Friday, February 4, 2011

Vampires, Dragons and Snares, oh my!

It goes without saying that I love Vampires. Not the sparkly kind either. I like them mean, sexy as hell and all together scary. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy most Literature where Vampires are written about. But I believe that there are some authors who just don't get it.

I mean, up until 2008, I never knew Vampires sparkled in the sunlight- what a wake up call that was, it totally ruined my illusions of the feisty blood sucker. BUT, like always, I kept an open mind, and quite enjoyed the love story that unfolded.

Unfortunately for me, I was left very deflated and craved something more meaty. So I got to thinking, "hmmm, why not create my own little world of chaos." And thus, I did.
But before I discuss that, lets take a look at the earliest entries of Vampires in Literature. We all have heard of Anne Rice and Bram Stoker, but where did the idea of Vampirism come from?

Read on......
John Heinrich Zopfius in his Dissertatio de Uampiris Seruiensibus, Halle, 1733, says: "Vampires issue forth from their graves in the night, attack people sleeping quietly in their beds, suck out all their blood from their bodies and destroy them. They beset men, women and children alike, sparing neither age nor sex. Those who are under the fatal malignity of their influence complain of suffocation and a total deficiency of spirits, after which they soon expire. Some who, when at the point of death, have been asked if they can tell what is causing their decease, reply that such and such persons, lately dead, have arisen from the tomb to torment and torture them." - Scary right?

When you think about it, Vampires were originally feared by all. There was no idealism that any man or woman could change the Vampire's otherworldly paths. They were dead and thus did not feel the emotions of humans.

Nobody knows when people came up with the first vampiric figures, but the legends date back at least 4,000 years, to the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians of Mesopotamia. Mesopotamians feared Lamastu (also spelled Lamashtu), a vicious demon goddess who preyed on humans. In Assyrian legend, Lamastu, the daughter of sky god Anu, would creep into a house at night and steal or kill babies, either in their cribs or in the womb. Believers attributed sudden infant death syndrome and miscarriage to this figure.

Lamastu, which translates to "she who erases," would also prey on adults, sucking blood from young men and bringing disease, sterility and nightmares. She is often depicted with wings and birdlike talons, and sometimes with the head of a lion. To protect themselves from Lamastu, pregnant women would wear amulets depicting Pazuzu, another evil god who once defeated the demoness.

The ancient Greeks feared similar creatures, notably Lamia, a demoness with the head and torso of a woman and the lower body of a snake. In one version of the legend, Lamia was one of Zeus' mortal lovers. Filled with anger and jealousy, Zeus' wife, the goddess Hera, made Lamia insane so she would eat all her children. Once Lamia realized what she had done, she became so angry that she turned into an immortal monster, sucking the blood from young children out of jealousy for their mothers.

Vampire-like figures also have a long history in the mythology of Asia. Indian folklore describes a number of nightmarish characters, including rakshasa, gargoyle-like shape-shifters who preyed on children, and vetala, demons who would take possession of recently dead bodies to wreak havoc on the living. - Frightening, huh?

The Dracula legend, and the modern vampire legend that came out of it, was directly inspired by the folklore of eastern Europe. History records dozens of mythical vampire figures in this region, going back hundreds of years.

The most notable demon vampires were the Russian upir and the Greek vrykolakas. In these traditions, sinners, unbaptized babies and other people outside the Christian faith were more likely to be reanimated after death. Those who practiced witchcraft were particularly susceptible because they had already given their soul to the devil in life. Once the undead corpses rose from the grave, they would terrorize the community, feeding on the living.

The vampires in Moldavia, Wallachia and Transylvania (now Romania) were commonly called strigoi. Strigoi were almost exclusively human spirits who had returned from the dead. Unlike the upir or vrykolakas, the strigoi would pass through different stages after rising from the grave.

Initially, a strigo might be an invisible poltergeist, tormenting its living family members by moving furniture and stealing food. After some time, it would become visible, looking just as the person did in life. Again, the strigo would return to its family, stealing cattle, begging for food and bringing disease. Strigoi would feed on humans, first their family members and then anyone else they happened to come across. In some accounts, the strigoi would suck their victims' blood directly from the heart.

Author Richelle Mead uses this concept in her Vampire Academy series - Brilliant if I say so myself.

In other parts of eastern Europe, strigoi-type creatures were known as vampir, or vampyr, most likely a variation on the Russian upir. Western European countries eventually picked up on this name, and "vampyr" (later "vampire") entered the English language.

This vampire hysteria inspired an Irishman named Bram Stoker to write his vampire novel, "Dracula."- Ooooh, The IRISH rule! ;)

The vampire has continued to evolve over the years, as novelists and filmmakers reinterpret and expand the mythology. In Anne Rice's popular novels, she takes vampires to the next level, giving them a conscience and a range of emotions. In her work, vampires are not necessarily evil -- they are presented as real, rounded people. Something I like to work with myself, although I do like to keep a certain amount of the original hysteria that surrounded earliest encounters of the Vampire.

Which brings me to the NELAPSI - My personal favoutire.
One would be hard-pressed to find a vampire as vicious as the Nelapsi. This revenant is thoroughly evil, and delights in desecrating and utterly destroying villages, glutting itself on the blood of humans and animals alike. The only evidence of the creature's predations are wreckage and bloodless bodies of villagers and livestock.

The Nelapsi kills its prey by either tearing into the victim with its needle-sharp teeth, or by crushing its prey in a bone-breaking embrace. Any survivors (if any at all) are killed off by the plague the Nelapsi inevitably brings. When angered, the Nelapsi loves to torture its victim. Being a patient and devious predator, it can make the torture last for weeks before killing and feeding on the unfortunate victim.

The Nelapsi is a Vampire, feeding on the blood of both humans and animals. Its bloodlust is insatiable, and it won't stop hunting until dawn. At this point, it is forced to return to its grave to sleep during the long daylight hours.

The Nelapsi usually inhabited graveyards in the European country of Slovakia and the surrounding countries, commonly known as the Zemplin region.

I found researching the Nelapsi by far the most interesting of all and I incorporated the local folklore into my book. I wanted my vampires to possess supernatural strength and speed, as well as a phenomenal degree of endurance and agility.
The Nelapsi is still believed to exist to this day, arising from the grave when darkness falls to hunt and kill once more...I'll be sleeping with one eye opened from now on.


Dragons, hmm, why I even thought of them I do not know, but there is something completely fascinating about the existence of dragons. I find their mystical presence in Literature alluring and as an avid Fantasy reader, I am easily pleased when I pick up a book and find that the old age rule of dragonlore applies.

Nestled in our imaginations, Dragons are a shadow that looms across the backdrop of our minds. Taking the tales of myth and legend as a springboard the authors of many books have developed entirely new and novel ways of looking at, and thinking about, the dragon. Dragons who manage their way into popular literature often find instantaneous fame brought to their name, and a lasting respect from the puplace in general.

The word "dragon," according to the Oxford English Dictionary (1966), is derived from the Old French, which in turn was derived from the Latin dracon (serpent), which in turn was derived from the Greek Spakov (serpent), from the Greek aorist verb, Spakelv (to see clearly). It is related to many other ancient words related to sight, such as Sanskrit darc (see), Avestic darstis (sight), Old Irish derc (eye), Old English torht, Old Saxon torht and Old High German zoraht, all meaning clear, or bright. The roots of the word can be traced, then, back to most early Indo-European tongues. This may indicate that it is possible the immediate ancestor of the word was a part of the original hypothetical Indo-European tongue which may have been a part of the vocabulary of Japheth's descendants, soon after the Flood and the dispersion from Babel.- Interesting stuff!

Below is a small list of famous Dragons in past and present Literature:

A fire breathing dragon from J.R.R Tolkien's Middle Earth saga, known as "The Deceiver".

A massive dragon from the work of Lucius Shephard, Griaule was frozen in place by an ancient spell.

In J.R.R. Tolkien's novel "The Hobbit", Smaug lived in a cavern in the Lonely Mountain where he guarded his treasure.

So, as you can see, Dragons play an important role in how literature is portrayed. They are fantastical creatures; the purveyors of the imagination and I for one will be writing with the intention of including these fantastic mythical creatures in future work.

And last but not least, Snares. Well, I just added that bit for effect, YET I somehow love the way word makes me shudder. Definition of a snare:

1. A trapping device, often consisting of a noose, used for capturing birds and small mammals.

2. Something that serves to entangle the unwary.

I prefer the second one ;)

Well, that's it for todays lesson. It sure has been fun talking about all my favorite things, and remember, your brain is a device to be filled with as much information as possible. Use it wisely; absorb as much as you can! :)

1 comment:

  1. This was great and very interesting. I am in love with Vampires myself. I have not read Vampire Academy but may have to check it out now. I've enjoyed many vampire books including Bram Stoker's, Anne Rice's (mostly), House of Night, my guilty pleasure The Twilight Series, etc... Have you read Brian Lumley or David Wellington? David Wellington is an amazing Horror writer and his vamps are great and interesting... I haven't read Brian Lumley yet but look forward to it as he has a huge following and they seem great. I will read more of your posts soon.