Quick Facts about Vampires
- They are often portrayed in modern literature and film as attractive humans, distinguishable only by their large fangs.
- In many stories, they can be killed by driving a wooden stake through their heart, or exposing them to sunlight.
- It is believed that they can live for hundreds of years.
- Vampires can often transform into bats, and sometimes other creatures as well.
- “Dracula”, written in 1897 by Bram Stoker, transformed the way vampires are written about and viewed in folklore.
More than perhaps any other monster, the vampire tends to vary in appearance. The classic creatures from which the vampire legends came with often cadaverous, resembling more than zombie of modern fiction than anything else. That changed, though, with the introduction of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
From his introduction onward, the vampire would become more human, more urbane, and more sophisticated. In fact, today’s vampire tends to be portrayed as an attractive if somewhat otherworldly human that tends to hide its true nature from others in the world. The vampire, it seems, could be virtually indistinguishable until the moment it descends upon its prey.
The primary physical characteristic that separates the average vampire from a human are its fangs. These large, sharp teeth are used to feed on the blood of the creature’s victims. The fangs may be present in the form of slightly elongated canine teeth, huge retractable teeth that only appear when feeding, or even as rows of sharpened, almost shark-like teeth. No matter what the portrayal, the teeth of the vampire will almost always end up being one of its defining characteristics.
It’s hard to pin down the powers of a vampire, because these powers tend to vary depending on the story. There are, however, a few things that tend to be fairly common from iteration to iteration.
First and foremost, a vampire is very hard to kill. In almost every tale, a vampire has to be destroyed in a specific way by a specific object. This is largely due to the fact that vampires are almost always humans who have been brought back to life through some kind of nefarious means. As vampires as no longer living, they tend not to share the same weaknesses as mortals.
Vampires also tend to be ageless. They may be able to live hundreds or even thousands of years, so long as they have a supply of blood and can stay away from the few things that kill them. The weaknesses of vampires vary – sunlight is usually problematic for modern vampires, while many are also weak against things like fire and holy symbols.
Beyond those two factors, vampires may have many other powers. Many have the ability to hypnotize victims or control their minds. Shape-shifting into the form of a bat, wolf, or even smoke is also a common power. In some stories, vampires may also be able to fly in their current form or even have powers like telekinesis.
Just as there are many types of vampire in mythology, so too are there many sources for the myth. The historians tend to point at the strega, or witch-spirit, of Italian folklore as a likely inspiration for the creature. There are likewise many other near-vampires and proto-vampires in Eastern European folklore, usually used as warnings against improper burial. Modern vampires tend to have little to do with their folkloric roots, though, outside of their tendency to be the recently returned deceased.