Vampires in Wartime: It’s a bloody free for all!
Television shows with entrenched vampire themes and characters seem to be carving out another element to the vampire myth: their relationship to wartime. The spoils of war attract vampires (and by spoils I mean ample amounts of fresh blood) and in turn, the vampires find the situation to be the perfect opportunity to become a maker. These shows probably use wartime because it is a distinct moment in history to solidify in the use of a flashback. When it came to selecting a human to turn in the past, it was strictly “fancy someone, make them a vampire” but as our vampires get more complex in their emotions, so do their reasons for becoming a “maker.” In other words, I am simplifying a number of intricate character motivations and storylines as well as glossing over differences in accepted vampire conventions to compare these shows. However, in the end the turning of a person in wartime usually still boils down to “I fancy you” but the setting allows the vamp to visually see the prowess and strength of their victims before they are turned.
My realization of this trope came after last night’s Being Human (U.S.), where we flashback to the point in which Aidan turned Henry. We already know as an audience that Aidan was turned during the American Revolution. In “When I Think About You I Shred Myself,” we see Aidan wounded in another war, World War I, where he encounters Henry, an unproven, cowardly war doctor. A French soldier (rightly) accuses Aidan of being a vampire but accidentally, mortally wounds Henry as he attempts to stake Aidan. For one reason or another, Aidan decides to turn the doctor that helped him out (especially when the poor guy pleads with him to not let him die), while savaging the rest of the men. Furthermore, Aidan has mentioned his involvement in the Civil War, where he went to feast, especially during the Battle of Antietam. In this way, the show has repeatedly shown Aidan in wartime, both at his rebirth as a vampire and subsequently. Similarly, in Being Human’s original U.K incarnation, the vampire Mitchell was turned as a soldier in World War I.
This saga reminds me of the origin stories of both Bill and Eric as they are represented in their television forms on True Blood. Bill (born 1840) was turned by Lorena in 1865 as he attempted to make his way home after the Civil War. Lorena had been using her remote house to lure in lost or tired soldiers for a quick meal. However, her desire for Bill (and his denial of her advances) encouraged her to actually turn him, rather than just feed on him. In Bill’s case, it was confusion after the conclusion of war that Lorena preyed on. In Eric’s case, Godric witnesses his strength on the battlefield during his human life as a Viking. Impressed, Godric massacres Eric’s men but offers a wounded Eric “life” by becoming a vampire.
Not to be ignored, The Vampire Diaries also uses the Civil War setting for the human deaths of the Salvatore brothers. In 1864, both of them were turned after their father “killed”t them because Damon and Stefan had Katherine’s blood in their systems. On a purely interesting note: both Bill Compton and Damon Salvatore were born in 1840; Bill was turned one year later Damon but it is funny to note how extremely obvious it is that Stephen Moyer is not just one year older than Ian Somerhalder in appearance. This case differs in that they did not meet Katherine on the battlefield. However, Damon can perhaps thank the war nonetheless for his undead status: he defected from the Confederate Army to return home right before all hell broke loose.