Now this? THIS is a big one. Here’s this week’s question: did werewolves and vampires actually hate each other in folklore?
The answer is – no, absolutely not, that’s completely ridiculous.
Pop culture really, really latched on hard to this idea that werewolves and vampires are mortal enemies. Almost everything does it now, if it actually includes them both. Sometimes vampires have already wiped out werewolves (yeah right), or sometimes they exist in the same setting but their feud and dislike of each other isn’t really explained, it just comes up as random jabs when we see one talking about the other.
Why? That’ll take some exploring.
But we’re going to start chronologically, which means first you’ll hear all about how werewolves and vampires have ever reason to be allies! No, seriously, hear me out, it makes so much more sense, I don’t know how people ever got so wrong. Some werewolves even turn into vampires when they die. Let’s get started.
Werewolves and vampires weren’t connected in legends as some people might tell you – with the exception of Greece and, to some extent, Eastern Europe. You got it, home of Dracula, and you can imagine where this is going in a little bit.
Before we go into all that, I want to point out something about vampire folklore and studying it. I also study vampires professionally, and I actually have more books on them than werewolves simply because there are so many more books in print (so feel free to send me your vampire questions, too!). But the hard part of vampire legends is that they are so, so hard to study because they’re hard to pin down. What was a “vampire?” What wasn’t? What was just undead? Folkloric sources don’t make these differentiations often, if at all. More on that later.
But the relation to the current topic is that the lines got blurred sometimes in Eastern Europe in terms of scholarly study of werewolves and vampires. In particular there was a creature called the vrykolakas, derived from Slavic “varkolak.” Vrykolakas actually appear in Greek folklore, although the Slavic word originally referred to werewolves, as it is a combination of “wolf” and “hair/fur,” essentially meaning “one with wolf fur.”
When the vrykolakas came to Greece, however, they came not as werewolves but as these creatures somewhere between werewolf and vampire – an undead creature that was created from a werewolf. Sometimes it was because someone ate mutton from a sheep killed by a wolf or a werewolf. Or, essentially, it was a werewolf who died and was not given a proper burial, and returned to life to haunt the world as a vampire.
But there’s a LOT more to say about vrykolakas, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t give them their own entire werewolf fact (and/or a hybrid werewolf-and-vampire fact). Keep an eye out for that in the coming weeks!
All this being said, the vrykolakas still stand as the greatest example of blurring the lines between werewolves and vampires, and how the two might become related. This leads us into our next topic…
Dracula. How does Dracula tie into all this? Because Dracula was probably the first thing, other than the vrykolakas legends, to tie werewolves and vampires together in any capacity and start creating this inescapable connection between them that we now have in pop culture.
Firstly, we have the short story published posthumously that Bram Stoker wrote called “Dracula’s Guest,” in which a wolf with “flaming eyes” tends to the Englishman protagonist and keeps him warm and safe on a freezing night after the Englishman’s had an encounter in an unholy, haunted village. That’s a first appearance of a werewolf in Stoker’s Dracula lore.
Secondly, we have a giant wolf making an appearance in the novel Dracula itself – that giant wolf being Dracula, who attacks Lucy and her mother. And here we have the first connection between werewolves and vampires in pop culture: Dracula, the foremost vampire who has influenced all vampires in media to come, can turn into a wolf.
So there you have it. Tell me why they should be enemies. Tell me why it isn’t the best thing ever to make a werewolf and a vampire best friend and subvert all these silly contrived tropes! It’s great, right? I certainly think it is. They’re both monsters, they can relate, they protect each other… It’s awesome. Of course I love werewolves and vampires both and get very fed up with them being “ancient enemies” all the time and that trope often (but not always – don’t run away!) just makes me roll my eyes now, so I may be biased.
But when did the werewolves versus vampires thing start?
Well, moving on after Dracula, we get a soap opera called Dark Shadows, which ran from 1966-1971. In it, our vampire protagonist Barnabas Collins later meets several werewolves, including an old relative, Quentin Collins. Dark Shadows was certainly among the first works to feature werewolves and vampires together directly, and it was also immensely popular and influential. Did the werewolves and vampires always get along? No, not always.
So where did werewovles vs vampires originally come from? It appeared in a few things before the early 2000s, but it was popularized by one thing and one thing only…
And now we get the one you might be waiting for: Underworld.
This movie series pit werewolves and vampires against each other and made it the highlight of the entire film. Come watch this sexy Kate Beckinsale beat up werewolves, that was essentially the tagline. And oh man, did it ever sell. Only recently did this series start getting any kind of stake put in its heart. After Underworld, people very seriously picked up on the werewolves vs vampires thing, because Underworld made it appealing to the masses and made big bucks on it.
I won’t go into my opinion on the Underworld movies here. If you want to know, feel free to send me an ask – this post is long enough as it is!
Next we have Twilight, which helped push the trope even farther and popularize it still more. Stephenie Meyer did the werewolves vs vampires thing, too. At first a reader would get the impression that Jacob is a werewolf and his people hate vampires – until she apparently retconned later that nah, Jacob is just a shapeshifter who happens to turn into a wolf; “real” werewolves (or Children of the Moon) were mostly wiped out by vampires, because they hated vampires, too. Wow, what a coincidence! Apparently anything wolf-related just hates vampires.
And of course there are about ten thousand more examples: plenty more movies, random browser-based games, various other video games, lots of comics, RPG settings, you name it. Like World of Darkness, which the fans of outright attacked me when I first wrote this article. Not a good look. And I’m sorry if it upsets said rude fans, but World of Darkness is not something the average consumer knows about and that was/is a particularly broad influence on pop culture abroad, like the easily-consumable Underworld movies were during their heyday. And the influence of the Underworld movies is painfully apparent everywhere you look (just see my article on modern werewolf designs).
Regardless of who popularized it, though, it’s the thing today. If you have werewolves and vampires, they probably hate each other. For some reason. Who knows. They probably don’t even know either, and sometimes (not always, of course) neither does the author.
For real, though, think about what I said earlier. They have every reason under the moon to be allies. This is crazy. I’m just saying, you can expect to see that in a lot of my writing.