Victim vs. Companion: The Vampire Consumed by Love
Laurell K Hamilton’s ‘Anita Blake’ series of stories clearly demonstrates that the nexus of sustenance and reproduction for the vampire is constructed through confusion of the compound use of the vampire’s mouth. By using the mouth for eating and mating, the vampire loses all gender distinctions, becoming an androgynous creature. Both eating and mating occur through vampiric orality, and therefore lack any gender specificity. Christopher Craft explains, ‘…this mouth, bespeaking the subversion of the stable and lucid distinctions of gender, is the mouth of all vampires, male and female’ (p. 446).
Unlike animal predators, vampires find both sustenance and reproduction in the same source. Humankind acts as both prey and mate for the vampire. Unlike vampires and some deviant human predators, animal predators do not breed with their prey. Animal predators cull the weak and sick from their prey sources to create a stronger prey population. The action of culling the sick and weak allows animal predators to strengthen their own populations by making the hunt more difficult for themselves and their subsequent generations. Through the removal of the weak and sick in their food source, animal predators force their own species to become better hunters in order to survive. Vampires, unlike normal animal predators, keep their food source, therefore themselves, at the same level of competency. Vampires strengthen their human prey populations by taking out the weak and sick as a food source, simultaneously weakening their prey population by taking out the strongest and most attractive for procreation. Laurell K. Hamilton’s vampire Jean-Claude explains the vampire attraction to the best and brightest: ‘…my kind are attracted to those who hold power, or wealth, or are unusual in some way. A beautiful voice, a gift of artistry, of mind, or charm. We do not take the weak, as most predators do, we take the best. The brightest, the loveliest, the strongest’ (Incubus Dreams, p. 381). Vampiric androgynous orality drives the vampire to feed/breed through the mouth, seeking beauty, strength and power, regardless of the prey’s gender.
Vampires create more vampires by breeding with their human prey. This phenomenon is analogous to both the old, original, solitary and the new, modern, social vampires. A vampire’s motivation for turning a human into another vampire varies with his or her needs and wants. One vampire might find the victim sexually attractive and want to keep him or her nearby for a time; another vampire might want the victim’s wealth or social status. Dracula, for example, does not need wealth or status. Dracula wants to devour Lucy’s then Mina’s blood for nourishment, but he also turns Lucy into a vampire because she is beautiful, and fits into his plan of infestation. Dracula is doubly attracted to Lucy, then Mina. He sees the women as both food and partner. After Dracula captivates and consumes Mina, he explains to her how she fulfills both roles of food and mate: ‘And you, their best beloved one, are now to me, flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood; kin of my kin; my bountiful wine-press for a while; and shall be, later on, my companion and helper’ (Stoker, p. 252).
Unlike the more modern, socially oriented vampires, the Victorian-era Dracula is not androgynous. Despite a hint of homoeroticism when Jonathan Harker cuts himself while shaving, Dracula is not sexually attracted to Harker. Stoker’s vampire is partially characterized by his masculinity. Dracula’s gender identity is an essential part of this characterization. An androgynous Dracula would be less powerful, less believable and less able to conceive a plan to infect a patriarchal English society. Though Dracula finds Harker’s blood attractive as sustenance, Dracula is really only interested in draining Harker of his knowledge of his native England. As much as Dracula might want Harker’s blood for his own satisfaction, Harker’s blood cannot be wasted and Harker cannot be allowed to return to England. Harker must not be able to thwart Dracula’s plans. Dracula must also feed his own children/creations. It is only logical that Dracula leave Harker as a meal for his three female companions, much in the same manner as he provided the child for the vampire women. Craft explains: ‘Dracula’s ungratified desire to vamp Harker is fulfilled instead by his three vampire daughters, whose anatomical femininity permits because it masks the silently interdicted homoerotic embrace between Harker and the count’ (p. 446). Dracula’s three female companions provide a buffer between the two men. Dracula’s evil plan to infect the west with his vampirism consists of turning women into vampires and then allowing his vampiric descendents to turn other men. Dracula’s gender identification makes Dracula an acceptable male character for the society in which Stoker wrote. Other vampires are more androgynous, losing their preference for one sex over the other.
Like Dracula, Anne Rice’s modern construction of Lestat does not turn Louis and Claudia because he finds either one particularly beautiful or sexually attractive. Though Lestat connects beauty with oral satisfaction, his motivations are not entirely sexually driven. Lestat may step over moral and ethical lines that even vampires find unacceptable, such as the turning of a child, but Lestat does not equate the value of his victim with the victim’s gender. Lestat imbibes with either gender, as necessary, to appease his hunger and fulfill other, non-sexual needs. Through Louis, Lestat gains true wealth, the ability to not only get money but keep and manage his gains for consistent financial stability. Louis’s monetary skill is necessary to keep Lestat in the style of a proper gentleman. Rice explains:
‘And so he could acquire cash at any moment and I could invest it…picking the pocket of a dead man…at the greatest gambling tables in the richest salons…using vampire keenness to suck gold and dollars and deeds…alluring in his charm. But this had never given him the life he wanted…he had ushered me into the preternatural world that he might acquire an investor and manager for whom these skills of mortal life became most valuable in this life after’ (p. 39).
Once Lestat has turned Louis, he keeps Louis tied to him by telling Louis that he needs his expertise in order to survive in his new vampiric state. Eventually, however, Louis understands that he cannot learn more about his vampiric state from Lestat. Over time, Louis becomes dissatisfied with their relationship and seeks a means of severing their ties: ‘By morning, I realized that I was his complete superior and I had been sadly cheated in having him for a teacher’ (Rice, p. 31).
Lestat knows that Louis is seeking to end their relationship, but Lestat needs Louis. Lestat has become accustomed to, and comfortable with, the lifestyle Louis’ financial skills have provided. Since their relationship is based on financial rather than sexual consumption, Lestat struggles to determine what will entice Louis to change his mind and stay with him. Lestat tries to lessen Louis’ frustrated state of dissatisfaction by luring human victims to their flat to tempt Louis to accept his vampiric self. Lestat is himself frustrated with Louis’ refusal to accept his change from human prey to vampiric predator. Louis grapples with the humanity he carries inside his vampiric form. He feeds on rats in order to survive but finds no satisfaction and very little sustenance in his feeding on animals. Lestat continues to encourage Louis to take human victims, thereby dissolve his connection with his humanity and accept his role as predator. Louis remains frustrated by an internal war between his humanity and his vampiric need for sustenance. Louis’s frustrations build to a breaking point, finally forcing Louis into the role of predator in search of prey. While running from the internal war he cannot win, Louis comes upon and feeds off of the five-year old Claudia. Though Louis suffers terrible angst over his weakness, Lestat finally has the key to Louis in Claudia. When Louis runs off, Lestat finishes Louis’s predatory act and changes Claudia into a vampire. When Louis bites Claudia, his predatory eyes can only understand Claudia in terms of food, as a victim. When Lestat bites Claudia, not only does he gain some sustenance, he also views Claudia as a companion figure. Lestat turns Claudia into a vampire in an effort to keep Louis with him as his companion and money manager. He explains to Claudia: ‘“Now, Louis was going to leave us,” said Lestat, his eyes moving from my face to hers. “He was going away. But now he’s not. Because he wants to stay and take care of you and make you happy”’ (Rice, p. 94). Like Dracula’s female companions, Claudia takes on the function of buffer between the two men.
Louis continues to resent his relationship with Lestat, but his guilt and parental love for Claudia causes him to deal with his vampiric self. As a vampire, Claudia has the vampiric mouth and vampiric charm to be able to feed herself by luring unsuspecting victims for sustenance. Louis observes, ‘She was not a child any longer, she was a vampire child’ (Rice, p. 94). Claudia is a genderless predator that does have the normal adult sexual needs that must be met, but she still needs the sustenance provided by the human prey’s blood.
Claudia’s role as vampiric child binds Louis and Lestat. The adult vampires provide what Claudia cannot obtain for herself. Lestat teaches Claudia how to hunt in the ways of the vampire, while Louis provides an education in the ways of humanity. Claudia is the most androgynous vampire of all and does not succor victims through sexual attraction as do the adult vampires. Claudia obtains prey through adult sympathy for an innocent, lost child. Rice explains: ‘Like a child numbed with fright she would whisper her plea for help to the gentle, admiring patrons, and as they carried her out of the square, her arms would fix about their necks, her tongue between her teeth, her vision glazed with consuming hunger’ (pp. 100-101). Lestat and Louis dress Claudia to make her appear innocent and attractive to her prospective human victims and shelter her in the rich lifestyle Louis’s financial skills provide.
When Claudia realizes she will never grow up into a mature, sexually active woman, she struggles against her conscripted role of asexual child. Claudia wants to enact gender. Claudia and Louis sleep in the same coffin. Claudia hunts for a way to experience Louis as more than a father. Though she has an academic knowledge of sex and love between mature adults, Claudia wants the experience of the sexually mature woman for herself. Claudia strains against perpetual immaturity, and though she is constrained to remain in a child’s form, she seeks to gain a ripe womanly shape through her connection with Madeleine. When Louis resists Claudia’s demands to turn Madeleine, Claudia berates Louis for trapping her in a child’s form with no hope of escape. She says, ‘Yes, that shape, I might have known what is was to walk at your side. Monsters! To give me immortality in this hopeless guise, this helpless form’ (Rice, p. 262).
Although Louis’s orality is consistently linked to food, he eventually acquiesces to Claudia’s demands. Louis turns Madeleine to provide companionship, not for himself, but for Claudia. This turning demonstrates the connection between the vampiric orality and sexual excitement: ‘She gasped as I broke flesh, the warm current coming into me, her breasts crushed against me, her body arching up, helpless, from the couch’ (Rice, p. 269). When Claudia and Madeleine are destroyed by the other vampires, Louis loses the remainder of his humanity. Louis understands that, like all vampires, he is fundamentally an oral creature with the vampiric needs and desire for sustenance and reproduction, all of which are satisfied through the compound of his vampiric mouth.
Like Rice’s Louis, Hamilton’s Anita struggles to retain her humanity. Anita is constantly at war with her preconceived views of the underworld around her. Anita exerts effort to keep from crossing line after line, lines that she herself has drawn in the sand of her personal morality. Anita chooses to take one step after another, expressing undeniable agency, becoming a new mythology. Initially, Anita is an animator and a preternatural expert for the police, who struggles against the allure of the prey/predator entanglements within the vampiric underworld. Jean-Claude, the new master of the city, is particularly fascinating to Anita. To save both their lives, Jean-Claude gives Anita vampire marks, binding and strengthening them, and adopts a pet name for Anita when addressing her: ‘Greetings, ma petite,’ he said. His voice was like fur, rich, soft, vaguely obscene, as if just talking to him was something dirty’ (Laughing, p. 326).
The vampire marks begin the binding of Anita, Jean-Claude and Richard. Anita gains strength and resistance to vampires and lycanthropes through her preternatural connections. The marks provide Anita with attributes far beyond human capabilities and a closer connection to the power of the lycanthropes through Richard. Jean-Claude gains a powerful, though obstinate, human servant in Anita and additional power through the strength and solidarity of the wolf pack. Richard gains the potency to become pack leader from both Anita and Jean-Claude. Though all three gain through their deeply intimate relationship, Jean-Claude knows that there is much more to be gained and continually argues against Anita’s self-imposed moral barriers. He says: ‘Two more marks and you will have immortality. You will not age because I do not age. You will remain human, alive, able to wear your crucifix. Able to enter a church. It does not compromise your soul. Why do you fight me?’ (Laughing, pp.328-329).
Jean-Claude, as master vampire and head of the triumvirate, feeds from Anita through their sexual and metaphysical connection, gaining strength, power and pleasure for both of them. Anita experiences, through her bond with Jean-Claude, the vampiric blood-lust, therefore the vampire connection between food and sex. Richard also gains vampiric blood-lust, plus Anita’s unemotional power in Necromancy that helps him to gain and keep control of the werewolf pack.
Eventually, through additional marks, the ardeur and two metaphysical triumvirates, Anita becomes a hybrid of human, necromancer, lycanthrope and vampire. Unlike others, Anita is not one preternatural entity of another, but a combination of many. Anita bridges the roles of predator and prey. She transforms from prey to predator to prey, through the use of her mouth. Anita bites and drinks blood from Nathaniel then kisses Jean-Claude with Nathaniel’s blood on her mouth on stage. She explains:
‘And I fed, I fed the ardeur, and hadn’t even known it was coming. I fed on his blood, fed on the meat of his body, fed on his sex, fed on all of him…Jean-Claude was standing there, in front of me…I went to him and he kissed me. He kissed me as if he were tasting me, as if with tongue and teeth and lips he could drain from me every last drop of Nathaniel’s blood and the taste of me along with it’ (Incubus, pp.367-68).
Anita separates Nathaniel, the prey, and Jean-Claude, the predator. Like Dracula’s wives and Claudia, Anita is positioned between two men, but unlike Dracula’s wives and Claudia, Anita stands alone as her own woman. Anita encompasses both victim and companion. Anita Blake is a vampire consumed by love.
Hamilton, Laurell K. (2004) Incubus Dreams (New York: Berkley).
Rice, Anne (1976) Interview with the Vampire (New York: Random House).
Stoker, Bram (1997) Dracula (New York: W. W. Norton).
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