Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Classic Literature: Knightshade

The third of Paul Féval’s vampire related novels that we have looked at (though in truth this one is more a novella) was published in book form in 1875, though serialised in 1860, which means it actually falls between the vampire Countess and Vampire City chronologically.

Actually the book had less of a fixation on vampirism but did have some interesting ideas within it and, like Vampire Countess, actually left a question mark as to whether our vampires were indeed vampires.

The book concerns itself with the Ténèbre Brothers. One is large, Jean Ténèbre the chevalier, and the other smaller, Ange Ténèbre the priest, and both lust for gold, thus they are audacious thieves. Perhaps then they are only mortal thieves who have drawn a legend around themselves?

Féval says that whilst Ange is a vampire, Jean is an oupire. He even draws a distinction between the two names claiming an oupire “an eater of human flesh,” whilst a vampire is “a drinker of human blood.”

Within the story the existence of two graves on the Hungarian planes, each covered by a black slab bearing French inscriptions claiming the occupants (albeit often absent) as the Ténèbre brothers, is deemed to be accurate. Féval, as he did in Vampire Countess, has it that a red hot iron to the heart is the way to dispose of a vampire.

Perhaps the two hiding in the graves, when the father of one of their victims looked beneath the slabs, really were two common criminals known to the police (and one of whom had been transported previously to Botany Bay). All we know for certain is that he did not have the courage to pierce their hearts with hot iron and thus their fate was more grizzly. Sealed beneath the slabs he piled the graves with wood and set the pyre alight, roasting the two villains. Yet it seems a year later the Ténèbre brothers were out and about and up to their old tricks, at least according to a newspaper report from the Hague.

To my way of thinking this was the weakest of the three books, but again it was interesting to have pre-Stoker vampires tied to Hungary (although of French nationality) and mention of John Hyundai’s reign within the text. The distinction between vampire and oupire was fascinating also as it is out with conventional wisdom. In his essay Count Dracula and the Folkloric Vampire: Thirteen Comparisons (available at Blooferland), Patrick Johnson quotes Dom Augustine Calmet’s 1746 text as suggesting that “The public memorials of the years 1693 and 1694 speak of oupires ... which are seen in Poland, and above all in Russia. They make their appearance from noon to midnight, and come and suck the blood of living men or animals.”

Like the other two Féval books this is available, adapted by Brian Stableford.


Christine said...

I don´t know about the plot but pre-Stokerian vampires in Hungary? THAT sounds good.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Christine - the plot isn't bad but it isn't particularly vampire orientated... Vampire-wise Vampire Countess is better. But historically interesting

Unknown said...

This is the least interesting to me of the Feval Vampire novels, but Brian seems to mention it in his other Introductions/Afterwords the most. The 2 brothers are supposed to represent Averis and Lust.

Unknown said...

These 2 Vampires do not appear to be Aristocratic Vampires like in The Vampire Countess and many other Vampire Novels.

I still haven't read this one myself yet, but I get the sense that in a massive crossover story of all Feval (and other Victorian) Vampires, they wouldn't be among the Bosses, but just Notable Mooks, like 21 ans 24 on The Venture brothers?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

very much not aristocratic, I'd say, though they pose as a knight and priest in high society

Unknown said...

I have just finished the introduction. When I read that the most accurate literal translation of the Title would be "The Dark Knight" you can imagine my nerdy reaction. Feval was quite a Prophetic writer.

Taliesin_ttlg said...


Superheroinegirl said...

I've finished it. As a Vampire Novel is is obviously the most Disappointing. But as another link in the chain of how Feval specifically and French Pulp fiction in general really defined our modern Super-Villain archetypes, it's pretty important.

It's kind of like Oceans 11 in a way.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi. As a pure vampire novel, yes, as it is difficult to say if they were vampires or not - but as part of the genre I found it interesting (pretending to be vampires is as important as actually being sometimes)- that said it was the weakest of the three Feval books in vampire genre respects.

I did find the distinction between vampire and oupire fascinating and almost a precursor to the modern (media based) argument of the difference between vampires and zombies!

Unknown said...

One thing I find amusing, as the Brothers are telling thier story, the repeatedly implication is given that stories about "Wherewolves, Brigands and Phantoms" and also Vampires are far more appealing to women then men.

Amuses me because the annoying Twilight Haters act like the problem with modern Vampires films came when Women started liking them. But it's really we pretentious Dicks who are the late comers.