Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Digression: French Vampires

I don't have the level of concentration needed to write up a real post today, so I'll pose a short question: what is up with French vampires?

Is it just a matter of a simple equation: vampires=sexy, French=sexy, therefore French vampires=sexy2?

Is it Anne Rice's influence?

I mean, Dracula was Eastern European, which makes sense since that's where most of the popular vampire myths come from. The earliest two fictional vampires--Varney and Lord Ruthven from "The Vampyre"--are English. I can think of some modern English vampires--the ones in Buffy immediately come to mind--but most of the literature seems inundated with French Jean-Claudes and Luciens and DeNoirs (really? you couldn't come up with anything more obviously symbolic?). Even in Forever Knight, where one of the vampires was an ancient Roman, he was effectively French (spoke French, had a French name, etc.).

Just has me wondering why it's so much of a cliche.


  1. You make a good point. Methinks it was really Anne Rice who injected some Gallic sensibility into the undead iconography--which is a bit ironic since American vampire lore is nearly all localized in New England!

    You might also want to check out the films of Jean Rollin, which aren't really good per se, but imaginative and somehow compelling despite/because of the micro-budgets involved.

  2. There's the 1836 French story La Morte Amoureuse by Théophile Gautier. It's about a Priest who falls in love with a beatiful vampire named Clarimonde.

    There's an English translation called simply "Clarimonde" that's easy to find online.

    I hadn't heard of it before last week, but I thought it was quite good. It reminded me a lot of Carmilla.

    But there's a weird bit of sexism at the end that was a little off-putting. I don't know if that was an unreliable narrator thing or what.


  3. Historical epidemiologists believe that the Levantine strain of the Human Hemophagia Virus first arrived in Western Europe in the late 1200s. While the native population had a high resistance to the more local Styrian strain, they were more susceptible to this foreign offshoot. Hence, many French people "turned" in the Middle Ages. It is also believed that the Black Death kept this population down by affecting the same susceptible population.

  4. The French contributed a great dela to the development of Pre-Stoker Vampire fiction that is overlooked today. Usually these Vmapires weren't French themselves, but exotic foreigners, Feval's Tenenbre brothers are an interesting case though.

    The most well know example in general circles is Clairmonde. Feval's 3 Vampire novels are the best, but Nodier, Dumas and other wrote some cool plays based on Ruthven. There is also The Virgin Vampire and Ponson Du Terril's Vampire novels. And Captain Vampire. Besides Clairmonde only BlackCoatPress has made any of these today available in English.