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Female vampires, while they may seem less prominent than male vampires, are an important part of vampire lore as we know it today.
While the most common vampires include Count Dracula and actor Christopher Lee, who portrayed Hammer’s most famous vampire, vampire women were some of the earliest vampires. However, the premise behind a vampire is the need for domination and power, which is typically associated with masculinity. Females are characteristically the ones to fall victim to the male vampire’s seduction.
One of the oldest vampire legends is placed on female vampires. In Malaysia, there is a being called a langsuyar, which is the equivalent of a vampire. This creature is a bloodsucking, flying thing that comes around whenever someone is giving birth. The langsuyar is given blame to any child who is stillborn, which ties this vampire legend with a myth involving the natural process of birth. In order to combat the unknown, the culture created the langsuyar to lay blame for the problem.
Not all vampire girls are born out of cultural necessity--some are made from actual women. In the case of Elizabeth Bathory, who was deemed the Blood Countess and Countess Dracula, she was considered the first known real woman vampire.
The Hungarian countess from the 17th century was historically documented as having killed girls who were servants in her care.
Afterward she drained their blood and used it as bath water. The Blood Countess believed that taking regular baths in blood would make her skin look fresh and healthy.
She was eventually convicted of murdering dozens of the victims after reports were made from servants concerning Bathory’s tortuous behaviors. In her final days, the Blood Countess was shut in one of the towers of her castle.
The townsfolk built an extra brick wall around her tower allowing only a thin slit for food trays. They believed that she was not human, and would use her powers to escape further killing their daughters. She died trapped in the windowless cell. However, her legacy remained as she, and one other actual person, Vlad the Impaler, gave rise to the fictionalized character of the vampire.
Female vampires were also the first to make their book debut with the novella “Carmilla” by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. Published in 1872, 25 years before the most popular male vampire persona of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” Carmilla was a female vampire that preferred to feed on other females. The story of the first fictional female vampire continued to be used as reference in movies through the 20th century.
As the motion picture industry began to develop in the early 20th century, vampire stories were included in the silent film era. One of the first films featuring female vampires was in the silent movie Vampyr by Carl Theodor Dreyer in 1932.
The film was based on a collection of five stories, titled In a Glass Darkly, that were written by Sheridan Le Fanu; the stories include the novella “Carmella.” It would be four years, though, in 1936 when the first film featured a female vampire as the star role.
Dracula’s Daughter, which was a sequel to the 1931 film Dracula, is loosely and supposedly based on Bram Stoker’s novella “Dracula’s Guest,” but the movie in actuality has no obvious connection with the book. In the movie, the lead character, Countess Marya Zaleska, is Dracula’s daughter and a vampire.
After Dracula is killed, the Countess attempts to become a human by completely destroying her father’s body by burning it. She is incorrect in her theory, and so she decides to go to a psychiatrist, Dr. Jeffrey Garth, for help. After this also fails, Marya tries to blackmail the psychiatrist by kidnapping his lover to lure him to Castle Dracula in Transylvania. In a twist of fate, Dr. Garth was trained in vampire lore by the very person who killed Count Dracula--Dr. Abraham Van Helsing. The female vampire’s fate is sealed when she is shot with an arrow by her own manservant.
It was not until the 1970s that female vampires really made their mark in the movie industry. The British film company, Hammer Film Productions, was the greatest contender of horror films during this decade. Vampires were one of the most popular characters, as noted with the nine vampire related movies, Dracula, Taste the Blood of Dracula , The Brides of Dracula, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, Scars of Dracula, The Satanic Rites of Dracula, Dracula AD 1972, Dracula: Prince of Darkness, and The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. Hammer also produced a trilogy, known as the Karnstein Trilogy, of which all three films--The Vampire Lovers, Lust for a Vampire, and Twins of Evil--include female vampires and were based loosely on the book “Carmilla.”
Other films produced by competitive companies during that era that also featured female vampires include Vampyros Lesbos die erbin des Dracula; The Legendary Curse of Lemor; Leonor; Mary, Mary, Blood Mary; Lady Dracula; and Nocturna, Granddaughter of Dracula.
At present, the resurgence of vampires has been in full force with the Twilight Saga four-book series and accompanying films. Since the first book was released in 2005, the paranormal romance of the characters has taken the world by storm. In the Twilight books--Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn--one of the narrators and main characters is a female vampire, Bella. She is portrayed in the films by Kristen Stewart, who has become a leading lady for fans of the ϋber famous Twilight Series.
Another hit vampire television series is The Vampire Diaries, which is based on the book “The Vampire Diaries” by L. J. Smith. The show premiered in 2009 and, as of 2011, has completed three seasons with much fanfare. One of the female vampires of the show, Nina Dobrev, plays two characters--the main character whom is a human named Elena Gilbert and a second character that is a vampire named Katherine Pierce. Several other female vampires’ characters are featured in the hit television series including vampires’ Jenna Sommers, Caroline Forbes, and Vicki Donovan.
Female vampires have been a major influence in all things related to the fictional character of Dracula and subsequent vampires. From books to films to television series, female vampires continue to play an important role in the history of cultures even in modern day.
See more images of female vampires here.