There are many conflicting and similar accounts of vampires and werewolves in history and folklore. My personal belief is that these mysterious creatures reflect humanity’s greatest desires and their greatest fears all at the same time.
For a start, wherever there is a vampire there is usually a werewolf close by, and vice versa. And then we add a few ghosts and spirits. But why are these creatures so closely connected, why do they appear human but display non-human characteristics, and why even now in the 21st century are we so obsessed with them in popular culture?
It is interesting to see how these creatures are used to reflect the Western world’s collective xenophobia. This was first displayed in Bram Stoker’s legendary novel Dracula. A strange and grotesque old man from a foreign land inhabited by bats and wolves, buys a home in a nice part of old London and sets about growing younger by the day and seducing the local young virginal ladies – shocking!
And then we move into the present day, when the world is wiser and we are more accepting of other cultures and faiths – well most of us. We have recently seen the television dramatization of True Blood written by Charlaine Harris. Here we have vampires who were local civil war soldiers who find themselves cast out by Southern American society much like African-American ex-slaves were back in the 1950s and 1960s. And then she threw a shape-shifting dog into the equation! Why not a wolf? Because a dog can be so innocent and far less frightening to humans!
So what do vampires and werewolves actually mean to us humans and why are they so important? Well my first thought is that they represent everything that make us human, but magnified a million times more.
For example, take simple human emotion. We accept that people meet other people and fall in love and that we use the physical act of making love to show our feelings for each other. But society dictates that we are only supposed to do this with one person, our one true love, at any one time in our lives.
We are supposed to find this one person, marry them, have children and grow old together. But humans have sexual appetites that vary greatly. And sometimes people stray from their partners, and when they are discovered they are cast out by those around them, they are made to feel ashamed for their actions, and the poor person on the receiving end is left heartbroken.
And it isn’t just love. Vampires and werewolves are physically strong and volatile creatures, with often-intense reactions to people and situations. Humans can only imagine what it must be like to be immortal, to be forever young in appearance, or to have the ability to transform into a fearsome and powerful creature capable of wrecking havoc and destruction on those who would cross it.
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