Celebrating Bram Stoker’s 170th Anniversary

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For more than over a hundred years the name, Count Dracula, has struck ice-ridden chills into the hearts of literary readers, also having the prestige (HWA) The Horror Writer’s Association of American Stoker award in honor of his achievements. We celebrate the anniversary of Bram Stoker.

jewel seven stars stoker 1972

To avoid all contact with anything remotely Dracula in this article, we’ll take a look back and celebrate some of Stoker’s lesser known literary achievements. His motives, writing, themes, desires and recurring elements that makes Abraham Stoker – Bram Stoker, who has been called one of the first prime movers of the Gothic erotic tale, shaping the diary formula carefully. Delicately elevating its style to greater heights.

Born Abraham Stoker, November the 8th, 1847 at 15 Marino Crescent Dublin, Ireland – Stoker was no stranger to Gothic architecture. Having grown up in Ireland, his Gothic universes were inhaled and exhaled with such wit and is clearly felt throughout all his work. But what about some of his lesser known works such as with H.G. Welles and many others  his work seems to be shadowed in contrast to his  commercial literary achievements.

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In Lair of the White Worm, which was first published by Rider and Son in 1911, Stoker uses the same genre that lifted him up, albeit minus the diary structure. This time the main protagonist is Arabella March, a queen of a long-forgotten vampire snake-cult, which seems to be more accurate in terms of mythology of the vampire, especially when looking at the mythology of the Hebrew Lilith. The male lead is ironically named Adam Salton, which makes the story an incredibly interesting read and due to Arabella, there are strange activities throughout the narrative.

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The story itself has been called one of the worst horror novels ever written… possibly due to Stoker being ill whilst writing it. The book was actually written one year before his death in 1912. The White Worm does draw on some interesting themes on the forgotten snake-cults etc. and immortality. Ken Russel’s 1988 film loosely based on the story, also makes for an interesting watch, and should definably be on any movie goers to-do list. Incredibly racist for its time, here is a sample text of how backward the thinking really was, raising a strong argument that Stoker’s work was very much of its day.

“Let me give you a word of advice: If you have the slightest fault to find with that infernal nigger, shoot him at sight. A swelled-headed nigger, with a bee in his bonnet, is one of the worst difficulties in the world to deal with. So better make a clean job of it, and wipe him out at once!”

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“But what about the law, Mr. Casswell?”

“Oh the law doesn’t concern itself much about dead niggers. A few more or less do not matter. To my mind it’s rather a relief.”

“I don’t love niggers any more than you do and I suppose one mustn’t be too particular where that sort of cleaning up is concerned.”

In The Jewel of the Seven Stars, Stoker literally made way for the first mummy novel, which seems to have inspired everything from the Universal monster classics all the way to the latest badly done Tom Cruise effort… which fans of horror should find of interest.

The book relies heavily on dialogue, which Stoker seems to be comfortable with  but in retrospect never quite achieving it the way Charles Dickens did. But then this could possibly be due to the times, as was the same with H.P. Lovecraft, where his dialog was never on the beat, his descriptions were divine.

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If you’re looking for some mummy loving in literature, The Jewel of the Seven Stars makes for an interesting read, even if at times the prose lacks depth. Seven, also being such a predominant number in all belief systems – Stoker seems to have some knowledge on the seven Ba’s of Ra in Egyptian Mythology. This could possibly be due to the title, in Lament terms, the seven souls of the sun. Also, Stoker had to change the ending for the republished version in 1912, eliminating a whole entire chapter as publishers felt it was to gruesome for the time.

Although yet again, Stoker is punished for not writing another Dracula, which seems to be the case with nearly every writer or filmmaker who breaks out with something too big, allowing them to fall into the one hit wonder camp. I think Stoker suffered from this dearly, but more than made up for it with the wonderful anthology from 1914 book, Dracula’s Guest & Other Supernatural Tales. Having been published as an anthology after Stocker’s death by his widow, Florence Stoker, along with an unpublished tale named, Dracula’s Guest – which was discovered in manuscript form.

Dracula’s Guest makes for a great little horror anthology to read, and if you haven’t had your fires stoked too much this Halloween, you may find some enjoyment in this anthology, especially “Dracula’s Guest”- which, if you haven’t read Dracula, in all its splendid glory, Dracula’s Guest makes for an amazing story before you read Dracula. Two other key stories being The Judge’s House, and The Burial of the Rats.

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We will leave you on this quote.

“Walpurgis Night, when, according to the belief of millions of people, the devil was abroad – when the graves were opened and the dead came forth and walked. When all evil things of earth and air and water held revel. This very place the driver had specially shunned. This was the depopulated village of centuries ago. This was where the suicide lay; and this was the place where I was, alone – unmanned, shivering with cold in a shroud of snow with a wild storm gathering again upon me! It took all my philosophy, all the religion I had been taught, all my courage, not to collapse in a paroxysm of fright.

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