Three Traits of a Naive Person: The Brides of Dracula (1960)

the_brides_of_dracula_12A naive person is “deficient in worldly wisdom or informed judgment”1, “too willing to believe that someone is telling the truth,” and “that people’s intentions in general are good.”2 In Leo McCarey’s The Brides of Dracula (1960), Marianne (Yvonne Monlaur) is naive. She lacks knowledge of threats to her safety, trusts everyone she meets, and presumes that people are good until she is convinced otherwise.

Marianne’s lack of knowledge is ironic given that she is a French teacher who has an education. She has moved to Transylvania, yet has never heard of the “cult of the undead”. Her lack of knowledge of vampires puts her in grave danger when Baroness Meinster (Martita Hunt) offers her a place to stay. The Baroness brings young women to her home so her vampire son can feed on them.

Marianne is quick to trust and believe strangers. No one has to earn her trust; they are given it freely. Upon meeting the Baroness, she immediately accepts her offer of hospitality. She tells Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) that the Baroness “seemed so kind.” However, when Marianne meets her son the Baron (David Peel), who is bound by a chain, she believes he has been mistreated by his mother. Believing him to be good, she helps the Baron escape.

Marianne believes people are good based on mere appearances. She believes the Baron is a good person because he is handsome and soft spoken, but she is deceived. He is a vampire, and after releasing him from his chains, he turns his mother into a vampire. However, when Greta (Freda Jackson) shows Marianne the dead body of the Baroness, Marianne does not believe the Baron killed her. Marianne is in denial because she loves the Baron. She believes that the way he acts outwardly is a reflection of who he is inwardly. She does not realize that appearances can be deceiving.

Marianne presumes that people are good until she has evidence they are bad. When Van Helsing tells her that the Baron has turned three women into vampires, she says, “No; I won’t listen to you.” It is not until she sees the Baron’s fangs that she accepts he is a vampire. Marianne’s error in reasoning is presumption, believing something is true until it is proven false. We shouldn’t judge anyone as evil without evidence, but neither should we presume that everyone is good.

A naive person fails to recognize bad people who will take advantage of them. Marianne’s lack of knowledge and experience makes her naive, and because of that, she misjudges people, believing both the Baron and the Baroness to be good. Before moving to Transylvania, she never faced any real threat or danger. If she had, she would have exercised greater caution when meeting strangers.

Notes

  1. Merriam Webster, s.v. “Naive,” accessed April 26, 2017, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/naive
  2. Cambridge Dictionaries, s.v. “Naive,” accessed April 26, 2017, http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/naive
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The Culture of a Vampire: A Fairy Tale

english castleWhen Princess Margaret was a young girl, her mother taught her: “Always respect and honour other cultures. If you do this, you will be a Queen who is loved around the world.”

Margaret followed her mother’s teaching, and whenever she travelled to other lands, or received visitors at her castle, she tried new types of food, wore new styles of clothing, and learned about other traditions, values, and beliefs.

As Margaret grew older, she wanted one thing more than anything else: to marry a Prince from another land whose culture was different than her own.

When Margaret became a young woman, a Prince from a kingdom across the sea came to visit her castle. He was tall and thin with pale skin, and Margaret was mesmerized by him. She did not know that the Prince, whose name was Renaldo, was a vampire.

The Prince visited her each evening, and they talked until late into the night. Rumours spread throughout the castle that the Princess was in love.

On his third visit, Renaldo brought Margaret a bouquet of black roses.

“Thank you, Renaldo,” Margaret said. “But no one has died.”

“Where I come from,” Renaldo explained, “black roses signify a new beginning.”

“Oh,” Margaret replied. “How fascinating!”

The Queen had her doubts about Renaldo. “He seems kind of odd, and sickly looking,” she told Margaret. “Are you sure he is the right man for you?”

“As soon as I saw him, Mother, I fell in love. If he proposes to me, I want to marry him.”

“If you love him,” the Queen said, “then you have my blessing. Love is all that matters.”

The next day, Margaret’s wish came true. Renaldo asked her: “Will you marry me, Margaret?”

“Yes!” Margaret cried, and she hugged and kissed him, and ran her fingers through his long black hair.

“You make me happier than any man alive!” Renaldo said, and a drop of blood fell from his right eye, which he quickly wiped away.

“We’ll have the largest wedding ever,” Margaret said. And she began to twirl and dance about the room.

“Whatever you wish,” Renaldo said. “But I do ask that you honour one of my cultural traditions.”

“What is it?” Margaret asked eagerly.

“The wedding ceremony must be held after the sun goes down.”

“Okay,” Margaret said. “Are there any other traditions you want to observe?”

“No,” Renaldo replied. “Everything else can be according to your desire.”

Margaret planned the wedding. She invited hundreds of guests, and a month later, the ceremony was held in a church. Margaret wore a white wedding dress, and Renaldo wore a black suit with a dark red carnation.

After the ceremony, there was a feast in a great hall.

When Margaret and Renaldo sat down at the head table, they were each brought a plate of food: Roast beef, sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots, and gravy.

“Where I come from,” Renaldo said, “the bride and groom do not eat on the night they are married. Their love for each other sustains them.”

Margaret frowned. “I don’t think I can follow that tradition. I’m starving.”

“Don’t deny yourself on my account,” Renaldo said. “It’s part of my culture, not yours.”

Margaret ate two full plates of food, and after everyone was fed, a band of musicians entered the hall. The bride and groom danced, and the wedding party went on until midnight.

When the clock struck twelve, Renaldo and Margaret said farewell to the remaining guests.

As Margaret hugged her mother goodbye, she started to cry. “I will miss you, Mother.”

“The next time I see you,” the Queen said, with tears streaming down her face, “I hope you will have a new life within you.”

After wiping away her tears, the Queen turned to Renaldo and said, “Take good care of my daughter.”

“I will make her happy forever,” Renaldo promised.

Renaldo picked up Margaret and carried her to his coach. When they were both inside, the driver closed the door, and they drove all night until they reached a port where Renaldo’s ship was docked.

Renaldo and Margaret boarded the ship, and the ship set sail.

“My dear,” Renaldo said. “Among my people, it is tradition that the bride and groom separate for one week after the wedding ceremony.”

“What? No,” Margaret said sadly. “Where I come from, the bride and groom make love on their wedding night. Sometimes even twice!”

“We will make love as soon as we arrive at my castle,” Renaldo promised.

Renaldo escorted Margaret to her room on the ship, and then he kissed her. “If you need anything, just call for the Captain.”

“Okay,” Margaret sighed.

A week later, the ship reached its destination. The ship landed at night, and Renaldo and Margaret took a coach to Renaldo’s castle. Renaldo carried his bride through the castle doors, and then up the stairs to his bedroom.

But when Renaldo opened the bedroom door, Margaret could not believe her eyes. In place of a bed, there was a coffin.

“Where are we going to sleep?” Margaret asked.

“Among my people,” Renaldo explained, “it is tradition that the bride and groom sleep in a coffin. Today is the beginning of our new life together, and by sleeping in a coffin, we are reminded of our mortality.”

“Okay,” Margaret said. “But that’s really weird.”

Margaret took off her wedding dress. Renaldo took off his suit, and they snuggled together in the coffin.

“My dear,” Renaldo whispered, “would you mind if I nibbled your neck?”

“Nibble away!” Margaret said excitedly. “Where I come from, a girl loves to get a hickey.”

Renaldo gently bit Margaret’s neck, and she cried with delight. Then he bit deeper and he struck a vein.

“Renaldo!” Margaret yelled. “That hurts!” Then she touched her neck. “Oh, my God! I’m bleeding.”

“Do not be alarmed,” Renaldo said. “Among my people, it is tradition that the bride and groom taste each other’s blood before they make love.”

“What?!” Margaret yelled. “That’s sick!”

Renaldo bit again into Margaret’s neck and sucked more of her blood.

“Stop it!” Margaret cried.

But Renaldo did not stop. He bit deeper into her neck and sucked more and more of her blood.

Margaret struck Renaldo with her fists, but his bite was so strong, she could not break free.

When Renaldo had his fill of Margaret’s blood, he said, “Now, Margaret, you must taste of my blood, and we will both become one.”

Renaldo opened his mouth, and Margaret stared at his fangs and screamed. “Are you going to kill me?”

“No,” Renaldo said. “I love you. I’m a vampire, and you will be my vampire bride.”

Renaldo bit into his wrist and said, “Now drink my blood, and we will be one.”

Margaret felt so weak from the loss of her blood, she knew she could not resist him. “I will honour your tradition,” she promised. “I will become a vampire like you.”

“Nothing would make me happier,” Renaldo said with a smile, his teeth dripping with blood.

“But first, it is a tradition with my people,” Margaret explained, “that the bride gives the groom a lock of her hair before they become one.”

“I will get a knife,” Renaldo said, and he left the room. A few minutes later, he came back with a knife. Margaret cut a lock of her long red hair and gave it to Renaldo.

“When I was a little girl,” Margaret said, “my mother taught me to honour and respect all cultural practices.”

“Your mother is a wise woman.”

“No,” Margaret sighed. “My mother was wrong.”

Then Margaret drove the knife into Renaldo’s heart.

“Your culture is evil!” she yelled. “You’re a monster, Renaldo!”

Margaret twisted the knife, drove it deeper into his chest, and the vampire fell dead on the floor. Then, all of a sudden, his body decayed and became ashes and dust.

Soon after, a servant came and carried Margaret out of the room. He laid her in a bed and bandaged the wound on her neck.

“Thank you for destroying him,” the servant said, and he explained to Margaret how Renaldo had sucked the blood of all his servants, and many had died.

When Margaret recovered from her loss of blood, she was crowned Queen of the castle. She ruled her kingdom with justice and mercy and was loved by all the people.

Image Credit: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/conisbrough-castle/

The Doctrine of Jihad: Dracula Untold (2014)

dracula-untold-posterIn Gary Shore’s Dracula Untold (2014) Vlad (Luke Evans) must defend his kingdom against the invading Turks led by Mehmed (Dominic Cooper). Mehmed is driven by a desire to conquer other lands and expand his empire. For the real Mehmed of history, the desire for conquest was rooted in the doctrine of jihad.

Mehmed II, also known as Mehmed the Conqueror, was the sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1444 to 1446 and from 1451 to 1481.1 In 1453, he conquered Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, and renamed it Istanbul.2 Mehmed boasts that after he kills Vlad he will take his son on his “march into Europe.” This is true to history: He undertook many campaigns and expeditions including the Balkans and southern Italy.3 Although he failed in his siege of Belgrade in 1456, he later conquered Serbia and Athens, Greece.4 The military ambitions of Mehmed II ended with his death in 1481.5

Mehmed II was a conqueror because he believed in violent jihad. For Mehmed, “the non-Muslim world was ‘war territory’ ordained by the Koran to be subjected.”6 He said that “the ghaza (Holy War) is our basic duty, as it was in the case of our fathers.”7 The doctrine of jihad is based on verses in the Qur’an. Four of these verses include

  • Qur’an 8:12 – I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.8
  • Qur’an 8:39 – And fight them until there is no fitnah and [until] the religion, all of it, is for Allah.9
  • Qur’an 9:5 – Kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, let them [go] on their way.10
  • Qur’an 9:29 – Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth.11

For moderate Muslims, violent jihad is only permitted “in self defense, when other nations have attacked an Islamic state, or if another state is oppressing Muslims.”12 Moderate Muslims believe Islam is a religion of peace. They have no desire for conquest, and want to live in peace with non-Muslims. However, radical Muslims believe the “sword verses have abrogated (revoked or annulled) the verses that permit warfare only in defense. They [use the] sword verses to justify war against unbelievers.”13 As David Bukay explains, “The Qur’an is unique among sacred scriptures in accepting a doctrine of abrogation in which later pronouncements of the Prophet declare null and void his earlier pronouncements.”14 Radical Muslims believe the Qur’an teaches them to conquer other nations because of the doctrine of abrogation.

The doctrine of abrogation is based on verses in the Qur’an including 2:106: “We do not abrogate a verse or cause it to be forgotten except that We bring forth [one] better than it or similar to it.”15 Abrogation explains the apparent contradictions in the Qur’an. Earlier verses advocate peace, while later verses call for holy war. As circumstances in Mecca and Medina changed, Allah gave Muhammad new revelations that cancelled and replaced earlier commandments.

While Dracula Untold reveals many aspects of Vlad’s Christian faith and culture, there is no mention of Mehmed’s Muslim faith. This appears deliberate to avoid the controversy of suggesting that Islam is a religion of conquest. The historical reality, however, is that Muslim rulers, acting on their faith, have conquered other cities and nations. In the 15th century, Mehmed II believed the teachings of the Qur’an justified the expansion of the Ottoman empire throughout Europe and Asia. If he were alive today, he would be considered a radical Muslim.

Notes

  1. Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Mehmed II”, accessed December 28, 2015, http://www.britannica.com/biography/Mehmed-II-Ottoman-sultan
  2. Encyclopedia of World Biography, s. v. “Mehmed the Conqueror,” accessed December 28, 2015, http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Sultan_of_Ottoman_Empire_Mehmed_II.aspx
  3. Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Mehmed II”, accessed December 28, 2015, http://www.britannica.com/biography/Mehmed-II-Ottoman-sultan
  4. Encyclopedia of World Biography, s. v. “Mehmed the Conqueror,” accessed December 28, 2015, http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Sultan_of_Ottoman_Empire_Mehmed_II.aspx
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Qur’an 8:12 (Sahih International). http://quran.com/8
  9. Qur’an 8:39 (Sahih International). http://quran.com/8
  10. Qur’an 9:5 (Sahih International). http://quran.com/9
  11. Qur’an 9:29 (Sahih International). http://quran.com/9
  12. “BBC – Religions – Islam: War,” accessed December 30, 2015, http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/islamethics/war.shtml
  13. Ibid.
  14. David Bukay, “Peace or Jihad? Abrogation in Islam,” Middle East Quarterly 14, no. 4 (Fall 2007): 3, http://www.meforum.org/1754/peace-or-jihad-abrogation-in-islam
  15. Qur’an 2:106 (Sahih International). http://quran.com/2

The Byronic Hero: Twilight (2008)

twilightRupert Christiansen defines a Byronic hero as “a man proud, moody, cynical, with defiance on his brow, and misery in his heart, a scorner of his kind, implacable in revenge, yet capable of deep and strong affection.”1 In Catherine Hardwicke’s Twilight (2008) Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) is a Byronic hero; however, he breaks the mold of the literary archetype by taking action to control his evil nature.

Edward is capable of scorn and hatred. When he first encounters Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), he looks at her with contempt, and when she walks into biology class, he gives her a fierce look. Bella is anathema to him because her human scent is so powerful it arouses his violent nature. Ironically, detesting her is a defense mechanism to control his violent nature. By hating her, he stays away from her, and she is safe from harm.

Edward is a man of emotional extremes. After several days away from Bella, his anger subsides, and he treats her with kindness. Seeing the stark change in his personality, she tells him, “Your mood swings are giving me whiplash.” Later, his violent nature is revealed when he rescues her from a gang of teenage boys. He wants to “go back there and rip those guys’ heads off.” Edward’s emotions are unstable because of his desire for violence that he struggles to control. He tells Bella that he is “a monster” and “a killer.” Edward also has unstable emotions because of his self-contempt. He hates being a vampire.

Although Edward has the nature of a monster, his love for Bella is stronger than his lust for her blood. Like a drug addict, he compares his desire for her to heroin. He is drawn to her not only because of her powerful scent, but also because he loves her goodness and innocence. She is willing to die to save her mother, and he is willing to die to save her. Edward’s love for Bella helps him control his lust for her blood. When you love someone, you are less likely to cause them harm.

Edward differs from a typical Byronic hero because he is a man of action. According to Peter L. Thorslev Jr., a Byronic hero is marked by an “agonized passiveness.”2 Edward is agonized, but not passive. A vampire since 1918, he overcame his violent nature and no longer kills human beings for their blood. In the climax of the film, he faces his greatest test: to suck vampire venom from Bella’s wrist without killing her. Although he finds it impossible to stop, Carlisle Cullen (Peter Facinelli) tells him to “find the will.” Edward controls his evil nature and saves Bella’s life by using the power of his will.

The author of Twilight, Stephenie Meyer, is a Mormon, and she created a Byronic hero who embodies a Biblical principle: “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”3 Edward hates his evil nature, which is the first step in controlling it. If a person hates what is evil, they are less likely to do what is evil. Bella is the good that Edward clings to. In loving and protecting her, he regains the humanity that he lost when he became a human monster.

Notes

  1. Rupert Christiansen, Romantic Affinities: Portraits from an Age, 1780-1830 (The Bodley Head Ltd).
  2. William R. Harvey, “Charles Dickens and the Byronic Hero,” Nineteenth-Century Fiction 24, no. 3 (December 1969): 306, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2932860
  3. Romans 12:9 (New International Version).