Here Comes the Sun – Vampires and Sunlight
There is some debate in the scholarship of lore and legend of the Vampire about the effects of the sun on Vampires. To be absolutely truthful, the legend can go either way.
Primarily, though, the source of the legend seems to come from the basic belief that the daylight hours are the realm of good and the night is the realm of evil. This is because, as we know even to this day that crime is more likely to happen at night than the day.
Depending on culture, daylight is the Vampire’s destroyer. It weakens, burns and completely obliterates the Vampire’s existence. As Christianity flourished, the sun was thought of as the radiance of God’s glory and as such was profound against all forms of evil. And it wasn’t just for Vampires. If you listen to Camille Sant Saens’ Danse Macabre the music tells the story of nightfall being the herald for witches, wraithes and all manner of evil to come out and dance and feast and do all manner of evil to be interrupted by the the sound of the coronet imitation of the song of the rooster, announcing the coming of dawn. Afficianadoes of Disney’s masterpiece Fantasia will remember that the cartoon drawn for Walpurgisnacht also known as A Night on Bald Mountain, depicts the mountain itself turning into a winged demon (modeled on Bela Lugosi’s Dracula) and is the master of ceremonies to the night time revelries of the various evil spirits and witches and demons until the coming of dawn, from which the Lord of Darkness shrinks and returns to the peak of the mountain.
In Literature and Pop culture, however, there is a real ambivalence to the sun in Vampire lore. Most of the time, Vampires are allergic to the sun. But in the beginning of the literature they were not. John Polidori’s Vampyre was not as strong, but could be in the day, though he preferred the cloudy days and did not actually hunt until night fall. Bram Stoker’s Dracula could come out in the day, though he too was not as strong.
It is not until we see the first film adaptation of Dracula called Nosferatu by Murnau that we see the Count being killed by the sun. After that, Vampires would be forever exiled from the world of light.
There are still some writers who embrace the notion that Vampires can go out in the day. The Vampires from Twilight, for example, walk in the day. Anne Rice, though her Vampires enjoyed the night more and were more comfortable, could and did on occasion go into the day. In the movie, however, Claudia and her new made companion is murdered by the Vampires of Paris by being exposed to the sun.
The belief that the sun kills evil, and Vampires primarily being depicted as evil, is also upheld in the religious beliefs of ancient Egyptians who worshipped RA, the god represented by the sun. Roma people also believed that Vampires could not behold the sun.
As far as “meeting the sun” or committing suicide by sun is not unique to world of Charlaine Harris. In the seventies there were a series of what were called “blaxploitation” films, films aimed at African American audiences. Among them was the classic Blackula. Blackula is an African Prince who becomes Vampire and like Dracula looks for the woman who would be his eternal bride. He finally finds her in New York but she is murdered. In a fit of depression, Blackula meets the sun.
Source: The Vampire Book by J. Gordon Melton