V is for…Vampire Brides

In the moonlight opposite me were three young women, ladies by their dress and manner . . . they threw no shadow on the floor . . . two were dark, and had aquiline noses, like the Count, and great dark piercing eyes, that seemed to be almost red when contrasted with the pale yellow moon. The other was fair, as fair as can be, with great wavy masses of golden hair and eyes like pale sapphires . . . all three had brilliant white teeth that shone like pearls against the ruby of their voluptuous lips.
–from Dracula, Bram Stoker

The vampire brides are small characters in Stoker’s novel; they move onto the stage in chapter three, when Jonathan Harker is new in Count Dracula’s Vhome. They only appear again once in the novel, toward the end—again in a short passage.

But my, what an impression they make.

A trio of beautiful and terrifying women invites associations with the Fates and the Furies, the Harpies and the Weird Sisters. Certainly, we are meant to pick up on the unholy trinity suggested by their number—and that is highlighted when Stoker at one point refers to them as the weird sisters.

Stoker describes the vampire brides painstakingly, but he doesn’t actually give us the term “vampire brides”—that nickname was given to them later and has stuck, as they are unnamed in the novel and in most adaptations.

The relationship of the vampires to Dracula is actually rather unclear. It’s clear that he helps them find victims and that they often use their sexual draculaprowess to lure people back to the home they share with Dracula to feed on them. It’s also clear that they follow his orders.

The vampire brides also appear around Mina when she’s been bitten. They promise not to harm her and try to lure her away from Van Helsing and the protection of holy symbols. The sisters kill and feed on Van Helsing’s horses but must flee as the sun rises.

When Van Helsing finds their tombs, his hand is almost stayed by their beauty. Like Harker, Van Helsing is attracted to the beautiful vampires, even as they repulse him.

That seems to be a large part of the attraction of vampires in general—the lure of something very beautiful and very deadly. That sexiness has been built into all kinds of vampire stories, both before and after Stoker’s novel, but its presence in the Stoker story is important. Dracula has been a huge influence on modern vampire interpretations, and the themes of sexuality and blood lust that run through the novel run through much vampire fiction.

When the vampires are women, these themes often present themselves as the three vampire brides do. Two of the brides are exotically beautiful, with dark hair and skin. The third, who seems to be the oldest, is fair haired and fair skinned. They are the Dark Lady and the White Women, alluring with their rosy lips and heightened sexuality and deadly with their bite.

Watch out, oh ye mortal men!

The Brides in Frances Ford Coppola's 1992 film.
The Brides in Frances Ford Coppola’s 1992 film.
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16 Comments

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  1. I always thought that Dracula couldn’t bring himself to kill them so he turned them. They are inferior to him, so pose no threat, but he won’t take their lives cause they’re beautiful.
    Too romantic? Maybe.
    I do write romance, it’s a habit.

    Heather

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  2. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Brides and Lucy in Dracula lately. All the vampires are sexual predators, but Dracula primarily hunts women. The female vampires (including Lucy) are only shown feeding on children (though as you point out, Dracula has to stop them from eating Harker). Why do you think this is?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm. Well now, I don’t think I’d quite put it that way, and that’s interesting—especially when you consider that we don’t actually know that these are Dracula’s brides. They might be—but the novel really doesn’t say, so questions of sexual jealousy on Dracula’s part are perhaps implied but aren’t strictly in the text. I got the feeling that they preyed mostly on men and children who were lost in the forest, able to beguile children and eat them as a sort of monstrous mother and men as a sort of monstrous mate. Of course, they also eat the horses, and I don’t know what to do with that. lol

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      1. That seems like a good read to me. I was really trying to read something more into the choice of victims, but I guess they aren’t that picky. And I just call ’em brides ’cause… movies. Although, both Mina and Lucy are married or engaged when Dracula attacks, so maybe there is a bit of selectivity.

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        1. I’ve always thought of them as the brides, too, and certainly when thinking of them in the context of the films, as that’s what the filmmakers call them—but I do have to remind myself that if I’m talking about the text, I can infer that they’re his brides but that’s about all.

          Now I want to pull out the sections with them in it and read them back-to-back and see what I come up with.

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    1. Awesome! The book is a particular favorite of mine, too. I came by it late—was in college when I read it for the first time–but I think that worked in my favor.

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    1. I think that’s one interpretation of him (and the wives)—maybe of vampires in general. But Dracula isn’t described as beautifully as they are, and in fact sometimes he seems downright repulsive in looks, even if he’s magnetic in personality. It’s an interesting dynamic.

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  3. I wonder if part of their allure might be something I’ll term the “dangerous submissive,” that is, a woman who appears as a submissive, almost virgin-like, but with the veil of danger overhead. Even though the danger is real, it is obvious, the idea of a sexually aware, powerful woman opening herself vulnerably to a dominator creates an appeal that is hard to reject. Even on pain of death.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Maybe? I think part of the danger of the brides, though, is in their sexual prowess. At one point, Stoker describes the sisters around Harker in positions that are sexually aggressive. The Madonna/Whore complex certainly helps explain some of it—women can be only one or the other, and one is very good while the other is very bad.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. There is a lot to be said about being average … *Meh* on the scale of beauty scale.

    It seems to me that monsters tend to show up on opposing ends of the beauty scale – the hideously ugly and the breathtakingly beautiful.

    An Ode to Being Average!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know, I hadn’t quite made that connection in my head yet, but you’re right. Perhaps part of that is the way many stories are calculated to teach us about living in society, and the safest place to be is in the middle.

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