Hey everyone! Today’s deep dive subject is regarding some of my favorite humanoid monsters, vampires. As a vampire author, these dark concepts mean a lot to me, and I have my own version of them as well. I’ll be discussing what creatives on Twitter think along with my own thoughts on this subject. I will also be discussing different types of vampires all over the world in a segment of this article.
First, however, let’s get into what Twitter thinks. Here is the tweet I sent out:
With most vampires, we see blood-drinking as a central theme. In many myths, we have vampires that lean into either being ‘beautiful’ or ‘horrifying and twisted’. Most vampire folklore depicts them as undead, though I did come across a ‘living vampire’ during my look into folklore at one point too, but that was an exception, not a rule. Parasitism is a huge theme with vampires, likely a central one that allows them to be labeled ‘vampire’. When looking at the typical western vampire, we think of holy water, mirrors, crosses, garlic, burning in the sun, fangs, and what have you.
To be honest, though… hard pass on any holy themes, mirrors, and garlic. Pass on undead vampires, too. In my lore, I tossed most of that out, as the tie to religion is one I do not prefer in the vampire myth, especially given I am not of any Abrahamic religions. Blood-drinking and fangs though? Let’s keep those aspects, please. Also, we see vampires as a commentary on society, typically the rich in the western world. Perhaps the intrigue is the grandeur of vampires, but also that they are secretly deadly monsters. The ‘richness’ doesn’t have a hook in me though as much as the ‘predatory nature’ of vampires, something I fancy a lot.
LoshadSpaceport dives into discussion on exactly what I mentioned in this tweet here, honing in on evolving instincts and predatory power. This look at vampires is excellent, and I like the cave angle being the reason for their ‘weak skin in sunlight’. This seems to be more of a living vampire concept, ‘first of their kind’ in terms of species, though could also apply to the more magical undead vampire as well. The darker side of vampires is explored here, that being the common theme of vampires looking down upon everything else and seeing it as prey.
WritingGal916 (Molly) mentions both the predatory angle and the wealth angle here, which is excellent. I really like the description of ‘coming out as a victor’ over the wealthy and corrupted as opposed to being dragged in and brought down. Vampires are antagonistic wealthy in this light, which makes a lot of sense, given the depictions throughout history. There does seem to be a common angle with vampires where they are ‘women’ who attack other ‘pregnant woman’ to destroy the fetus, which says something about how earlier society valued women less as individuals and more as incubators (an issue still seen today.)
K.L. Bone discusses the evolution of vampires, and how they change throughout the generations. This is very true, we’ve seen vampires change throughout the world and its folklore. Some themes, like blood drinking, seem to always remain. But I think this is something important to consider with every myth or monster. Folklore is meant to be evolve and change, in my opinion, as creative ideas flow. I love seeing different takes on vampires and hope to see them continue to evolve. Our generation of horror/paranormal romance/urban fantasy/high fantasy writers has a chance to really let them shine, and hell, that’s one of my goals as a writer! To bring something new to the table that people will enjoy while still understanding they are ‘vampires’.
Iza Forestspirit brings up the gothic aspect of vampires, along with a famous vampire in history, Dracula. Being creatures of the night, I too see them as gothic and enjoy a good goth vampire who owns a castle in the middle of a forest or what have you. Vampires are almost always depicted as nocturnal, but…that doesn’t technically mean they have to be!
In some folklore, vampires are depicted as beautiful monsters. This is my favorite concept for them, as much as some vampire lovers would rather put down the concept and fans. I love the idea of something beautiful being powerful and able to rip the throat out of enemies or prey. Just because something is beautiful does not mean it cannot be terrifying. While many cite a specific work (Anne Rice) as ‘the downfall of vampires’ or the ‘uprising of pretty vampires’, we see ‘beautiful vampires’ as a thing in folklore around the world that is much older than the cited works. Anyone who therefore says that is really not valid and did not do their research.
That said, let’s get into the thoughts of people regarding beautiful vampires:
AutumnchildArt delves right into the allure of beautiful monsters, and how dangerous they can be. I love the floral comparison here, as many bright colors in nature that look gorgeous turn out to be highly dangerous. I am right there with them in terms of loving the sophisticated vampire as opposed to monstrous beast–for the most part. I love a healthy blend of both, and my vampires tend to lean toward the more violent. Indeed, the western vampire is often seen as Victorian-style and romantic, bringing tragedy and death right along with them.
LA Knight brings up the excellent point of non-conventional beauty for vampires as well, reminding us that beauty is entirely subjective. This is very true, and vampires can take on a variety of different looks, or just be based off of humanity itself and all of its variety, to lure in prey. Strength is another good point of vampires, as we often see them with a huge amount of power in folklore.
The other side of vampire folklore are the twisted rotting corpses or beasts. This is present alongside the ‘beautiful monster’ all over the world, and is not the more valid option. However, it is just as valid, though there is a very big split in the vampire community over which one stands above the other. In my opinion, the answer is neither. Vampires can be horrifying monsters, beautiful monsters, OR a mixture of both, and any take on them is valid, it depends on the preference of the reader.
That said, for me, I don’t prefer the ‘rotting corpse’ vampire at all. I toss that into ‘zombie’ category regardless of whether or not they drink blood. To be honest (and this is just my personal opinion!) the ‘ugly corpse’ overlaps way too much with zombies, who can honestly keep that concept. The beast-like vampire, however, is entirely different. that might overlap (somewhat) with werewolves, but has a variety of different approaches it can take over the ‘rotting corpse’ idea.
Lord Swamp discusses the Nosferatu and monster angle, along with dark magic. To them, romance isn’t as much of a thing for vampires as those concepts, which is entirely fair. I would imagine a bat monster in this instance, or a vampiric gargoyle would be super neat in terms of what a monster-vampire could be. Vampires being ‘spooky beings of the night’ and dragging off prey comes to mind here, which is an excellent topic for a horror monster. Lots of vampires actually are depicted in this fashion, and I can’t quite shake the image of a huge bat-monster representing a vampire in some stories, something I very much enjoy even if I favor the beautiful monster.
Joshua Smith isn’t a fan of romanization of vampires and prefers the monster-angle toward them. This also is a reference to them being undead entities, which is common in a lot of vampire folklore. I will very much agree that, despite enjoying romance, it can’t be just that or even a strict focus for me to enjoy the story. A killing-spree vampire is intriguing and a great monster build for a horror story or dark fantasy.
Philip Webb‘s comment is one I really just had to bring up here because… I mean… yeah, that does strike a little bit eerie, not going to lie. The non-fictional vampires are probably parasites in real life, or a reference to the disease that makes people want to drink blood due to deficiencies, but still. It’s eerie regardless and actually could be an excellent premise for a story.
Vampires from around the world
The center of the vampire myth from this region was Lilith, depicted as an evil demon who in some texts devoured the blood of newborns or children. These early depictions of vampires from this area could be a huge factor in why they tend to have religion tied to them in the west. While I personally dislike this notion, and this version of vampires due to the religious context, it is valid as a piece of mythology for sure. One neat detail is that she is sometimes depicted as having the head of a lion and the body of a donkey. This definitely brings variety to the idea of ‘vampire’, but like most vampire myths, the blood drinking is very present for this region.
The Vetala is a fascinating creature, said in the article I linked to be comparable to western vampires. They are hostile spirits which utilize corpses as vehicles, and the corpse stops decaying. This is where I think the line between zombie and vampire is drawn for this particular region–we typically see zombies or ghouls with decay, whereas the vetala does not. We get the typical ‘evil’ actions by these hostile spirits, but one interesting tidbit I did note was that they can guard villages! There was a laundry list of ‘bad stuff’ they do before that one popped up, and I found that super fascinating. Given the vetala is described as a knowledgeable fortune teller, they would be highly intelligent. Therefore, would it be impossible to strike a deal with one, where the ‘village guard’ factor could come into play? After all, they are described as ‘evil’ in some instances and ‘hostile’ in another. They can be freed via their funerary rites being performed. This makes me wonder, given a few of the additional factors, if one could be utilized in a less harsh light within a story, since they can, as I said, ‘guard villages’ and are capable of being released.
There are so many neat variants of vampires in African mythology that are very different from what we typically see in western vampires. First, I’ll talk about the Asanbosam. They are vampire-like folklore of the Akan people, located in southern Ghana. Here we have a glorious bat-monster, as these are described to have pink skin, red hair, iron teeth, and bat-like features. They are humanoids, but they do have 20-foot wingspans! Typically, they live in trees and hunt people who wander into their territories. I really like bat-monster-ideas for vampires, so these creatures are neat to me.
Now, let’s talk about the Adze! They are creatures in the Ewe folklore, who are located in Togo and Ghana. They are described to take the form of a firefly, which is super cool. Usually you see vampires (in western mythology, anyway) take the form of bats, but in this instance, it’s a being of light. Upon capture, they take a humanoid form, in which they can possess humans. The possessed are seen as witches, and suffer negative effects depending on situation. One situation I saw that struck me is ‘if the poor envy the rich’ which…is very common, so would we see many non-Adze-possessed people being accused of witchcraft as well? Anyway, these are bloodsuckers in firefly form, like a blood-drinking firefly, compared frequently to the mosquito! That is a interesting take, and I love it. Random thought, but I imagine mixing a firefly with a vampire bat could be neat.
Impundulu are folklore of many South African tribes. They are often a witch familiar, said to be a black and white bird the size of a person that could summon thunder and lightning with its wings and talons. Sometimes they take on the form of a beautiful young man to seduce women. So you might be thinking ‘well, how is this a vampire?’ Well, these birds drink blood. They are vampiric creatures, and I think they have to be among my favorite on this list. You wouldn’t think a gigantic lightning bird would be a blood drinker, but they very much are. I would love to see characters made from this creature’s concept (if folks are okay with folklore of their culture being used in fantasy stories!)
There is a ton to unpack with many vampire myths across Asia, but I wanted to highlight just a few here. One fun fact I learned while doing my research is that Japan doesn’t really have native legends about vampires aside from a ‘close enough’ creature called the Nure-onna, a snake-like woman who feasts on blood. I would say this counts, but apparently vampires appeared in Japanese cinema as late as the 1950s. I’ve seen some anime with western-style vampires in them quite a bit, so I’m wondering if they took a liking to the western idea of vampires and rolled with it. I’m A-OK with the idea of a vampire kitsune, though, if anyone wants to make a famous character around that…
Anyway, in Filipino folklore, there are creatures known as the Aswang, which is an umbrella term for a variety of different ‘evil’ monsters including vampires. A variant of this is the mandurugo, which takes upon the form of a young woman by day, and wings with a long proboscis-like tongue at night to suck the fetus out of a pregnant woman.
Then, the Penanggalan from Malaysia takes the form of a young woman who can detach her head, which flies around looking for blood. The article cited that most of the time, the blood it seeks is from pregnant woman, which seems to be a growing trend. The ‘detached head’ is seen in a few other myths around Asian countries where they will seek out blood or entrails of humans or animals.
Regarding the Jiangshi, many know it as the ‘Chinese vampire’. It is a reanimated corpse that often hops around for movement. Rather than blood, it will typically hop around at night to absorb the ‘qi’, or life force. They are said to sleep in coffins during the day! This is a common theme we see with western vampires as well. They hop around due to being a ‘stiff corpse’ with less of an ability to use their limbs. Finally, they can be unremarkable (freshly dead) OR horrifying (very decayed). Someone could definitely play around with this variant of vampire. Perhaps they can move more easily when well-fed, meaning they would want to drink blood frequently?
Though there really isn’t a true Icelandic Vampire that I could read from the article, a draugur, similar to how a dragon is depicted sometimes, is a very greedy spirit who is unwilling to part with their worldly treasures. They are sometimes described as parasitic. Corpses of a suspected draugur were disposed of in a similar fashion to the ‘traditional’ western vampire, like driving a stake through the heart. Given they are ghosts with a corporeal form, one could build a ‘vampire’ here very well, and in fact make a terrifying one. What if it could lose form at will, or at least when very powerful, which would make it very hard to fight?
I only briefly touched upon the folklore around the world, intentionally avoiding traditional western vampire myth/those from Romania (as that is my lens). Hopefully it does inspire a desire to research for those eager to explore vampires from around the world. I learned a lot during this, and I have to say, one of my favorites was the Impundulu. I hope to see a vampire character based on one at some point. A really nice-looking vampire gentleman working for a witch who also happens to be a thunder bird that can create storms? Sign me up.
My Vampires: What I do to make them different
I strived to bring something different to the table with my living vampires. On my end, I didn’t really research folklore from around the world, because I wanted to modify the western depiction of vampires to my own. That said, I turned to SCIENCE! Specifically, the vampire bat. Now, vampire bats have bacteria that helps them digest their strict diet of blood. I applied this idea to my vampires, taking a ‘living vampire’ route and tossing any ‘undead’ concept away for them. Given they are predators, I provided them with dentition that was blade-like for every tooth, quite like monitor lizards or the piranha. Vampire bats also do not have a flat tooth anywhere. I didn’t go with the dentition type of the vampire bat specifically, though, due to aesthetics–the skull shape of the vampire is quite like humans, but they have sharper teeth, given they are a sister species branching off with a shared common ancestor of Homo erectus. Most of my vampires do not have retractable claws, but some bloodlines do.
Their saliva has coagulant and anti-coagulant factors that can be controlled manually, depending on what part of feeding the vampire is on. In addition, they have venom that they inject with their two longer canines, which are hollow, usually to paralyze or provide intense pain. This is also manually injected, and some bloodlines have an addictive venom.
Magical properties do apply to my vampires, which would be enhanced senses, speed, and strength. Given they are nocturnal, they are more sensitive to the sun, especially their eyes. They do burn more easily, but do not burst into flames. Just like humans, they have varying skin tones & ethnicities based on their region or ancestry. Some bloodlines of ‘ancient vampires’ have really potent powers, and the vampires in these bloodlines are called ‘royals’.
I do blend monsters & beauty with my vampires. They look terrifying, especially when berserking, due to their jet black eyes. They also have bladed teeth and claws. They have very little mercy toward enemies, meaning my vampires have extremely high kill counts. They also take over the world in my universe, leaving no hope for humanity to ever be the same again. How’s that for spooky?
There’s a lot more to my vampires, but I didn’t want to take any sort of ‘religious route’ to mine, as I am not religious, being an omnist pagan. I actually dislike, heavily, religious ties to vampires, and much prefer a detached explanation for these monsters, because that allows for far more nuance. I do not see vampires as ‘strictly evil’ (in fact, all members of [x] species being strictly evil is a toxic trope to me), quite like how I don’t see vampire bats as evil, either. Nor all humans as pure & good. Vampires have the potential to be very efficient predators, as in some lore, including mine, they do not need to kill their prey.
I love the idea of ‘beautiful monsters’. Though there is heavy debate as to what’s right or wrong, there is power in beauty (which is subjective!) and vampires looking nice does NOT ruin them. I can’t take anyone who says ‘they are ruined’ seriously, especially given folklore from all over the world depicts them as either horrible-looking monsters or beautiful monsters. Being beautiful does not mean you can’t be powerful. I am tired of certain vampire fans putting down those who enjoy the concept of beautiful monsters. Both types can exist together.
On a much lighter note, I enjoyed writing this article and exploring what my fellow vampire fans had to say, even if I disagree heavily on some subjects. I can respect views so long as they do not put down those who like a concept such as the ‘beautiful monster’.
Also, vampires are constantly evolving in changing, and a stagnant myth isn’t a good one. I want to see what people have to bring to the table that is different. No, not different like ‘Twilight’, which is a bane upon many vampire authors due to the question of “DO YOUR VAMPIRE SPARKLE” and such nonsense (sorry, I sincerely hate that ‘lore’ in that series, and can’t seem to escape it.) I want to see vampires who keep their horror angle and blood-drinking, but lean away from relying on common myth.
What if your vampire was diurnal? How could technology affect your vampire (vampire cyborg anyone)? Can you mix-and-match a vampire with another creature, like a vampire dragon? What if your vampire actually gained power from the sun? What if your vampire was successfully infected with a lycanthrope curse and also became a werebat? So many ways to explore these concepts. I wrote articles as well on different powers or transformations for vampires if you want to check them out for ideas
Cheers vampire fans! I am eager to see what you have to bring to the table.