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Yes, let the trumpets ring out in glorious fanfare! We've finally reached that moment!

Roll out the red carpet!

Let the tickertape parade begin!


Next up...


Watch this space (and your back)!
Title: Manor
Format: Short story
Author: Karl Heinrich Ulrich
Nationality: German
Written: 1884
Published: 1884
Impact: ?
Synopsis: We've had the first female vampire, the first black vampire and even the first transgender vampire. Now, a hundred years before Anne Rice (almost) comes the very first gay vampire. Despite my expectations, the title does not refer to an old, crumbling house around which vampires shuffle and stalk, but is the name of the protagonist, a sailor who saves another one, Har, from drowning, and the two become friends, and in time, more than that. Manor leaves on a whaling voyage, and to Har's dismay is drowned when the ship founders. But later Manor comes to Har and sucks his blood, as they develop a curious kind of homosexual relationship.

The village isn't having that. Not the gay liaison; they don't mind that. But they draw the line at vampires, and set out to destroy Manor. He's not so easy to kill though, being strong and vital even if he is pale and ghostly-like. He's restricted to nocturnal roaming, and stays in his coffin during the day, when the "community", as they're described in the summary I'm reading, try to stake him but the attempt fails because the stake needs to have a head, like that of a nail, to work, in a departure from traditional vampire lore. Also slightly different, Manor sucks the blood from Har via his nipple, rather than from his neck, and it seems too that Har is aware of, and willing to deal with the vampire, as long as he loves him.

The matter-of-fact way the villagers deal with the news that there is a vampire in their midst is quite amusing:

"To the people of Wagoe she [Har's mother] said, "The insecurity of your graves has exposed one of us to danger. A man here is leaving his grave every evening, coming over to us and sucking his fill of blood from this poor youth."
"We'll try to secure it properly," the people of Wagoe said.

Well that's all right then. Also hilarious is their reaction upon opening Manor's grave (with, I should also mention, a stake "as tall as a man" - what were they going to do with it, pole vault over him??)

"One of the people of Wagoe said, "Look, he hasn't moved since the day we buried him."
"That's because he gets into the same spot each time he returns," the wise woman replied."
Ah, the wise woman! Two things, me lord, must ye know about the wise woman, First, she is.... A woman! And second...

Har's frantic entreaty to his vampire lover is also side-splitting.
"Manor, Manor," he cried, his voice quivering. "They're going to drive a stake into your heart. Manor, wake up. Open your eyes. It's me, your Har."

What, did he think that if the vampire woke up this would be looked on as a good thing? "Oh look, he's awake. Throw away that stake, we don't need it now."

In the end they nail that sucker, and poor Har dies, but whether from blood loss or a broken heart is unclear. He asks to be buried in the same grave as Manor, and for the stake to be taken out of his lover's body. His mother says she'll do that, but I wonder? Still, with Har now dead and presumably with Manor forever, what reason would the vampire have to trouble the living? Or maybe they both end up haunting the village. It doesn't say.

I guess for its time the story couldn't be too graphic - it's not graphic at all - and there's actually no mention of sex in it, so perhaps it's more implied than shown. Still, even the implication would have got Ulrichs into trouble, so it's a brave effort to create the world's first homosexual vampire. It is unintentionally funny though.
 
 
Title: The True Story of the Vampire
Format: Short story
Author: Count Stanislaus Eric Stenboch
Nationality: Swedish
Written: 1894
Published: 1894
Impact: ?
Synopsis: And now the first Scandivanian account, written by a Swedish author, of a vampire, which appeared apparently in Stoker's later collection, Dracula's Guest, and seems to be the second homosexual vampire story. Count Vardalek visits the castle of Baron Woopsy sorry I mean Wrondki (those nobles must stick together) and develops a passion for the younger Gabriel, who wastes and sickens under Vardelek's attentions till he dies.

The opening lines of the story seem to mock Stoker, though his seminal novel would not be published for another three years:

"VAMPIRE STORIES ARE GENERALLY located in Styria; mine is also. Styria is by no means the romantic kind of place described by those who have certainly never been there. It is a flat, uninteresting country, only celebrated by its turkeys, its capons, and the stupidity of its inhabitants. Vampires generally arrive by night, in carriages drawn by two black horses."

Although the story is narrated by a female, it also seems that the Count (the real one, the author) is referring to the public's perception of his widely-known eccentricities when he says (or she says) "It is to tell how I came to spend most of my useless wealth on an asylum for stray animals that I am writing this." Take that, polite society!

Count Stanislaus's vampire seems to be a reluctant one, one who cannot die though he wishes to, and who seems to regret taking life, as he says about Gabriel (playing the piano): "My darling, I fain would spare thee; but thy life is my life, and I must live, I who would rather die. Will God not have any mercy on me? Oh! oh! life; oh, the torture of life!" Or perhaps, more accurately, oh the torture of having to read this! Yeah, it's a very basic story, and if you know vampires there are zero surprises, twists or deviations from the legend. The only difference being that, as I say above, this vampire seems tortured by what he has to do.

The author himself was strange. As already mentioned, he kept a menagerie of animals, and also always travelled with a dog and a monkey, as well as a life-sized doll, which he seemed to think was alive, and his son. No, seriously. When he hadn't got it with him, he would enquire about its health, and the rumour was that he had paid a priest a fortune to "educate" it. He was also said to sleep in a coffin, though how true this is I don't know.

But as far as writing vampire stories goes, I've read his, and, no pun intended, it sucks.


Title: Lilith
Format: Novel
Author: George MacDonald
Nationality: Scottish
Written: 1895
Published: 1895
Impact: ?
Synopsis: Tres weird. In the synopsis I can find no mention at all of a vampire; this seems to be a fantasy/horror novel with plenty of disparate elements, many of which are taken from Christian belief (hence the title I guess) but I can't see a simple undead creature anywhere. Not sure why it's included. Look, it's a novel: I'm not going to go reading the whole thing in the hope there may be a vampire or vampires lurking somewhere, but it does concern me that MacDonald uses as the medium of his protagonists' passage from one world to the next a mirror, when a rather more famous novel had already used this only twenty years before.


Title: The Blood of the Vampire
Format: Novel
Author: Florence Marryat
Nationality: English
Written: 1897
Published: 1897
Impact: ?
Synopsis: Published the same year, this novel was inevitably going to suffer from comparison to Dracula, which would ride head and shoulders over all vampire novels and stories written to that point, and many after it. Its protagonist is Harriet, a female Jamaican vampire, who comes to Belgium and meets two English women, one of whom, Margaret, is dubious about allowing her to hold her baby, and finds herself drained. Baroness Gobelli invites her to England; meanwhile she spends more time with Margaret's child, who gets progressively more ill. Eventually the baby dies, and the doctor summoned to investigate the cause can't figure it out. It does transpire though that he knew Harriet's father.

When Harriet gets to England she has the same effect on the Baroness's young son, who also sickens and dies. Baroness Gobrelli accuses her of having "black blood" and "vampire blood", and Harriet, having met and falling in love with a man, is frightened and returns to Belgium to seek the advice of the doctor. He tells her that her mother was a slave and her father performed medical experiments on his own slaves (whether or not that includes her mother I don't know) until they revolted and killed him. He warns Harriet never to marry, but of course she is in love and goes ahead anyway. When she wakes up on her wedding morning to find her new husband dead, she is overcome with grief and takes poison.

Is this the first vampire novel or story without a self-aware vampire, I wonder? I'd have to check back, but whether deliberate by their own hand or made by another, I think every other vampire so far has at least known and recognised what they are. Harriet does not, and is horrified by the possibility she could be responsible for these deaths. She has to face that when she is presented with the still-warm corpse of her husband of a few hours on the morning after their wedding, and is so grief-stricken that she kills herself. But is she even a vampire? Well, we assume so, but vampires should not be affected by poison surely? It's postulated that it's a hereditary thing, unlike many or most of the vampires we've read about up to now. It's also allied, rather uncomfortably, to her black heritage, which surely says something about racism.

The delight of the little Harriet whipping the slaves on the plantation "as a treat" is grossly disturbing, but of course meant to be so. I'm reminded of the episode "Chain of Command" in Star Trek: The Next Generation, when a Cardassian child asks his father - who is torturing Captain Picard - about the human, and the officer smiles that humans do not love their children as Cardassians do. The parallel is obvious: reduce the object of your violence to beneath the status of human and it's no longer wrong to punish them. You'd beat a dog (well, I wouldn't but some people would) and have no problem with it, but beating a man or a woman? Might be a little more reluctance there. The fact that slaves have been reduced to the status of mere property means there's no need to worry about whipping them; in fact, it's the right thing to do.

Although Harriet is of mixed-race, it's odd how she refers to the slaves as "niggers", obviously not including herself in their race, believing herself above them, even though she has clearly black blood in her veins and her own mother was, as she finds out later, a slave, but being brought up on the plantation she was no doubt told she was nothing like them. Quite how she can be a vampire and not know it I don't understand: does she go into a trance or something, lose her human identity like a werewolf, only regaining it when her hunger is sated? I haven't read the novel, but I wonder if it says or if Marryat leaves it open to conjecture?

I feel the comparisons made with Dracula and Carmilla are unfair. These two novels bookend the latter half of the nineteenth century, written within twenty years of each other and towering like two colossi over early - and indeed, later - vampire literature, so they would of course be used as a yardstick for anything that came after (or in the case of Dracula, at the same time), but I don't see, from the admittedly short synopsis, that many similarities between the three books. Carmilla is a female vampire, yes, but seems well aware of what she is, almost glorying in it, while Dracula is, well, male, and seems to bear no real resemblance to the vampire here, nor are the events taking place in a similar location. I wonder if those two books had not been written, and assuming Marryat doesn't use them as inspiration (which I don't know) would her novel have been better received?
Title: La Ville Vampire (oh yeah, here we go: Vampire City!)
Format: Novel
Author: Paul Féval
Nationality: French
Written: 1874
Published: 1874
Impact: ?
Synopsis: I would have to say, reading the summary, this was one fun guy. His vampires are just, well, out there. He seemed to be more about having fun with them than trying to seriously adapt the legends, and Bram Stoker would probably have shaken his head and walked away, unable to take anything from this writer. A few details: a Buffy-like slayer goes to Selene, the Vampire City of the title, to rescue her friend. With her is an Irishman called Merry Bones, servant to her friend Grey Jack, and, um, a transgender vampire called Polly who, uh, carries their coffin around on their shoulder. Well, they don't have much of a choice in that, since it's chained to them. Kinky.

And that's just the start. Féval's vampires are (can I go on? I must) clockwork robots who have to be wound up by an evil priest (who seems too busy  to appear in the novel - hey, evil doesn't just spread itself you know!) in order to heal themselves. They have a tendency to explode if they come in contact with the heart of another of their kind. So much for two hearts are better than one! Oh wait: a cremated heart. Well that's all right then. They also don't use their teeth to puncture the flesh, but have sharp little thorns on their tongues for this, and they can duplicate themselves. Sounds amazing fun, especially for the time. A kind of prototype hybrid of vampire fiction and steampunk. Now I want to read it!

Well, you can see there are many firsts here - some of them onlies I guess, as who else is likely to have clockwork vampires? But here we have the first female vampire hunter, ever, so far as I can see, the first usage of a priest as an agency of evil, the first mention in a vampire story of a doppelganger, and of course the first time it's intimated that vampires have their own city. I imagine their tourist board is not exactly busy.


Title: Le Capitaine Vampire (again, surely no translation required?)
Format: Novel
Author: Marie Nizet
Nationality: Belgian
Written: 1874
Published: 1874
Impact: ?
Synopsis: Another set against the backdrop of war, this time the Turko-Russian one of 1877 - 1878 in which the lead character, Boris Liakoutine, is a colonel in the Romanian army and has earned himself the nickname of Captain Vampire due to his incredible cheating of death on several occasions, and the tendency of women who get involved with him to meet suspicious ends. Other characters in the book include  Iaon, a young army officer and his sweetheart Mariora. It's said the true function of the vampire in this book is to serve as a metaphor for the horror of war, and given that Nizet was only nineteen when she wrote it, that's a pretty mature way to look at something which could have been handled in a much more general way, given, at the time of writing, the growing number of vampire texts.

To write an anti-war novel (even if its intention is somewhat disguised within the then-burgeoning horror genre) at a time when nationalism and territorialism were rampant was indeed a courageous move, especially by a young woman, and might account for the book's failure, being largely ignored despite its quality of writing. Nizet's vampire does cast a shadow, unlike Stoker's, and his pupils are vertically slit like those of a cat, which adds a nice feral kind of idea to the description. With these eyes he can hypnotise his victims - something Stoker would pick up on, though surely it's in the basic research he would have done on the vampiric myths - and appears to have the power to be in two places at once, something I haven't seen any other vampire able to achieve. He also (as would be necessary, even crucial, in an army officer) can walk in the daylight without any ill effects.

There's a suggestion in a review of a much later continuation of these tales that Captain Vampire may be the first "energy vampire", that is, subsisting not on blood but on the life force of living beings. I don't know if that's addressed in this novel, but the idea seems to be that it is.


Title: After Ninety Years
Format: Novella
Author: Milovan Glišić
Nationality: Serbian
Written: 1880
Published: 1880
Impact:
Synopsis: Certainly the first Serbian vampire story, it seems to be another which moved away from what Stoker would set down as the standard nearly two decades later, sticking more faithfully to the legends, especially, as might be expected, those of Serbia. A young man who has been thwarted in his attempts to marry the mayor's daughter leaves his village and travels to another, where it seems the miller keeps getting murdered. I wonder if the vampire grins "It's Miller time!"? Sorry. Every time someone takes the post he is found dead with a red ring around his neck. The youth, Strahinja (no, not the ninja!) decides to take the post and see what happens. As you do.

He crouches in the loft of the mill with two pistols, waiting, and the vampire shows up. Unlike Dracula, this guy is not pale, not at all; in fact, his face is described as being "red as blood". He's big and tall, and carries with him his death shroud, which Serbian folklore tells he must always have with him, otherwise he will lose his power. Bit of a giveaway I would have thought. The vampire, who calls himself Sava Savanović, seems to cut a rather pathetic, even sympathetic figure as he bemoans the fact that he's hungry. He says he's been a vampire for ninety years and never yet gone hungry. Where is the miller? "Right here!" Strahinja might have said, and lets him have it with both barrels. When the smoke from the guns clears, the vampire is gone.

The villagers are amazed and overjoyed the next morning when they see Strahinja is still alive, and listening to his tale of vampires, they take him to see an old woman, who says she remembers Sava Savanović, that he was an evil man when he lived. She directs them to his grave, but there's a problem. Though she's told them where it is, they need to go through some complicated process to actually locate it; this involves using a black, ungelded horse, holy water and hawthorn stakes. The lore about these last is interesting, and actually makes a certain kind of sense.

Hawthorn was apparently what the Roman soldiers fashioned Jesus's crown of thorns from, so it's seen to have holy properties and evil creatures would be very much averse to it. But more - apparently - scientifically, hawthorn releases a chemical called trimethylene, which is attractive to butterflies, who cluster on the branches. What else releases this chemical? You got it: corpses. So butterflies will also be attracted to dead bodies, making them a kind of flying corpse locator. Nice.

So they locate the grave, thanks to the horse, who paws at the ground to show them where the coffin is buried, find Sava kicking back, bloated and full of blood, and they pour holy water on him. Well, not quite. Perhaps because they're scared, or maybe some of them have taken a little "something" to fortify them for the grisly work, they spill it, and a butterfly escapes from the vampire's mouth. This is perhaps meant to symbolise the vampire's essence leaving his body, and though they stake him later on some children die in the village, evidence that he's not quite as dead as they think, and may have another ninety years in him, or more. Stahinja is rewarded with the hand of the mayor's daughter, the refusal by her father of which had precipitated his exit from the village, and all live happily ever after. Maybe.

From the extract above, it doesn't seem like this is your typical-of-the-time Gothic novel. In fact, it's really not Gothic at all, with no dark castles or dread spectres or family curses or windswept heaths, and reads more as a fairy tale than anything else, with a lot of humour in it and a certain, as I say, sense of pathetic sympathy for the hungry vampire. It draws heavily on Slavic beliefs, and I assume would have been quite popular in its native country at the time, relatable to most people there. It's notable that there's no actual depiction of the attack of the vampire, nobody gets killed except as related in the past and then only vaguely (all those millers) and then at the end the few children, but there are no graphic descriptions, or even the method used by the vampire to drain his victims, though clearly it is him, as he laments going without supper.

I think it seems to rely mostly on the power of suggestion and a fill-in-the-blanks kind of thing, which gives the impression that the author wasn't trying to invent the genre, but writing a story within an already existing one, in which some of the conventions had been established, but from which he borrowed only sparingly, creating his own idea of what the vampire would be.


Title: The Fate of Madame Cabanel
Format: Novel
Author: Eliza Lynn Linton
Nationality: English
Written: 1880
Published: 1880
Impact: ?
Synopsis: Although written by an Englishwoman, the story is set in France, where a well-to-do gentleman brings home his new English wife, and things begin to get weird. The maid notices the flowers brought for the new wife and thinks they're odd - belladonna and scarlet poppies among them - to say nothing of the violently hateful reaction of M. Cabanel when he sees them, ordering them out of his sight, which does not at all upset the new Mme. Cabanel, who just smiles enigmatically.

She's not a hit with the villagers, who call her 'La beauté du diable,' though obviously not to her face. Perhaps unfairly, she's immediately believed to be a vampire, as Martin the gravedigger grumps ; 'with those red lips of hers, her rose cheeks and her plump shoulders, she looks like a vampire and as if she lived on blood.' Always ready to give someone the benefit of the doubt, huh? I thought vampires were meant to look thin, wasted, pale and cadaverous? Unfortunately for Mme. Cabanel, this gravedigger is well respected in the village, and known to be privy to the secrets of the spirits, so his opinion counts for a lot.

From what I can see so far, this woman is no vampire, but merely a stranger in a country which is to be her new home, and the locals don't like her. There's very much a nasty undercurrent of xenophobia running through this, as if Linton hates and despises the French, and so presents her Madame Cabanel as a heroic martyr, especially tormented by her new husband's housekeeper, Adèle, who may be more than just a housekeeper to him, or wish to be. By all accounts, Mme. Cabanel is sweet-tempered and good, friendly and tolerant, despite all Adèle's attempts to provoke her.

As sickness begins to spread through the village, it's this spiteful jealous little housekeeper who begins to disseminate the rumour - without any evidence of course - that it's the fault of the master's new wife. She goes for support of her wild accusations to Martin, the old gravedigger, and he, consulting tarot cards (always a good scientific basis for evidence) tells her that he suspected Mme. Cabanel from the beginning (as we saw) and that now the cards reveal her to be a vampire.

Well of course they do. Tarot cards are notoriously easy to misinterpret, either in ignorance of what they actually mean, or purposely, to skew a reading. I'm sure we all know the death card is supposed to signify great change, not death itself, and as for the happy squirrel... Anyway, good old Martin bands up with Adèle and together they hatch a plot, which is helped by the lady's habit of walking in the graveyard, though as explained by the author, there is no horror attached to this. It's simply the nicest place in a pretty ugly village, and Mme. Cabanel likes to walk among the graves and look at all the flowers on them. Innocent enough, but like the tarot cards, such activity can be twisted and warped into that of a ghoul. Which of course it is.

And things get worse. Her husband now falls ill, as well as Adèle's son, and the doctor suspects the wife is poisoning both (without a shred of evidence, naturally) while the villagers have their own ideas, neither of which have any, or require any proof for them to move upon the silent accusation. Warned by both the doctor and Adèle (for different reasons), and it now being clearly revealed that the housekeeper had been M. Cabanel's lover before he took his new wife, the slow-thinking man is convinced and turns against his bride. Though she tries to help the village children she is rebuffed, and people look on her with hatred and anger. Eventually the husband softens towards her and they reconcile (on his side at least; she has no idea, or takes no notice of the fact that he was cold toward her) but then he has to go away and she is left at the mercy of the slow-witted and suspicious villagers.

Probably not hard to see where this is going, but let's continue and see. The boy gets worse and, against orders, the maid allows Mme. Cabanel to hold him, and he seems to calm down. But then he bites his lip and she tries to kiss it better. Bad idea. Now she has blood - his blood on her lips. Enter Adèle, as if she's been watching and waiting for this moment, and roars in disgust and triumph at the woman, pointing at her bloodstained mouth. She just happens to have all the others, including rabble-rouser Martin with her, and they, for their part, have evidence in front of their very eyes. As the child has fallen asleep, they believe him to be dead, and they drag Mme. Cabanel to the Pit, where it is said the White Ladies roam and kill. Unable to believe such superstitious nonsense (and in all likelihood, not too well able to understand everything that's said, since she's English and I doubt anyone is slowing down to let her determine the words) she mocks them and will not defend herself.

By the time they get to the pit, it seems their innocent prisoner has died, and this spooks many of the party, who are confused, as a vampire should not be able to die. Just then there are the sound of hoofbeats and everyone scatters apart from Martin and Adèle. It turns out to be the husband, who has returned with the doctor and four gendarmes. Furious, broken-hearted, M. Cabanel cradles his dead wife, shouting at Adèle that she will pay for this. Adèle turns for support to the doctor but he tells her she is crazy, and M. Cabanel orders her arrest for murder, telling her he never loved her, or if he did, after what she has done, all that is left now for her is hate. In despair she jumps into the pit and kills herself, Martin and the others are arrested, though he still maintains that Mme. Cabanel was, and is, a vampire. Nobody is listening to him, now it's too late.

So this isn't a vampire story. If anything, it's a disdainful look at parochial superstition, a woman taking a high and mighty look down at the stupid creatures below her who believe such things. It's also as I said highly xenophobic, as Linton constantly refers to the Englishwoman as innocent and pure, while the French are, to a man and woman, dirty, ignorant, stupid and craven cowards. It's anti-French in the worst possible way, and surely did nothing to help relations between the two countries. It also deals with themes of jealousy, as this is the prime motivating factor for the hateful Adèle to accuse her replacement, as well as themes of abandonment, as she feels cast to one side for the younger, prettier English girl. Superstition is a common thread running through this story, with also an admonition not to place too much credence in the beliefs of old men who think they know everything.

In any other, let's say civilised country or part of it, a man who swears he sees demons and imps would be laughed at; here, such experiences go in Martin's favour, and his opinion is highly prized and respected. The one man who should not be deciding who or what is a vampire is left to make that determination, spurred on by a woman who has at best questionable reasons for getting rid of her. There is at least a certain sense of justice at the end, when reason triumphs over superstition, but by then the damage has been done. Mme. Cabanel probably suffocated as she was being carried to the pit, though we're not told how she died. The refusal of Martin to accept he was wrong is annoying, but totally in keeping with his age and his perceived wisdom on such matters. Some people never learn.

It's a fiercely nasty story, told with disdain by the author and carrying with it the stink of high moral authority, as if the people of this village - and by extension, all of France - are nothing more than savages who need to be civilised. It's condescending, inflammatory and really has no place in vampire literature.
Title: Carmilla
Format: Novella
Author:  Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
Nationality: Irish
Written: 1871
Published: (as a serial) 1871-2 (as a novella) 1872
Impact: 10

Another major work, and I'm somewhat proud to say the first vampire story by an Irishman (though of course the most famous and enduring would also emanate from these shores) Carmilla was also the first vampire story to truly tackle the idea of lesbianism, in a world where such things "did not happen", which is to say, happened only behind closed and locked doors. Carmilla is also, as far as I can find out, the first time a female vampire is used as the protagonist, if we set aside Coleridge's Christabel, which never confirmed whether she was a vampire or not, though it, too, flirted with the idea of lesbian relationships, and here again Le Fanu can be praised for making both main characters in his novel female.

The story is told by Laura, who lives in a castle (did someone say Ortanto?) and had a dream when she was younger of a beautiful woman who visited her in her bedchamber. She believed she received some sort of wound in her breast, but when she looks there is nothing there. When a girl of her own age (eighteen years old now) comes to stay at the castle, she recognises Carmilla as the girl who visited her in her dream, and Carmilla agrees that she too had the same dream. Carmilla's mother leaves her in the care of Laura's father, sternly admonishing her never to ask her daughter anything about her life, family or history. Going to make for some boring conversations, then!

Soon after, as you might expect, there is a rash of deaths of young girls, and it is noted that Carmilla seldom joins the family in prayer, sleeps most of the day and seems to be active at night, presumed to be sleepwalking. She seems to have amorous intentions towards young Laura. When the funeral procession for one of her victims passes the house, Carmilla rails at Laura for singing the hymn which, she says, hurts her ears. Or, to put it in Le Fanu's words through Laura's narration: "Her face underwent a change that alarmed and even terrified me for a moment. It darkened, and became horribly livid; her teeth and hands were clenched, and she frowned and compressed her lips, while she stared down upon the ground at her feet, and trembled all over with a continued shudder as irrepressible as ague [feverish shivering]. All her energies seemed strained to suppress a fit."

The family resemblance to a portrait of one of her ancestors raises suspicions about Carmilla, and when Laura begins to again have dreams of something coming into her room, this time a large cat-like creature, her health quickly declines. Examined by a doctor, she is found to have a small blue puncture wound on her neck, and the doctor advises she never be left alone.

Laura and her father set out for Karnstein, from where the painting so resembling Carmilla originated, and on the way they meet General Spielsdorf, a friend of Laura's father who had been supposed to bring his niece to stay with them originally, but she had died under "mysterious circumstances". The general now tells them that it was Carmilla who killed his daughter, and he has determined she is, wait for it, a vampire! Oh wow. Nobody saw that one coming! Anyway, they go in search of the tomb of the ancestor Carmilla so looks like - called Mircalla (oh come on, really?) but are told that a great folk hero relocated the tomb a long time ago. He had been a vampire hunter and had rid the area of its pesky undead inhabitants.

While standing around not doing anything in particular, and I assume wondering where they go from here, they are then attacked by Carmilla and the general goes at her with an axe, but she escapes. Next they meet Baron Vorsprung Durch Tecknik, sorry Vordenburg, the descendant of the hero mentioned above, who knows where the tomb is now, as one of his ancestors had his end away with Mircalla before she was turned. They get to the tomb and find, sure enough, herself in it, though not dead. Bang goes the stake through the heart, off comes the head, and that's the end of the bitch. That's how you dispatch a vampire!

And so it came to be. Le Fanu built on Polidori's vampire figure here by noting how one should be killed, information which no doubt came from the folk legends, and which would end up becoming canon in vampire lore. The vampire must be caught in his or her own coffin, a stake (any stake does here, but later there were specifics; in some cases I think it had to be blessed, in others just the wood of a particular tree - ash I think, not sure) and for good measure the head should be cut off and the body burned, so that there's no chance the undead git can ever come back to life.

I believe - though I may be wrong - that here too is the first instance of a vampire being linked with a coffin as its lair, as such. We are to assume that Carmilla issues forth from her tomb in search of prey, and, sated, returns there to rest. A home away from home, so to speak. I don't think this is approached by Polidori or even whoever wrote Varney the Vampire, so it looks like an Irishman gets the credit for putting the flesh on the bones, as it were, of the vampire character. Stoker, of course, would complete that figure a quarter of a century later.

There are historical as well as literary sources for this ground-breaking and all but era-defying story, where women are, contradictory to the practice of the times, placed front and centre and given powerful, direct roles. Victorian literature (and that before it) tended to see the woman as weak and often silly and always seeking a husband, the protection of a man. Even one of the most lauded female writers of the time, Jane Austen, allowed her female protagonists to be held down, subservient to the males, as perhaps she had to, treading a fine line by writing about women as a woman writer. The reason, I think, Le Fanu gets away with this could be twofold, or even threefold. First, he's not English, and so many of the perceived rules of Victorian society would possibly be seen not to apply to him. Second, his story is very much a fantasy, a horror, a nightmare, something that could never be real. Austen, the Brontes, George Elliot and other female writers of the time wrote about real things, ordinary lives, and so would perforce have had to conform to the manners and feelings of the time they lived in, or were set in.

Le Fanu can cast all that aside, winking broadly and saying on the one hand "well of course real women wouldn't act like this" (while possibly meaning would not be allowed act like this) and on the other, "women should be treated better by society and allowed to explore their sexual urges and take their place as equals in society." Finally, he writes a cracking good tale, so good that readers more than likely - while scandalised by it - overlook the "disgraceful behaviour" attributed to Laura and to Carmilla. But back to those sources.

One such is suggested to be from a text by a Benedictine monk, Dom Augustin Calmet. In Traité sur les apparitions des esprits et sur les vampires ou les revenans de Hongrie, de Moravie, &c. (Treatise on the Apparitions of Spirits and on Vampires or Revenants of Hungary, Moravia, et al.) he recounts the tale of a village in Hungary which had been tormented by nightly visits from a vampire. A traveller had, according to a priest who supposedly told him the story, set a trap for the vampire and cut off his head, (the vampire's, not his own!) thus relieving the town of its menace. Then there's Christabel, from which you would have to imagine the idea of both characters with overt female sexuality, especially lesbian tendencies, and vampires may have been drawn. And then of course there's the infamous Countess Bathory, on whom it might be supposed Carmilla was at least partially based.

While of necessity not too explicit, given the times he wrote in, Le Fanu does manage to portray a hot, sultry vampire lesbian and her not-quite-unwilling intended lover, as well as Laura's struggle to come to terms with, deny or even embrace the advances of this cold, evil, beautiful, sexy and mysterious woman.

Sometimes after an hour of apathy, my strange and beautiful companion would take my hand and hold it with a fond pressure, renewed again and again; blushing softly, gazing in my face with languid and burning eyes, and breathing so fast that her dress rose and fell with the tumultuous respiration. It was like the ardour of a lover; it embarrassed me; it was hateful and yet overpowering; and with gloating eyes she drew me to her, and her hot lips travelled along my cheek in kisses; and she would whisper, almost in sobs, "You are mine, you shall be mine, and you and I are one for ever." (Carmilla, Chapter 4).

More powers are added to the vampire through Le Fanu's Carmilla, though some will not translate into future works. Although she can, I don't know of any other vampires that can walk through walls. Carmilla's beauty is her lure, as is the handsome debonair manner of both Lord Ruthven and later a reconstituted Dracula, while Varney is not seen as being attractive. Carmilla can change into animal form - the first time, I think, this is approached - turning into a large cat, whereas of course Count Dracula will utilise the shape of a large dog, almost a wolf. Carmilla is also the first (I don't know if only) female vampire who sticks to her own gender for victims, making her almost a serial killer with a particular "type", as criminologists would later define the term. And although she slept through the day, the sun did not seem to bother Carmilla, as she could travel in sunlight; it's supposed she just did not like it.

Moonlight is not seen to have any sort of special attraction for her, much less act as a restorative, and Carmilla, unlike Varney, seems to revel in her condition rather than revile it. She has no qualms about killing, does not question the morality of her choices, and lives as a free, unfettered and uncaring being, listening only to her baser desires, charged and fuelled by sex, driven by desire and greed, and surely the sort of woman that would scare the shit out of strait-laced Victorian men! This is also the first, so far as I can see, appearance of a vampire hunter (although Baron Vordenburg is not actually specifically described as such, but merely "an authority on vampires"), though it's made clear his ancestor was, which will culminate of course in the greatest of them all, and lead to a theme of vampire hunters stalking and trying to thwart the plans of vampires down through the ages.

But perhaps the most important aspect Le Fanu added to the vampire was eroticism. Yes, Ruthven was attractive to women, and vampires up to this could hypnotise their prey, but there was never, until now, a sense of actual sexual attraction, not like there is in Carmilla. Here, despite her best judgement, and in the full knowledge that it is wrong - and perhaps because it is wrong -  Laura is attracted to Carmilla, and the beginnings of a lesbian relationship flower. Of course, it's a doomed one, but it does open up the vampire as more than just a predator. Now, he (or I should say, she) is depicted as a sexual predator, which in some ways could be seen as more scary. A predator, i.e., someone trying to kill you, can just kill you, but a sexual predator can hammer out a chain of misery that can follow you throughout your entire life.

There is, however, also the flip side of this to consider. While Carmilla may be seen to be finally empowering women - to the extent a Victorian woman could be empowered - it could also be seen, I believe, as refutation of the long-held idea that women were delicate flowers, only good for protecting and nurturing, and that no real bad could come of them. The eternal victims, both in literature and in life, Le Fanu here may be saying (this is of course only speculation on my part, and as likely to be wrong as it is to be right) look! Women are creatures with just as much drive and ambition as men, and they can be just as cruel and violent as men, given the right circumstances. In other words, women could be evil too. Granted, it takes a hyper-traumatic and literally life-changing incident to bring out the evil in Countess Mircalla, but like they say, it can't come out if it wasn't already there. So maybe Le Fanu was tipping the wink, warning Victorian men that their position at the top of the food chain was under threat, was by no means safe nor indeed theirs exclusively, and that they had better watch out, as women were on the rise.
Title: Vampire
Format: Short story
Author: Vladimir Dal
Nationality: Russian
Written: 1848
Published: 1848
Impact: ?
Synopsis:  No idea. Once again, searches turn up nothing. I believe it was part of a book he wrote on Russian folk and fairy tales, so perhaps it's related to one of them, but I can't say for sure. Just missed out on being the first Russian vampire tale though, pipped by Tolstoy by five years.



Title: The Pale Lady
Format: Novella
Author: Alexandre Dumas
Nationality: French
Written: 1849
Published: 1849
Impact: ?
Synopsis: Set against the background of a war between Poland and Russia, its lead character is Hedwig, a Polish girl who is sent to - wait for it - the Carpathians when her family's castle falls to the Russians. Attacked by brigands on the way, most of her retinue is wiped out and the brigand leader, one of two brothers, takes her to his castle. Now, it turns out that while the brother, Kotsaki, led the attack it was the other one, Gregoriska who "interrupted it" - I don't know whether he attacked his brother or not, but Hedwig falls in love with him, though Kotsaki also falls for her and declares she will die if she loves another. As they prepare to elope from the castle, Kotsaki gets word and attacks Gregoriska, who kills him.

But sure death never stops these guys, and right enough Kotsaki is back, in vampire form. Perhaps at odds with other vampire stories, he doesn't come to suck Hedwig's blood at midnight, but at the strange time of eight forty-five in the evening. Held by his spell, the girl doesn't know what's happening as she's drained and left looking pale and sick. Someone call Van Helsing! Oh, right. He hasn't been invented yet. Oh well. Guess it's up to Gregoriska to save her, and once he realises dear old bro is gone fangside, he gets Hedwig "a twig of box consecrated by the priest and still wet with holy water"  which will protect her from Kotsaki.

Time for some brotherly confrontation. Gregoriska uses a sword worn by a Crusader, and so deemed holy and with certain powers, to force his sibling to admit that he had thrown himself on his brother's sword, so he had not been murdered but had in fact committed suicide. What difference that makes I don't know, but in a rather funny and at the same time unnecessarily cruel touch Gregoriska makes Kotsaki march several miles back to his grave, where he pins him with the sword, killing him forever. The effort drains his soul though and he collapses beside the corpse of his brother.

A few things crop up here which make it likely Stoker read, or knew of this story. The first, and most glaring one is of course the setting: to my knowledge, and from the research I've done, his was the first vampire story set in the Carpathians, though now I see this predated it. Also the use of a sword like a later stake, the sprinkling of holy water and the use of holy relics, as well as the vampire entering a lady's bedchamber, the sucking of her blood and the resultant paleness of the skin of the victim. Given how famous Dumas was for novels like The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, it seems unlikely Stoker would not have heard of this story. I'm sure it came up in his extensive research.

Title: The Vampire and the Devil's Son
Format: Novel
Author: Pierre Alexis de Ponson du Terrail
Nationality: French
Written: 1852
Published: 1852
Impact: ?
Synopsis: A baron returning from war is captured by the Black Huntsman, whom legend says is the son of Satan himself. He is held prisoner and seduced by a vampire woman, who looks like his dead wife. The novel features the most matter-of-fact attitude I've come across from a vampire so far: "I believe," the dead woman said, "that there is no need to explain to you by means of a lie how it comes about that, ten years after my death, I have such supple flesh, such rounded arms, and a neck so pink and white. You can see that I am a vampire..." Right you are. Glad we got that sorted then. Could have been most embarrassing.

Title: The Mysterious Stranger
Format: Short story
Author: Unknown
Nationality: Unknown
Written: 1860
Published: 1860
Impact: ?
Synopsis: No chance. Unfortunately Mark Twain also wrote a story with the same name, and when I search that's all I get. The fact that this is anonymously written doesn't help. I have no idea what it's about at all. Moving on.

Title: Le Chevalier Ténèbre (The Dark Knight or Knightshade)
Format: Novel
Author: Paul Féval
Nationality: French
Written: 1860
Published: 1860
Impact: ?
Synopsis: Can't find out too much about this, though it does seem the first ever - perhaps only - appearance of the ouvire, which is supposed to be the contemporary to the vampire, with the one eating flesh and the other drinking blood. The ouvire is, for some reason, very short while the vampire is very tall. Other than that, I got nothin'.

Title: La Vampire
Format: Novel
Author: Paul Féval
Nationality: French
Written: 1865
Published: 1865
Impact: ?
Synopsis: Yes, he was at it again, and a third time (as you'll see) in 1874. Seemed to like writing novels about vampires, did our Monsieur Féval. He also liked doing things differently. In this novel, he uses a female vampire, again (seems they were more popular than I had at first thought) but has her not suck blood from her victims but (ugh) rip the scalps from their heads and attach them to her own. It seems for every year of the person's life the vampire, Addhema (who is referred to in the book as a ghoul, just to make things even more confusing) works for the vampire king Szandor, collecting treasures for him from all over the world. For this service, it seems, she is rewarded with an extended life, and eternal beauty while each life lasts. Okay then, more confusion in this sentence:  "the spell only lasted a few days: as many days as the years of life that remained to the victim". So is that the number of days they lasted after she took them? Cause if not, well surely then taking a young victim would mean she would be expected to live thirty, forty years? But who's to say that person was not going to get sick, or be hit by a runaway cart or something, or be mugged and killed? Seems a little arbitrary. Anyway...

To quote Lewis Carroll, stranger and stranger. Addhema seemed to have some weird compulsion to tell every one of her lovers what she was before she could get down to the deed; I mean, it's hardly exciting foreplay is it? Oh by the way darling, before you take off your hose and get on top of me, I'm a ghoul (or a vampire, take your pick, but not someone you want to bring home to mama) and I have to rip off the scalps of my victims in order to go on living and be the beautiful girl you now see lying beside you. No, just thought I should mention it. What do you mean, you have an urgent appointment elsewhere? Was it something I said?

Title: La femme immortelle (you don't really need that translated, do you?)
Format: Novel I think
Author: Pierre Alexis de Ponson du Terrail
Nationality: French
Written: 1869
Published: 1869
Impact: ?
Synopsis: Would appear to be the first vampire novel wherein the vampirism is not real, is shown to be a trick (and not the Dark Trick, as popularised by Rice) but one in which some of the characters continue to believe. Elements that would find their way into, among others, Dracula include the taking of blood by fangs, with the wound resembling a pin prick and the vampire, or immortal woman of the title, trying to convince her lover that one of her safety pins scratched him. Might be the first instance of the idea of making a vampire by the creature cutting itself and feeding its victim its own blood.
Seven Saxon States: The Heptarchy

And so were established the seven Saxon kingdoms, called the Heptarchy, which spread right across what is now known as England, and more or less civilised or pacified the country (take your pick), bringing, perhaps oddly enough given that it had been a pagan invasion, Christianity to the shores of Britain. Scotland, as ever, was left alone, though Northumbria did encroach on its border, running as far as Carlisle, destined to become the "gateway to the north" (or south, depending on which direction you were coming from, of course). While it might be hard to believe or accept now, the Saxon conquest of England was nothing more or less than an ethnic cleansing, in the same way as the original Irish had been destroyed by the Celts in Ireland. I started this journal off by remarking that the kind of annihilation practiced on the original inhabitants in my own country had not occurred in Britain, but it seems I was wrong to a degree.

Although not the original inhabitants of Britain, the descendants of Roman invaders were at this point in time the native population, and the  Saxons had no interest in either living with them peacefully or even making slaves of them. They were hungry for land, and as it says in History of England from the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Revolution of 1688 by David Hume, John Clive and Rodney W. Kilcup:

"The Britons, under the Roman dominion, had made such advances towards arts and civil manners, that they had built twenty-eight considerable cities within their province, besides a great number of villages and country-seats: But the fierce conquerors, by whom they were now subdued, threw every thing back into ancient barbarity; and those few natives, who were not either massacred or expelled their habitations, were reduced to the most abject slavery. None of the other northern conquerors, the Franks, Goths, Vandals, or Burgundians, though they over-ran the southern provinces of the empire like a mighty torrent, made such devastations in the conquered territories, or were inflamed into so violent an animosity against the ancient inhabitants.

As the Saxons came over at intervals in separate bodies, the Britons, however at first unwarlike, were tempted to make resistance; and hostilities, being thereby prolonged, proved more destructive to both parties, especially to the vanquished. The first invaders from Germany, instead of excluding other adventurers, who must share with them the spoils of the ancient inhabitants, were obliged to solicit fresh supplies from their own country; and a total extermination of the Britons became the sole expedient for providing a settlement and subsistence to the new planters. Hence there have been found in history few conquests more ruinous than that of the Saxons; and few revolutions more violent than that which they introduced."


Until the Britons were defeated, the Heptarchy acted almost like I suppose a modern coalition of forces, banding together (though not always, as we have seen) against the common foe, the native. But once they had been pushed into Cornwall and Wales, no longer a threat, the deal was over, and each kingdom looked to secure its own borders and, if possible, extend them, leading to wars between the kingdoms that might have rivalled anything in the imagination of George R.R. Martin.

(Look! Another stained-glass window. Well, a lot of the time it's the only way I can get any sort of a picture of these guys. It's not like they had cameras back then, and even artistry was all but unknown except to monks, who preferred creating, you guessed it, stained-glass windows. I guess they were like the JPEGs of their day, or something).

Sigebert, the Reluctant King

Before we move on, I've found this account and think it's amusing, in a dark kind of way, to take a look at. Sigebert was believed to be either the son or stepson of Raedwald, ruler of East Anglia from 599 - 624, and was sent into exile in Gaul during Raedwald's reign, where he converted to Christianity, returning around 629 and bringing with him Saint Felix, to help convert his subjects. Under his rule, Latin made a comeback as he established a school for its teaching to young boys as part of Christian education. This being a time coinciding with the great push from Irish monasteries to convert the heathen in the wake of the decline of the Roman Empire, it seemed saints were everywhere in England. You couldn't turn around without bumping into one, or, as Mrs Doyle once remarked in Father Ted, it was wall-to-wall saints. Columba, Felix, Fursey, Aidan... if saint-spotting was your thing you would have been in hog's heaven in England during the seventh century. Paganism didn't stand a chance.

Eventually though, Sigebert decided he'd had enough of this kinging lark and abdicated his throne, going into a monastery he built himself - you might say it was his personal retirement home. But he was not to be left to die in peace, oh no. Famous and popular as he had been, when Mercia attacked East Anglia they tried to make him come out of retirement and lead their people, but he was having none of it. "Fuck off," he's rather unlikely to have said, "I just want a quiet life, talking to God and tending my rose bushes, probably." His subjects were unmoved. "Plenty of time to talk to God later," they surely did not respond. "One more job, Your Majesty, or Your Grace, or Your Kingness, or Your whatever we called a king back then. One more job and you can retire."

Left with no choice - I mean, literally: they dragged him out of the monastery! - Sigebert plumped for passive resistance, a thousand years before Gandhi, determined it should not be worth their while to have called him from his solitude. He refused to hold a sword, going into battle armed only with a staff, and the enemy understood, and let him go back to his prayers. Oh no wait, they didn't: they killed him. And all his army. Well I never. He became a Christian martyr and saint (I'm sure he'd rather have been a live Christian monk than a dead martyr and saint) and his church at least lasted longer than he did, remaining the church of East Anglia up to about 840.

The above incident I think illustrates some sort of point probably: if you're forced into battle it's a good idea to use a weapon that can at least protect you, and a staff ain't it, or perhaps you actually CAN take the king out of the monk, but not the monk out of the king. Or something.


Kingdom of Mercia

For a long time the most powerful of the six kingdoms established by the Saxons, Mercia (border kingdom, or march) covered huge swathes of England (you can see from the map above how big it was) including South Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire, Northamptonshire and northern Warwickshire. Like the establishment of many of these early kingdoms, little actual evidence is left to us as to who founded them, but the earliest ruler of Mercia - assuming he existed (yes, that again) - seems to be someone called Creoda, and that's as much as we know about him. However the next king is a different matter.

Panda, sorry Penda, was supposedly one of the descendants of Woden (Odin) - though how you can be descended from a makey-up figure of fiction you'd have to ask the Saxons I guess - and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle gives his lineage in a sort of Biblical "Ham-begat-Sham" sort of way like this: "Penda was Pybba's offspring, Pybba was Cryda's offspring, Cryda Cynewald's offspring, Cynewald Cnebba's offspring, Cnebba Icel's offspring, Icel Eomer's offspring, Eomer Angeltheow's offspring, Angeltheow Offa's offspring, Offa Wermund's offspring, Wermund Wihtlæg's offspring, Wihtlæg Woden's offspring". So now you know.

We're told Penda came to the throne in 626 and ruled for thirty years - none of these Saxon kings seem to have had anything like a short rule; whether that was because they were very popular or very strong, or because the idea of usurping was not part of the Saxon mindset, I have no idea, but in general as the English royal line got established later on, kings were always being murdered, challenged, deposed and basically the throne was almost interchangeable, a game of musical chairs (or thrones) being played by all claimants. But that's in the future. Of England's past. If you know what I mean.

The Battle of Hatfield Chase

Penda teamed up with Welsh king Cadwallon, ruler of Gwynedd, to take on the most powerful Saxon king at the time, Edwin of Northumbria (you probably recall that Raedwald, king of East Anglia, had him set up as ruler) and they met at Hatfield Chase, in Doncaster. It was a revenge battle, as Cadwallon had been defeated by Edwin some years earlier, but having secured the alliance of Penda he was able to return and kill not only Edwin but his two sons, weakening the kingdom and it's said paving the way for Penda to take the throne of Mercia. Using the old axiom of "divide and conquer" he did exactly that, splitting Northumbria back into the two separate kingdoms it had previously been, Deira and Bernicia.  Cadwallon's triumph would not last long though, as he was defeated and killed the following year at the Battle of Heavenfield, when Oswald, an exile under Edwin, returned from Scotland and attacked Northumbria.

With supposedly the saints on his side - he having dreamed the night before the battle of St. Columba, who promised him victory, and to whom he prayed - Oswald defeated the forces of Cadwallon (this time the Welsh king was alone, without aid from Penda) and killed him, taking the throne of Northumbria as he reunited  the two kingdoms into one. His reign would last eight years, after which Penda decided Northumbria had become enough of a threat for him to march against it again, and he met Oswald at the Battle of Maserfield in 641 or 642, where, if this can be characterised as a fight between pagans (Saxons) and Christians (Britons) - which is very much oversimplifying the situation - then the pagans triumphed, as Oswald was not only killed, but dismembered, his head stuck on a pole along with his arms. Poor man went to pieces! Disarmed and lost his head. All right, I'll stop now.

Maserfield left the kingdom of Northumbria weak, as it again divided in two, and secured Penda the title, at the time, of the most powerful king of Mercia. He would push his luck though, always driven by his hatred and/or jealousy of, or covetousness for the kingdom of Northumbria, and it would end up being his undoing. In 655 he marched with a huge force to take Northumbria, now under Oswald's brother Oswiu (although he had only taken reign over one of the two kingdoms in the split realm). Initially, Oswiu capitulated, buying off the Saxon king, but as Penda began the march home in heavy rain, and as many of his followers and allies deserted him, Oswiu struck, and they fought at the river Winwaed.

Oswiu emulated his brother and appealed for divine assistance, this time cutting out the middle man and going direct to the Big Guy, promising he would have his daughter take the veil (become a nun) if God gave him victory - nobody knows what she thought about it, though I guess back then women did what they were told - and would also build, and I quote*, a shit ton of monasteries. God may have considered it, thought hell I could always do with another nun, and who doesn't need monasteries, shrugged and said sure, you got a deal. Besides, he may have winked, I don't particularly like these pagans with their blood sacrifices and their strange rituals, coming over here, taking our jobs, stealing our women. Or not.

* not a quote

Anyway, the upshot was that Penda's army - or what remained of it after many had decided that there were perhaps better occupations to pursue in seventh century England - got the shit kicked out of it, the Venerable Bede, noted monk, historian and know-it-all citing the heavy rain as one of the bigger factors in the victory of Oswiu, where "many more were drowned in the flight than were destroyed by the sword." Never rains but it pours, huh? In a slice (sorry) of true poetic justice, Penda was beheaded, and all of his chieftains killed also, along with the East Anglian king, Ah here now, sorry Aethelhere.

Mirroring the fate suffered by its king, Mercia was now beheaded, as in, divided into two, just as Northumbria had been by him, with the victorious Oswiu taking one half, while Penda's son, Peada, who had converted to Christianity in order to get it on with Oswiu's daughter, was allowed to rule over the other half. Much good it did him though, as he was murdered a year later, betrayed by the very woman for whose love he had given up his pagan ways.

The defeat of Penda and the death of his son, along with the annexation of Mercia shifted the balance of power back to Northumbria, and also turned the formerly pagan kingdom into a Christian one, meaning that now the two most powerful and influential realms in Anglo-Saxon England were of that faith, and the rest could not be long falling into line, willingly or not.
Today at 02:51 AM
This randomly popped into my head earlier this evening. From early 2010 so pushing it as far as my original criteria for this thread, but I think it has a very old school internet irreverence to it.

Kingdom of Sussex

Things didn't go so easily here for the invaders, and they suffered massive losses at the Battle of Mearcredes-Burn, so much so that although they won the battle it was all but a pyrrhic victory. They took their revenge on the defenders of Andred-Ceastar, when they slaughtered all the inhabitants once they took the town. Aella, the Saxon chief who led the assault, set up his kingdom here, taking Sussex and parts of Surrey, but was prevented from moving into Kent as Hengist was already established there, and wasn't planning on going anywhere any time soon.

Kingdom of Essex

Half-inched, as related in the entry above on Kent, from that kingdom when its ruler grew weak and feeble, Essex basically comprised, not surprisingly, Essex, Hertfordshire and Middlesex. Reading its - very sparse - history, I can't understand how such a weak kingdom was able to take territory from what was one of the larger and more powerful ones at the time, Kent, but so it says. Anyway it seems that for most of its existence Essex swung from paganism to Christianity and back, the latter not helped by a particularly virulent plague which, as you might imagine, convinced the Saxons that this new god wasn't any better than their old one, and they went whingeing back for forgiveness, hoping Woden would show the pestilence who was boss. He didn't, and back to Jesus they went, like some sort of religious tennis match or one of those roly-poly toys.

Listen, when your kings carry the epithet "the Good" and "The Little", you know you're not exactly destined to make your mark on history, and one of the kings - one of the last, in fact - though he had married, took and was determined to keep a vow of chastity, went on a "pilgrimage" to (read, ran away to) Rome and shut himself away for the rest of his life in an oyster. Sorry, cloyster. Cloister. This Old English can be hard to interpret sometimes. A later king than him also took the same path, dying in the eternal city, and his successor shrugged and called up Egbert, wondering if they could do a deal: did the King of Wessex fancy adding Essex to his portfolio? The king did, and Essex was absorbed too.

Kingdom of Wessex

Cerdic arrived around 495 and was attacked on the very day of his landing, but though victorious he suffered heavy losses and, perhaps surprised at the stiff resistance from the Britons, when he had been told they would be a pushover, found it necessary to enlist help from Kent and Sussex as well as the homeland. He engaged, with this reinforced army, the Briton king Nazan-Leod, whom he defeated with the loss of over (it's claimed) five thousand of the enemy. It seems even the mythical King Arthur himself came to the aid of his fellow Britons, taking on Cerdic and his son Kenric, though how much of that is embellished legend for effect you can never be sure, and I don't think there's been any historical evidence found to prove the man existed at all. Still, I guess it makes a good story.

Even Excalibur though was not enough to stay this army, and the Saxons prevailed, taking Hantshire, Wiltshire, Dorset and Berkshire, as well as the Isle of Wight, and naming the new kingdom West Saxon, or Wessex. Cerdic ruled till his death in 534, succeeded by his son Kenric, who died in 560.

Kingdom of East Anglia

When your entry in the account begins "the history of this kingdom contains nothing memorable", you know you're on to a loser. However, small as this state was it did give us Sale of the Century (what do you mean, you're too young to get that reference? Get out of here before I take me old man's stick to ye!) so we should at least look into it briefly, if only for the sake of Nicholas Parsons (I said, get out!)

Named, like Wessex, for the people who settled/conquered/created it, the East Angles (no, not the Right Angles) this was one of the smaller of the Saxon kingdoms, and as such only survived less than two centuries before being absorbed into the much larger one of Mercia. It comprised the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. Wehha (sounds like he was named after sitting on a tack!) is said to have been its first king, but history tells us nothing about him, is not even sure if he existed, but if he did, seems reasonably certain that he was part of the ruling Wuffingas dynasty, and that his son, Wuffa, succeeded him. If he existed. Or his father. Not much evidence to prove it either way. If the name of that dynasty sounds like it was that of a pack of dogs, you wouldn't be far wrong. Wuffingas means "descended from the wolf".

A point of interest though is that the kingdom of East Anglia seems to have been established on the ground once ruled by the Iceni, of whose greatest leader, Boudica, we have already heard. And like her tribe, though small, the kingdom of East Anglia was, for a short time in the early seventh century, one of the most powerful in England, as it was developing into being, its third or fourth king, Raedwald, powerful enough to defeat the king of Northumbria, Aethelfrith and replace him with his own choice, Edwin, thus securing the loyalty and support of the northern kingdom.

(Note: Many of these names use the Saxon/Old English habit of joining an A and an E so that they're inseparable one from the other. I can't do that with my fonts, and can't be arsed copying and pasting each time, so just take it that the two will be separated at all times. If you have a problem with that, try doing this yourself. It ain't easy).

Kingdom of Northumbria

Originally two separate kingdoms - Deira, ruled first by Aella and then by Aethelfrith and Bernicia, Ida its first king - Northumbria (literally, north of the Humber (river)) was one of the more powerful of the Saxon states. A darkly humorous tale from the reign of Aethelfrith concerns the Battle of Chester, where the Britons opposed him with the aid of 1250 monks from nearby Bangor, who did not take part in the fight but prayed for their success. Aethelfrith was not pleased about this. Essentially he pointed and said "What are those guys doing?" When told they were praying for victory for his enemy, he is reported most definitely not to have said (but maybe thought) "Fuck that! Then they're my enemies too. Let's see if their prayers can save them from the sword! Or spear. Or pike. Or big pointy stick. Records from this era are spotty and nobody's sure what the weapons used were, but one thing is for sure: it will hurt!"

And so his forces massacred the praying monks (whose God seems to have sauntered away whistling nonchalantly and did not bring down fire and thunder or smite their enemies in any other way) almost to a man, proving the simple truth of war: if you're not with us, you're against us. Or perhaps disproving the maxim that the pen - or prayer - is mightier than the sword. The Britons, for their part, considering this hardly at all cricket, were shocked and quickly overwhelmed, defeated completely and lost Chester. Aethelfrith rather snippily then had the monastery pulled down. What happened to any spare monks left inside is not recorded.

Having exiled Edwin, son of Aella, the landless noble found refuge with Raedwald, King of East Anglia, and Aethelfrith wanted him. Hand him over or, you know, just kill the dude, he requested of Raedwald. I'll make it worth your while. The East Anglian king demurred, but as the promises of gifts grew richer and richer he became inclined to think, hey, what's this guy to me? Why not hand him over? Or... he could have a very unfortunate fall - onto a sword blade. Not to mention, that when the carrot failed to motivate Raedwald, Aethelfrith tried the stick, and threatened war if the kid was not handed over. His mind made up, Raedwald was all ready to do the deed when his queen stepped in. "Oh no you don't!" she snapped. "That nice young man sought sanctuary with you, and it is your sacred duty to uphold that and protect him. Unless you feel like going without for the next few months - YOU know what I mean! - you just go tell that Aethelfrith he can sod right off."

And so he did. In person. Believing it best to get his retaliation in first, Raedwald attacked Northumbria, defeated the rather surprised Aethelfrith, lopped his head off, probably - killed him anyway - and set Edwin on the throne. No doubt the ex-king's final thoughts were "should have left the little bleeder where he was!" And probably "Arrrggh!" too. However, establishing Edwin on the Northumbrian throne wasn't purely an act of philanthropy on the part of Raedwald, of course, nor was it because he didn't wish to wear his right hand out if his queen withheld the goods. He knew that by placing Edwin in charge he had secured the loyalty of Northumbria, and had expanded his sphere of influence, to say nothing of the good it did to his reputation. No doubt he showed his queen his appreciation for making him do the right thing when he got back to his own kingdom.

It turned out to be a good move. Sort of. Edwin became one of the most successful and, unusually enough, best-liked kings in all the land. Under his reign, crime was reduced to almost nothing - robbery, rape, murder, all sort of violent acts outlawed and dealt with, and drunkenness curtailed. THAT must have made him popular! And yet, it did, for a strange story is told of king Cuichelme of Wessex who, unable to best him in arms, determined to send an assassin to take Edwin out. When one of his guards saw the man rush at the king, and with no other weapon to hand, he threw himself in the killer's path, literally taking a bullet for the king, except of course bullets had yet to be invented. Now that's a popular ruler!

When Raedwald's nobles revolted against and killed him, and offered the throne of East Anglia to Edwin, he, remembering how he would not have been where he was but for his benefactor, refused, ordering instead that Raedwald's son be given the throne. Edwin further cemented alliances by marrying the daughter of the king of Kent, and she, a Christian, convinced him to convert. But it seems that he was the only man who could hold Northumbria together, and on his death Penda of Mercia again divided the kingdom, as related further, under the entry for Mercia. All the effort to convert them was wasted as Northumbria returned to paganism until Oswald defeated Penda and finally reunited the two kingdoms into one.

After Penda was killed by Oswiu, things got a little, well, bloody.

The new king slew Oswin, son of Osric, who was to be the last king of Deira. His own son, Egfrid, died without heir as his wife refused to violate her vow of chastity (some confusion over the idea of being a wife there!) and his brother Alfred ruled for nineteen years, leaving the kingdom in the charge of his eight-year-old son Ofsted sorry Osred, who, despite his tender years managed to rule for another eleven before he was slain by Kenred, who only got to sit on the throne for a single year before he was done in. With me so far? Next up was Osric, then Celwulph, until Eadbert, coming to the throne in 738, decided this was not a healthy occupation and like Sigebert legged it to a monastery so fast that the crown was still ringing on the floor of the throne room where he had dropped it, possibly.

From then on you have this guy and that guy ruling for a year here, a year there before being brutally murdered, betrayed or proven a pretender (and then betrayed and brutally murdered) until finally the people had had enough and invited King Egbert of Wessex to take the throne, to which he responded "Ta very much, don't mind if I do." And that was basically the end of Northumbria as an independent power, and nobody can say they didn't deserve it.