Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Thing About Vampires: The Immortal

To return to an idea explored in my last blogpost, Byron had a major impact on the invention of the modern vampire. Here is his description of it in his Oriental romance, The Giaour:

And fire unquench'd, unquenchable,
Around, within, thy heart shall dwell;
Nor ear can hear nor tongue can tell
The tortures of that inward hell!
But first, on earth as Vampire sent,
Thy corpse shall from its tomb be rent:
Then ghastly haunt thy native place,
And suck the blood of all thy race…

In a nutshell: immortality bites. Whenever Byron grants immortality to a figure, it is always a sad story. In his closet drama Manfred, the title character pulls a Byronic version of Faust in order to summon the demons of hell to—get this—help him commit suicide. Living forever means watching everyone you care about die—living forever means that you have more than enough time to get bored of a job or bored of a city or bored of Halloween trick-or-treating—living forever means this times infinity.

Some modern texts figure this out to a certain extent. In Buffy, vampires are demons without souls—and so they live immorally, in the moment, in the present, because they don’t have human minds. On the other hand (ugh) in Twilight, Edward Cullen and family live in Forks, Washington, sitting through an eternity of science labs and pep rallies and—I think I have failed to give major props to Stephenie Meyer. She just designed what seems to be my personal idea of hell.