies, unicorns, and other monsters–they all fall in here. To make it mathematical (although in a somewhat subjective way), we can rank a creatures possibility to exist on a scale where a 0 means the object is known to not exist (a contradiction), and 10 denotes that it most certainly does (your self-awareness), I would put vampires and their like in the region of 1.
So, as I said, vampires may exist, but they just aren’t very likely. You can, of course, play with the definition of the creature. Traditional vampires, also known as nosferatu, are undead. That means they are basically a corpse that has been imbued with a certain echo of life. They were formerly human, transformed into an evil monster by another such creature, and filled with an insatiable lust for human blood. If you stop there, you might be able to find something sort of like that in nature (although I would nix the undead aspect). There are humans who drink blood, some who even think they are vampires, but this is most probably a psychological disorder not a state of being that grants super-cosmic powers. The more powers you add from the traditional myth, the less probable you make finding that creature a reality. Are there creatures who, through innate ability, can control the weather? Probably not. Can transform into mist? Probably not. Can change into a wolf or bat? Probably not. Etc… If there is a common origin to the vampire myth in nature it is unlikely that it resembles our notions of the traditional vampire, except in the most vague, round-a-bout way. With that in mind, I don’t intend to take any precautions against vampires, nosferatu, undead, werewolves, dragons, or any other monster from myth for that matter. Dracula was based on a real man, Vlad Tepes. And though Vlad Tepes was certainly evil, he was just a man, not undead, just a cruel tyrant. Dracula, as vampire, is myth.
Ever since Bram Stoker wrote “Dracula” (although he did have predecessors) the vampire has been a potent force in Western myth. The novel, itself, has decidedly Christian overtones, as that was the dominant religion in Europe at the time of its writing. As such, the vampire inherited a number of demonic-type powers from the forces of darkness and was seen as an agent of the Christian devil. Although it has been romanticized in recent times, the original vampire was seen strictly as evil.
In the original myth, Dracula could walk around during the day, although his power was greatly reduced. Later vampire tales embellished and made the exposure of sunlight lethal to him. I have seen a number of movies in which, after many struggles and battles, Dracula is destroyed by being caught outside with the rising of the sun. Oh, if it were only so easy!
Typically, Dracula and other undead of his kind, are presented as exceptionally strong and cunning, with power over some of the meaner forces of nature. They can control rats, bats, wolves and even the weather. They can also assume the form of a wolf, or a large bat, or even a creeping mist. But this is changing, at least as far as bats are concerned. I rarely read a modern novel or see a modern movie in which the vampire assumes the form of a solitary bat. This may be the result of the difference of the approximate masses involved. We no longer seem willing to suspend disbelief to the point where we can accept that something roughly the same size as a man can be crammed into something as small as a bat. Of course, this may be a result of another change that has occurred in the vampire. When Bram Stoker wrote, Dracula was seen as a quasi-spiritual being, almost like a ghost. He could slip through cracks and walk through the edge of a closed door. Today, vampires tend to be regarded as solid physical beings. And, where it might make sense that a ghostly undead could assume a smaller form, it is a little harder to imagine a physical one doing so.
Vampires also had a number of odd attributes, a potpourri of strange powers and weaknesses. They were repelled by garlic and their own reflection in a mirror. A rose, if placed on the cover of its coffin, could restrain it within as long as the rose remained in place. Nowadays, although garlic and mirrors are still associated with the vampire, it is a rare thing to see the rose employed as it was originally intended.
Another weakness was running water; it was said to have the ability to destroy the vampire if he or she was immersed within its currents. Again, this is another power or weakness that seems to be fading away in the literature. I rarely see a movie where running water is used as a weapon against the undead.
Finally, there is the matter of religion. In the beginning, Dracula was repelled by holy objects: be it a cross, holy water, a eucharist, or what have you. As the cultural influence of Christianity wanes, this aspect of the vampire is losing its appeal. I believe it was Anne Rice in her Vampire Chronicles where the impotence of the sacred was first introduced. That may or may not be a sad commentary on our society, but it is certainly a very specific change in the power of the undead.
There were other powers in the original myth, as well, such as being able to cross running water with the moon, or the tides, but I will not delve into any more.
To sum up, the original vampire had a whole slew of special powers, both strengths and weaknesses, that made it a very unique creature that was seen as a quasi-demonic force of evil. Today, we seem to be in the process of humanizing them, stripping them of their supernatural power and transforming them into merely immortal humans whose only fault is that they drink blood to survive. Personally, I don’t really like that development. I recently wrote a fantasy novel involving a vampire called Drasmyr (see the side bar if you are interested–Publications). I did embellish on the powers of the vampire a little bit, but I tried to keep to the original spirit of Dracula and the original myth at least as far as the vampire was concerned.