November 8, 2012
Celebrate Stoker's 165th Birthday With These Reads
Dracula's Guest and Other Weird Stories (1914)
Published posthumously, this collection of Stoker short stories capitalized on the success of Stoker's novel Dracula. The story that makes this collection worth reading is the titular "Dracula's Guest." Intended to be the original first chapter of Dracula, it follows an unnamed Englishman (assumed to be Jonathan Harker) on his way to Dracula's castle when he makes a stop at a local graveyard. There he discovers the tomb of "Countess Dolingen of Gratz / in Styria / sought and found death / 1801" and inscribed on the back of her resting place the words "The dead travel fast." The Englishman is unsettled and falls into a swoon only to awake and find a wolf lapping at his neck. He is saved by Dracula's attendants who convey him to the castle. Stoker's Styrian countess is a reference to another literary vampire, the countess Mircalla Karnstein of Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla (1872). In Le Fanu's novella she is the title vampire who preys on the young daughter of a family in Styria. By referencing this undead countess, Stoker places Count Dracula in a tradition of vampires that extends back to Le Fanu and even Polidori's "Vampyre" (1819).
The Jewel of the Seven Stars (1903)
The basis for the Hammer horror film Blood from the Mummy's Tomb (1971), this novel follows an archaeologist's efforts to bring the ancient Egyptian mummy Queen Tera back from the dead. Click here for my review of the film and little more about the book.
The Lair of the White Worm, or The Garden of Evil (1911)
This novel is actually based on the folklore of the Lambton Worm. Legend says the lord of an estate went fishing on the Sabbath rather than go to church. He caught a lamprey-like creature, declared it to be the devil's spawn and disposed of it down a well. Like most good monsters, the worm came back to terrorize the countryside and was vanquished by the errant lord who put it in the well in the first place. Stoker's White Worm runs along the same lines of the myth with Adam Salton, the would be-heir of a country estate, coming into contact with a horrible worm-like creature with glowing green eyes. The creature lives in a well and is only destroyed after a thunderstorm ignites a charge of dynamite placed there by Adam.
Full-text works by Bram Stoker:
The Lady of the Shroud
The Jewel of the Seven Stars
The Lair of the White Worm
More Vampires on Monster Land:
The Year of the Vampire
Ten Unconventional Vampires