Friday, February 25, 2011

The Return of Lord Ruthven – review

Authors: Alexandre Dumas & Frank Morlock

Edition first published: 2004

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Ruthven is a demon. Ruthven is a Vampire! His love is death

The implacable Lord Ruthven returns in a new, horror-filled story where the deadliest vampire of all comes face-to-face with an even more fearsome enemy—a female Ghoul of great necromantic powers. Both Ruthven and the Ghoul covet the same humans. The shadow-filled castles of Europe become the stage for the ultimate confrontation between Vampire and Ghoul—and those who dare defy them!

The character of the Byronesque vampire Lord Ruthven was first created in 1816 by John William Polidori on the same night that Mary Shelley created Frankenstein.

The volume includes an 1851 sequel, presented here in its original form, written by Alxandre Dumas, the famous author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte-Cristo.

The book also includes an all-new story in which Dumas himself meets Ruthven in 1850s Paris, by renowned playwright and translator Frank J Morlock.

The review: The second of the Blackcoat Press Ruthven books is almost fully taken up by the Dumas play The Return of Lord Ruthven, which takes the Ruthven story forward and sets its tale in Spain, Brittany and Circassia. Dumas includes in his tale Ruthven dying and being taken to a mountainside below the rays of the moon for his rebirth. He also ups the ante for Ruthven, making him require the blood of two virgins per annum and makes him a creature sworn to Satan.

Even more interesting is the female Ghoul. What separates these from vampires in Dumas tale? Truthfully not too much. We hear that the Ghoul is “evil-doing, murderous, the spectral woman, wearing the appearance of beauty, the forms of youth to better conceal her snares and attacking especially young men, the handsomer, the fresher, the better—whose blood they drink with delight.” These then seem almost a precursor to the femme fatale vamp, but with her blood drinking intact.

They tell the tale of a man who married a Ghoul who, “seeing her eat for nourishment only some little grains of rice with little ivory chop sticks, followed her one night to his great terror—make one of those bloody meals”. This is reminiscent of the story of the Ghoul that, in his Vampires and Vampirism, Dudley Wright cites as coming from The One Thousand and One Nights (the story of Sidi Nouman), regarding a bride groom who discovers his bride sneaks from the bed chamber to feast on corpses with the ghouls and subsequently has no appetite for mortal food.

What is unusual is that the Ghoul, Ziska, actually seems to be a good character – despite also being sworn to Satan – and she is so because she is actually in love with the main human hero.

Morlock’s original tale is an interesting little tale where Dumas’ son discovers that his father wrote the play to expose the vampires, including Ruthven, who plagued the Parisian streets and held their secrecy through convoluted conspiracy, how they ruined him and how Dumas managed to rid France of them.

Again, for the genre fan and student alike, an absolutely necessary play and thus a welcome volume. 7.5 out of 10 for the volume.


Unknown said...

I just ordered both of these Ruthven books. Sounds hugely interesting - especially Ziska!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

hope you enjoy them Rose

JaredMithrandir said...

What year does this take place?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

From memory, a specific year is not given

JaredMithrandir said...

I'm noticieng from reading Vampire stories between Polidori's and Stoker, that it seems all Female Vampires are either Sympathetic or Outright good. While the only Ambiguous Male is Varney.

Well Ruthven is Ambiguous in other ares *Wink*

Taliesin_ttlg said...

I think there is somewhat of a trend there, even Carmilla had a sympathetic aspect.

However there are exceptions to this also and I'm not too sure I'd call Bertha in The Skeletal Count, or, the Vampire Mistress sympathetic, the vourdalaks in the Family of the Vourdalak are creatures of appetite once turned, including Sdenka.

Staying in Eastern Europe the girl in Viy is outright evil.

But, despite this, you are right that for the most part the female vampire was sympathetic or good.

JaredMithrandir said...

Bertha is one of the most Blatantly sympathetic of all, I view her as a Pure Victim.

I haven't read the Vourdalak story, i didn't know that was available in English.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Fair call, I didn't sympathise that much. If you can get Skal's Vampires: Encounters with the undead it is worth owning and has Vourdalak in it

JaredMithrandir said...

I just ordered that. Does have anything else that's rare?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

I guess that depends on what would be classed as rare. It is certainly a comprehensive anthology but the real joy are the side bars and it is within those you might find articles or stories that are on the rarer side.

Let me know what you think when you have perused it :)

JaredMithrandir said...

It dates itself to a year after the invention of the Microscope. Which would be like 1671.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Fair call

JaredMithrandir said...

But that becomes an anachronism with the references to the Bank of England latter.

Ziska is described as "Moorish" which can basically allot of different things, since the word Ghoul comes form Arabian Knights I think she's meant to be Middle Eastern.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

That would be an anachronism as the bank of England was founded in 1694 - but as likely that Dumas didn't even think about it.

I took it that she was middle eastern also - though moor was used as anyone of an african or arabic descent

JaredMithrandir said...

On the subject of Dumas, an author named Matthew Baugh has written a book called "The Vampire Count of Monte Cristo" and credits Dumas as co writer.

Most people don't know that Monte Cristo is suspected of being Lord Ruthven in Dumas' original novel.

Matthew Baugh is a shadowmen contrubuter, so I'm probably gonna get the book. I'm curious if it'll draw on the Euginie Danglars Lesbian storyline. I'm writing a story abut Eugenie Danglars meeting Carmilla. I have a story being included in Tales of the Shadowmen Volume 10, The Vampire of New Orleans.

Matthew has also written other Vampire books I believe.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Many thanks for that - I have yet to read the shadowmen books, they are listed on a very long list of "to reads" that complements the "to read" pile.

If you do read Baugh's book please let us know what you think