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can vampries go out in the sun,
The idea of vampires burning in the sun, turning into ashes, or maybe even exploding, is so common that many people take it for granted. However, if you look into folklore, or into Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, you will see something else. Not exactly vampires enjoying in the sun, no, but not exploding as soon as the sunlight touches their skin, either.
In the Serbian folklore (which is where the word vampire comes from), vampires are usually nocturnal, but the sunlight doesn’t harm them. In some stories, vampires spend the days in their graves, rise at night, strangle people and suck their blood. Or visit their wives (who are officially widows) and make some babies,
especially if the wife is still young and pretty. There’s a theory stating that the idea of vampires visiting their wives was invented to explain how a woman whose husband died in a war got pregnant. Whatever they choose to do at night, it’s not because the sun would kill them. They’re chthonic creatures by nature and prefer nighttime because that’s when they’re strongest, but they won’t die in the sun.
story about vampires
In other stories, vampires might leave the area where they lived while they were alive, become butchers or blacksmiths (or choose another occupation traditionally associated with the chthonic and otherworldly) somewhere,
and start new families. It is perfectly logical to ask, since butchers or blacksmiths would normally work during daytime (unless we’re talking about the village of the butchers), how does it fit with their nighttime preference. The answer is: folklore isn’t consistent.
According to the folklore,
vampires are supposed to fear sharp objects and tools because they could pierce their skin so that the liquids their bodies mostly consist of leak out — and yet, they work as butchers and blacksmiths,
constantly in contact with the very tools they should fear more than anything else. There are many such examples. Some aspects may be consistent, like the idea that vampires won’t die just because the sun is shining upon them, but the others will be contradictory.
When it comes to the Bram Stoker’s Dracula, if you’ve read the book, you’ll remember that it wasn’t the sun that killed him, it was a chest wound (which coincided with the sunrise). Dracula didn’t have his superhuman strength during daytime, but he could freely walk around in the sun, and nothing happened to him because of it.
Why can’t vampires walk in the sun?
We should perhaps first note that vampires are hardly the only creatures that can not stand sunlight; it is a common attribute among mystical creatures that they only appear at night, and that some of them die in sunlight (we can take as examples Grendel of Beowulf, and the Chinese jiangshi,
a creature that originally was a reanimated corpse that died when exposed to sunlight, but has acquired more attributes of Western vampires in modern lore).
This general association with the night seems to have been a feature of the early folklore vampires, one of the few aspects that survives into the modern vampire (in folklore, the vampire is a dirty, wild, bloated thing, governed by primal urges;
they seem more akin to zombies than Count Dracula). It also featured in the vampire works that saw a huge boom in the early 19th century,
such as Byron’s The Giaour, in which the titular creature is doomed to walk the earth at night and drain the blood of everyone in his family.
This also illustrated why, even if the step from “only appears at night” to “dies if exposed to sun” is not a long one, it took a while to take it:
early vampires tended to be cursed to walk the earth in tragic isolation. For someone cursed like that, having such an easy way to kill themselves was obviously not a useful trait. In stories where vampires were antagonists (more or less monstrous),
having them be killed off by something as ordinary as sunlight would easily be seen as anti-climatic; far better to have a showdown with fire or wooden poles.
can vampires go out in the sun,
Folklore vampires vary. There’s even one type that’s active between midnight and noon. However, even the ones who have to return to their graves by dawn aren’t destroyed by the sun. They just become more or less weak or helpless.
All the classic 19th-century literary vampires are seen to be active in daylight: Lord Ruthven, Varney, Carmilla, and Dracula. Because of the influence of the movies (beginning with the silent film NOSFERATU,
which invented the “incinerated by sunlight” notion),
the default assumption in most film and fiction nowadays is that vampires can’t stand the sun. Some authors create vampires who can go out during the day, however, notably Chelsea Quinn Yarbro in her Saint-Germain series. A more recent example is S. M. Stirling’s Shadowspawn trilogy. My own vampires are only weakened by the sun, not actively harmed by it.
Can vampires walk outside if the sun is behind clouds?
Buffyverse vampires are remarkably good at sneaking past the “no sun” rule. When Buffy fell in love with Spike,
she suggested they get married under a shady oak tree, which would have been enough to block the sun. Spike has sent minions to threaten Buffy during the day and they just wear a heavy robe – Spike himself has done it to get to the magic shop. Angel, in Los Angeles, has watched crime scenes during the daylight just by standing under a freeway overpass.
Angel and Spike are both older and powerful, so they might have become more resistant.
I think the rule is that “direct” sunlight is deadly. A vampire standing in any shadow is safe. Sunlight which is reflected and scattered doesn’t harm them,
so they can stand in a brightly lit room so long as a direct ray of light doesn’t get them.
However, I think clouds aren’t enough, or Seattle would be openly ruled by vampires. I think clouds act more like screens for purposes of sunlight on vampires – it may weaken the effect, but ultimately it’s still deadly.
Let’s take it a step further and look a bit into Porphyria – better known as the vampire syndrome. This is a blood disorder that actually causes the body to produce less heme – a component within hemoglobin that is needed to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues. By missing this component, the human body naturally develops a sensitivity to the sun. In fact, here’s a full list of symptoms from the Mayo Clinic:
- Sensitivity to the sun and sometimes artificial light, causing burning pain
- Sudden painful skin redness (erythema) and swelling (edema
- Blisters on exposed skin, usually the hands, arms and face
- Fragile thin skin with changes in skin color (pigment)
- Excessive hair growth in affected areas
- Red or brown urine
Red urine could have looked like human blood to the uneducated. Sensitivity to the sun could have translated to vampirism. You have to remember that a very long time ago, people just made things up when they didn’t understand what they were seeing.
The illness porphyria is known in folklore for being an ailment that caused a human to glow brightly, frightening people around them. In most cases, it was also said that they would feel extreme pain when exposed to sunlight. With this disease, both hemoglobin and skin are affected. This can lead to extreme sensitivity towards light.
Most current vampire folklore is linked to porphyria which causes the vampire to feel extreme pain when exposed to sunlight. In South American lore, the illness was known as Saint Anthony’s Fire or Granada Disease. Due to its genetic link, many European countries used straw hats and parasols in order to protect against sunlight. Some of these people were thought to be cursed because they could not tolerate the heat,
and it was said that they would glow if exposed to sunlight.
Because of its interesting history with skin conditions, porphyria is still linked with vampires in some countries today. In the 19th century,
many European folklorists who worked to record tales of vampires collected stories from countries where porphyria was prevalent in order to find clues about the origins of vampirism.
People with porphyria are able to handle sunlight once their bodies have adjusted and developed protection,
so this aspect of the disease was not thought to be prevalent in vampire folklore. Porphyria is also linked to many other medical conditions such as epilepsy and schizophrenia because it affects both mental and physical health.
So,if the uneducated came across someone who had Porphyria and registered that they only came out at night with their blistered skin and redness all around their eyes and face,
it would have probably scared them. If there were already rumors of vampires swirling around, this would only have added to them.
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