Vampires are one of the most known creatures in the fantasy universe. Although well-known, the history is somewhat cloudy which is why I will try my best to cover, not only the vampire origin, but also vampire stories and the different portrayals of the creature.
Vampires in general
When we think about vampires the first thing that comes to mind is a creature that feeds on blood (usually from humans). However, blood-drinking isn’t the only thing that we associate with vampires so here is a list of things that are usually associated with vampires.
- Feeds on blood
- Have fangs
- Sunlight will kill them
- Super human abilities (strength, speed, senses, heeling)
- Turns into a bat
- Can only be killed with a stake, silver or holy weapon/weapon drenched in holy water
- Can not stand garlic
- Can be hurt by holy water and crosses
- Can turn humans into vampires
- Are pale
- Has no reflection
- Can not enter a house without an invitation
Many ancient cultures have tales of vampiric creatures, but as this post will become very long, if I should list all of them, I will only mention a few of them.
The ancient Babylonians had tales of the mythical Lilitu who is synonymous with Lilith and her daughter Lilu. According to the lore, Lilith was the first wife of Adam. She was cast out of Eden by good because she refused to Adam’s subordinate (according to traditional Jewish texts, she left Adam to become queen of the demons). After being cast out of Eden she primarily prayed on babies and mothers, but also men, when the night fell.
If you dive into Mesopotamian vampiric folklore you will quickly find that there are other vampire demon tales.
Ancient Greek mythology has tales of the daughter of the goddess Hecate named Empusa and lover of the god Zeus named Lamia. Empusa was described as a demonic creature with bronze feet who transformed into a young woman to seduce men in their sleep, before drinking their blood. Lamia swore vengeance over Hera, wife of Zeus, who in her wrath of the infidelity, had killed all of Lamia’s offspring. Lamia then prayed on children in their beds at night, sucking their blood.
The Greek Striges, also known as the Roman Strix, are nocturnal bird-like creatures that feed on human flesh and blood. The therm is also known in Albanian as Shtriga and Slavic as Strzyga.
In the 18th century Europe entered a period of vampire hysteria. Story after story surfaced with accounts of people rising from their graves to pray on people in the area, by sucking their blood. The hysteria even made governments send out official to examine the bodies, write case files and publish books throughout Europe. People dug up graves to impale bodies in an attempt to keep the bodies in their graves. The hysteria didn’t end before the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa passed a law, prohibiting people from opening graves and desecrate bodies. However, the vampire lived on in artistic works and in local superstition.
Hungarian belief in vampires have existed since the middle ages, and blood drinking creatures are mentioned in several of the Inquisition’s notes. In the 12th century a pagan shaman was interrogated by the Hungarian inquisitors while on trail in the city of Sárospatak. He claimed that there were demons called “izcacus”, meaning blood drinker. The demon was described as a wild creature that could be called to destroy the enemies of the pagans. Hungarian experts estimate that the word dates back to before the Hungarians arrived in Europe in 895.
There are several other folklore from around the world about vampiric creatures that feed on blood or energy. They should be easy to find if you want to know more.
Bram Stoker’s novel from 1897 is the one work that most people refer to when trying to describe vampires. The creature Stoker described is a distinguished being who, with the power of hypnosis, makes people do his bidding. He can transform into a bat-like creature. This form allows him to fly and makes him even stronger than he is in his usual form. Even in his usual human form he is super strong, super fast, super agile and has super senses.
Dracula is an original vampire, meaning that he was not created by another vampire. He gained his immortality by making a deal with the devil and unlike other vampires he can not be killed with silver, stakes or holy weapons. In addition to the usual strengths a vampire have, Dracula also has the ability to hear one’s thoughts, manipulate elements, and raise the dead to be his zombie slaves.
When in his human form he looks normal, although he has razor sharp finger nails that allow him to slit the throat of his victims or his own wrist to allow others a taste of his blood. Only when hungry or when he uses his powers, his appearance changes. His eyes turns blood-red and his fangs protrudes from his upper jaw.
It is believed that Stoker based the character on the Romanian prince Vlad Dracula, also know as Vlad the Impaler, who’s favorite method of execution was impalement. According to history, Vlad Dracula enjoyed the impaling so much that he viewed the executions as entertainment as he dined.
The Dracula character has been used in several books and movies over the years and to my knowledge, the movie where the character differs the most from the original book is the movie “Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens”. The movie is a German silent movie from 1922 that lacked the rights to use the names from the book, but portrayed the story by changing the names and stick to the story line. Count Orlok is the German depiction of Count Dracula, but his appearance differs from Stoker’s description in every way. Count Orlok has very pale skin, his eyes are dark and sunken, his ears are pointy and his fangs are his front teeth that are always visible. He is bald and he has long claw-like finger nails. In other words, he is a monster both on the inside and on the outside.
The Twilight Saga is a book series written by Stephenie Meyer and later made into movies.
The Twilight Saga gives us another take on what vampires can be. Here we have vampires that can easily walk in the sun. However, the sun light will expose them because it makes their skin sparkle like diamonds. They can survive being torn apart, but only a being as strong or stronger than themselves can do that. To kill the vampires in the Twilight universe they have to be burnt.
Some vampires choose to feed on blood from animals. Those who do has a change in eye color from red to golden. The animal blood can sustain them, but they will not be as strong as vampires that feed on human blood. The vampires that only feeds on animals view themselves as “vegetarians”.
As if the vampires in this universe wasn’t deadly enough, they can also enter any home they wish too, without being invited in. However, they for the most part, choose not too, because they are predators who wants the thrill of the hunt.
In addition to the super human abilities that all vampires possess, like super strength and super speed, some vampires also have extra abilities, like Edward who can reed peoples minds, Alice who can see the future, Jasper who can change peoples mood/emotions and Bella who can create a shield around herself or any other person she wishes to. There are several other vampires with special abilities, but not all vampires have.
All vampires are pale with cold skin. The oldest of the vampires are so pale that they almost look transparent. A vampire is at its absolute strongest when it is a “newborn” meaning newly transformed into a vampire. This is because they still have their human blood flowing through their body.
The Originals is a TV-series spin-off of The Vampire Diaries and is followed by another spinn-off called Legacies. As the name suggest, they series is revolving around the original vampires, a family called the Mikaelsons. We first meet the Mikealsons in The Vampire Diaries.
The original vampires was created by their mother, Ester, a witch who modified an immortality spell to protect her children from werewolf. However, she upset the spirits when casting the spell, which made them retaliate, by making her children and her husband into vampires. To cast the spell, she bound it to a white oak tree, making wood from that very tree the only thing that could kill them.
Klaus, is the only hybrid in the family. His father was from a pack of werewolves, which makes him half vampire and half werewolf. Although half werewolf, his werewolf side was made dormant by a curse his mother placed on him.
The vampires in this story will burst into flames if exposed to sunlight, unless they are wearing a “daylight amulet”. The daylight amulets are made by witches and is a very personal object. They are often a ring, but can also be other kinds of jewelry, as long as they contain a special stone.
All vampires, except the originals (and a few others presented in the series) can be killed by a stake through the heart. They can be temporarily stopped by breaking their neck, but they will heal eventually. They possess super human strength, speed and hearing, along with the ability to control people through compulsion, and even alter their memories.
A bite from a werewolf will also kill a vampire, unless they are given blood from Klaus whose blood is the only thing that can cure a werewolf bite, because he is a hybrid. However, any vampires blood can cure most injuries in humans. If a human die with vampire blood in their system, they will turn into a vampire if they feed on human blood.
The vampires can feed on humans, animals or other vampires. If they do not feed their body will weaken and they will desiccate into a mummified state, until they get blood into their system again. When the vampires feed their face changes. Their eyes turn red and black veins appears under their eyes and their fangs extend from their upper jaw. This is said to be their true face.
Everything I have written is based on thorough research and only a small selection of what vampires are. The essence of this post is to give some general information about vampires and to let you know, that if you want to create a vampiric character there are many ways to go about it. A vampire can be pretty much what you want it to be, only your imagination sets the limits.
By the way, Dracula, Twilight and The Originals was chosen because they are some of my favorite vampire stories and I would recommend you read/watch them if you haven’t already.