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Why Voldemort is a vampire - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Why Voldemort is a vampire
Chapter Three of Shifts is up at the Quill. Not a lot of fixes, though I've continued to repair poor Alan/Allen/Allan's name. The next section of Chapter Eighteen should go up here tonight.

Anyway, today's HP theory is that we don't need more vampires in the HP universe because, for all intents and purposes, Voldemort himself is a vampire. (Be glad I didn't go with yesterday's, which was that the Marauders are really the March sisters from Little Women.)

First, I'm not saying that he's actually a vampire. We don't know anything about HP vampires; they aren't even included in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. They must exist, because Quirrell is afraid of them and Dean Thomas hopes one will teach DADA after Lupin leaves (and no one says, "Are you daft?"), but that's all we know. Voldemort might actually be a vampire, for all we know, but that's not my theory. My theory is that he's a literary adaptation of the vampire theme.

Naturally, because I'm writing this, I can't put my hands on Danse Macabre and give nice quotes, but Stephen King contends that the vampire personifies outside evil. (Minor side trip: It's also very tied up with sex, of course, but that seems to be related to what the fears of society in general were. When DM came out in 1980-ish, King thought that we'd gotten over so many of our sexual fears that this particular aspect of vamps was becoming less important, and that's why he chose to jettison it--mostly--in 'Salem's Lot. Of course, in the early to mid-eighties, AIDS hit, and hand-in-hand with it, vampires became extremely sexual symbols again, but this time there was a kind of sympathetic reaction to them. Interesting. But neither here nor there for what I'm talking about, because the point is that the sexual angle is a pressure point that vampires hit as monsters, and it will wax and wane with society's anxieties about sex, but it's not essential to the vampire archetype and is not present--except in CoS--with Voldemort. In HP, the pressure points are more social than sexual in nature.)

Voldemort is definitely an "outside evil" presence. Not to the wizarding world, any more than Dracula, who boasts of defeating the Turks in Transylvania, was an outsider to European Christendom, but to the people he attacks. The vampire's victim is not responsible for being attacked. Harry did nothing to deserve having his parents murdered, or being murdered himself (though that was a failed Curse, it was still an attempted one). Ginny did nothing worthy of being possessed by an evil diary; the worst that can be said of her was that she was careless and should have known better (more on Ginny later). The Muggles at the campground, attacked by Voldemort's loyal followers, did nothing to deserve that. Voldemort is not swayed by anything his enemies do; he is not out to get them to do anything in particular, except submit to him or die. As Bram Stoker did with Dracula, J.K. Rowling keeps her villain off-stage most of the time, focusing instead on how her heroes respond to him. Some people have faulted this as a lack of characterization, but I think it misses the point. It's not an examination of how Voldemort became evil, but of how good people respond to evil.

There is also the issue of just what it is we've seen Voldemort doing. Paraphrasing, Stephen King asserts that the vampire is the "primal rapist, instead of adding vital fluids to the body, removing them." He may seduce through mesmerism, but ultimately, it is a predator-prey relationship. In PS/SS, we see Quirrell, a weak and fearful man, having been attacked in the forest and ultimately losing his life because Voldemort gradually took him over, actually possessing his body. In this form we literally see Voldemort drinking blood to maintain his "cursed life"--he sucks the blood of the unicorns in the Forbidden Forest. The movie (though of course not canon, in this case it's pretty close to the description in the book) shows Voldemort sucking from a neck wound, and looking up with silver blood dripping from around his mouth.

In CoS, Tom Riddle, who will become Voldemort, has created a diary whose explicit purpose appears to have been to suck the life force out of anyone using it and allow him to come back to life and return to the business of consuming Muggle-borns via the basilisk. He uses the mesmerizing approach to trap Ginny, then, despite her efforts to free herself, continues to suck away her energy and feed it into himself. It's in CoS, of course, that the most blatant sexual imagery is associated with him--the seduction of a young, innocent girl, carrying her away to his dungeons, to be a weird kind of bride who gives birth to him instead of his child, only to be stopped by the dashing hero. Ginny, like Lucy Westenra, grows more and more pallid and withdrawn as Tom slowly kills her and turns her into an agent of evil.

Voldemort himself doesn't appear in PoA, but in Peter, we meet a Renfield type of character. Vampires must be "invited in," which is precisely what happens when the Potters' secret keeper betrays them. Peter invites Voldemort into the hiding place, where he slaughters James and Lily and tries to kill Harry. (Frankly, the way the AK Curse effected Voldemort when it bounced back on him makes me wonder if there's something vampiric about it--in the mirroring, Harry seems to have actually absorbed some of Voldemort's powers; does it work that way when it works properly? Did Peter absorb some of Cedric's?) Peter, Renfield like, cringes around those in authority, and is associated with low creatures (though he doesn't, thank heaven, eat them). The vampire theme is re-iterated when Harry thinks Sirius looks like vampire in the posters, though he is of course not the real one.

In GoF, Peter is tending Voldemort by "milking" Nagini, but in the end, this isn't enough. Harry is dragged to a graveyard, where Voldemort directs Peter to brew a ghoulish Potion which involves his own father's bones, Peter's hand... and Harry's blood. Here, we again see Voldemort literally using blood as nourishment, this time actual human blood.

OotP breaks from the imagery a bit, as Voldemort is mainly seen scheming here rather than strengthening himself. He does mesmerize Harry, and he certainly remains an "outside evil" force, though, and there is a point of literary parallelism.

Th point that struck me out of the blue today when I started thinking about HP and Dracula was issue of Mina Harker's scar. In the Coppola version of Dracula, there is a grand seduction of Mina, during which she begs the vampire, "Take me away from all this death!" No parallel notion exists in Stoker's novel, where the scene is a vamipiric rape, pure and simple. He may have used mildly seductive techniques in earlier attacks (and certainly throughout the attacks on Lucy), but in this particular scene, he draws her protectors out of the asylum, enters through Mina's window (at Renfield's invitation), then opens a vein and forces her mouth against it to drink. After it is over, Van Helsing tries to purefy her with the Host (a Communion wafer), but she is unclean, so it burns her, leaving a scar in the middle of her forehead. From that point onward, she has telepathic contact with Dracula, and he with her.

Harry is a one year old child, and completely innocent when Voldemort attacks him along with his parents (at Peter's invitation). There is no Van Helsing around; the scar on Harry's forehead comes directly from the attack. It leaves him with an empathic (and sometimes telepathic) connection to Voldemort. This is the OotP allusion, imho--in Dracula, Mina is able to help the Fearless Vampire Hunters with her knowledge, but they must hide many things from her and lie to her, because Dracula also has access to her mind. And of course, this is exactly what happens with Harry and Voldemort in OotP.

There are other minor stylistic points connecting Voldemort to vampirism--his extremely pale skin and progressively less human appearance, constant nighttime appearances, etc--but those are the main ones. Thoughts?

Well, I still haven't found Danse Macabre, but thinking of vampires as hitting social pressure points of course leads me to 'Salem's Lot. Like the wizarding world, the Lot is a small, enclosed environment with a lot of skeletons in its closet, and outside evil comes in, as Voldemort does, and exploits them. This is from the famous chapter, "The Lot (III)" (well, famous among King readers, anyway):

The town knew about darkness.

It knew about the darkness that comes on the land when rotation hides the lnd from the sun, and about the darkness of the human soul... [A/N: Goes on to list many specific petty and not-so-petty sins that have been hidden over the years] There is no life here but the slow death of days, and so when the evil falls on the town, its coming seems almost preordained, sweet and morphic. It is almost as though the town knows the evil was coming and the shape it would take.

(Yes, the verb structure in that last sentence really is that awkward. I'm willing to forgive it. Just this once, you know.)

The reason that made me think of Voldemort was the way he is able to so easily slip inside the ranks of the wizarding world, gaining such a large following before he's exposed. Like the vampires in SL, Voldemort sweeps in and gathers up the weak, the greedy, the power-hungry, the fearful. He meets little resistance from a slothful community that's become used to letting things go.

At another point, the Van Helsing character, Matt Burke, pronounces that, "There's little good in sedentary small towns. Mostly indifference, spiced with an occasional vapid evil--or worse, a conscious one." That indifference seems to be a major feature of a lot of the wizarding world, along with vapid evil, like Willy Widdershins and the biting doorknobs.
19 comments or Leave a comment
liwy From: liwy Date: December 4th, 2004 02:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
It seems odd, but I'm certain you wrote a variation of this before.

As I can't find it in my memories, I might be wrong.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 4th, 2004 02:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've talked about it before; I don't think I've done an extensive comparison, and I know this is the first time I've thought about Mina's scar. I didn't check my memories, either. As far as I know, I'm the mod on my own journal, though, and I say that I can ramble on about these things as many times as I feel like it. ;)
From: inyron Date: December 4th, 2004 02:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Peter's Amy, right? No, James would have to be Amy, because he's the one who ended up with Lily. Unless Lily's Teddy, but that doesn't make as much sense.

Or possible you didn't mean it quite this literally.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 4th, 2004 02:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nah. James was Meg, daring, but ultimately wanting the conventional life. (Lily is John Brooke, of course). Sirius is Jo, the wild card who swears she doesn't want to settle down. Remus is sickly Bethie-Sue, of course, and Peter, yes, is Amy, concerned with a lot of material things. I guess that makes Voldemort into Laurie. Everyone always thought he'd get together with Sirius, but he ended up with Peter instead.

I need a life.
trinity_clare From: trinity_clare Date: December 4th, 2004 08:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
That right there makes a scary amount of sense.

Can we let Remus have double duty and be the professor who likes books? Can we? Can we? Forget I said that.
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: December 5th, 2004 01:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
*spittakes at Voldemort-as-Laurie*
From: inyron Date: December 5th, 2004 02:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
*giggles at Voldemort-as-Laurie hooking up with Peter-as-Amy*
ladyaeryn From: ladyaeryn Date: December 4th, 2004 02:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
(Wow. A whole post on vampires and not one thing resembling a Buffy mention. *g*)

What Riddle did to Ginny in CoS always struck me as very vampiric, since he very literally is draining away her life force to sustain himself (and then the blatant blood imagery of the crimson ink gushing from the ruined diary). And, now that I think about it, there's also Harry essentially "staking" Riddle through the heart when he plunges the basilisk fang into the diary to kill him. Never have read Dracula (or seen the movie), though, so I never took the connection any further than that. It's really interesting, and seems to be spot-on.
liwy From: liwy Date: December 4th, 2004 03:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
sreya From: sreya Date: December 4th, 2004 03:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Peter, Renfield like, cringes around those in authority, and is associated with low creatures (though he doesn't, thank heaven, eat them).

Strangely enough, though, Sirius does eat them while hiding out in GoF. Blech.

Excellent analysis, I think you caught a lot of nuance with this theory.

Oh, and I laughed myself silly over your March sisters comparison. Voldemort as Laurie! *snickering* It fits just enough to be scary!
From: magnolia_mama Date: December 4th, 2004 05:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
There are also the Death Eaters and the implied parallel to the Eucharist -- what, exactly, do they eat that qualifies as "death"? Unfortunately, thinking about it too much in my current frame of mind reminds me of Eddie Izzard's riff on the Eucharist:

Jesus: "Drink this, it is my blood!"
God: "You can't say that, that's vampirism!"
Jesus: "Eat this, it is my body!"
God: "And that's cannibalism!"

antonia_east From: antonia_east Date: December 4th, 2004 05:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
*bows down*

That was really interesting reading. I have a two hour seminar on Stoker's Dracula next week and your piece made me think about it in a completely different light.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 4th, 2004 07:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
My thoughts on Dracula are heavily influenced by Stephen King. If you have a chance, take a look at the Dracula section of the chapter "Tales of the Tarot" in Danse Macabre... really interesting stuff. And his thoughts on outside evil and how it intersects with inside weakness (from 'Salem's Lot, which I'm going back to quote now) are also interesting, since SL is a deliberate homage to Dracula, his thoughts on how it might play out in a modern town.
sir_hellsing From: sir_hellsing Date: December 4th, 2004 10:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was directed to this by a mutual friend. And yes, I thought Voldemort was vampiric first time I read about. In fact, I think he is a vampire, perhaps not the Hollywood type but feeding in lifeforce is vampirism (from flesh, blood, breath, etc).

I don't think he's inspired in Dracula, though. Dracula wasn't really the fearsome menace in his book. Harker stated who they were: the Brides. The women sexually liberated/given fangs and became promiscuous, pedophiles or man hating lesbians (Dracula wasn't able to enforce his will on them, when he tried to get pushy they laughed at his efforts. I think he went to London to get less rebellious women).

I can assure you that vampires started as female symbols of sexual depravity (they were all women first, the lycantrophes, OTOH, were males in first myths). Obviously, now that has changed but the sexual element remains in almost every legend (I won't take King as a referent of vampirism either).

Otherwise, I thought this essay was marvelous. Good job.
sir_hellsing From: sir_hellsing Date: December 4th, 2004 10:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, shoot. I forgot some nitpicks.

Are you going for Dracula was Vlad III called Tepes by his enemies? Because if you do, he protected Wallachia not Transylvania, they were separate countries until the XX when (with Moldavia) joined in Romania. And he was Christian, Orthodox, then he was forced to embrace Catholicism to marry Countess Ilona (his second wife), King Mattias' cousin.

I'm such a Vlad's geek. :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 4th, 2004 10:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Right. Wallachia--my brain isn't in working order today, really.

I don't think that he was necessarily an inspiration, just that the images are floating around out there in the pop culture soup, and that they've come out very strong.

I've read quite a bit about vampires; I tend to agree most with King about how they function in pop culture.
sir_hellsing From: sir_hellsing Date: December 4th, 2004 10:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, pop culture, yes. I was speaking of legends, which are so different.

I do think Voldemort is more a Lord Ruthven than a Dracula, or a mix of both, yet leading to Ruthven. He's far more scheeming. The Mina/Harry parallel was great, though.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 4th, 2004 10:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, the prototypical vamp, Lilith, was certainly a symbol of sexual depravity, but really, the archetype has gone quite aways beyond that. The sexually depraved creature still exists in the vampire-like succubi and incubi, and the element is still there, but the archetype really grew a lot. Dracula includes a lot of sexual imagery, but it also includes a lot of other notions of outside evil.
sir_hellsing From: sir_hellsing Date: December 4th, 2004 10:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was speaking of the Empusas, Lamia, the Lemures as well.

Outside evil and outside good. Keep in mind Dracula's greatest heroes where 'outsiders' too:

The old Dutchman, the American who struck Dracula with his bowie knife and died for it, and the strong willed woman (outsider despite being British).
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