The Vampire Chronicles
|Genre||Gothic, vampire fiction, horror|
The Vampire Chronicles is a series of novels by American writer Anne Rice that revolves around the fictional character Lestat de Lioncourt, a French nobleman turned into a vampire in the 18th century.
Rice said in a 2008 interview that her vampires were a "metaphor for lost souls". The homoerotic overtones of The Vampire Chronicles are also well-documented. As of November 2008, The Vampire Chronicles had sold 80 million copies worldwide.
Interview with the Vampire (1976) was made into a 1994 film starring Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Antonio Banderas, Christian Slater and Kirsten Dunst. 1988's The Queen of the Damned was adapted into a 2002 film of the same name, starring Stuart Townsend and Aaliyah and using some material from 1985's The Vampire Lestat. In August 2014, Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment acquired the motion picture rights to the entire series. In November 2016, Rice announced that she had regained the theatrical rights to her book series.
- 1 Books in the series
- 2 Portrayal of vampires in the series
- 3 Plot summary
- 4 Characters
- 5 Themes and impact
- 6 Film adaptations
- 7 TV series
- 8 References
Books in the series
The Vampire Chronicles
- Interview with the Vampire (1976)
- The Vampire Lestat (1985)
- The Queen of the Damned (1988)
- The Tale of the Body Thief (1992)
- Memnoch the Devil (1995)
- The Vampire Armand (1998)
- Merrick (2000)
- Blood and Gold (2001)
- Blackwood Farm (2002)
- Blood Canticle (2003)
- Prince Lestat (2014)
- Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis (2016)
New Tales of the Vampires
Lives of the Mayfair Witches
The Vampire Chronicles and Rice's Lives of the Mayfair Witches series have a few crossover novels, making Witches part of the Vampires universe.
- The Witching Hour (1990)
- Lasher (1993)
- Taltos (1994)
- Merrick (2000)
- Blackwood Farm (2002)
- Blood Canticle (2003)
Rice considered Blood Canticle a conclusion to the series and thought she would never write about Lestat again. In a 2008 interview with Time, she called her vampires a "metaphor for lost souls", and noted that writing about them had been, to her, "a sort of search for God and a kind of grief for a lost faith." Her 1998 return to the Catholic Church after 38 years of atheism had prompted a change in the direction of her writing that resulted in her 2005 novel Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt and its 2008 sequel Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana.
However, in the same interview, Rice said: "I have one more book that I would really like to write; and the book will have a definite Christian framework and it will concern the vampire Lestat; and it will be a story I think I need to tell. But it will have to be in a redemptive framework. It will have to be where Lestat is really wrestling with the existence of God in a very personal way." That same year she produced a YouTube video in which she told her readers that she had dismissed any intentions of writing any more books in The Vampire Chronicles, calling the series "closed". Later, during a 2012 Q&A in Toronto, Canada, an audience member asked Rice if she would bring any of her old characters back, to which she replied: "I'm not ruling it out. I think it's very possible. I mean, I feel completely open with a new confidence in myself about it. I want to hear what Lestat has to say." On March 10, 2014, Rice announced a new installment of The Vampire Chronicles titled Prince Lestat, calling it the first of a new series. On November 29, 2016, Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis was released, the next story in the Vampire Chronicles.
Portrayal of vampires in the series
Creation and destruction of vampires
In the series, the vampiric condition is transferred into humans through blood exchange to a human from a vampire, or mutual blood drinking between them. A vampire bites and feeds on a human to the point of exsanguination, at which point the vampire offers its own blood for the human to drink. The human first experiences euphoria and then a sharp burning pain in their bodies as their human body dies; the human death passes after a while and they are now a newly created vampire.
There is no discontinuity between the human and vampire during this process - the vampire retains the human's memory, and often the human's views and habits, while adding others related to their new vampiric state. They usually have no knowledge of their new condition and may have many questions for which they cannot find answers. Their reactions to discovering the change wrought on them vary from anger, to despair, to acceptance and even exultation. Over time much of their human perspective and personality may persist - the series describes many vampires as continuing to experience depression or existential concerns they had as a human, or to care for the family they had as a human - or they may diminish and be overtaken by new perspectives gained from their life as a vampire.
As all vampires are linked to the spirit that led to the first vampire, any harm that comes to the vampire whose body contains that spirit, affects all other vampires. Thus when the caretaker of Akasha - the first vampire, then immobile for millennia - put her in the sun out of despair, to see if she would defend herself, younger vampires worldwide spontaneously burnt to death or were severely injured in their sleep as if they too had been exposed to the sun. A similar outcome happened when Maharet experimentally cut Akasha, leading to vampires worldwide feeling dizzy before Akasha's body healed itself.
Rice's vampires are not of religious or demonic origin, and are not creatures of good or evil, so they are indifferent to religious symbols and garlic, as in some vampire fictions, and objects such as wooden stakes and bullets will only injure them temporarily, as they heal quickly and completely and are exempt from disease. Tremendous physical trauma, such as extensive exposure to fire or the sun, can take years or decades to heal if it is not immediately fatal. The series identifies vampires as being able to be destroyed by exposure to fire or (for young vampires) sunlight or bright light, and by a complete loss of blood.
Physical and mental traits of Anne Rice's vampires
Rice's vampires are immortal, possess superhuman strength, eyesight and agility, and require blood for sustenance. Sunlight will destroy a younger vampire, but as they age their resistance to the sun's effects grows to the point that after thousands of years, eventually it will barely harm them at all. They can be temporarily incapacitated by poisons - Claudia gives poisoned victims to Lestat to drink from as a way to render him unable to defend himself.
The physical aging process ends when a human becomes a vampire, but as they age their skin becomes smoother and whiter; the oldest vampires have bodies resembling marble that are statue-like when still. Their eyes become luminous, their skin pale and reflective and their fingernails are like glass, their heartbeat and blood flow are weaker and slower due to being clinically dead, and they are cold to the touch as their undead bodies generate no internal heat. If their hair or nails are cut, they will quickly grow back as they were at the time of their human death.
The distinctive characteristic of Rice's vampires is that they feel more vividly than they did as humans and can be excessively emotional, sensitive and sensual, being easy prey to intense suffering and aesthetic passions. The transformation from human to vampire heightens one's beauty, removes cosmetic imperfections, and refines their voice, allowing them to better lure in prey. Vampires crave and need to drink human blood, but as they age they may require less, and can even survive off animal blood if necessary (although the latter is significantly less appealing than human blood). Additionally, the act of feeding is an intense and erotic experience for both vampire and victim, akin to both lovemaking and orgasm. They typically sleep in coffins and crypts to avoid disturbance and the sun, although some prefer to sleep in caves or in the ground, and vampiric sleep also differs from "mortal sleep" in that they cannot be wakened until the sun sets; the dawn triggers their sleep involuntarily if they are hidden from the sun. Lestat tells David in Memnoch The Devil that eidetic memory appears to be natural trait of the vampire, however memories of their human lives, particularly those relating to sensation and emotion, fade over the years.
Vampires have heightened senses as well as a heightened perception of reality due to having crossed the threshold between life and death and returned, can move faster than the human eye can detect, see in the darkest of nighttime, pick one sound out of even the noisiest area, and raise the volume of their voice to painfully loud levels. They also possess the ability to read the thoughts of mortals and weaker vampires. A quirk of this power is that the thoughts of a vampire and the vampire who "made" him or her are closed to each other forever; the earliest vampires also cannot read each others' thoughts because they are too close to each other.
Vampires become physically stronger and more mystically powerful as they age, or by drinking the blood of older vampires and those closer to the root of the vampiric mother. Their abilities - including the extent to which they can endure and heal from physical damage - continually grow as the centuries pass,or by drinking blood of a more powerful vampire, so the powers and abilities they already know of are gradually enhanced and from time to time, new ones are discovered. With great age can come special "gifts" or powers, including immense strength that has gradually increased over the centuries, the ability to fly, to set fire to or move objects by thought, and to let their spirit travel separately from their body.
Fictional vampire history
In the series, the first vampire was created by a spirit in ancient Egypt, around 4000 B.C.E.. Akasha, the Queen of Egypt, brings twin sisters Maharet and Mekare - witches - to her kingdom as captives, who are renowned for being able to talk to spirits. Although they are later released, Amel, a vengeful spirit, remains in Egypt. Amel likes blood and has boasted that even though immaterial, he can prick humans and taste it. When the King and Queen are murdered by nobles, Amel enters her dying body, his spirit merging with hers and preventing it leaving. Akasha - along with her husband Enkil with whom she instinctively shares her blood as he is dying - become the first vampires.
The two find that the spirit that now lives in their body cannot be removed without their own death, requires blood to continue working on their bodies, and cannot abide bright lights. They recapture the witches, demanding to know what Amel has done to them, and are horrified to find that there is no higher purpose and this has not been known to happen before. They make a vampire of their chief steward Khayman, to test whether the spirit can be transferred between people, and to reduce the demands of the spirit by sharing it among others, and the embittered Khayman transfers vampirism to the sisters, to support him in fighting them. Mekare is lost overseas, after being captured by the queen, and no trace of her is found for around 6000 years; it is believed she may have lost her mind or become catatonic due to isolation and suffering. The other sister, Maharet, returns to her village after some years in the guise of a distant family member, and continues to return periodically over 6000 years, supporting and documenting the family over that entire period of time. Khayman seeks revenge and creates many vampires, causing Akasha and Enkil to be captured and held prisoner in rock, where after thousands of years of captivity they remain immobile as statues, until awakened accidentally by Lestat in modern times.
When awakened, Akasha drains Enkil's blood, and sets about remaking the world in an idealised form, killing almost all males in the belief that this will bring worldwide peace. Most vampires are destroyed by her; the oldest vampires and several others whose stories are told in the series find each other and seek a way to destroy her without destroying the spirit in her that keeps them alive as well.
As the Queen and her enemies confront each other, Mekare arrives, wordless and with seemingly no self awareness. She has awakened, motivated by her ancient hatred of the Queen, her ancient curse that she would find a way to return at Akasha's "greatest hour" to destroy her, and an instinctive sense that the Queen had awakened and it was the time to fulfil her curse. The Queen is killed by decapitation, and Mekare urged by the others, takes the dying queen's heart and brain into herself, as was their ancient custom, keeping Amel alive as his new host.
Social structure and terminology used in the series
The series creates its own terminology - vampires call the transfer of vampirism to a human the "Dark Gift", and refer to the vampire bestowing it as the "maker" and the new vampire as a "fledgling". In ancient times vampires formed a religion-like cult, and in the middle ages, believing themselves cursed, dwelt in catacombs under cemeteries in covens which emphasized darkness and their own cursed state.
Vampires are largely solitary - Lestat's "family" of 80 years is described as unusually long. There is no organized society beyond covens, religious bodies, and small groups from time to time. While a few vampires seem to find a way to cope with immortality, most capitulate to self-destructive anger or depression and do not survive beyond some decades or a few centuries. This is described in the series by the saying that vampires "go into the fire or go into history" - the few that survive far longer become legendary or semi-mythical characters. The most ancient vampires, a thousand years or more old, are known colloquially as "Children of the Millennia". In his life as a vampire, Lestat spends decades trying to find any vampire who is more than a few hundred years old, as a way to learn where they all came from and what their vampiric status means, a quest that eventually leads him to the 2000-year old Marius.
The original series was a trilogy, with others added later.
Interview with the Vampire (1976)
Louis de Pointe du Lac tells a young reporter the story of how he had been made a vampire in 18th-century New Orleans by Lestat de Lioncourt. In creating and sheltering the child vampire Claudia, Lestat and Louis had unknowingly set tragedy in motion.
The Vampire Lestat (1985)
This book chronicles Lestat's own origins, as he resurfaces in the modern world, his attempt to find meaning by exposing himself to humanity in the guise of a rock star, his search when younger for Marius, culminating with his accidental awakening of Akasha, the ancient Egyptian queen and first vampire, who has been immobile for millennia and is being safeguarded by Marius.
The Queen of the Damned (1988)
Lestat has awakened Akasha, the first of all vampires, who has in her thousands of years of immobility, contrived an idealised way to achieve world peace, by killing almost all males and all other vampires that she can destroy. She is destroyed by Mekare, who has awakened and returned after 6000 years to fulfil a promise to destroy Akasha at the moment she poses the greatest threat.
1992's The Tale of the Body Thief finds Lestat haunted by his past and tiring of immortality. A thief switches bodies with him and runs off, and Lestat enlists David Talbot, leader of the Talamasca and one of his only remaining friends, to help him retrieve it. In Memnoch the Devil (1995), Lestat meets the eponymous demon and is faced with a theological personal crisis.
Rice's New Tales of the Vampires — 1998's Pandora and 1999's Vittorio the Vampire — do not feature Lestat at all, instead telling the stories of the eponymous peripheral vampires, the Patrician Pandora from Rome in the 1st century B.C. and the 15th-century Italian nobleman Vittorio.
Armand tells his own life story in 1998's The Vampire Armand, and Rice's Mayfair Witches series crosses over with The Vampire Chronicles in Merrick (2000) as Louis and David seek Merrick Mayfair's help in resurrecting Claudia's spirit. The origins of Marius de Romanus are explored in 2001's Blood and Gold, and Blackwood Farm (2002) tells the story of young Tarquin Blackwood as he enlists Lestat and Merrick to help him banish a spirit named Goblin. 2003's Blood Canticle intertwines the vampire, Blackwood and Mayfair storylines, and was intended by Rice to conclude the series.
Anne Rice Vampire Chronicles tree
The series primarily follows the antihero Lestat, and by extension the many humans and vampires whose lives he has touched in his own long existence. Rice also explores the origins of vampires far more ancient than the so-called "brat prince".
Themes and impact
In 2008 Rice called her vampires a "metaphor for lost souls", adding that "they were metaphors for us ... these were wonderful ways of writing about all our dilemmas in life... for me, supernatural characters were the way to talk about life; they were a way to talk about reality, actually." She also noted that writing about them had been, to her, "a sort of search for God and a kind of grief for a lost faith."
On the homoerotic content of my novels: I can only say what I have said many times — that no form of love between consenting individuals appears wrong to me. I see bisexuality as power. When I write I have no gender. It is difficult for me to see the characters in terms of gender. I have written individuals who can fall in love with men and women. All this feels extremely natural to me. Undoubtedly, there is a deep protest in me against the Roman Catholic attitude toward sexuality.
She said later in 2008:
My characters have always been transcending gender ... I think the main issue with me is love, not gender. I have never understood the great prejudice against gay people in our society ... I don't know why I see the world that way, but I know that it's very much a point with me, that we should not be bound by prejudices where gender is concerned.
In his book Anne Rice and Sexual Politics: The Early Novels, James R. Keller asserts that the publication and success of Rice's Vampire Chronicles reinforced the "widely recognized parallel between the queer and the vampire." He notes that in particular,"gay and lesbian readers have been quick to identify with the representation of the vampire, suggesting its experiences parallel those of the sexual outsider." Richard Dyer discusses the recurring homoerotic motifs of vampire fiction in his article "Children of the Night", primarily "the necessity of secrecy, the persistence of a forbidden passion, and the fear of discovery."
Interview with the Vampire was released in November 1994 starring Tom Cruise as Lestat, Brad Pitt as Louis, Kirsten Dunst as Claudia and Antonio Banderas as Armand. A second film, Queen of the Damned, which combined plot elements of The Vampire Lestat and The Queen of the Damned, was released in 2002 starring Stuart Townsend as Lestat and Aaliyah as Akasha.
In August 2014, Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment acquired the motion picture rights to the entire Vampire Chronicles series, with producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci signed to helm the potential film franchise. The deal also included a screenplay for The Tale of the Body Thief (1992) adapted by Christopher Rice, Ann Rice's son. In May 2016, writer-director Josh Boone posted a photo on Instagram of the cover a script written by him and Jill Killington. Titled Interview with the Vampire, it is based on the novel of the same name and its sequel, The Vampire Lestat.
In November 2016, Rice took to her Facebook to announce that the rights to her novels were reverted to her despite plans for a reboot of the series. Rice and her son Christopher will be developing and executive producing a potential television series based on the novels. In April 2017, they teamed up with Paramount Television and Anonymous Content to produce the series.
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- Keller, James R. (2000). Anne Rice and Sexual Politics: The Early Novels. McFarland. pp. 12–14. ISBN 978-0786408467.
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- "Anne Rice Plotting 'The Vampire Chronicles' TV Series Adaptation". Entertainment Weekly's EW.com. Retrieved 2016-11-28.
- Flood, Alison (March 11, 2014). "Anne Rice revives much-loved vampire for new novel Prince Lestat". The Guardian. Retrieved June 4, 2014.
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- "Anne Rice – Part 3 – Feb. 13, 2012 – Appel Salon". YouTube.
- Kellogg, Carolyn (March 10, 2014). "Anne Rice brings back her vampire antihero with Prince Lestat". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 4, 2014.
- Dyer, Richard (1988). "Children of the Night: Vampirism as Homosexuality, Homosexuality as Vampirism". In Susannah Radstone. Sweet Dreams: Sexuality, Gender, and Popular Fiction. London: Lawrence & Wishart Ltd. p. 64.
- Gallagher, Brian (May 5, 2016). "Interview with the Vampire Remake Script Is Finished". MovieWeb. Retrieved May 28, 2016.
- Evry, Max (May 4, 2016). "Josh Boone Revealed to be at Work on Interview with the Vampire Remake". ComingSoon.net. Retrieved May 28, 2016.
- Jones, Mike (May 5, 2016). "New Mutants Director Offers Interview With The Vampire Update". Screenrant.com. Retrieved May 28, 2016.
- Otterson, Joe (April 28, 2017). "'Vampire Chronicles' Series in Development at Paramount TV, Anonymous Content". Variety. Retrieved April 28, 2017.