The People’s Vampire

There’s a nice long article in this month’s Harpers about vampire belief and lore in the present day Balkans.

Unlike his Western relation–that handsome, aristocratic, mirror-wary antihero–the Balkan vampire is typically confined to living and hunting among the laboring classes … Also a Western conceit is the vampire’s pallor; whereas female vampires are beautiful and white-robed, most firsthand accounts indicated that male vampires are ruddy, corpulent peasants, whose affect–once unearthed–is that of a freshly gorged mosquito.

Lots of good stuff about rural vampire-hunting, a legendary Serbian horror movie about an evil butterfly, the post-Tito return of the Devil, and why there are no goats in the nativity. On sparkly Western vampires, the author has this:

The Americanized vampire is the ultimate fantasy for a nation in decline: the person who has been able to take it all with him when he dies, who has outlived the vagaries of civilization itself. Having abandoned the culture that forged him, moreover, he deceives us into thinking that he has moved beyond being what he always has been–a disease. Now the plague he spreads is a therapeutic fantasy in which an embarrassment of wealth and youth and hedonism is acceptable as long as its beneficiary is equipped with the right intentions. We have forgotten to be afraid because … we are willing to believe that a weapon of evil, in the right hands, can be transformed into an instrument of good.

–Téa Obreht, “Twilight of the Vampires,” Harper’s, November 2010.


  1. Thanks for sharing these interesting musings on vampires. While I am a fan of the sparkly vampires myself (Team Edward to be exact), I am a little concerned about the dangerous levels people take this obsession, i.e. biting other human beings in the hopes of the supernatural will only result in hepatitis!

    Is there a way to read the full Harper’s article online? (When I tried to get around the pay wall using UWO’s library catalogue, I could only find issues before 1995).

  2. Steve King got this right with Ardelia in The Library Policeman [1990]; her feeding from the fear of children, it’s all about the hunger. Ardelia indirectly returning in 2004 in the last Dark Tower book, she ‘n’ Dandelo [in guise of some other guy] are psychic vampires feeding off emotions [who in their true form look very much like beetles]. Steve actually deus ex machina’s himself into the book to write and hand a letter about these dark truths which to another character, leading to the eventual climax, or something. Deus ex machina is cheating [but so is writing within braces].

    That movie about that vampire, when Schreck interupts German drunks with his lamentations over having been a vampire for so long he’s forgetten how to buy cheese [and that pretending to be like a man is something which requires practice]; losing humanity leads one to holding a grip on vanity [or one of the other sins]. Heavy on the esoteric, light on the cheese.

  3. It made me sad.

    Why sad?

    Because Dracula had no servants.

    I think you missed the point of the book, Count Orlock.

    Dracula hasn’t had servants in 400 years and then a man comes to his ancestral home, and he must convince him that he… that he is like the man. He has to feed him, when he himself hasn’t eaten food in centuries. Can he even remember how to buy bread? How to select cheese and wine? And then he remembers the rest of it. How to prepare a meal, how to make a bed. He remembers his first glory, his armies, his retainers, and what he is reduced to. The loneliest part of the book comes… when the man accidentally sees Dracula setting his table.

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