Alright, enough frivolity. Let’s get down to the issue at hand: Das Wampyrs, or vampires, as they are known in the modern English vernacular. Most of us are familiar with the mythos of vampires. We’ve seen it time and again, in both literary and film forms. These grew out of old folktales originating in the Old Country, which many of us believe to be in Eastern Europe, as, too us, those are some pretty old countries over there. Vampires are usually old – hundreds of years old – and so we make the connection. Old people must come from old countries. In this case we would be right, as folktales of undead predators draining the life from the living do have many old roots in Eastern Europe. And some of these tales date back even farther, to ancient Rome and, some believe, even as far back as ancient Egypt. What is considered to be the earliest ‘vampire’ epic originates in Babylonia in 2000 B.C. In our three-part series on the history of these sun-fearing, plasma-guzzling monsters, we will get into the suspected origins of some such tales later on, but for now let’s start with the basics.
Where does the word ‘vampire’ originally come from? That is a matter of debate for people to whom it matters. The short answer is that the original word, vampir, originated in Serbian. It mingled with the Turkish word, ubyr, meaning ‘witch’ through a mixing of folk tales, and was then carried over into Hungarian and German, finally making its way west into modern English, where its usage dates back to around 1734. Another common term for undead bloodsuckers is nosferatu, which only came to be synonymous with vampire in the late 19th century through Western novels like Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”. In its original Romanian, the etymological root word, Nesuferitu, literally means “repugnant one” and was usually used to describe Satan himself.
The Pros and Cons of Bloodsucking
The big questions many people have about vampires are “Are vampires real?” and “Wouldn’t it be cool to be a vampire?” The answer to both questions is “Of course not, dummy!” This is not to say that there aren’t some sick and deranged people out there that believe themselves to be vampires – some have even taken this theory so far as to consume the blood of others. Mythical vampires, as seen in films ranging from 1922’s Nosferatu to The Lost Boys to that awful Twilight series, however, simply do not exist. It would be biologically impossible. As to the coolness of being cursed with vampirism, most people that take the time to actually think it through realize what a horror it would be. Not only do you have to drink fresh human blood to survive, but you can’t admire your cool look in a mirror and you live an unnaturally long life, which would lead to insanity (as depicted in Anne Rice’s acclaimed novel, The Vampire Lestat).
Add to that the fact that although you would be extremely powerful during times of darkness, you would also be incredibly easy to kill. A stake through the heart, holy water, a silver bullet… no wait, that’s werewolves. However, some vampires are said to possess the power of lycanthropy (shape-shifting) and can become bats and/or wolves. If you are of the wolf-shifting variety of vampire, then technically, perhaps a silver bullet could take you out. If you are of the bat-shifting variety, where does all of your other bodily mass go as you shrink down to a flying mammal with an average body size of 9 cm (3.5 in.) with a wingspan of only 18 cm (7 in.)? Great. You just went from a 6-foot-tall humanoid to a winged little mouse about the size of a tea-cup (the size of an average vampire bat). Perhaps death by silver bullet is more merciful. Even if you couldn’t be killed by a silver bullet, the sun has risen in the time it took us to arrive at that conclusion and you are reduced to a pile of ash. That’s right: Mere sunlight can destroy you.
Let’s not forget that traditional vampires are driven solely by an insatiable hunger and not at all by personal hygiene. According to all accurate depictions of vampires throughout history, you would stink. You sleep in the moldering earth in the clothes that you were buried in, and you are literally rotting when you are not feeding, so yeah, you would have a serious body odor problem. The bits of flesh that get wedged between your fangs would also give you some toxic breath. Still think vampires are sexy?
As if that weren’t embarrassing enough for the vampire image, read on next week for some shocking facts about the psychology behind this mythos. In case you cannot wait, check out the Nosferatu II trailer down below:
I am an American expat that has been living overseas since 2007. Most of that time has been spent in East Asia as I lived in Korea until 2012. Currently I reside in the Sultanate of Oman. I enjoy traveling, and I always bring a towel, but ultimately I hope to return home to Pittsburgh. So if you hear of any jobs…
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