So I’m sure you remember that, early into my werewolf facts, I covered big important topics like the full moon connection and the supposed weakness to silver (which of course isn’t a thing in folklore), and now I’ve also done the fangs for vampires and how that, too, isn’t a thing – as it were.
Now it’s time to cover another very, very important topic for vampires that gets just as much misconception around it as silver for werewolves…
Are vampires really sensitive to sunlight?
The answer is deceptively simple…
Vampires in folklore never had any problem with sunlight. They never burnt up in the sun.
The association between vampires and night comes from the fact that vampires in legend were primarily nocturnal. I say primarily, because there are in fact some legends where they either aren’t or don’t necessarily have to be. According to Montague Summers, there are actually some vampire legends where the vampires – which take a mist/spirit form – appear “at noon” and in broad sunlight.
Coming out at night for folklore vampires was a choice or a preference, not because sunlight destroyed them. If you had to sneak around and suck people’s blood, wouldn’t you want to only come out in the dark where you could more easily get away with that, too? So it wasn’t that vampires died in the sun, they just slept during the day and came out at night.
The concept of vampires actually being destroyed by the sun wasn’t originated by Dracula, either (for once!). Sure, the sun would greatly weaken Dracula’s powers and pretty much disable them entirely, but he would by no means burn up.
Perhaps the earliest source of vampires burning up in the sun was the 1922 silent film Nosferatu, which was a shameless ripoff of Dracula but did originate some new concepts. Burning up in the sun certainly didn’t come from folklore – or, at least, not anything that scholars have designated, retroactively or not, to be vampire folklore.
Next time you see a vampire’s face burning off in the sun or something, just remember… all that ties back to a German silent film, not folklore! And while pop culture things can also be fun, it is actually more folkloric to have vampires who don’t actually die in sunlight.