If the character is not a tempter, the character is not a satisfactory vampire

Vampires have gotten way too far from their folkloric roots.
The vampire legends of the 18th century stressed that vampires were tempters. Vampires persuaded people to do things contrary to common sense, piety, etc. Frequently vampires were undead family members who relied on familial loyalty to get the victims to open the door.

Vampires like Alucard from Hellsing might be wonderful characters, but they don’t tempt.

Sometimes when you get too far from the roots of the archetype, the original archetype is lost.


Somewhat like a fluffy duck with a switchblade.

Hellsing started out as a vampire story and grew far beyond the writer’s ability to stay coherent.

Trinity Blood was supposed to be about vampires, but was in fact a space-age superhero story with no connection to the vampire myth.

I realize that writers will continue to say Our Vampires Are Different, and I’ve made my peace with that.

I like vampires when they have interesting vulnerabilities that make sense in the context of the story.

But beyond that, I like vampire stories to have some kind of connection to the archetype of a vampire, and that archetype – at least since the 17th century – has been an archetype of temptation.

Polidori’s vampire tempted the stupidly honorable tragic hero to make an oath.

Carmilla tempted her victim with forbidden lesbian love. Miriam from The Hunger saw no reason to limit herself to lesbianism.

Dracula tempted different targets with different prospects. His mortal henchman Renfield was tempted with the prospect of greatly extended life and power – and that was enough to make him enter Dracula’s service willingly, and to start eating bowls of flies.

The character of Nosferatu might be an exception to this rule; Nosferatu is more of a Body Horror monster, a symbol of plague rather than a moral temptation. However, the notion of physical purity is closely related to the notion of moral purity.

Vampires are sometimes two-fisted. Polidori’s vampire certainly was able to fight and destroy things. But vampires are scary because they aren’t interested in competition, duels, or sportsmanship; they are like wolverines beating up on field mice and then eating the corpses. A vampire might be muscular or even skilled at punching, but he’s not interested in fair fights. He’s either completely timid and nonviolent or else he’s hungry and furious and frenzied. And he can flip from one state to the other very suddenly.

I’ve played through Vampire: the Masquerade – Bloodlines a zillion times, so obviously I enjoyed it, but it felt like a superhero game, not a vampire game. Vampires shouldn’t be tactical. Vampires are either crushed by not being invited into a house, or else fried by Holy Water, or else wickedly feral as they rip apart a defenseless victim. White Wolf vampires are free to be very tactical, which makes them less vampiric for me.

Anne Rice’s vampires are less tactical insofar as they can control themselves, but their self-control seems to be fairly limited, and they usually have some interesting internal conflicts. If a vampire were totally self-controlled, strategic, motivated to fight, and rational, that vampire would bore me even more than Alucard does. Vampires are strong enough when they are histrionic basket-cases – either aggressive like Lestat or passive like Louis. If they are calm and rational and motivated, they become way too overpowered.

I don’t know how to discuss the temptations of the monsters in Shiki without dropping huge spoilers, so I’ll just say this: temptation usually wears a pretty face, and you think it’s desirable. But sometimes temptation has an ugly face, and you think it’s undesirable, so you underestimate it.

Shiki has a lot of desirable tempters, but it also has a very undesirable tempter who really resonates with my understanding of the folklore. Watch the whole thing. It’s really worth your time.

Satan is supposed to be vastly more intelligent than humans, and vastly more malicious than any other creature. And Satan is clearly a tempter. By the above reasoning, Satan would not be an interesting literary character; he’d be way too overpowered. I tried reading Faust, but I doubt that I understood it very deeply. Maybe if I re-read it I would have to concede that Goethe made the devil an interesting character.

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