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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Magical Monday: But Aren't Vampires Supposed To...

This is not really a post about vampires. It's a post about folklore and who controls it.

My favourite vampires...
Vampires are a particularly interesting case in point, I think, because so much use has been made of them in popular culture, be it film, TV or literature. If you're going to have vampires in your story, although it may seem that they are a 'stock' character, there are decisions you can make, even about quite basic things. They may choose not to kill - like Terry Pratchett's brilliant 'Black Ribboners' who have sworn off human blood. They might be unable to be outside during the day at all, or they may only need to avoid full sunlight (possibly because they sparkle rather than burn to a crisp...). The method of turning a human into a vampire is also somewhat up for grabs these days - fluid exchange may be required, or it may be a complex ritual requiring considerable planning.

Anyway, who hasn't read, or watched or heard something featuring a vampire (or other folkloric creature/object) and come to a part that made you (or someone else) say "But I thought they couldn't do that/ could only do that if..."? But who says? What makes the version you previously heard/read/watched better or more accurate than this new idea?

I think we notice changes to folklore because usually folklore is something that changes gradually, over time, by consensus. When a writer decides to make a change to something from folklore, we notice and may wonder why they've done that. Is it more convenient for their plot? Does it question or parody something in contemporary society more effectively with that change in place? Are we convinced by their adaptation?

I suppose, ultimately, that last question is the most important. If something about the writing isn't convincing, we're more likely to question the need to mess with established patterns of folklore.

1 comment:

  1. I think that's very true - it needs to be convincing. I'll go along with most writer's interpretations of vampires, providing I can understand the reasons behind it.

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