Here Comes the Sun – Vampires and Sunlight

By  |  5 Comments

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

5 Comments

  1. Barb Lessig

    August 19, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    I absolutely feel that True Blood is the most exciting series of TV. Do not ever stop this show.Also True Blood captivates me as a viewer and keeps me actually peeled to the TV wanting more… Whatever you do, keep the same actors and actresses always! They are all so interesting in their own right. Thank you! B.A. Lessig

  2. Auriette

    August 19, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    I don’t mind the vampires coming out in daylight as much as the books/movies that have silver bullets killing them. Everyone knows that silver kills werewolves, not vampires!

  3. Michael

    August 20, 2009 at 9:56 am

    I prefer the Dracula version, where the sun doesn’t kill vampires, it just robs them of most of their power. That way you can have scenes that take place during the day, which is easier to film, and also have the vampire get into fights during the day with relatively low-power enemies.

  4. Desmodus

    August 24, 2009 at 10:56 am

    Writers do have a lot of leeway with this, as various mythologies around the world throughout the ages vary in terms of sunlight exposure and the undead. Personally, I prefer the idea of a vampire who can be out at day, but is weakened in this state. Or perhaps a better term is, “exposed”, as in the clear light of day, it should be more evident that something is amiss with this “person” – the white skin, light blue veins, etc… However, the “glittering” vampire as described in Twilight just strikes me as really bizarre. Vampires have really evolved from being hideous demon-like creatures to being counted among the “beautiful people” in pop culture.

    I’d like to think of the sun’s effect on vampires as kryptonite is to Superman -it weakens them, and is a bit painful even. In fact, since superman supposedly gets his power from the sun, vampires are sort of the anti-superman, in a way. For that matter, some degree of burning from the sun isn’t far fetched either, as actual people with cutaneous porphyria suffer this affliction in real life with just minor exposure to sunlight.

    Then we have the subjects of crosses, garlic, and silver. I liked the way True Blood handled those.

  5. Desiree

    August 27, 2009 at 10:53 am

    I really dont mind them not being able to withstand the sun. It makes everything more interesting. I loove Twilight slightly less than i do TrueBlood but the way Twilight vampires hit the sun is weird but okay. Either way, them coming out at night on this show is best. This is the best show ive ever seen and i watch it everyday, all the re-runs.