What makes a vampire?

For discussion of John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel Låt den rätte komma in
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metoo
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What makes a vampire?

Post by metoo » Thu Feb 04, 2021 5:45 am

In LtROI (the novel) Eli, obviously a vampire, states that he never has died.

»Är du ... död, liksom?«
Hon log för första gången sedan han kommit.
»Nej. Märks inte det?«
»Nämen ... du vet ... har du dött nån gång, liksom?«
»Nej. Men jag har levt väldigt länge.«


»Are you ... dead, sort of?"
She smiled for the first time since he had arrived.
"No. Don't you notice?«
"No, but ... you know ... have you ever, like, died?"«
"No. But I have lived a very long time.”
My Google-assisted translation.

Similarly, Virginia didn't die before she turned into a vampire.

Jocke was "terminated" by Eli, so he wasn't turned into anything but a dead corpse.

Håkan, though, died but wasn't terminated - and he turned into a zombie.

Is this a pattern? Is staying alive after an attack a prerequisite for becoming a vampire?

If you die, e.g. by blood loss, before the transformation has taken place, will you then not become a vampire but something more like Håkan?
Last edited by metoo on Thu Feb 04, 2021 10:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
But from the beginning Eli was just Eli. Nothing. Anything. And he is still a mystery to me. John Ajvide Lindqvist

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sauvin
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Re: What makes a vampire?

Post by sauvin » Thu Feb 04, 2021 6:36 am

It's been quite some time since I've read the novel but seem to recall that she twisted Jocke's neck to prevent the infection from reaching the brain, "just as she'd been taught". The concept of infection seems to be common to vampire fiction; in some works, merely being bitten is enough, and in others, you actually have to drink the blood of a vampire in order to become one. Either way, if it happens, it apparently happens fast because it seems you can be about 95% dead and still be resurrected by whatever (supernatural? preternatural?) pathogenic mechanics might be involved.

It's interesting that here vampirism is conflated with zombie-ism. Blood, brains, whatever. If there's no Alice to come around and mow them down like weeds, would zombies live forever?
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Siggdalos
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Re: What makes a vampire?

Post by Siggdalos » Thu Feb 04, 2021 2:21 pm

metoo wrote:
Thu Feb 04, 2021 5:45 am
Is this a pattern? Is staying alive after an attack a prerequisite for becoming a vampire?

If you die, e.g. by blood loss, before the transformation has taken place, will you then not become a vampire but something more like Håkan?
That's my interpretation. If the brain dies but the body isn't completely "turned off" (by having its neck broken), the infection will take control and transform the body into an undead, based on Virginia's vision (the image of the snake in the pregnant woman) and Eli telling Oskar that Zombie Håkan's brain is dead and that the infection is the only thing in him that's alive.
sauvin wrote:
Thu Feb 04, 2021 6:36 am
It's been quite some time since I've read the novel but seem to recall that she twisted Jocke's neck to prevent the infection from reaching the brain, "just as she'd been taught".
When Håkan finds Jocke's corpse, he remembers Eli explaining that the body has to be turned off before the infection reaches the nervous system. We never see that part from Eli's perspective, so we don't know if he was taught about the neck snapping by someone else or if he learned about it through personal experience. I suspect he was probably taught about it by the man in the wig since, in the basement scene with Zombie Håkan, Eli internally remarks that he doesn't know anything about undead and whether they're governed by the same rules as living vampires, and if no one had told him about the neck snapping he would probably have inadvertently turned a lot of people into undead during his early years as a vampire before he realized what he had to do to prevent the spread of the infection.
De höll om varandra i tystnad. Oskar blundade och visste: detta var det största. Ljuset från lyktan i portvalvet trängde svagt in genom hans slutna ögonlock, la en hinna av rött för hans ögon. Det största.

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Re: What makes a vampire?

Post by metoo » Thu Feb 04, 2021 6:43 pm

Siggdalos wrote:
Thu Feb 04, 2021 2:21 pm
When Håkan finds Jocke's corpse, he remembers Eli explaining that the body has to be turned off before the infection reaches the nervous system. We never see that part from Eli's perspective, so we don't know if he was taught about the neck snapping by someone else or if he learned about it through personal experience. I suspect he was probably taught about it by the man in the wig since, in the basement scene with Zombie Håkan, Eli internally remarks that he doesn't know anything about undead and whether they're governed by the same rules as living vampires, and if no one had told him about the neck snapping he would probably have inadvertently turned a lot of people into undead during his early years as a vampire before he realized what he had to do to prevent the spread of the infection.
In my view Eli lived with the vampire lord for many years, perhaps decades, so he would have learnt stuff from the vampire lord himself, or from his servants. Perhaps he was taught, even. How would he otherwise have known that he was able to push memories onto other people?

Perhaps the vampire lord did that to him.

If that's the case, Eli might have memories from times and places he never have visited.
And from deeds he never have done...

Perhaps an idea for a fan fic?
But from the beginning Eli was just Eli. Nothing. Anything. And he is still a mystery to me. John Ajvide Lindqvist

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Re: What makes a vampire?

Post by Wolfchild » Sat Feb 06, 2021 4:54 am

I think that perhaps a hint to what a vampire is occurs just a few lines before the excerpt that you included above:
She hesitated. Oskar stayed in the same position, with his hand on the jacket he had just hung up. He looked at the jacket as he asked:

"Are you a vampire?"

She wrapped her arms around her body, slowly shook her head.

"I ... live on blood. But I am not ... that."

"What's the difference?"

She looked him in the eyes and said somewhat more forcefully:

"There's a very big difference."
In the English translation, the next line is the beginning of the excerpt in the OP. I had always interpreted Eli's comments here to mean that he was not like The Man in the Wig, and he was not like the Infected woman that he had met. In mind, it ties ibn closely with Eli's comments in the Be Me A Little scene:
"I ... don't kill people."

"No, but you would like to. If you could. And you would really do it if you had to."

"Because I hate someone. That's a very big ..."

"Difference. Is it?"

"Yes?..."

"If you got away with it. If it just happened. If you could wish someone dead and they died. Wouldn't you do it then?"

"...sure."

"Sure you would. And that would be simply for your own enjoyment. Your revenge. I do it because I have to. There is no other way." (emphasis added)
Eli doesn't revel in his Infection. These two passages together lead me to think that in Eli's mind he is not a vampire, he is a victim of vampirism. He draws a distinction (in a twelve year old's way) between himself and his victimizer, and by extension between himself and the infected woman. Although he must do the same things to survive, he does not consider himself to be what an adult would call a sociopath, as the other two obviously are. Here then, I believe, is where we can find Eli's definition of "vampire": Someone who enjoys it.
...the story derives a lot of its appeal from its sense of despair and a darkness in which the love of Eli and Oskar seems to shine with a strange and disturbing light.
-Lacenaire

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Re: What makes a vampire?

Post by sauvin » Sat Feb 06, 2021 5:36 am

I think I once likened vampires to soldiers quite a while ago. The only real difference between Eli and some poor schmuck who got drafted and sent to Southeast Asia is that the soldier who survived tended to come back home, throw away his gun and spend the rest of his existence trying to forget the things he saw and did during his tour of duty. Eli can't look forward to any kind of retirement.

"I'm not.... that", says Eli. There's nothing forcing her to march into a village with a platoon of half-baked and wholly exhausted footsoldiers looking for any tenuous evidence of collaboration with enemy forces, torturing old women, raping the younger women and setting fire on the village with most of the people still in it. Some soldiers, well, they just plain lost it. She could, I'd bet - terrorise an entire village just for the kicks - but apart from her careful camouflaging and deliberate anonymity, I get the impression she wouldn't see any point to it. She wouldn't get anything out of it.

It might not just not just be "enjoying it", and it might not have anything to do with distinctions "in a twelve year old's way". She does it because she has to, because she's never found a better way, but she won't let herself get sucked into it. Dracula got sucked into it, Deacon Frost (Blade) got sucked into it, Spike (Buffy) got sucked into it, and nothing human in these vampires survived. One presumes the same could be said of the man in the wig and of the vampire woman who'd suggested something that Eli ran away from. But, if she sticks resolutely to an apparent missive to minimise harm to others, Eli really is just a little girl with an unusual illness.
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Re: What makes a vampire?

Post by metoo » Sat Feb 06, 2021 6:56 am

Wolfchild wrote:
Sat Feb 06, 2021 4:54 am
Here then, I believe, is where we can find Eli's definition of "vampire": Someone who enjoys it.
sauvin wrote:
Sat Feb 06, 2021 5:36 am
[...] [Eli] could, I'd bet - terrorise an entire village just for the kicks - but apart from her careful camouflaging and deliberate anonymity, I get the impression she wouldn't see any point to it. She wouldn't get anything out of it.

It might not just not just be "enjoying it", and it might not have anything to do with distinctions "in a twelve year old's way". She does it because she has to, because she's never found a better way, but she won't let herself get sucked into it. Dracula got sucked into it, Deacon Frost (Blade) got sucked into it, Spike (Buffy) got sucked into it, and nothing human in these vampires survived. One presumes the same could be said of the man in the wig and of the vampire woman who'd suggested something that Eli ran away from. But, if she sticks resolutely to an apparent missive to minimise harm to others, Eli really is just a little girl with an unusual illness.
This is my impression as well.

Eli actually comments on this himself in a discussion with Håkan in the novel:

”Ja, då vet jag inte. Men jag gör det inte en gång till. Det är så ... vidrigt, så –«
»Jag vet.«
»Det gör du inte. Det är annorlunda för dig, det är –«
»Vad vet du om hur det är för mig?”
”Ingenting. Men du är åtminstone –«
»Tror du jag ... njuter av det?«
»Jag vet inte. Gör du det?«
»Nej.”


"Well, then I don't know. But I'm not doing it again. It's so ... disgusting, so - «
"I know."
"You don't. It's different for you, it's - «
"What do you know about what it is for me?"
"Nothing. But you are at least - «
"Do you think I ... enjoy it?"
"I do not know. Do you?"
"No."
Google translation adjusted by me.

So, here Eli is adamant that he doesn't enjoy killing people for blood. However, he doesn't seem too bothered about it when talking with Oskar later:

”Ja. Jag dödar folk. Det är tråkigt.”

"Yes. I kill people. That's unfortunate." My translation.
But from the beginning Eli was just Eli. Nothing. Anything. And he is still a mystery to me. John Ajvide Lindqvist

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Re: What makes a vampire?

Post by metoo » Sat Feb 06, 2021 7:12 am

Continued:

So, what is it to Eli, then?

When Virginia was in the process of transforming into a vampire, she accidentally stabbed her finger.
As she sucked her finger she felt an enoromus pleasure:

Alla goda smaker koncentrerade fyllde hennes mun. En rysning av välbehag gick genom kroppen. Hon sög och sög på fingret, hängav sig åt njutningen tills hon såg vad hon höll på med.

All the good flavours concentrated filled her mouth. A shiver of pleasure passed through her body. She sucked and sucked on her finger, indulging in the pleasure until she realised what she was doing. Google translation adjusted by me.

What if Eli experiences the same, still after more than two hundred years?
What, then, if he hates that he likes it so much, hates what his body is telling him?
Perhaps that's what saved him.

He is not a vampire.
Last edited by metoo on Sat Feb 06, 2021 9:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
But from the beginning Eli was just Eli. Nothing. Anything. And he is still a mystery to me. John Ajvide Lindqvist

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Re: What makes a vampire?

Post by sauvin » Sat Feb 06, 2021 8:33 am

There's this place in the Big City not far from where I live that serves up a pizza that's just... so... ::sigh:: I'll drop in every now and again because its pizza is just... so... ::sigh:: Not like the first pizza I'd ever had, not by a very long chalk, but never had I had pizza like this place makes. Every time I take a bite, my ears start ringing and getting a little warm, and every swallow radiates a warm glow from the centre of the chest outwards. Did I mention that it's just... so.... ::sigh::?

It was Virginia's first taste of the stuff, and if it's struck her that way then most other kinds of food would taste like garbage now. Her body is craving what it needs, and I seem to remember she ralphed when she tried to drink wine. So, maybe that first taste was an awful lot like that first wedge of the pizza from that place where it's just... so... ::sigh::

Great. Now I'm going to have to get drive all the way up to the Big City to have some more of it, blasted weather notwithstanding.

I wonder, though: if I were to eat that pizza every day for lunch or dinner for a few months at a whack, wouldn't it get old? And if that pizza were by chance the only thing I could possibly eat for whatever biochemical reason, wouldn't I be sighing not with some kind of transcendent pleasure but with resignation to the idea of having to choke more of it down? Going two or three days without eating anything at all might make the smell of the stuff seem so compelling again; otherwise, it might just seem like semisolid gruel.

She told Haakan she didn't enjoy it, and said it very flatly and simply. She'd been actual pangs of hunger when she ran into Oskar (nearly nomming him in the novel) and cried after finishing Jocke off (in the movie). Would she have been able to avoid nomming Oskar if blood were still just... so... ::sigh::? Would she have been able to cry if it had this kind of euphoric effect?
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Re: What makes a vampire?

Post by metoo » Sat Feb 06, 2021 9:33 am

sauvin wrote:
Sat Feb 06, 2021 8:33 am
She told Haakan she didn't enjoy it, and said it very flatly and simply. She'd been actual pangs of hunger when she ran into Oskar (nearly nomming him in the novel) and cried after finishing Jocke off (in the movie). Would she have been able to avoid nomming Oskar if blood were still just... so... ::sigh::? Would she have been able to cry if it had this kind of euphoric effect?
Yes, if the physical euphoria was coupled with a heartfelt disdain:
"I feel this way and I hate that I do."

This discussion inspired me to write another one of my short fan fiction: I'm like you.
But from the beginning Eli was just Eli. Nothing. Anything. And he is still a mystery to me. John Ajvide Lindqvist

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