An interesting topic that comes up from time to time related to vampire fiction is whether or not vampires should be portrayed as beautiful. In folklore, some early vampire fiction, and in early movies, vampires were portrayed as monstrous, undead creatures. They were reanimated corpses seeking blood for survival. A good example is the portrayal of Count Orlock (meant to be Dracula) in F.W. Murnau’s brilliant film Nosferatu.
So when did vampires become beautiful and seductive? I think the answer isn’t as clear as it might seem.
Some people point to Bela Lugosi’s portrayal of Dracula in the 1931 Universal film, only nine years after Max Schreck’s portrayal in Nosferatu. It’s a good choice. Lugosi was handsome and he radiated charisma. Many point out this is counter to the book’s description of a more monstrous count. However, even in the novel, I sensed that Bram Stoker portrayed a charismatic Dracula, even if he wasn’t necessarily an outwardly handsome one.
Now Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula isn’t even the earliest popular vampire fiction. John William Polidori’s 1819 novella, The Vampyre, predates Dracula by 78 years and portrays the title character as a suave and handsome nobleman.
What about folklore? There certainly are plenty of stories that depict frightening vampires and vampiric entities. Many crawl from the grave, bloated in tattered clothes seeking blood from their victims. However, you also find demonic entities such as succubi that use their seductive powers to drain the energies from men.
The upshot is that vampiric entities have been portrayed as both beautiful and horrific throughout the ages. To me, both make sense. Vampires are scary. However, a beautiful creature can more easily lure those it wishes to ensnare.
One of the things that makes this topic interesting for me personally is the way the vampires are portrayed on the covers of my novels Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order and Vampires of the Scarlet Order. The former shows a beautiful vampire. The latter shows more frightening vampires. The thing is, I think both aspects are portrayed in both novels.
As it turns out, the two covers make an interesting look into the history of my publisher. There were different owners when each novel was published. The first set of owners clearly wanted to emphasize the horror and adventure aspects of Vampires of the Scarlet Order. The current owners clearly want to emphasize the more romantic aspect of the series in Dragon’s Fall.
So, what do you think? Do you prefer your vampires frightening or beautiful? Drop a note in comments. I’d love to hear from you.