The vampire figure is very much a part of the literary landscape of today, and has
been so for the last 200 years. The vampire has not always appeared as it does today,
as the rich, urbane gentleman, but has its origins in old folklore legends. The idea that
the vampire figure has changed over the course of history is not new, but instead of
discussing the phenomena influencing, and changing, the vampire motif, this essay
will try to shed light on the aspects of the folklore vampire that are still part of the
vampire of today. By applying the theory of folklorism (folklore not in its original
context, but rather the imitation of popular themes by another social class, or the
creation of folklore for purposes outside the established tradition), presented by Hans
Moser and Hermann Bausinger among others, this essay attempts to prove that the
modern vampire is in fact a folklorism of the old folklore legends. The essay
examines the more recent incarnation of the vampire, the literary vampire who
emerged during the 18th and 19th century, with the intent to prove that, while it is
different from its origin, it has several features in common with its ancestry as well.
To show this, examples from Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), and the more recent
novel Fangland (2007) by John Marks have been chosen to serve as basis for the
analysis. Both novels clearly show instances where folklore has been brought into the
narrative as a way to define and depict the vampire.
Keywords: Stoker, Bram; Dracula; Marks, John; Fangland; vampire; folklore;folklorisms; folklorismus; vampire figure; vampire motifs.
What manner of man is this, or what manner of creature is it in the semblance of man?
- Bram Stoker
The vampire is a famous literary symbol that has played a role in the pop-cultural
dialogue for the last 200 years. The vampire is nothing new to literature; vampire
motifs can be traced back far through the ages.
During the Romantic period several
vampire narratives emerged in Western literature, and the genre peaked during the
Victorian Gothic in the mid to late nineteenth century.
During this century, the
vampire started the development from fantastical monster towards romantic hero as
the canon of vampire literature came into being. But before the romantic vampire
there was a completely other revenant who had quite a different place in culture: the
folklore vampire. This figure, which can be seen as both similar to and different from
the modern day vampire, can be found in myths, legends, and folktales from all over
the world: from India and Egypt, Greece and Romania to Britain and Germany. The
pictures of this vampire range from something similar to the English Brownie to a
half-rotten, bloated ghoul-like creature.
Despite the fact that he is not the first, and certainly not the last, Bram
Stoker’s Count Dracula is almost certainly the most recognisable vampire in the
English speaking world. The famous Transylvanian Count was born through Stoker’s
equally ingenious and terrifying epistolary narrative, which, when published in 1897,
became instantly successful (Ellmann vii). Stoker made such an impression on
Western literature that Dracula was not only followed by storylines that developed
the story past Stoker’s narrative (like Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula ), but also
inspired the American author John Marks to reimagine the story in the novel
1 The difference between vampire motifs and the vampire figure will be discussed later in the paper.
2 For a list of vampire novels, and their publication dates, see Summers, p. 346. (Sadly, this list is in
alphabetical order by the author’s surnames and not in chronological order.)
Fangland (2007). Even though Stoker and Marks invoke several traits of the romantic
hero in the portrayal of their vampire character, they appear to involve folklore
properties as well.
In this essay I will endeavour to demonstrate the existence of various folklore
legends within the narrative of Dracula, as well as look at the legends’ representation
in a more modern narrative by looking at Fangland. By comparing and contrasting the
two narratives to various folklore legends I will try to trace the depiction of vampire
folklore—not the vampire figure alone but, rather the apotropaic
and other properties
of the accounts—in the two stories. To be able to do this, as well as to provide a sort
of background to the interpretation suggested, a discussion about the concept of
folklorismus will also be included. I would even like to go as far to suggest that the
concept in part helps to explain the vampire’s transformation from folkloric monster
to literary figure.
In what follows, the relation between folklore and vampire will be discussed
trough the concept of folklorismus under the heading ‘Folklore, Folklorisms and
Vampires’. The second section, ‘Folklore in Dracula and Fangland’, discusses
vampire folklore in Dracula, and the part of folklore in vampire literature after
Stoker’s narrative by a look at Marks’ Fangland.
Folklore, Folklorisms and Vampires
To begin with, I would like to suggest that there is a difference between vampire
motifs and vampire figures. Trying to trace vampire incarnations through time can
therefore be quite treacherous. To compare the vampire that emerged during the 18th
and 19th century to previous vampires becomes problematic as the change between
the folklore vampire and the new, romantic literary, vampire is so great that they
become hard to compare, or rather, hard to trace back over time. Nonetheless, one of
the premises of this essay is precisely to trace vampirism, if not over time, then at
least between narratives. Hence, some initial remarks are necessary.
The vampire figure as known today, the very human-like, urbane, often rich
gentleman, did not come into being until the eighteenth century. A look at the
etymology of the entry regarding “vampire” in the Oxford English Dictionary
3 Apotropaic is things or words that are said to be “reputed to have the power of averting evil influence
or ill luck” (OED).
conveys that the entry was added to the dictionary as late as 1734. The entry itself
[The vampire is] a preternatural being of a malignant nature (in the
original and usual form of the belief, a reanimated corpse), supposed to
seek nourishment, or do harm, by sucking the blood of sleeping
persons; a man or woman abnormally endowed with similar habits.
It is worth noticing the part about the vampire being “in the original and usual form of
the belief, a reanimated corpse” since this is the line that sets this kind of vampire
apart from the rest. This definition indicates that a vampire was a human who died
only to later come back to life as a blood-drinker, which excludes many of the old
folklore vampires. The definition is important as it partly explains the difference
between vampires and vampire motifs.
Vampire motifs, the display of various vampire traits if you like, have been
around for much longer than the dictionary-defined vampire. In their renowned books,
both Dudley Wright (1924) and Montague Summers (1929) present a plethora of
possible origins of the vampire myth. Both authors present their material in a very
scholarly way, and even though the material presented is at times identical, the stance
and tone are reasonably different.
Paul Barber’s (2010) research on vampire history
has focused on much of the same topics as Summers and Wright, but his research is
more up to date and the comparison between folkloric vampires and literary vampires
is easier to trace. The books retell legends that all incorporate vampire motifs from all
around the world, from East to West. The sources do not only convey the supernatural
mythologies, which feature several vampire motifs among them, but also include
Christian beliefs and even some possible medical explanations (like suspended
animation [Summers 34-40]) to where the vampire myth might have come from.
Still, vampire motifs are not only the stuff of oral legends, as they can also be
traced in written documents. Anna Höglund suggests that vampirism can be found in
the old English epos Beowulf (63) and also notes that lovers returning from death to
be with their beloved is a reoccurring theme in the ballads of yore (67). In both cases,
4 The books are scholarly in that the format is very essayistic and both authors are very careful to
convey their sources of the stories retold, which assures that a level similar to that of an academic
publication is maintained. That the theologian Summers appears to fully believe the vampires he wrote
about are real while Wright seems to discuss the subject as a historic phenomenon makes the tone of
each book different.
5 Since the books do not specifically discuss folklore in relation to any specific literary narratives, for
this essay, the accounts recorded in each book will be used to access folklore that is then compared to
the narrative of Dracula and Fangland.
Höglund displays examples of vampire motifs (not vampire figures, as the vampire
elements are in ways incompatible to the dictionary-defined vampire) in early
literature. In extension, the same can be said about any story that incorporates motives
like life-stealing figures or resurrection from the dead. The motif can be traced even
further back than the Middle Ages; the ancient Greek stories about Achilles and
Odysseus both feature blood-drinking. The story goes that the spirit of Achilles is
calmed down with virgin blood and in the Odyssey a ghost happily laps sheep’s blood
(Wright 187). Again in both cases, the vampire motif is there, mainly in the form of
blood-drinking, but not the vampire figure.
Höglund points out that “it is […] hazardous to create too fixed definitions of
what is to be seen as a vampire and what is not to be, especially before the figure
takes on a literary form” (64).6
This warning is preceded by a discussion about the
two vampires that she brings up in her own dissertation. She means that there are two
different vampires: the vampire defined “as a character and a figure” and the vampire
who is “not always defined as a vampire character or figure but encompasses much of
the attributes that are, in the specific context in which it appears, considered to
characterise what we call a vampire” (25).
With this Höglund, in my opinion, sums
up the problem that arises when researching vampire history: to compare the vampires
of different time periods becomes hard since the notion of what a vampire is has
changed. Whether or not the vampire figures described in Summers or Wright are
considered to be factual beings or not, one of the things that makes them hard to
compare to the literary vampire is that these vampires do not take the same form. It is
not that the folklore vampires are not as “real” as the literary vampire; the problem
lies rather in the definition of the word. This is also something that Höglund discusses
when she notes that the researcher has two options: s/he can form the history either
from the “etymology, from what is named a vampire” or “from the number of varying
notions that together create a historic continuity” (25). The modern definition of
vampire, as given in the OED, was found first in the middle of the eighteenth century.
This means that a way must be found to underline both the continuity and the
difference between earlier manifestations of elements connected to the vampire that,
6 My translation. From this point, all Höglund’s quotes have been translated, unless noted otherwise.
7 A similar discussion is brought up in Summers: “[it] might seem to have been a vampire, but which
actually cannot be so classed” (4). Also, “vampires, as we have seen, particularly infest Slavonic
countries, and it does not appear that this species of apparition was well known in western Europe until
towards the end of the seventeenth century”; the vampire motifs displayed before this are not
“vampirism proper” (27) .
in turn, make up the future, literary vampire. To solve this methodological problem, I
would like to propose that the two instances of vampires are defined as follows: the
instances where the vampire character or figure, the vampire in its “literary form”,
appears, it will be defined as a “vampire figure”, and when a story that encompasses
many of the vampire characteristics, but in which the figure is not called a vampire, or
when parts of the story display traits connected to vampirism, it is better referred to as
When folklorists and authors such as Summers, Wright and Barber then try to
retrace the vampire through time without making that distinction, they enter a hazy
place of allusion, the place Höglund warns against, since the object of their study
basically did not exist before the definition found in the OED. Researchers find the
properties of the modern vampire in various legends and with that recreate the
historical origin of the modern vampire, rather than the other way around, which is the
congenital way. This is not to say that the vampire has no connection to folklore,
because like most supernatural beings it does.
As stated in the introduction, I would like to suggest that the transformation,
of the vampire could be explained through the notion of folklorismus. Venetta J.
Newall provides a helpful summary of the folklorismus
concept in her article. She
presents several theories concerning the concept, the foremost one being Hans
Moser’s explanation of the term:
[Moser] distinguish[es] three forms of folklorismus: the performance
of folk culture away from its original local context, the playful
imitation of popular motifs by another social class, and creation of
folklore for different purposes outside any known tradition. (131)
Moser’s work drew a powerful response from the distinguished
German folklorist Hermann Bausinger, who rightly pointed out that the
first and second existences of a custom often merge, so that they
cannot be separated. (133)
The essence of Moser’s and Bausinger’s argument is that folklorisms are folklore
represented in other forums than the original and more often than not renewed by
people outside the traditional region and/or context. Important to note is that,
according to Moser’s third variation—that folklorisms can be created “for different
8 This is a Germanic term of which the English equivalent is folklorism. Newall only uses the Germanic
term, but other scholars seem to use folklorismus and folklorism synonymously. For the continuation of
this essay folklorism will be used as the standard term.
purposes” independent from the known tradition—folklorisms might not be
necessarily genuine. Hence, folklorisms are not automatically genuine, as they can be
made up without connection to folktales, but they might as well be based on real
folklore traditions. Further, the American scholar Richard M. Dorson expands
Moser’s argument about recreating folklore as he suggests that folklorisms, in some
ways, are much the same thing as fakelore; “the presentation of spurious and synthetic
writings under the claim that they are genuine folklore” (9). Hence, folklorisms are
either connected to folklore or not, whilst instances of fakelore are wholly made up.
For argument’s sake, folklorisms will be considered as based on folklore while
fakelore is taken to be invented.
The folklorism theory can be applied to the revival of the vampire myth in
Western nineteenth century literature. The fact that Stoker studied folklore at the
British Museum further strengthens the argument that the vampire figure of his
narrative derived from these stories (Ellmann xiv). Dracula is based on folklore—
which will be shown later—but as the narrative at the same time reinvents folklore, it
could be seen as an excellent example of a folklorism. On the other hand, Dracula is
not fakelore because the vampire, which is essential for the narrative, is not a figure of
Stoker’s imagination alone; it is still tied to folkloristic traditions.
The vampire’s development, its status as folklorism so to speak, is the
vampires’ new status which ensued partly through the surge of vampire literature
during the gothic period
9—both in society and in relation to nature. If the OED’s
definition is remembered, the vampire is pointed out to be “a preternatural being of a
malignant nature” (my emphasis). This suggests that the eighteenth-century vampire,
as opposed to the folklore vampire, is regarded as abnormal rather than transcendent;
the vampire is rejected to a place outside nature, it is no longer simply supernatural.
Höglund connects this idea of detachment to the German Sturm und Drang
movement, mainly because of Heinrich Ossenfelder’s poem “The Vampire” (1748),
since “the poet [Ossenfelder] makes tentative tries to explore the vampire subject’s
full potential in order to show the philosophical questions connected to the vampire’s
existence” (65). Further, Höglund connects the Sturm und Drang movement to the
vampire debate through their ideas about society:
9 Starting at the turn of the eighteenth century, the interest in folk poetry grew and classical Greek
literature was at the centre of attention. Through the Greek literature the Lamia, a mythological figure
with several vampire traits, was rediscovered as a literary figure, something that according to Höglund
later lead to the popularisation of the vampire (73).
The words “storm” and “stress” aimed to express the group’s
revolutionary desire and discontent towards bourgeois life. They put
themselves outside the community and allegedly wrote only for
themselves and not for the readers (insurgence and exile later becomes
one of the vampire figure’s features). (65, my emphasis)
Höglund points out that the Sturm und Drang features of revolt and exclusion later
become important characteristics of the vampire figure (65). Thus, the vampire’s
movement from folklore to romantic hero starts somewhere during this proto-
romantic period; it is a representation of the Sturm und Drang movement’s outsider
ideal, if one is willing to go that far.
That this new literary vampire is indeed a new sort of vampire is argued
further by G David Keyworth. He starts by paraphrasing Augustin Calmet’s assertion
that “blood-sucking corpses were unknown in Western Europe until the late
seventeenth century” (Keyworth 241). It is also noted that Calmet does not find any
traces of “vampires […] driven by an all-consuming thirst for blood” until the
seventeenth century. It is this notion, the unquenchable thirst for blood, that Keyworth
argues is the biggest difference between the eighteenth century vampire and its
predecessors (Keyworth 251, 253). Unlike Höglund, Keyworth does not touch on the
vampires’ social status but concentrates on the vampire’s physical attributes: its
apparent hunger. He explains this new development by stating that the vampire is “a
reflection of cultural stereotyping, that in different cultures at different times appear to
have focused on particular facets of the decomposing corpse” (256). Somehow the
vampire then moved away from legend and folklore during the romantic period,
moving away from the medieval imagery of a decomposed corpse to the eighteenth
century image of an undamaged revenant when depicting the vampire (256). This
development, then, might not be anything more than a reflection of the literary
climate, with the introduction of first the romantic period and later the gothic period.
The theme of the narratives moved through the fantastical imagery of the romantic
period to later encompass the horrors of the gothic, which essentially created the
platform for the vampire figure. Keyworth’s argument, like that of several other
scholars, seems to begin and end with the transformation of the vampire. This
approach, similar to that of Höglund and Keyworth, does nothing if not provide
possible proof that the vampire has changed, which, if the theory that the vampire of
the eighteenth century is a folklorism is to be applied, is essential.
To conclude this section, I would like to return to Newall’s article for a
moment, where she presents Moser’s and Bausinger’s argument “that the first and
second existences of a custom [folklorism] often merge, so that they cannot be
separated” (133). If this idea is connected to the vampire myth, of which the first
existence is the old folklore legends, then the second existence must be the vampire
created during the 18th and 19th century, as argued above. Essentially, Moser’s and
Bausinger’s argument could then be applied to the reinvention of the vampire and the
function it holds in modern literary narrative, especially in Western literature. Since
vampire motifs did exist before this time, and the fact that the OED’s definition of
vampires even precedes the period, the literary vampire presented during the 18th and
19th century can be nothing but a folkloric reimagination, a folklorism, of the old
Folklore in Dracula and Fangland
Stoker’s novel is not only probably the most famous vampire story ever written but it
appears to be one of those vampire stories that claim high authority among the
subsequent works inside the vampire canon (Höglund 26).The plot of Dracula follows
several Londoners as they deal with the threat of a Transylvanian vampire, called
Count Dracula, as one of them, Jonathan Harker, involuntarily helps the Count to
move to London. To help them they have Dr Abraham Van Helsing, a Dutch
professor. The story is told through the personal accounts of the central characters,
such as journals and diaries, as well as letters and telegrams. Lucy Westerna, a friend
of Harker’s fiancée Mina Murray, becomes Dracula’s prey as he starts to feed on her
and, even though Van Helsing tries to stop it, she turns into a vampire. Later, Dracula
goes after Mina as well, but this time the group manages to stop his progress by
killing him. As argued before, the Count in Dracula can very well be thought of as a
vampire folklorism. The novel, as well as similar ‘modern’ vampire narratives, might
then be the perfect example of a vampire folklorism since it includes a mix between
the vampire of history and folklore and the vampire of fiction, while establishing the
former’s transformation into the latter.
To begin with, the narrative’s antagonist is a vampire, a character that is—as
the previous section has discussed—likely grounded in folklore. What is fascinating
about Stoker’s narrative is that the connections to folklore moves beyond the vampire
figure itself; for one thing, Stoker seems to have been able to incorporate several
rituals based in the world’s folkloric traditions when creating his narrative. So in order
to be able to argue fully for the transformation of the vampire motif, the folkloric
elements of the story need to be discussed.
In her influential article, “The Vampire in Roumania” (1926), Agnes Murgoci
describes the mythical figure of the striga, which according to her, is either the spirit
of a live witch detached from the body or the spirit of a dead witch that is unable to
The striga apparently assembles to dance and sing the words: “Nup,
Cuisnup, In casa cu ustoroi nu ma duc. Nup, Cuisnup, I won't enter any house where
there is garlic” (321). Murgoci also states that:
On St. Andrew's Eve and St. George's Eve, and before Easter and the
New Year, windows should be anointed with garlic in the form of a
cross, garlic put on the door and everything in the house, and all the
cows in the cowshed should be rubbed with garlic. […] Even although
[sic] the window is anointed with garlic, it is wisest to keep it shut.
In Dracula, Van Helsing decorates Lucy’s room with garlic flowers in order to, we
can assume, keep the Count at bay, telling her that “there is much virtue to you in
those so common flowers” (130). He then shuts the window tight and rubs a handful
of flowers “all over the sashes, as though to ensure that every whiff of air that might
get in would be laden with the garlic smell” (131). Van Helsing goes on to rub the
garlic “all over the jamb of the door, above, below, and at each side, and round the
fireplace in the same way” before he admonishes Lucy not to open the window (131).
Murgoci further explains that vampires frequently enter the house by the chimney or
keyhole, something that is similarly mirrored in Stoker’s description of Van Helsing’s
actions. Hence, the methods described by Murgoci and Stoker are almost identical.
The similarities between Murgoci’s address and Stoker’s narrative continues
with Jonathan Harker’s account about common Slavic expressions for supernatural
creature in the very beginning of the novel, as he reaches the foot of the Carpathian
Mountains. Harker overhears the word stregoica while listening to the local crowd
discussing his future travel to Dracula’s castle, a word that he, with the help of his
dictionary, translates into “witch” (Stoker 6). Murgosi identifies the Romanian word
strigoica as the term for female vampires (321). Stoker’s word for witch is
10 Even though the striga is not really a vampire, they are sometimes confused with them (Murgoci
321). This does not make the figures interchangeable, but the apotropaic used against the witch figure
might very well be transferred to the vampire since they, just as Murgoci remarks, are confused.
undoubtedly very similar to the Romanian word for vampire as well as the word for
witch, suggesting that Stoker made an honest mistake and misinterpreted the meaning
of either word. If nothing else, the use of the Slavic/Romanian term hints that Stoker
was familiar with some Eastern European vampire folklore, just as Ellmann suggests
(xiv). Consequently, it could be argued that the Romanian folklore has served, at least
partly, as an inspiration for Stoker as he constructed his interpretation of the vampire
The vampire figure itself, Count Dracula, also echoes a lot of folklore images.
When Harker finds Dracula in his coffin on the night Harker plans his escape from the
castle, the image painted of the Count has several things in common with the
descriptions of older vampires. The passage of the novel reads as follows:
There lay the count, but looking as if his youth had been half-renewed,
for the white hair and moustache were changed to dark iron-grey; the
cheeks were fuller, and the white skin seemed ruby-red underneath; the
mouth was redder than ever, for the lips were gouts of fresh blood,
which trickled from the corners of the mouth and ran over the chin and
neck. Even the deep, burning eyes seemed set amongst swollen flesh,
for the lids and pouches underneath were bloated. It seemed as if the
whole awful creature were simply gorged with blood; he lay like a
filthy leech, exhausted with his repletion. (Stoker 51)
Barber presents a seventeenth-century account from Greece where the revenant is
described as “so swollen everywhere that the body had no flat surfaces but was round
like a full sack” and an eighteenth century account from Walachia (a Romanian
province) where the vampire is bathing in “brown-black ichor” that “welled out of
their mouths and noses” (40). Both accounts seem to be in line with the general
beliefs presented for each region. The Greek vrykolakas
is described as so swollen
that “the skin becomes taut like the skin of a drum” (Barber 42) and the Slavic
vampire “can give forth fresh blood, the face [is] red from the blood he has drunk”
12 From this Barber draws the conclusion that “in the makeup of the
revenant, two characteristics stand out: the presence of a great deal of blood (he is in
fact full to bursting with fresh blood) and the swollen body” (42). In the passage from
Dracula the Count is described to be “gorged with blood” just as the Balkan
vampires. Here, in contrast to previous descriptions of a pale Count, Dracula is
depicted as having a “ruby-red” undertone to his “swollen flesh”. This description
11 The Greek name for “vampire” is of Illyric decent, which according to Wright, suggests that the
name has Slavic origins (42). Murgoci also discusses the etymology of the word (337).
12 Direct quote from Barber, hence the alteration in the quote is not mine.
varies a great deal from Harker’s first depiction of the Count: “the mouth […] was
fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly sharp teeth: there protruded over the
lips […] his ears were pale […] the general effect was that he was one of
extraordinary pallor” (Stoker 17-18).
Furthermore, what is remarkable in this first description is the teeth. In
Summers’ description of the vampire in his coffin, the teeth play a special role: “[t]he
lips which will be marked full and red are drawn back from the teeth which gleam
long, sharp, as razors and ivory white” (201). But just as Barber notes (44), and as my
reading confirms, it does not seem to be any special attention paid to the teeth of any
of the folklore vampires. Summers appears to have crossed the line between history
and fiction here, most likely due to his beliefs regarding vampires. So, in conclusion,
what can be said about the depiction of Dracula? It appears that Stoker has tried to
make the vampire figure his own, but when describing the newly, well-fed Dracula,
he seems to evoke images that are consistent with the ones found in folklore.
There are maybe not countless, but at least numerous, examples of the
vampire depiction in Dracula that invoke the imagery of folklore traditions. Before
Lucy is buried, Van Helsing places a golden cross over Lucy’s lips before covering
her face again (164). This can possibly be linked to the German custom of placing a
small piece of silver or a stone, or even tie a handkerchief tightly around the mouth of
the suspected revenant to prevent it from being able to consume the burial shroud
together with whatever else that happens to be within reach (Wright 162). The Slavic
custom to drive a thorn or a nail through the tongue of the dead to prevent the person
from chewing (Wright 52-53), is also similar to the presumably restraining actions
taken by Van Helsing.
Another example is the precautions Dracula takes when he is to be shipped to
England. That the Greek disposed of vampires by placing them on an island in the sea
(Murgoci 326), seems to argue for the fact that vampires cannot cross water.
first time Harker tries to escape he finds the Count in the dungeons of the castle,
sleeping in a box, among others, “on a pile of newly dug earth” (Stoker 48). These
boxes of earth are very likely the same that are later transported by the Demeter. Later
13 Some scholars, Barber included, attribute the theory that vampires are unable to cross water to
victims of drowning. As the bodies of the drowned were found lifeless at the banks of water, they were
mistaken for vampires as the symptoms of a drowning victim (coloured, swollen bodies) are similar to
the characteristics of the Greek and Eastern European vampire. And since the bodies were found dead
near water, the notion that vampires cannot cross water was formed (Barber 150).
in the novel the boxes are given an even more important role as Van Helsing explains
that the boxes need to be destroyed if Dracula is to be killed, since this is where he
finds safety (Stoker 241-42). Dracula’s earthy resting place, paired with Van Helsing
identifying the boxes as Dracula’s safe haven, could mean that Stoker found a way
around vampires’ inability to cross water. It appears as if Stoker has ‘solved’ the
problem of transporting his vampire by ship to England by letting Dracula travel with
boxes full of earth.
Barber notes that “many means of preventing vampirism are identical to those
used to destroy an existing vampire or revenant” (61), so therefore many accounts of
how to prevent vampirism are essentially equivalent to descriptions of how to
vanquish a vampire, accounts which are somewhat harder to find. The instant of
Dracula’s death also holds several things in common with the apotropaic aspect of
folklore. The part where the actual death is described is in fact rather short, and is
conveyed through the notes of Mina:
I shrieked as I saw [the great knife] shear through the throat; whilst at
the same moment Mr Morris’ bowie knife plunged in the heart.
It was like a miracle; but before our very eyes, and almost in the
drawing of a breath, the whole body crumbled into dust and passed
from our sight (377).
In Romania “a needle may be inserted in the navel or in the heart, or a skewer that has
been heated red hot, or a sharpened stake [can be] forced into the heart of the corpse”
(Barber 53) to prevent the dead from returning. Alberto Fortis describes the Moslack
custom to cut the corpse’s hams and prick the whole body with pins so that the dead
would not walk again (qtd. in Wright 90). Murgoci notes instances where the heart is
cut out of the corpse and then burned to hinder the vampire from rising again and
instances where the heart is pierced with iron forks (325-26). Moreover, there are
accounts where the vampire is exhumed to have its head severed: “[w]hen the stake
has been thrust with one drive through the Vampire’s heart his head should be cut off”
(Summers 206). If these accounts are put together, three features stand out: the heart,
the piecing and cutting, and the fact that that the weapons used are knives, all of
which can be found in the description of Dracula’s annihilation. Most notable in this
trinity is that the weapon used to stake Dracula is a knife, presumably made if iron,
and not a wooden stake, a weapon seemingly most commonly associated with
vampire slaying today. Barber mentions several traditions that show that the wooden
stake, or devices similar to a stake, are used to trap the vampire in its grave, for
example a hawthorn peg (48). There are even accounts where real stakes, sharpened
pieces of wood, are used to prevent vampirism (Barber 53). But since the accounts of
iron stakes appear to be as frequent as the accounts of wooden stakes, the use of
weapon is not that surprising from a folkloristic point of view.
These examples demonstrate that several folklore images can be found in the
narrative of Dracula. Stoker invokes not only the imagery found in the accounts of
vampire folklore, but his vampire also includes traits found in the folkloristic
descriptions of the vampire. Dracula as a narrative expresses several vampire motifs
(the apotropaic of garlic for example), while it at the same time features a prominent
vampire figure: Count Dracula. But, as seen especially in the depiction of Dracula
lying in his box, and as in several examples not brought up here, Stoker adds his own
twist to the vampire figure in his narrative. Stoker exploits the Gothic fascination of
the century past and a well-established monster to express his own view through the
narrative he creates, and consequently contributes to the vampire folklorism created.
By transporting Dracula to Victorian London, Stoker exemplifies Moser’s first
argument as he partly removes the vampire from its original folkloristic framework,
but, since Dracula is created as a nobleman from the Transylvanian woods, Stoker
still keeps with the folklore tradition. Stoker also removes the vampire from its
previous social class—the folkloristic vampire, as the case with many folklore
traditions, mostly occurs among the lower social classes—and places it in a new,
higher class as a rich nobleman. The shift of social class might not fulfil Moser’s
second criterion—the playful imitation of folklore by another social class (Newall
131)—to a point, but by making Harker, Mina and the others believe in vampires and
fight them, the theme has changed class as the vampire figure interacts with
middleclass Londoners and not just peasant Europeans. Therefore, it would be
possible, as argued before, to suggest that the vampire that emerged during the
nineteenth century, among them Dracula, is a folklorism of the previous vampire,
which up until this century was mainly a part of folklore
. Whether or not Moser’s
third criterion—“the creation of folklore for different purposes outside any known
tradition” (Newall 131)—is fulfilled or not, is harder to determine and argue for.
14 This is, in itself, somewhat contradictory. The folklore legends and accounts are many and widely
scattered, both geographically and time wise, which makes them different from the eighteenth- and
nineteenth-century vampire, whose existence is actually framed by a definitive form and time. The
depiction of the folklore vampire is so diverse that it in itself can be seen as a folklorism of previous
folklore and so on, and so forth.
Even though the vampire seemingly originated not from England, but from other parts
of the world, stories that features vampire motifs can be found on the British Isles
long before Stoker and other nineteenth century writers brought out the vampire
Hence, at least vampire motifs have been a part of the English tradition,
fulfilling roles similar to the ones in other cultures that have tales about the vampire:
to scare and to explain the unexplainable. Moreover, as Stoker’s vampire is created
similar to a hero from romantic literature (Ellmann xvii), it still moves away from its
known convention as a rotten monster. The vampire is then partly created apart from
the “known tradition”. To argue that the nineteenth century vampire is a folklorism is
plausible since it meets the first two of Moser’s conditions, and if not fully, then at
least partly the third.
The second novel that I have chosen to look at is Fangland by John Marks,
partly because it follows much of the same plot as Stoker’s Dracula, partly because of
the novel’s stance towards vampire history and motifs. And even though it has not
reached the critical acclaim
of some of its predecessors, it is one of the only novels
of recent date that still keeps in line with the folkloric vampire motif. Fangland
deciphers the story of how the vampire Ion Torgu moves from his burned and rotten
hotel, located in the Transylvanian Mountains, to New York City. To help him he
forces an exclusive producer of the show The Hour, called Evangeline Harker. This
recalls how Dracula enlists Jonathan Harker to help with his move to London. The
characters share the same last name as well as the role they hold in the respective plot.
At first, Evangeline fights her captor, and manages to escape with the help of a girl
named Clementine, but as the story continues, she appears to cave in as strange video
tapes and mysterious crates are delivered to The Hour’s office. As in Dracula the
story is conveyed through various character transcriptions, but with a modern touch.
Instead of just letters and journal entries, the narrative consist of emails, PMs and
psychiatric memorandums. At a first glance, Fangland’s vampire figure and motifs
15 Examples of English vampire motif can be found in the story about Abhartach, a blood drinking
wizard. An account of the story can be found in Bob Currant’s article “Was Dracula an Irishman?” (12-
16 An example is the negative review of Fangland by Joe Queenan.
17 To be fair, Stoker did display a use of the technology modern to his time, when letting Dr Steward
keep his diary with the help of a phonograph (Stoker 60), a recording device invented in 1877 by
Thomas Edison (Ellmann 381), even if it appears timeworn to us. See, Friedrich Kittler, “Dracula’s
Legacy” for an account of the central role that recording media play in Stoker’s novel.
appear very similar to the ones in Dracula, while on closer analysis the take on
history is rather different.
The strongest folklore image of the novel is the depiction of its vampire, Ion
Torgu is described as having teeth “round, like pegs, [shining] dark blue, as
if they were blackish brown” and with “hornlike” fingernails “the same dark tint as
his teeth” (Marks 40, 42, 46). Unlike Dracula, who is described as “very strong” and
“aquiline” (Stoker 17), Torgu is depicted as “small” (Mark 40). Torgu’s teeth are
nothing like Count Dracula’s; where Dracula’s are white and sharp, Torgu’s are, as
seen in the example above, dark and rotten. Torgu’s awful finger nails could possibly
be connected to the Northern European vampire variation called the Nachzehrer, who
is in the habit of chewing on its limbs, making its hands and feet appear tattered
(Barber 42). Much more than Stoker, Marks depictions allude to the plump, ruddy
vampires of the Slavic myths as described in Barber (40-42): he describes Torgu as
having “the largest head on the smallest body” (341), a head that later “appear[s] to
grow […] like a plant fed on blood” (343).
Marks, who when writing his novel in 2007 could not have been clueless
about recent years’ vampire craze and the research it spawned, includes several hints
to the vampire myth’s history. Marks describes Torgu’s heritage to be similar to the
vampire myths migration. When describing his “race” Torgu explains he “carr[ies] the
blood of those who migrated out of Central Asia through the Caucasus and into
Europe. I am Scythian and Khazar, Ossetian and Georgian, Moldavian and Mongol”
(Marks 49). In one sentence Marks manages to describe the most probable way for the
vampire motif to have spread from Assyria trough the eastern most parts of Europe
and through the area between the Caspian and Black Sea and later to the Slavic parts
of Eastern Europe, cleverly incorporating the vampire myth’s migration over the
Just as in Dracula, Fangland’s vampire has—at least at the time of
18 On a small side note, the name of Marks’ vampire resonates in vampire folklore in itself. In
Murgoci’s article, she briefly mentions a Romanian periodical of art and literature, compiled by her
friend Tudor Pamfile, called Ion Creanga, as a source of some of the vampire stories in her article. I
have not been able to find any additional material of this periodical, but that the first name of Marks’
vampire is the same as the book, containing several vampire accounts, is rather extraordinary.
19 Devendra P. Varma has speculated about the vampire’s origin and has managed to trace them to the
region of the Himalayas and ancient Tibetan religions. The first instance of vampire depiction can be
found on painted tablets from 2000-3000 BC. Varma thinks that the stories spread to Central Asia with
the pilgrims and the trading companies, and then through to the Mediterranean parts of Europe via the
Silk Road to later travel on land along the Black Sea to be submerged by the Arabic culture. From the
Arabs the legends then supposedly spread to the Greeks, to end up in Eastern Europe: Romania, Poland
and Hungary (qtd. in Höglund 41).
Evangeline’s arrival—made its home in Transylvania, a northwest province of
Romania. According to Höglund, this connection, the one between the vampire and
Eastern Europe, has been acknowledged throughout Europe ever since the
seventeenth century. Höglund argues that the area has been a place for the vampires
of Western literature because of its rather remote location: since the area was neither
known nor accurately mapped at this time, its secludedness was the optimal home for
the vampire (42-43).
Moreover, Torgu is not the only vampire present in the book. Torgu shares his
hotel with three brothers, called the Vourkulakis. The name itself is very similar to the
Greek vrykolakas, as it almost appears as an English pronunciation of the name. The
depiction of the Vourkulakis in the novel does not extend past their “shining eyes,
long dark hair and sharp grins” (Marks 93), except to describe their eyes to be like
“the flat eyes of sharks, barely visible in the mass of hair”, so there is no way to
determine if they share any more of the typical Greek vampire traits, such as the taut
skin (Barber 42).
The foremost difference between the novels is their treatment of the vampire
creation ritual. In Dracula Lucy becomes a vampire, even though this is only implied
and never explicitly written, after being bitten repeatedly by Dracula. Mina finds “two
little red points like pin-pricks” (Stoker 92) when exanimating Lucy, who gets the
wounds when attacked by something “long and black” (90) while sleepwalking. That
the neck wounds are continuously used, presumably to draw blood, becomes clear as
the narrative progresses: they grow worse as Lucy deteriorates from the blood loss,
going from “pin-pricks” to “larger, than before, and the edges of them […] faintly
white” (95) to “white and worn-looking, as if by some trituration” (123). When Lucy
finally dies, she soon returns as a vampire, appearing with a blood-filled mouth (211),
echoing the imagery of Dracula in his coffin. Lucy’s rebirth, then, is somehow
connected with Dracula consuming her blood. Together with Mina’s partial
transformation and her ability to read Dracula’s mind after drinking Dracula’s blood
(288), this suggests that the transition is connected to both the draining and
consumption of blood in the narrative of Dracula. In Fangland, on the other hand, the
transformation is different, depending on spells rather than blood. In this narrative, it
is Evangeline who gets turned, making it apparent that Evangeline is more of a mix
between Stoker’s characters, Jonathan and Lucy, than simply the incarnation of
Jonathan. (Worth noticing is also, that apart from Dracula where Lucy’s transition is
only described from the outside, Evangeline’s is described in the parts of the story in
which she functions as the narrator.) As she tries to flee the hotel, she finds Torgu on
the floor, scooping handfuls of blood from a bucket into his mouth while mumbling a
sting of biblical place names (Marks 96). Evangeline starts to hear voices repeating
the same names, describing the voices first as “malevolent” and later as “intimate”
until “the soft insistent lick of those names of places became a song [she] wanted to
sing” (195). Finally the voices drive Evangeline, not only to cut Clementine’s throat,
but to drink her blood. Evangeline certainly behaves as a vampire in some aspects:
she hunts and feed on pigeons and appears to turn nocturnal (Marks 284), but
compared to the folklore vampire, which as we have seen is often depicted as bloated,
like the vrykolakas, or dripping with ichor like the Walachian vampire, she appear
very much the same as before.
In Fangland the vampire figuring inside the narrative is not much like the
vampire defined by the OED, except for the part of the definition that states that the
vampire is a “being of a malignant nature”: Torgu does not “suck” the blood from
anyone; he uses a knife and a bucket to drain his victims, and it is never established
whether he is a “reanimated corpse” or not.20
The transition made by Evangeline due
to the chanting voices and the marks that appear on Evangeline’s body paired with
Torgu’s blood-drawing ritual and their ability to communicate with the ghosts of the
dead probably make a modern reader think more of witchcraft than of vampirism.
Summers explains that “[t]here undoubtedly were cases of vampirism, […] and
certain aspects of witchcraft [which] have much in common with the vampire
tradition” (27) and that there are accounts which appear to argue that a vampire is
“one who has devoted himself during his life to the practice of Black Magic” (78).
The line between vampirism and witchcraft also appears blurred in Murgoci’s article
where “women who have had to do with the evil one” would become vampires (329).
The connection between vampires and ghosts is suggested by Murgoci as well, as she
distinguishes between the living and the dead vampire: the living vampire is a
detached soul walking, while the dead vampire is a reanimated corpse.
Marks’ narrative is seemingly as different from Dracula, as Dracula is from
its folklore roots. But, as with the discussion regarding Dracula, these differences will
20 Torgu, similarly to Dracula, appears to want to conquer New York City. Torgu also wants to unleash
the spirits of the dead to torture the living, which is not very nice, and can therefore be seen as
not be discussed further then to prove the difference between the folklorism and its
origin, since the purpose of this essay is to trace the folkloristic properties in the
narratives as far as to provide the possible connection between the occurrences.
Fangland features several descriptions connected to the depiction of the vampire, as
well as images that differ from previous vampire narratives, much as all vampire
narratives connect to and diverge from each other. Vampire narratives are basically,
as Höglund argues (25-27), part of their own sub-canon which, in part, makes them
isolated from other stories and related to each other. The fact that the vampire appears
to change significantly between each narrative in which it occurs could be used to
argue that each of these new narratives are a folklorism on their own. Moreover, as
the depictions of folkloric vampires are so different from each other they can perhaps
even be seen as folklorisms of previous folklore. If the literary vampire figure created
during the eighteenth and nineteenth century claims the authority that Höglund
suggests (26) subsequent vampires, created though the narratives of the twenty-first
century, could even be seen as folklorisms of this vampire type, just as the vampire of
the previous generation is a folklorism of the folkloristic vampire motifs.
Consequently, the vampire narratives move in a cycle where each writer appears to
want to put their own mark on the vampire motif and figure in their narrative,
influenced by the times, other authors and history, as well as their own notion of the
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