Tim & Lady M
We are being, and have been, literally bombarded with Vampire literature over many, many years. The popular literature has spawned television series’, movies, sequels and serialised novels untold. Each has its place, each has its pros and each its cons; each has its fans and its detractors but one of the things that has, in the main, been missing from the field is the representation of literature from the very cradle of the folklore of the vampire.
If you look up the history of Vampire literature you will find references to one of the first works of art to touch upon the subject, the short German poem The Vampire (1748) by Heinrich August Ossenfelder, the narrative poem Lenore (1773) by Gottfried August Bürger being a notable 18th century example even though the returned lover is actually revealed to be death himself, a later German poem exploring the same subject with a prominent vampiric element was The Bride of Corinth (1797) by Goethe. Naturally, looking further you will come across Southey, Polidori and Bram Stoker ~ a stellar cast, no doubt, however, all representing the tale in pure fiction and in a ‘westernised’ fashion to appeal to their selected audience.
The actual folklore, and the telling of that folklore, is only now beginning to be a field of increasing interest. We were both pleased, and privileged, to be contacted recently by our friend, associate, author and resident Balkan History expert Dr. James Lyon who has just recently completed, and published, the translation of a vampire tale that pre-dates Bram Stoker’s famous novel by 17 years.
The book is called “After Ninety Years”, originally authored by Serbian writer, dramatist, translator, and literary theorist Milovan Glišić , Dr. Lyon, with help, as he puts it, from “My long suffering wife…” and his mother-in-law, along with a number of proof readers and helpers, has brought the story of Sava Savanović to life for everyone who has an interest in the origins of Vampire folklore.
My lady wife, Lady M, prepared the following review for you, dear reader and, in her turn, put up with strange Editorial questions that I am wont to throw around the place. Here then are her words of the story.
After Ninety Years
by Milovan Glisic
translated by Dr. James Lyon PhD
Strahinja (Strakh-in-ya) and Radojka (Radojka) were in love … a love that was forbidden by her father Zivan (Zhi-van). This almost sounds like the opening for many vampire stories that have been written over the years.
This story, however, was written in 1880 and although we see the young couple live happily ever after, it is the course of events which, as you will read, leads to the discovery of the vampire, Sava Savanović (Sah-vah Sah-vam-o-vich) by Strahinja. The young suitor risks his life to help the people of Zarozje grind their wheat into flour knowing each miller before him had been the victim of a night stalker.
The tale is told about the “vampire”, Sava Savanović, who frequented the watermill each night for some 90 years to feed on the millers who worked there, and the search by the villagers to find and destroy him.
It is important to note that in order to understand the time and circumstances that this story takes place in, reading the Translator’s Notes and the Foreword are necessary as it will give you a greater understanding of the tradition and cultural flavor of the Serbian backdrop of the Village of Zarozje (Za-rozh-ye).
Img. source: kids.britannica.com
I must admit, having read many books with regard to vampire legend, I wondered whether this tale would take the same road as others have in the description of how the vampire happened on his victims and if the feeding method the vampire used was of a sanguinary nature. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Sava, the vampire, did not feed on the blood of his victims but through forceful touch, sucked out their life essence culminating in the death, by strangulation, of each of his victims.
There are several elements that every reader will recognize almost immediately, the presence of a priest, the use of Holy Water and a wooden stake made of Hawthorn; what you may not recognize is the attitude of the villagers toward the scourge of Savanović, the almost ‘matter of fact’ acceptance that the Vampire is simply an accepted part of the natural world that they inhabit. In fact the preparations for hunting, finding and dispatching the vampire are quite methodical and calmly executed.
Thank you, James, for taking the time to translate this wonderful piece of vampire lore. A piece of lore from the very cradle of Vampire legends that belies the popular notion of vampires biting necks and drinking the blood of their prey.
After Ninety Years
available now at Amazon.com
Translations of foreign originated works are always fraught with their own difficulties and it is often heard that many stories “lose something” in the translation, while the tale may not invoke the abject terror and atmospheric dramatics of the purely fictional imagination it does provide a most intriguing and fascinating insight into the “reality”, if we can use the term, of the Vampire’s place in the world from whence it was born. This book is a must have for the library of any serious student, or afficianado, of Vampire history and folklore.
Copyright Dr. James Lyon & RVL 2015
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