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It is a bit of a trope that vampires hiss, typically when exposed to a cross, sunlight, or other weakness.

So, my train of thought went a bit like this:

  • Werewolves and Vampires have a "rivalry", similar to cats and dogs, so do they hiss because cats do?
  • Vampires are affiliated with bats; but they don't exactly "hiss", but a humanoid "screeching" would be extreme, so they went for the next best thing?
  • Witches hiss sometimes, and they were affiliated with cats a lot, but how does that tie in with vampires?

Is there any thought process for this, any evidence for the choice, or was it a creation of Bram Stoker? What is the origination of the hissing trope?

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    Are you specifically asking about the vampires portrayed by Bram Stoker, or vampires in general? Because not all vampires hiss; there's a lot of variation in respect to how vampires are portrayed in fiction. Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 4:52
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    Are there any specific examples you have in mind? And is this question primarily inspired by literary portrayals, live-action portrayals, or both in equal measure? Because I've searched my digital copy of Bram Stoker's Dracula (the novel), and no results for vampires hissing have come up. Happy to be proven wrong, but I suspect this is something which is rooted moreso in live-action portrayals rather than literature, in which case it would likely come down an artistic choice by the actor or director, in whichever film pioneered this trope. Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 5:09
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    Tempting to suggest this was invented by either Bela Lugosi or Max Schreck (the latter of whom, however, couldn't have been heard hissing in a silent film like 1922's Nosferatu).
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 18:25
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    @ZeissIkon It might well have been originated by Lugosi in the 1931 Dracula, he seems to hiss when Van Helsing pulls out a cross at around 2:15 in this clip. Christopher Lee's later version of Dracula seems to hiss when he sees Van Helsing messing with his coffin at around 2:55 in this compilation from The Horror of Dracula.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 18:34
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    Meta Question discussing the close reason.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 12:01

1 Answer 1

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I've only read the original Dracula once, but I don't recall any instance of the Count hissing in that seminal vampire novel. Nor does he do so in any of the plethora of novels about Dracula by Fred Saberhagen -- I've read most of those twice.

Anything newer than those is probably invalid in this context, as novels including vampires since the early 1980s are probably mostly inspired by movies, TV spoofs, or otherwise unrelated to Stoker's original character.

There's confirmation in comments to the question that Bela Lugosi appears to hiss when a cross is brandished at him -- presumably to convey the pain of exposure to this Christian holy symbol -- and he was the first Dracula in a talkie film (1931). Max Schreck, as Count Orlok, chewed the scenery in Nosferatu in 1922, but even if he did hiss, he couldn't be heard, because at that time film wasn't capable of carrying sound.

All later "serious" movie vampires through the Hammer Film era seem to be largely patterns after Lugosi's portrayal in dress, mannerisms, and frequently in accent.

Not long before the end of the Hammer Films horror line, Grandpa Munster (Al Lewis) appeared as one of the first "silly" vampires -- but I don't recall him hissing, either. Later silly vampires (Love at First Bite with George Hamilton as the Count, for instance) seem easy to dismiss, a they were played for laughs, not scares, and anything later is either a romance (Twilight) or a spoof, until Bram Stoker's Dracula with Gary Oldman (seemingly based largely on The Dracula Tapes by Saberhagen) -- in which I also don't recall Dracula hissing, though it's possible one or more of the three vampire women at his castle did so.

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