Strength, Physical

Strength, Physical

(pop culture)

Among the more notable attributes of the vampire is its superhuman strength. Lord Ruthven, in John Polidori‘s “The Vampyre” was described as one “whose strength seemed superhuman.” Sheridan Le Fanu noted, “One sign of the vampire is the power of the hand. The slender hand of Mircalla (i.e., Carmilla) closed like a vice of steel on the General’s wrist when he raised his hatchet to strike. But its power is not confined to its grasp: It leaves a numbness in the limb it seizes, which is, slowly, if ever, recovered from.” In Bram Stoker‘s novel, among Jonathan Harker‘s early observations was the great strength in the hand of the driver (later known to be Dracula) who took him to Castle Dracula. His strength was most clearly pictured by the man’s ability to pick up one of the women who resided in the castle and toss her aside with ease. Later, in his speech on the nature of the vampire to the men who were to join him in tracking and killing Dracula, Abraham Van Helsing described the vampire as having the strength of twenty men (chapter 18). He also noted that garlic, such sacred objects as the crucifix, and sunlight take away the vampire’s strength. The strength also often wanes when the vampire has not fed for a long period.

The vampires of folklore had no particular strength, however, people feared their unknown and supernatural realm. The folklore accounts portray a vampire who frequently fled when confronted and who was unable to resist a group set on its destruction. It generally attacked one victim at a time, usually a weaker relative (wife, child, or infant).

However, an emphasis upon the vampire’s strength has proved a most useful attribute in modern novels and the cinema. The vampire shared this characteristic with other monsters. As vampires moved into society and encountered humans, its strength contributed to a certain arrogance, because vampires knew that no mere mortal could overcome them in a fair fight. Thus, vampire hunters, also mere mortals, had to use not only all of their reason and cleverness, but the additional power of supernatural good (holy objects), and often had to work in concert with a group. Vampire hunters frequently had to seek out the vampire’s resting place in the day when, in its vampire sleep, it was temporarily void of strength.

Many modern vampires have been stripped of their supernatural attributes, such as the power to transform into such different forms as mist or animals, but have retained their superhuman strength. This strength, along with a lengthened life span, was among the few benefits of the vampiric state granted to the undead.

Strige see: Greece, Vampires in

Strigoi/Strigoaica see: Romania, Vampires in

Strigon see: Southern Slavs, Vampires and the

Succubus see: Incubus/Succubus

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