Sunday, September 21, 2008

Walter Map and Vampires in the Middle Ages

     The first thing that Bella did in Twilight, upon discovering that her new boyfriend was a vampire, was to go on Wikipedia and look up the word.  After she googled it, of course.  Wikipedia must have updated that entry since Stephanie Meyers looked or she never really looked there because Walter Map was never mentioned in Twilight as an early source of information on vampires. 
     Map is credited with being the earliest Medieval writer to mention vampires in his De Nugis Curialium.  And, no I am not referring to his stories about Bernard de Clairvaux, I mean real bloodsuckers.  St. Bernard was a vegan, when he ate at all. 
     I confess that this was my main reason for taking De Nugis Curialium out of the library.  The vampire stories are in the second division in several stories all titled "Of the Same Apparitions". So what did he say?
     The first story concerns a solider named Edric Wilde, a fine Song of Fire and Ice name if I ever heard one.  At the local ghildhus where people drink, he spotted a group of beautiful otherworldly women and fell in love with one of them. 
     "He had heard of the wandering of spirits, and the troops of demons who appear by night, and the sight of them which bringeth death, Dictinna, and bands of dryads and spectral squadrons..... How they preserve themselves undefiled."
Edric did not care.  He entered the room, seized the one that he wanted and had his way with her.  Then he married her.  William the Bastard, who was the king at this time, summoned the two of them to court so that he might see the beauty of this woman with his own eyes.
     The day came when Edric was angry that his wife was late and threw it in her face that she spent too much time with her sisters.  Whereupon, he no longer had any hold over her and she disappeared but she left the sons that she had with Edric behind.   Map warns of the dangers of incubi and sucubi because they do not all turn out to be decent Christians like Edric's sons. 
     Then Map related a story about a woman who died and was buried but was later discovered by her husband in a field with a band of dancers.  Whereupon he immediately snatched her back.   She had more children with him after this and those children and their descendants were called 'sons of the dead woman'.
     The next story was about a knight and his wife who, every time that they had a baby, found the newborn with its throat cut.  A stranger sat up with them on the fourth birth to watch and caught a woman about to do the wicked deed.  He held her tight and branded her face with the keys to the local church.  The creature flew away weeping and wailing. 
    So, Renesmee was not so unique after all. Logically, there is no reason why Rosalie could not have a baby after she died since others apparently did.  If Edward could get an erection, in  spite of not having a pulse and produce viable sperm, then Rosalie should have been fertile also.  Map's books contained a few more stories about dead women bearing children besides the few that I mention here.  
    It is a shame that Meyer's research did not uncover this wealth of vampire lore but then, this is an author who, when Jacob fled to the Canadian north near Alaska, spoke of not knowing which province he was in as he did not pay attention to 'state lines'.  There are no state lines in Canada, Stephanie.  They are called provinces for a reason.  And those 'provinces' in the far north, they are actually called 'territories' not provinces.
      Speaking of Jacob, Walter Map did tell a few werewolf stories as well.  And so did Boccaccio.


Anonymous said...

Oo, vampire stories! I just finished reading Colin Wilson's The Occult not long ago, written in 1970 or 1971. Whether you agree with his conclusions or not there are some fascinating stories in there, including several similar to the one about Edric.

I guess Meyer isn't that great a researcher, eh?

So what happened with William and the lady? Just curious...he's said to have had an eye for the girls.


Anonymous said...

Then Map related a story about a woman who died and was buried but was later discovered by her husband in a field with a band of dancers. Whereupon he immediately snatched her back. She had more children with him after this and those children and their descendants were called 'sons of the dead woman'.

So this husband wasn't a tad worried that his dead wife was very much alive, then?! He was more intent on ownership than on possible consequences. The message seems to be that even after death, don't think you can go and enjoy yourself, woman! You've still got a man to service!

And I will look at the Beatles translation - my problem isn't so much with the latin, as with my lack of knowledge of Beatles songs :)

Anonymous said...

I think the Beatles song is Bungalow Bill :)(Sorry it's taken me so long!)

The Red Witch said...

If William got 'jiggy' with the dead woman, Walter Map reports nothing to that effect.
And yes, it is Bungalow Bill.

Anonymous said...

christus scis non facilis est...NOT bungalow bill, from the get-go it is obviously the ballad of John and Yoko.


The Red Witch said...

LOL Right you are but for the Jan. 12 song. If you look at the column on the right you can see the old songs and what date they were posted. So can check out more. I unfortunately have been too lazy to do a song with every post but I try. Bungalow Bill is at the end of the Sept 11 post.

Anonymous said...

Taking in your descriptions, and reading the translated text of De Nugis Curialium here:
...there is little correlation with vampire mythology, rather Map's details of 'apparitions' contain general folk-tales of faeries.
Stephanie Meyer could hardly be expected to include any of this 'wealth of vampire lore' from this obscure and unrelated text in her research of a fictional story.

The Red Witch said...

Vampires as such derive mostly from Eastern European folklore but the apparitions in Walter Map's stories have many of their characteristics.
Walter Map obscure!! Maybe his reputation has fallen off in the last century or so but there is a good sized page on him in Wikipedia. To call him obscure really highlights the need for a new, more affordable translation of Courtier's Trifles or at least an abridged version with just the 'good stuff'.

If you are interested in vampire lore from a more traditional source, there is an annotated version of Dracula by Leslie S. Klinger. It is very thorough and includes stuff like superstitions about St. George's Day and a description of each book in Dracula's library. But nobody sparkles. I think this more than anything makes the doubters like me snicker a bit.
As an author, yes, she can order her universe in whatever way she likes and her books have been very successful (no one can take that away from her) but it would add an element of authenticity if she would have built her story upon the foundations of earlier established vampire mythologies.