22

Bram Stoker's Dracula inspired -- though probably did not invent -- much of what is now taken for granted about fictional vampires. However, one frequently depicted vampire weakness is not shared by Dracula: the Count is not destroyed by sunlight.

Nosferatu is. Anne Rice's vampires are. Not the Count, though.

Which author, and what work, first depicted vampires being destroyed by sunlight?

Answers from folklore are also accepted, though I've already looked and it seems classical European vampires weren't harmed by sunlight.

  • 1
    I'm pretty sure that this has been around longer than Bram Stoker's novel because of the poppy seed method of destroying a vampire. I need to find proof though. – Kevin Howell May 29 '12 at 12:59
  • See also mythology.stackexchange.com/q/3028/197 "Why can't vampires walk in the sun?" – b_jonas Oct 9 '17 at 17:55
  • I always wanted to ask this (because of Vampire Diaries), but I always thought that the answer was Dracula. – Captain Cold Oct 26 '18 at 18:07
16

Wikipedia's entry on vampires implies that it is the 1922 film Nosferatu that first introduced the trope, as part of its attempt to vary the Dracula legend so as to avoid a lawsuit:

fangs and vulnerability to sunlight appeared over the course of the 19th century, with [...] Murnau's Nosferatu (1922) fearing daylight.

The entry on Nosferatu elaborates on this:

Orlok must sleep by day, as sunlight would kill him, while the original Dracula is only weakened by sunlight.

While the Vampire Literature entry makes it even more explicit with "It is only with the 1922 film Nosferatu that daylight is depicted as deadly to vampires".

Of course, all these Wikipedia references seem to be traced back to David Skal's book, V is for Vampire which, umm, doesn't really give off a particularly authoritative air, I'm afraid.

I have also searched through the works provided online in this Vampires in Text page, looking for the word "sun" through the texts, but with no luck. Perhaps a more through search for more synonyms will turn up a clue. And of course, many works there are just cited, without the full text available.

  • Your first quote seems to indicate that the resistance to sunlight pre-dates Nosferatu, and quite possibly the Bram Stoker book (which was published in 1897 at the end of the 19th Century). – Christi May 29 '12 at 9:20
  • I agree, but could not find any references to support that. Furthermore, since fangs were demonstrably introduced in the 19th century, the claim can stand as is, though imprecise. – Avner Shahar-Kashtan May 29 '12 at 11:30
  • +1 Great answer! I haven't accepted it as the answer yet, but only because (like you) I'm not convinced David Skal's book is authoritative enough :) – Andres F. May 29 '12 at 14:46
  • Porphyritic Hemophilia, believed to be the source of many of the vampire folktales due to its non-supernatural symptoms generally matching, induces a strong craving for blood (due to inability to absorb iron and make red blood cells), mental side-effects (due to lack of good oxygen flow and toxin build-up), and extreme skin sensitivity to both chemical agents (such as garlic) and sunlight (excess porphyrins react badly to ultraviolet.) Being instantly destroyed by sunlight is a relatively new thing, but being damaged/weakened shows up in folklore and is why they usually only come out at night. – Perkins Dec 28 '15 at 19:08
-2

Possibly "I Am Legend" by Richard Matheson (1954). He certainly presents it as an original idea in the story, as it is "discovered" by the protagonist that sunlight kills them, and the novel is widely proclaimed as being highly influential in the vampire mythos.

  • 1
    Fair enough, the protagonist of I Am Legend "discovers" that sunlight can destroy vampires. But that's within the story. Is 1954 the first time where this was used in vampire fiction? Keep in mind Dracula was written more than half a century earlier! Also, I've never seen this book described as influential in the vampire mythos; I've seen it described as influential in the zombie mythos :) (see George Romero's influences) – Andres F. Oct 26 '18 at 19:15

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