Sunday, August 14, 2011

Classic Literature: The Virgin Vampire

Officially in 1825 (though Brian Stableford offers some evidence that the book might have been published as early as 1824) Etienne-Léon de Lamothe-Langon published his novel La Vampire ou la Vierge de Hongrie (The Vampire or The Hungarian Virgin), which the always awesome Blackcoat Press have published as the Virgin Vampire.

I’ll take a moment to reproduce the books blurb:

"And then we shall march together directly to the tomb, which must serve as our nuptial bed…."

"What a horrible prediction! Alinska, you are the most cruel of women! Can you perceive nothing in the future but a coffin?"

Alinska allowed a few bursts of laughter to escape, which bore such an imprint of horror that Delmont, as if frozen by fear, thought he heard the frightful gaiety of an infernal power...

During one of Napoleon's military campaigns, Edouard Delmont, a young officer, promised to marry Alinska, a Hungarian girl. Back in France, he goes back on his vows and marries someone else. Several years later, Alinska suddenly reappears in his life, transformed into an avenging vampire. She threatens to kill his wife and children unless he honors the vows he made to her...

In La Vampire (1825), Étienne-Léon de Lamothe-Langon tells the story of the first, implacable, female vampire. What makes Alinska stand out in the ranks of female vampires is that she is not a predator, but the instrument of a higher power, working for God as the tool of Divine Wrath.

The blurb isn’t entirely accurate, Colonel Delmont is offered no easy choice of ‘honour your vow and your family will live’. Indeed he spends the first half of the novel on a mission of mercy, during which time Alinska is introduced to his household and his son dies.

What I found remarkable in this was the way in which vampires feed. At first we are told about the death of a peasant girl – “he got into her bedroom and bled her from four veins” – and in answer to this Raoul, the Colonel’s faithful manservant, concludes vampirism. Raoul suggests that they feed from friends and relatives, opening the veins of their victims, they suck the blood that they need to sustain their odious existence, unrelentingly. After each day’s end, from midnight to one in the morning, they continue this abominable operation, until the moment when all the stolen blood leads to the victim’s death.” Despite the nocturnal method of feeding Alinska is perfectly capable of going out in daylight.

However, when we see Alinska actually feed her method seems different (the peasant girl may have been killed by another vampire who posed as Alinska’s manservant until meeting his end in a fire.) Indeed her feeding method is absolutely astounding: “She places her fetid mouth on the pure mouth of the child, and seems to drink long draughts of blood, which she aspires from the unfortunate victim’s lungs.”

Alinska and Delmont vowed to each other in a contract drawn in blood. When he never returned for her and then revealed (in correspondence) that he had married another Alinska killed herself and it is that suicide, along with the powerful vow, that has summoned her from the grave. She wears a glove over a skeletal hand and has a weeping wound in her breast (where she stabbed herself, presumably). She seems to have another form, winged, but that is only a fleeting moment in the book.

As for killing vampires, fire works (and the vampire rapidly decays). So, when Raoul suggests a more convoluted method it seems that the mutilation is just cruelty for the sake of ritual. He suggests “…it’s necessary to seek out the body in the ground, which initially seems inanimate, but is soon observed to be alarmingly plump with its cheeks strangely coloured and its mouth crimson, still stained with the blood on which it has fed. Then one takes the detestable monster out of its coffin; its hands, head and feet are cut off, but there will be no effect until a sharpened stake pierces its heart—from which a torrent of bloody matter will emerge, accompanied by a terrible cry, which announced that life is finally escaping the homicidal corpse. Then, the ceremony is terminated by throwing the disgusting remains on a fire.” From a genre point of view this is a very early, graphic representation of vampire destruction.

Actually there is an easier way. You’ll see that the blurb suggests that Alinska is an instrument of divine wrath. If she is (and Stableford suggests, in his afterword, that it is a particularly cruel and vengeful God) then to me it is in terms suggested by Leo Allatius in his 1645 volume De Graecorum Hodie Quirundam Opionationibus in which, whilst the Devil raises the corpse as a vampire it is with the explicit permission of God. Thus, Allatius suggests, the vampire being repelled by holy objects. Alinska is certainly fearful of religion (and even priests) and also suggests that if she ever entered hallowed ground an avenging angel would strike her down.

This, as a story, has definite faults but in the lore it draws around us, and the date it was published, it is an absolutely necessary volume for genre fans and we owe a debt to Brian Stableford for translating it and Blackcoat Press for making it available.

Find the Virgin Vampire at Amazon


RoseOfTransylvania said...

This sounds rather intriguing.

Unknown said...

For some reason, I don't think that cove image is accurate to how Alinska is described. It seems to much like a very modern Goth culture inspired Vampire look.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

in truth it is only a stylistic cover

Unknown said...

Edouard is a form of Edward. Which is interesting.

Brian's theological analysis in the Afterward is very interesting, and I think it does make sense.