Thursday, March 13, 2014

Interesting Shorts: Pepopukin in Corsica

Also found in the Anthology, The Best Vampire Stories 1800-1849: A Classic Vampire Anthology is the story Pepopukin in Corsica. The story itself was published in 1826 in an Anthology series The Stanley Tales (the existence of which I have confirmed). In his introduction to the story, Editor Andrew Barger makes the argument that the story, which is only credited to AY, was written by Arthur Young. If that is the case the story was published posthumously as Young died in 1820 and *potentially* makes it older than The Vampyre: A Tale.

Sadly, we will never know the answer to that and at best we can state that the story was published in 1826, making it one of the pre-Victorian English language vampire tales. Interestingly the story does not contain a vampire but it does have a belief in vampires and someone acting as a vampire.

The story centres around Sir Giles de Montfort, a Frenchman whose fortune and reputation was made on the backs and failures of others. He travels to Corsica with the express desire of marrying Jane de Launay, a very beautiful maiden who had never met the man and who was in love with another. Sir Giles, however, was rich and this did much to turn the head of Jane’s father.

However Jane and her siblings come up with a plan to discredit Sir Giles. They discover he is superstitious and decide to suggest that their home is haunted by a vampire. Luckily for them, Sir Giles believes that he had been attacked by a vampire whilst in Poland. The assault is described thus: “at a convent near the town of Mersburg, in Poland, he had been attacked by a vampire, which had knocked out his teeth, beat his servants black and blue, stolen his books, his silver lantern, and drank all his wine.” The idea that a vampire’s attack might be more akin to a poltergeist than a blood drinker is consistent with some folklore. Sir Giles comes to believe that the vampire has followed him from Poland to Corsica.

The vampire is created by using ventriloquism and thrown voices to make the Knight believe it is haunting him (along with physical assault). This haunting voice calls “Pepopukin, Pepopukin!” to announce its presence and much of the lore we get in the story actually comes from some (rather clumsy in places) rhyming couplets the “vampire” recites. Within these couplets the vampire refers to himself as old Vampy.

Some of this lore is astounding, given when the story was published (and potentially written). One couplet goes:

The Alps beneath my wings I thrust,
And stain with blood the very dust.

This is a very early reference to both vampiric flight and the idea that the vampire would have wings and one cannot underestimate the importance of this.

I mentioned the poltergeist type activity of the vampire but they are still, in this story, bloodsuckers. Sir Giles is told, “these vampires are most terrific animals; they suck every drop of blood, after innumerable and excruciating torments”. The attack might cause immediate death or the vampire may draw out the death. The vampire threatens to attack after he is married and then “suck his blood until he’s dead.” And suggests that “with his teeth, draw his black blood.” A confirmation that the vampire bites his victims. Interestingly the author ties in another folkloric creature, and an energy vampire, the nightmare, suggesting that, “Sometimes on nightmare’s backs I ride”.

The final thing to mention is a ritual to try and “help” the knight, which involves drawing magical sigils that cause a blue-flame to rise. How the tricksters achieved this effect is never answered.

This story is interesting as it may well be the third English Language vampire story but also, to me, because it suggests the vampire has the power of flight and wings.

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