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Prince Lestat and Anne Rice's Vampires
With Anne Rice's newest book, Prince Lestat: The Vampire Chronicles due to hit the shelves at the end of October, we take a rather nostalgic and sentimental look at why her vampires are so loved in the first place.
For many, traditional vampires have been seen as an externalization of repressed human sexuality. In the last few decades, this stereotypical analysis was challenged on many fronts; the bloodsucking, power-driven, sexually uninhibited beast was replaced by a new, perhaps even scarier breed: the sensitive vampire.
One of the best known and arguably prolific of this type of vampire can be seen in the multifaceted characters of Anne Rice’s epic vampire series, beginning with Interview with a Vampire. Many of the vampires in Rice’s yarns are tragic and flawed as they struggle to coexist with a humanity which reminds them as to what they have lost in turning into vampires.
Louis, the interviewed vampire in the first novel, does not come across as monstrous - he is at once charming and realistic. Most disarming are the sensitive human qualities that arise from Louis as he vividly recounts the days of his life and "death" in New Orleans. He has no fiendish agenda but to share his story to the human world. He recounts his love-hate relationship with his vampire maker, the initially antagonistic Lestat, who Louis recalls as cruel and demeaning. It is clear that Louis is driven by a personal, immortal quest to find meaning in his undead life, even in those moments in which he thinks his humanity and soul are forfeit as he succumbs to his thirst for human blood.
In later novels, we find that Lestat is not as terrible and cruel as he seems to Louis. Lestat, too, is haunted by the secrets of a past that he wanted to keep shut within, away from his fledgling vampire, who he claims to love above almost everything else. Lestat has also struggled to come to terms with the morality of his own existence, as well as the immeasurable power and perspective which he has acquired as a result of his diverse adventures. Just as he has moments of self-destruction, he also has profound epiphanies on the purpose of life itself. That he loves those he cares for is without question, completely severing the concept of the mindless demonic vampire. Although, just to note, there are glimpses of this vampiric sensitivity even in Bram Stoker's seminal Dracula published over a century ago. When Dracula is challenged about his capacity for emotion after a harrowing encounter between his vampire brides and Jonathan Harker, he quietly states: "I, too, can love."
Nor are Anne Rice’s vampires invincible to love or loss; while powerful, the price is often terrible, as both Louis, Lestat, and perhaps even Dracula, might well attest. Through Rice's work, the vampire takes on the role of a humanity as it attempts to rise above what could be considered a part of its nature: ruthlessness, hateful, and destructive.
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