Death at a Wedding is a Russian folktale tells lessons of deception, perseverance, and joy. A solider returns home for leave from the army, as many soldiers do but this was no routine return home. For the first encounter of his trip he visits an old friend that lives in a mill, he is a miller. This is where the reminisce, drink wine and tell stories. When the night comes to a close and the sun sets the miller encourages the soldier to stay at his house for the night as there is great evil that has been set upon the village. This is a reoccurring theme in a lot of religious stories, especially Greek mythology specifically the story of Helios. Once the soldier does not listen to the miller and leaves he encounters a sorcerer sewing his boots. The too travel to a wedding and after a night of drinking and eating everyone falls asleep and the sorcerer collects the blood of the bride and the groom, a tragic love story like Romeo and Juliet. The soldier asks why the sorcerer did this and he finds out that he is not a sorcerer but better yet a vampire. The vampire tells the soldier the secret of how to kill his and then threatens to kill the soldier for the newly disclosed information. The two fight until the sun rises and the sorcerer falls lifeless, as vampires cannot live in the sun. Since the soldier now knows how to kill the vampire he gathers the peasants of the village and gathers a hundred cartloads of aspen wood to cremate the vampire. Once the vampire is cremated the soldier gathers his ashes and releases them into the wind so the vampire will no longer harm any one else. The revives the bride and groom and everyone lives happily ever after, or so we assume.
Since its creation the vampire has under gone several transformations to get it to the figure we see today, however despite all the changes Vampires share some common themes that have survived throughout the ages. At the beginning of t he tale the Soldier's friend warns him not to go into the village because the sun has gone down and the Soccer will be rising soon as he is known to do every night. This same behavior of the Soccer can be seen in the 1922 film "Nosferatu" and the more modern day film "Blade". Where the vampires avoid the sun because if they get touched by it they will burn. The idea that one must die first to become a a vampire is also a classic characteristic. In the tale we are told that the Soccer has died and comes out of his grave (returns to life) every night. The all-time teen favorite Twilight reinforces this theme several times in the books and the films when we are told how each member of the family was turned. In "Death at a Wedding" the Soccer takes the blood of the bride and the groom, this is a resemblance to vampires having to drink blood in order to survive. As seen in "Let the Right One In" and Buffey the Vampire Slayer Season 1 Episode 1, "Welcome to Hellmouth. These are just a few themes that despite all the changes this Slavic creature has gone through have managed to survive and continue to be a part of their characteristics.
Vampires and Society Edit
Vampires throughout the ages have changed drastically from being something to fear to a being of fascination. The vampire (sorcerer) described in Death at a Wedding, is a classic example of a fairly traditional vampire. He is a deceitful, cunning, evil, blood-craving and sun-fearing creature. More recent portrayals of vampires incite less of a horrifying creature and more of a misunderstood one. The vampire’s showcased in movies and shows such as Twilight, Being Human and The Vampire Diaries create a creature that shares many of the attributes that someone with a disease would show; most of these characters are just trying to live a normal life despite their uncontrollable affects from the disease (or in the vampire’s case, their blood-lusting tendencies). In two of these examples the vampire is the love interest in the show, despite the dangerous qualities they have. In the middle example, the character just wants to be normal. All these cases are extremely different from the traditional thought of a vampire; these characters invoke feelings of empathy from the audience instead of the hatred the sorcerer does in his own story. It makes you think, is vampire-ness a disease or a trait from the devil? Can the vampires control their horrific tendencies or are they just being their usual cunning selves?
The changes that have occurred in the depictions of vampires also shows a lot about what themes authors choose to comment on in their work. What was originally intended for entertainment based on horror, or used to teach how to respect the dead has become a platform of how society judges the differences every person has. What one person may use as a means for destruction can be another’s lifelong curse with no antidote. Can society judge a being by their destructive tendencies or should they be overlooked for the more human-like qualities?
The sorcerer in Death at a Wedding seems to have no other purpose in life other than to causes terror and mischief, as many other vampires in history have shown, including Dracula and Nosferatu. Both of which use their own vampire powers to cause the deaths of innocents. As the vampire stories have evolved, the creature’s qualities have also showcasing how the audience’s own evolving environment plays a role in the evolution of the vampire.
1."Death at a Wedding." Origins of the European Vampire. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 19-21. Print.
2."Russian Far East." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 04 Apr. 2017. Web. 04 Apr. 2017.