The Queen of the Damned

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The Queen of the Damned

(pop culture)

The Queen of the Damned is the title of the third volume in Anne Rice‘s “The Vampire Chronicles” and the designation of Akasha, the original vampire who ruled as a queen in ancient Egypt, more than six millennia ago. Although Akasha first appears in The Vampire Lestat (1985), she became the subject of The Queen of the Damned (1988) which recounts the story of the origin of Rice’s vampires and the return of the queen in 1985 with a grandiose scheme to take over the world.

Akasha ruled beside her weaker husband Enkil and became known for her lack of tolerance of those who thought differently than she did. While she showed some enlightened rulings, she also had a dark side expressed in her desire to experience the supernatural. In that endeavor she had two young female witches brought to her court to demonstrate their contact with the spirit world. The antics of the spirit Amel caused the pair to receive some severe punishment.

Mad at Akasha, Amel attacked Khayman, the court’s chief steward, and the priests were unable to exorcise his dwelling. Meanwhile those opposed to Akasha and Enkil assassinated the pair. As she lay bleeding, Akasha’s soul escaped but was seized by Amel. Binding himself to her soul, Amel then entered her body with which he fused, thus creating a new entity, and the first vampire. Akasha’s body healed almost immediately and she shared her blood (and, as it turned out, the presence of Amel) with Enkil. He also healed miraculously.

They sought a cure to their vampiric condition, but the witches informed them that the only way they could end the possession by Amel was to kill themselves. They discovered that Amel had a tremendous thirst. They killed many and in the process created additional vampires. Then they noticed that as the number of vampires increased, their hunger decreased, and eventually they had no need for blood at all. Once they reached that state, they remained together, but as living statues. In this condition, they gained legendary status in the vampire community as “those who must be kept.” They were preserved and protected by vampire guardians who were aware that somehow their existence was dependent upon the two.

The tie between Akasha and Enkil and all other vampires was made abundantly clear when suddenly several millennia ago, vampires everywhere were severely burned, many fatally. When one new vampire, Marius, was sent to Egypt, he discovered that the person whose responsibility it was to guard the pair had grown tired of his job and placed them in the sun. Akasha begged Marius to take her to Europe. He then became the new guardian, and she became the impersonal observer of the world, projecting her consciousness from her body and utilizing the eyes of others, both vampires and mortals.

Over the years, she was visited by only a few outsiders. Marius had allowed his new love, Pandora, to drink from Akasha. At another time, while visiting Marius, Lestat made his way to the underground shrine room where the two were located. He awakened Akasha and they embraced and exchanged blood. Suddenly Enkil awoke and separated them. Only Marius’s appearance saved Lestat from being killed.

Then in 1985, Akasha was awakened by Lestat’s music. She then sucked the life out of Enkil and initiated her plan of world domination. She set out to destroy most of the males (both mortal and vampire) and to establish an Eden in which the women, but especially Akasha herself, would reign. Along the way, she invited Lestat to join her and took him on one of her killing sprees. However, she targeted the two witches who had been the instrument leading to her vampirism. Maharet and Mekare were present at a gathering of vampires in Sonoma, California, strategizing about the deaths Akasha had caused. When Akasha appeared, but before she could act, Mekare pushed her through a glass wall. She was decapitated, and Maharet moved immediately to isolate the heart and brain of the fallen queen. Both were passed to Mekare who quickly devoured them. In the eating of Akasha’s organs, the essence of Amel passed to Mekare and she became the nexus of the life force flowing through the vampire community. With Akasha destroyed, undead life could return to some degree of normalcy.

The Queen of the Damned was brought to the screen in 2002 in a production with Stuart Townsend as Lestat and Akasha played by rhythm and blues singer Aaliyah. Already possessed of a strong following as a singer, this movie was seen as a major step in turning her into a major movie star. Unfortunately, she died in a plane crash before the movie was released. Though far behind Interview with the Vampire in appeal, the movie went on to become one of the top twenty vampire films in gross receipts.

Sources:

Ramsland, Katherine. The Vampire Companion: The Official Guide to Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles. New York: Ballantine Books, 1993. 507 pp.
Rice, Anne. The Queen of the Damned. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988. 448 pp. Rept. New York: Ballantine Books, 1989. 491 pp.
———. The Vampire Lestat. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985. 481 pp. Rept. New York: Ballantine Books, 1986. 550 pp.

Rakshasas see: India, Vampires in