Vampires in Fantasy: The Non-Human Breeds

Dwarven Vampire

It didn’t cross my mind until recently that there might be some confusion when vampires turn up in War of Nytefall.  Specifically, the concept of non-humans races getting turned into vampires.  Since they are normally found on Earth (or space, but still our reality), they are only seen as corrupted humans.  Sometimes you get a vampirized animal like an elephant or crows or a bat.  They can also be called ghouls and not true vampires, which gets even more confusing.  This means the exposure of non-human vampires is incredibly small because the two categories rarely interact.

I can think of a few reasons why you don’t see this often.  Vampires that take on the role of the main villain tend to be outcasts from a human society.  So, their target ends up being the same group that ostracized them.  If the vampires are simply creatures that a hero can run into then they’re put to a default human.  You don’t even get a real description a lot of times beyond pale, fangs, blood, and an affinity for black clothing.  That means the reader decides on human because that’s what we’re used to.  So, the sudden appearance of a character like Gregorio Roman, who is a gnomish vampire, can throw people off if they aren’t ready for it.  I was actually surprised how many people sent me public and private messages asking about him.  Hence, this post.

The simplest way to explain why non-human vampires are possible is to look at the basic method of vampirization.  They aren’t born, but made from biting, magic, or blood ingestion.  For me, this defines it as an infection that attacks at the biological or magical level.  A world could prevent cross species turning if it’s stated that blood transfusions and breeding are impossible between them.  This gets blown away the instant you have a half-anything show up though.  So, a vampire’s infectious bite should be able to turn other species since fertile offspring are possible and diseases can cross over as well.  It’s really up to the author though, but the reader needs to be ready for such things when they see a vampire turn up in fantasy.  More than likely, you’re safe as long as you don’t detail the vampires, but this isn’t possible if you’re using them for more than fodder.

The Dawn Fangs add their own wrinkle into this, which is that they function like their own species.  They call themselves Dawn Fangs before their original race because that is what defines their abilities at this time.  It’s the society that they feel more connected to as well once such a thing is established.  One could say that Dawn Fang is the primary species and whatever they were born as is the secondary.  The truth is that nobody in Windemere really thinks about this very much.  There is more curiosity as to what they are and if they’re a danger instead of if they were a gnome, human, or fireskin first.  Still, a lot of this labeling is for the reader and doesn’t always carry into the world itself.

By the way, in Allure of the Gypsies there is a vampire named Kalam who is also the dragon-man species known as a fireskin.  He isn’t a Dawn Fang, which some people didn’t realize because he was functioning in the sun.  The truth is that he drank enchanted blood from a god-magic throne and that gave him immunity.  Nobody really questioned it in the story because they assumed he was a Dawn Fang.  So, there are pseud0-versions of the various vampire types too and these tend to be found within the nonhuman species because they do have ‘extra’.  Fireskins are natural casters, gnomes have ‘The Void’, dwarves have no central heart, etc.  These are abilities that carry over to their transformed selves to make some racial differences.  It’s another reason why vampires focus on the basics instead of using the nuances to make further divisions.

Anyway, this is just something for people to consider if they read a fantasy book and see a vampire show up.  Then again, I have a feeling most authors will just go straight human and this might be a fairly unique problem to me.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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17 Responses to Vampires in Fantasy: The Non-Human Breeds

  1. I must admit that I’d never heard of non-human vampires until your series, Charles. But now you’ve explained how it’s like a disease, it makes sense, after all, bird flu and several other diseases carry over between species. 😃

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    • The big reason most people never heard of non-human vampires is because they tend to be in ‘human only’ worlds. In most versions, vampirism is an infection/disease on par with zombies. I think it’s fairly simple once you think about it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It’s an interesting point that can lead to many an animated conversation (I know, I’m a geek). However, not many zoonoses (diseases found in animals) can cross over to humans. Chris mentions avian flu, but that’s a rarity. No dog can catch a human cold, for example.

      I can easily imagine some species being immune from the biological sort of turning, although not necessarily the magical one. Then again, there might be charms and spells protecting against that.

      If so, it could be that a mixed-breed (half-immune species, half-not immune) character has the genes that offer immunity to vampirism. It would depend on whether the immunity gene was a dominant one.

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      • I would say vampirism is one that can crossover sentient species. This isn’t animals getting it, but species like elves and dwarves. Since humans can have children with these other groups, it makes a lot of sense for vampirism to be a universal infection. Especially since it’s closer to necromancy than a biological disease, which does put it into a magical category.

        As far as immunity goes, there are probably some. For example, Placids are made of water, so you can’t really turn them. That’s a biological thing though and most species wouldn’t be able to resist the turn.

        Personally, I really don’t see why vampirism would effect only humans in a world of fantasy. There’s no real reason for the other species to be immune other than storytelling. Even if it started with humans, there’s a chance that vampirism evolves and creates new strains like the flu.

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      • I’d have to know more about other species’ DNA to answer the question on why vampirism would only affect humans 😉

        Seriously, though, I love how much thought you’ve put into this!

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      • Not as much thought as one would think. We see human vampires primarily because they’re in worlds with only humans. The mythos is steeped in human nature and society, so getting transferred to a fantasy setting causes one of two mindsets. Go along with habits and unwittingly make every vampire human is the most common. The other requires a conscious effort to point out when a vampire isn’t a human type. There’s never really been a true rule about it being human only too. It’s just that there hasn’t been many instances where you can do otherwise.

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  2. The idea of all sorts of fantasy creatures being vampires is really amazing, Charles.

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  3. L. Marie says:

    I also had not heard of nonhuman vampires. The author I’ve read tended to concentrate on human vampires. But what you said makes sense.

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  4. I think having non-human vampires creates a broad plot spectrum for the author. Well done.

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  5. Makes sense to me. A swarm of vampiric fairies is kind of frightening if you think about it.

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  6. Great post, I found it very enlightening, though I’ll admit I hadn’t questioned the appearance of non-human Vampires.

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