Vamps Before Vlad

After doing my post about what it would have been like for vampires to be in the closet, I wanted to deal with the sort of Part 2 of that – what it was like with Vampires before and after the advent of Vlad Dracul’s death. I find it interesting that vampires formed up their society then, and I think the actual history of the time affects how things go in the vampire world.

Of course, nothing can be started without my go-to quote for this subject:

Up until then, the vampires were like…well, disgusting. Completely secret.
Ragged, filthy, living in holes in cemeteries, like animals. But
Vlad Dracul had been a ruler, and he wasn’t going to dress
in rags and live in a hole for any reason.

A Touch of Dead, p. 44

It looks to me like the significant death of Vlad Dracul was a time for a turning point in vampire history, and what an interesting period for them to form up under as well. I think it dictates a little bit about their history, and sometimes when I read fic, I know that old rules that are invented for the vampire world are so historically inaccurate it chafes a little. My poor historian Mr. Minty would never be able to read it without screams of absolute rage.

One of the things that seems to be carried over quite a bit is the absolute insistence that a woman doesn’t have a right to challenge a man. We’ve all read it – Eric is bullying and overbearing, and spends a good deal of his time lecturing Sookie for emasculating him or whatever. He can’t stand to be disagreed with, and seems to pull out the old Victorian rules about how he’s supreme ruler of his wife, and she shouldn’t avert her eyes from the ground in his presence.

I would say that some of the beliefs come from the fact that older stories were re-written during the Victorian era. A good example is the tale of King Arthur, originally chronicled by Geoffrey of Monmouth much earlier, during the Medieval period. Have a look at some excerpts of the original here, and notice that there’s no passages about Guinevere, or Lancelot. I remember reading some of the names of the knights from the original text, and they were hilariously unromantic – one I remember was called “Iforget the Grossly Fat” and another called “Iforget the Bastard of Iforgetsomewhere”. The Victorians did a lot of cleaning up of the messy bits of history, and what they thought fitted with propriety. Even the Brothers Grimm took out the mention of the word slut in one of the versions of Little Red Riding Hood.

I always find it striking that while Eric expects her to follow draconian Victorian rules of protocol in some areas, he doesn’t seem to want her to follow others. I’d say that that’s because the writer doesn’t know about them. You can tell because some people think that feminism is somehow frivolous. Things like the fact that Sookie’s still allowed to own property – when in truth, married women were not allowed to own property during that period and weren’t even entitled to keep the money they earned. On top of that, beating the shit out of your wife with a small rod or switch was acceptable, and women couldn’t divorce husbands for being unfaithful, unless it was an offence to God (like you found out the guy was committing incest or something). So too, marrying a man was seen as ultimate consent to sex – it was legally impossible for a man to rape his wife, because it was her duty.

On top of that, there’s all this socialising Sookie does with draconian Victorian Eric – who if he really followed old rules would pat her on the head and send her on her way while men talk. Nor would Eric want to marry a woman who was so much of a slattern to have extra-marital sex – that one’s a big no-no. And draconian Victorian Eric wouldn’t have Sookie being able to socialise with him before they’re married without a chaperone, because that would call her sexual purity into account. So draconian Victorian Eric seems to follow only the rules he thinks are convenient, and really give Sookie the rule to have Eric dictate to her in public, but not him.

Usually the argument for Eric to treat Sookie like a second class citizen is because it will make him look weak to other vampires. Of course, this assumes that vampires view everything through the prism of how under control your woman is – which is another Victorian standard. But weirdly no one seems to want to know what Pam is doing, and why she isn’t sitting at home embroidering and picking out Eric’s waistcoats. Female vampires not Sookie are seen as able bodied vampires just the same as any man – it’s only ever Sookie who has to follow the rules about making Eric look strong – not Pam, not Sophie Anne, not the Ancient Pythoness. In fact, they’re in positions of power that wouldn’t be possible if Eric really lived in a draconian Victorian society like that.

That’s because the period when vampire society was forming was less restrictive to women. It’s quite the key time for CH to choose to situate vampire society – ground it in the laws of the time. Behold one of the things judicial trials allowed at the time:

That’s right – that’s a dispute between a husband and wife, and he’s hobbled by being in a hole in the ground, and they’re fighting to the death (or at least injury). This picture comes from a famous manuscript that was being used at the time. It’s called the Talhoffer manuscript and it shows how to bludgeon your husband’s head in with a stone in a bag, and win your court case. Under draconian rules of the Victorian times, a wife didn’t have a right to argue with her husband, but in the early modern period, she did – to the point that she could challenge him to fight, and it was worked out to give her a chance of winning. Talhoffer made money by instructing people how to fight – and in this case, to advise wives or husbands how to win in combat.

That was because following the Black Plague, there just weren’t enough people around to turn down good workers such as women. Women had more power, merely because they had money to spend, and the power to work.  When there’s a lack of men around to do working, women become magically just as good as men, and start to get rights and power. Women were needed for the workforce, and so they had more rights, more power to say no. If your husband tried to take stuff off you, you’d dissolve your marriage and take up with someone else, and he’d have heirs, and first husband would go son-less.

It’s only later when population increased again that women were relegated back to lesser status and had their rights stripped from them. During the Victorian shift into towns and cities, you had bad conditions and poor rights for everyone. People back then worked in shifts – Charles Dickens himself worked in a blacking factory for a short time as a child to support his family – and the conditions he wrote about were ones he experienced when his father was thrown into debtors prison. Dickens himself was lucky enough to get out, but many lived their lives like that, and crapped out at thirty five, when their kids would work to support them. That’s why Victorian rules were so dismissive of women – because no one really had any value – people were a dime a dozen, and you could treat them like shit under a capitalist system all you liked.

So this is a critical time for vampire society to form up. After all, if it formed up in Victorian times, there would be resistance to the idea that women are lesser. I can’t imagine Sophie Anne taking a backseat to Eric just cause he’s a guy. She’s older than him, and she got to where she is by hook or by crook. She wouldn’t accept the rationale that the Victorian human society is the reason why she has to sit at home and wait for Andre to do all the business. So the vampires wouldn’t take on societal values that had that sort of thing in them – a vampire is still a vampire, no matter what, and since Sophie Anne and other female vampires are part of forming up society, they wouldn’t accept some silly gender based rules they have to follow.

Vampires – as they have ever been in history – essentially steal human ideas for themselves. Most of their society isn’t very different from ours, and they did used to be us. There’s no real reason to reinvent the wheel, so they would take their values from our society into theirs. As long as the society fitted their needs, that’s just what they’d do. For things such as are exclusive to humans, they would have just discarded them as unnecessary, but they would have taken values from the times that they were in. Since there was so much more of equality for rights back then, it looks like they subsumed them.

As I’ve spoken about before, the vampires took the rules of trial from that time, and they obviously have the old manner, as above of settling grievances with duels. That was something first instituted by the Magna Carta – just prior to the time of Vlad’s death. I doubt very much whether they’d make it fair, as the court tried to do above – so there’d be a little more injustice in their society because a guy like Eric, being hundreds of years older, could ride roughshod over younger vampires. You wouldn’t want to fight him to the death because he’d be more likely to kill you – so better to stick to the injustice and stay alive.

But Sophie Anne and other female vampires didn’t need to take a back seat to the men in their lives, because all vampires had equal rights to bash the shit out of each other. Even though the vampire world is terrible, and exacts a great deal of trauma from its members, it certainly has equality downpat. Pam has the right to be Eric’s second – something that isn’t at all draconian as far as her rights as a woman. Eric is able to see past her female gender and install her as the chick who takes beatings for him, and protects him. Thank goodness he’s not draconian Victorian Eric, or he’d be pushing wonderful Pam to the side, and installing Bill, Chow or Maxwell in her place.

Before Vlad’s death of course, vampires didn’t have a system of governance, because as Pam tells us above, they lived in holes and wore rags. That would be a sort of society that is shades of what they have today – having hunting grounds and such, and keeping other vampires from poaching their humans. That would have been as equal or unequal as it is after they formed up their society. Before Vlad, it would have been rather primitive, and merely about strength.

We can see that vampires needed advantages, looking at Sophie Anne. When she was turned, she had no maker or anything like that – no one to protect her. She’s about 1100 years old, and it’s clear that she would have made Sigebert and Wybert soon after she made Andre – to serve as two warriors who would fight for her and protect her. While they might have been young when she made them, they were better than her fighting skills, or Andre’s.

Sigebert and Wybert give us an indication of what Sophie Anne wanted them for:

“This woman…very beautiful…she come to us the night before battle,”
Wybert said haltingly. “She say…we be stronger if she…have us.”

“She did not say we only fight at night after that,” Sigebert said,
shrugging to show that there had been a catch they hadn’t understood.

Definitely Dead, p. 207

With their terrible skin rashes, lack of teeth and scars, the two brothers certainly weren’t turned for their looks, and Sophie Anne otherwise has shown a propensity to turn victims of sexual abuse. She tells Sookie that that’s what she saved Andre from, and tells Sookie that Uncle Bartlett abused Hadley, and probes around to see if Sookie was abused too. As I’ve discussed before, it’s my thought that Sophie Anne intended to turn Sookie into an asset – much the same way she did with Sigebert and Wybert. Sookie would be the telepath who would never have to leave her Queen, while Sigebert and Wybert were bodyguards who never had to leave her side.

I can imagine that back when she was travelling and skulking, she needed two warriors who would fight for her cause without problem. Of course, she wouldn’t want to create her own army, just because at that time, there wouldn’t have been sufficient humans to sustain such a population. Eric himself said that he and Appius went parallel to roads, and preyed on travellers. So things before Vlad died would have been relatively savage. You would have needed to fight for your right to have territory and your own section of humans to eat. Having Sigebert and Wybert gives Sophie Anne power to do that, because while Sophie Anne can fight, the Berts have been trained from birth for that.

Of course, Sophie Anne and other vampires would need to fight hard for their hunting grounds, or their ability to just exist. I can imagine just what sort of world it would have been looking at two remnants of the older vampires – Godfrey and Appius. Those that seem to survive to a thousand years and over are pretty much real bastards – that’s how they survive so long. Sophie Anne would have had to survive in a world with such sadists, and no system to protect her. It doesn’t matter if she has no maker – strength always trumps the weak, and Sophie Anne would have been comparitively weak for a while. Particularly since both Godfrey and Appius seem to be ex-warriors, she’s not even vaguely matched to their skills by virtue of being made vampire.

It would have been a bit of a dog-eat-dog world. Most of the values we place on the sanctity of human life nowadays are due to the fact that we have the ability to preserve it. One only has to look at countries in crisis to see that the sanctity of human life is something only the relatively rich can place a lot of stock in. It’s something that we have others enforce on our behalf, through the advent of police and government. With no system of government, then it’s all rather Darwinian.

With the advent of Vlad Dracul’s death, it seems that there is a movement to take vampires out of holes and more towards mainstreaming with society. Naturally, at the time of his death, they couldn’t come out. But the idea seems to have been not to just be a vampire, but rather to eschew all those human values – to live as haunting remnants of life. After Vlad’s death, whether he was actually turned or not, the myth was given to vampires, and they started to take on some of their human values that they had lost.

It would have been interesting to view – seeing a vampire like Eric, who has only been a vampire a relatively short period of time, bucking that trend, and deciding to have more clothes than just what he wore on his back, to try to integrate a little with the society of the time. Of course, as I’ve discussed before, mainstreaming is the final movement in that process, but this would have been more mixing than one has with casually picking off travellers and sleeping in graveyards.

To me, Eric’s fascination and hero worship of Dracula makes a lot of sense, and says a lot about his character. On top of the crushing trauma a vampire would have to deal with just by being turned – as I’ve spoken about before – Eric and other older vampire’s traumas are greater. Mainly because they aren’t just turned, they are made to eschew everything familiar. It’s going from being warm and included to being cast out, living in a hole and wearing rags. Appius, I have no doubt, would have made Eric get rid of anything human, so that he could adjust to his new life.

As an aside, I should also tell you that the whole “I have had this Viking sword since I was 12” shit is highly unlikely. Mr. Minty tells me that the Vikings were not particularly great sword makers, and would sell their souls to get their hands on Frankish swords, which they would then use to hack at the Frankish lol. Viking swords were inferior and often brittle – and would snap in battle. In fact, foreign made swords were so popular that there was a decree by the Carolingian kings not to sell the Vikings any more swords, and the price of Frankish steel went through the roof in Viking society. A real Viking sword would not have survived the time – and if it did, it would be a Frankish sword. 😉

Of course, Appius would probably make Eric dump a sword, Frankish or not. That’s what fangs are for – a sword from your human life is a reminder of what you were, and not what you are. After all, Appius doesn’t have his gladius strapped to his side when we meet him in Dead in the Family. If Eric were sensible, he’d trade his sword up when there were better weapons anyway – that’s if his brittle Viking sword didn’t snap during a battle. And one thing I’ve always liked about Eric is his lack of sentimentality and his most excellent pragmatism.

But for Eric, it would have been a huge revelation to come back to a place where you had a right to have more than just the trappings of being a predatory ghost, it would have been a move back towards what it was that he lost. It’s not everything, but it’s more than he thought he’d have – after all, he would have lived for about four to five hundred years with nothing, and no prospect of having anything. I can totally understand Eric being a Vlad Dracul fanboy.

So post-Dracul death, things would have been co-opted from the humans of the time – they’re leeches in more ways than one – and they would have started trying to form up society without regard to the gender of any of the leaders – they would have still had Darwinian things going on there. Strongest and most determined wins. Soon after this would have been Machiavelli’s The Prince  which would have informed them of the beginnings of state craft – right at the start of thinking about politics – and it’s obvious to me that it would have caught vampire’s eyes. It’s where comes the stability of Louisiana as well – to be neither too harsh, nor too light on one’s subjects.

While vampires like the Ancient Pythoness (who of course as the oracle of Delphi was Greek – and about as old as Thalia) would have been turned way before the society was formed up, just like Bubba was turned as a celebrity and Vlad Dracul as a celebrity, she wouldn’t have had any structure with which to pass down decrees, or rule court cases. Of course, under a draconian Victorian rule, she would have been seen as outmoded, and way too female. Thank goodness that didn’t happen, or there would have been no way for her to turn into some weirdo perv decreeing bizarre sex rituals for Sookie in fanfic. 😀 Just once I’d like her to tell the AP to fuck right off. In seriousness though, she wouldn’t have been able to have the impartial power that she has now, being that she’s pagan, mystical and female – none of which were appreciated in the Victorian times.

But thanks to how their society formed up, Sophie Anne didn’t have to worry about taking a backseat in her kingdom, and she could be a good Queen, well liked by Eric. The Ancient Pythoness could be an impartial power. Thalia could become an excellent warrior, as could Pam. Eric in turn is secure in his manhood, and doesn’t need the constant massage of ego he gets in fanfic.  Female vampires had equality with male vampires long ago – at least politically. While for a good deal of history they were equally oppressed as a whole, within the confines of their society, the male vampires didn’t compound that by deciding that women vampires should have no voice, and be relegated to serving the males any more than they did already.