We all know the story about the vampire and its bond to its native soil. Right? According to the tale, a vampire can only rest in soil from the land of their origins. A vampire needs their native earth, it can’t survive without it. We all know the story, but where did it come from?
In Eastern European folklore vampires were believed to be the reanimated bodies of the recently dead. Even though these vampires were said to reside in their local boneyard there is, however, absolutely no specific mention of native soil in any vampire folklore or early vampire fiction. None, and I have read a lot of vampire non-fiction.
So where did the idea come from?
That’s right, Dear Readers. Bram Stoker came up with the native soil bit for his legendary 1897 novel Dracula. In this famous book, the vampire Dracula needed to rest in a box filled with his native Transylvanian earth. To attack him, one simply needed to destroy these boxes. Which is what they do in the novel. Of the 50 boxes of soil transported to England, Van Helsing and the others locate 49 of them. They filled them with Eucharist wafers, leaving just one, and forcing Dracula to flee to his home in Transylvania.
And there you have it. The native soil myth does not have any ties to history or folklore, this was 100% made up by Bram Stoker. Many have theorized as to why he did this. Was it an simply a plot excuse to get Dracula out of England? Was it metaphorical? Did it represent Victorian England’s fear of others invading their native soil? Who knows? All we do know is that it came out of the influential mind of Stoker.
What do you think of this bit of vampire mythos? It’s not used by many authors or film makers anymore. Do you wish more writers used Stoker’s idea?
Wow! Great minds think alike. I just wrote a post like this not more than six weeks ago on my blog http://mariwells.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/native-soil/
As to your question about writers using Native Soil, the vampires in my novel do have a variation on it.
and what about sunlight killing Vampires thanks to Nosferatu otherwise I would like that movie more and all because they didn’t want to get sued for copy write infringement . I love German expressionism but that kind of meed it up for me but I still like it somewhat regardless and at least it made it popular…
It’s kind of like how in The Wolfman (1940) there is a lot of werewolf lore that since became standard even though it was made up for the movie.
Some interesting uses of the native soil thing: the underrated movie Vamps, The Vampire’s Ghost (1945), and the book The Silver Kiss.
Figures the interesting soil mythos would die out and the “burn-up-in-sunlight” thing sticks around well past its due date (probably just because Nosferatu is still an artistic high point for visuals in vampire films, yes even including Count Orlok’s evaporation in sunlight).
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Stoker did not make this up. It is NOT a myth. Rather he ‘borrowed’ this seemingly odd tradition from his understanding of much earlier proto-European pagan traditions. Sleeping on native soil is thought to be regenerative, and in fact, many mothers were known to place native soil under the crib of their infant to help insure the health of the infant during his/her first year or life. The problem is one can’t simply ‘google’ everything and have an instant, correct answer. This, and many other older traditions, simply can’t easily be found on the ‘internet.’ We have lost many others to time and Christendom. But the fact that you don’t know about it, and cant’ find it with a google search does not make it myth. In fact, it makes these oddities all the more mysterious, albeit very real, and in some cases really powerful.
Then where did YOU find it?
I don’t know if Stoker read the Bible, but if he did, he might have have been inspired by the story of Naaman of Syria. After being cured of leprosy in Israel, Naaman asked to take two donkey-loads of Israelite soil with him when he returned to Syria. Naaman wanted to build an altar with the dirt, where he could worship the Israelite God in whom he had gained faith (2 Kings 5:17).
The concept of dirt with supernatural power was so strange (even if misguided), that it might have tickled Stoker’s fancy if he read about it.