Sunday, December 31, 2006

Legends of Blood – review

Authors: Wayne Bartlett & Flavia Idriceanu

First Published: 2005

Contains spoilers

Subtitled as “The Vampire in History and Myth” the book sets out to look at both the myth and legend of the vampire and what has made the vampire such an enduring symbol in literature and the movies.

On first glance a scholarly book, I was not convinced by some of the arguments and investigations. Many of these were only small things but gave me pause to think. For example, referring to Dracula we are told that “we do not really know how the Prince became a vampire.” This, in itself, is true. However, from the novel we know that he attended the Scholomance, the Devil’s academy – an attendance mentioned later in Legends of Blood. We also know that Stoker used Emily Gerard’s “Transylvanian Superstitions” as a reference work, who tells us that of the ten scholars admitted at a time to the academy one is detained and “mounted upon an Ismeju (dragon) he becomes henceforward the devil's aide-de-camp”. Dracul means dragon as well as devil and many believe that Stoker hinted that Dracula was the 10th scholar and this led ultimately to his vampirism. Whilst not explicit I would have liked to have seen this explored.

Another example is when the authors mention strigoï. They mention the strigoï mort and the strigoï vii (though only as living and dead vampires), but state that the vii are werewolves. I have never come across this variance of the myth; all my research likens the strigoï vii to witches, who use psychic vampirism to hagride children. I have heard of the close ties between lycanthropy and vampirism, especially in the belief that when a werewolf dies it becomes a vampire, but never explicitly in connection with the strigoï. I am not saying here that the authors are wrong but they cite no reference to their assertion that the vii are werewolves and therefore the source of their theory cannot be validated.

One aspect of the book that might put people off is the way they veer to other myths and legends. There is a chapter on the witch, one on the magus and another on pacts with the devil. I actually thought these worthwhile as there are similarities and we are looking at the base archetype. To understand the base archetype of the magus helps us look deeper into the base archetype of the vampire, for example.

What disappointed me more was that the book seemed bereft of movie sources. The authors cite all the classic literature and myth sources, and also offer insights I had not picked up on such as the fact the “Helsing” as in Van Helsing is an anagram of English. However, when it came to movies (and TV shows) we were only offered generalities on the Hammer films and more in depth looks at Coppola’s Dracula, Interview with the Vampire, Nosferatu and the Buffy TV Show (plus a couple of minor references to some other mainstream movies). With the vast and rich amount of vampire lore produced in movies one would have liked to see some more references.

Worse than this was the citing of Harry Potter similes, which smacked of playing to a popularist readership and added nothing, in my opinion, to their arguments.

One area that was not explored was the more modern vampiric myth based around genetic manipulation, certainly a way in which the genre has evolved over recent years and ignored by the authors completely.

All in all, this was not a bad read and I did especially like the way in which forms such as the witch myths were drawn into contrast and comparison with the vampire myth but referentially light in places. 6 out of 10.


Corroding-Halo said...

Hello A,

Did you see the remake of Dracula on BBC2 last Thursday, what did you think of it??, i thought it wasn't too bad.

Speak to you soon and hope you have a good new year!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Corroding-Halo

Yes I did see it, and thought it was pretty good. There did seem to be some areas that needed perhaps expansion but the Directors Cut DVD is out in just over a week and I'm hoping that is addressed.

Of course the story was radically changed, but it wasn't necessarily a bad thing, and I was unsure about the epilogue. I'll go into that when I review the DVD.

Happy New Year to you also