Vampires in Literature and Books I Enjoyed

Hello book friends! Do you enjoy books that feature vampires? I think they’re one of the most classic literary monster, and really enjoy a good vampire book every now and then. So I decided to dedicate a special post to vampires!

This post will focus mostly on the creatures that dominated European folklore. But know there are many other countries and regions that have vampiric creatures, too! Blood-drinking monsters actually already “existed” in ancient Mesopotamia, although they obviously weren’t called vampires back then. Mostly, they were referred to as demons, but historians seem to think that these ancient beliefs could’ve given rise to the European vampire.

In short, essentially every country on earth has its own sort of vampiric-creature rooted in their folklore. I’ve never read books about non-European vampires, though, so if you have any recommendations, send them my way!

What and where: the European Vampire

I personally love reading books with vampires that resemble the bloodthirsty creatures medieval and early modern Europeans believed in. The 18th century vampire craze started in, you guessed it, South-Eastern Europe and Transylvania. There were two cases that were particularly well documented. In both instances, the alleged vampire returned from the dead and other people started dying soon after. Sounds pretty creepy.

What’s interesting is that folkloric beliefs were actively being quelled, as this was the Enlightenment era after all. I guess an enlightened person should not believe in blood-sucking undead creatures. Either way, people became a teeny bit obsessed with vampires, which lead to many graves being dug up and bodies being staked. Ya know, just in case. People were so obsessed that the Empress had to tell everyone to chill out and stop desecrating bodies. The obsession stopped, but as we know, vampires continued to live on in art and literature.

Popularizing the vampire: 19th century literature and onwards

Vampires appeared in many poems in the 18th and 19th century, but Lord Byron has been credited with writing the first prose fiction about vampires, called “The Vampyre.” Though it was actually his physician John Polidori who wrote it… “Varney the Vampire” was a vampire-story by James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest, which first appeared in a series of Penny Dreadfuls. Though when it was published in book-form it came to be over 800 pages of double-columned text. That’s a big book…

Though obviously no work of fiction was as influential as Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” The themes that Stoker used in his work eventually merged with folkloric tradition. With the exception of Dracula, portraying the vampire as a tragic creature is not something that is limited to modern literature. In “Carmilla” by Sheridan Le Fanu, the vampire Carmilla is almost portrayed in a sympathetic light.

The 20th and 21st century, however, started the trend of stepping away from the vampire as the embodiment of evil. Instead, vampires were tragic heroes, and not all of them were affected by traditional repellents such as garlic, crosses, and the sun. This is when Anne Rice wrote the Vampire Chronicles, and later, when the Black Dagger Brotherhood, Twilight, and Vampire Academy became really popular. I’ve never read Twilight, but as someone who adores the Vampire Academy series I can say that those vampires are a far-cry from the medieval European one that dominated folklore.

Vampire Academy is actually the first book I want to highlight.

Vampire Academy

By Richelle Mead

The Moroi and Strigoi that appear in Vampire Academy have their roots in Romanian folklore. Moroi comes from the word mort meaning dead or nightmare. Strigoi, on the other hand, were creatures that could either be living or dead. Living Strigoi were said to be witches with two hearts or two souls, who could send their souls out of their bodies in order to suck blood. Dead Strigoi were reanimated corpses that also had quite some bloodlust.

That last description of Strigoi definitely seems to overlap most with the Strigoi in Vampire Academy. But of course, much of the VA books is about Rose, a Damphir. Damphirs also have their roots in folklore; Balkan, in this case. They are said to be the result of a union between a vampire and a human. In the VA books, Rose is quite powerful, and this holds true in folklore as well. Damphirs were said to be very akin to vampires; meaning that are very strong, have regenerating abilities, and can walk in sunlight. In folklore they were efficient vampire hunters, and in the VA books they are tasked with protecting the Moroi from Strigoi.

I’ve been wanting to reread this series (including Bloodlines) for a long time now, and writing this part really makes me more excited to do so.

Empire of the Vampire

By Jay Kristoff

Empire of the Vampire is a book I finished recently and loved a lot. The vampires in this chunk of a novel are much more akin to the ones early modern Europeans feared; bloodthirsty creatures that will definitely kill you. They cannot walk in the sun, but in EotV the sun kinda of… turned off. So, extra danger. What I liked about this type of vampire, is that there were no specific rules to who would turn, and when. If a vampire killed you, you could sit up as a new vampire two minutes later, rot in the ground for a week and then wake up, or stay dead. That second one is particularly gross. Imagine fighting a half-rotten corpse.

The vampires who have been alive for a very long time are all part of a noble family. They are truly heartless creatures, but what I enjoyed a lot about them too, is that they do not feel the pressure of time. They can wait. And wait… It really makes you question if there’s even a point fighting them. There’s also a big focus on religion. You’d have to be kinda blind to not see that this book also criticizes the Christian faith (if that’s not something you enjoy reading about, I’d stay away from this book). Gabriel in particular starts to question the validity of God is he does not even bother to just wipe the vampires out of existence. He makes some points. But, the priests also make some points. I think there should be a balance.

Religious philosophy aside, I genuinely loved this take on vampires; how they were more akin to the classical kind that should be feared, and I can’t wait for the next book in the series!

The Lights of Prague

By Nicole Jarvis

Here’s another book that has the more classical take on the vampire. This one is extra perfect because it takes place in central Europe. I love stories that take place in old cities, because the atmosphere is so much better than in modern cities. I’ve always wanted to visit Prague, too, and this book made me want to visit it more (not because of the vampires, though).

The vampires are similar to the vampires in Empire of the Vampire when it comes to their bloodthirstiness, but their anatomy is different. In this book, the vampires have a sort of second jaw with extra long teeth for biting. This means that they are able to mingle in society quite easily, as they don’t normally look very different from humans. However, they are not able to walk in daylight. One of the big plot points in this story is actually that there are rumors of a cure that enables vampires to go out during the day, too. Also, some vampires aren’t entirely interested in being a vampire in the first place, and make do with non-human blood.

Another thing that makes these vampires interesting is the way in which they are turned. It’s quite straightforward at first: you get bit, you become a vampire. However, when such a new vampire awakens they will have an insatiable desire to wipe out their remaining human family, and they often succeed. Brutal.

And that’s it! I hope you liked reading about vampires. Most of the info in this post came from various wikipedia sources, so don’t take everything I said here as 100% truth. Either way, it was fun for me to read about the folkloric origins of the vampire, and how they overlapped with vampires I’ve read about in my favorite books! Do you have a favorite vampire story? Let me know what it is!

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