The Family of Vourdalak by Aleksei Tolstoy ( published 1884)
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror May 19, 2015
Let’s go to the castle of the Dowager Princess of Schwarzenberg in Hitzing, in the dark and silent woods of Vienna. We’ve dined on a rich meal with tasty wine; the kindly Princess has seated us around a hot fire; we are all in the mood for thrilling story telling.
The Marquis de Urfe, a womanizing French diplomat speaks:
“As for me, gentlemen, I have had but a single adventure … so strange, so horrible, and yes, true, that it will strike terror in even the most incredulous among you.” He takes a pinch of sniff and begins to recount his adventure.
“I should explain to you, mesdames, that vourdalaks, as the Slavic people call vampires, are believed in those countries to be dead bodies that come out of their graves to suck the blood of the living. Their habits are similar to those of all vampires, from any country, but they have one characteristic that makes them even more dreadful. The vourdalaks, mesdames, prefer to suck the blood of their closest relatives and dearest friends who, once dead, become vampires in turn. … The commissioners tell of exhuming bodies engorged with blood, which they stake in the heart and then burn in the village squares. The magistrates who were present at these executions attest — with oaths and signed statements — that they heard the dead howl at the moment that the stake was plunged into their heart.”
The Marquis recounts his travel to a Serbian village where he finds lodging at the home of a man named Dorde and his wife and children. The Marquis learns that Dorde is awaiting the return of his father Gorcha who has gone off hunting. Gorcha left a warning to his son Dorde that if he does not return in ten days, do not let him into the house as he will have turned into a vourdalak. Meantime the Marquis falls in love with Sdenka, the lovely young sister of Dorde. When Gorcha does return, the story takes a wicked turn into delicious encounters with the vourdalaks.
This short story was adapted for a film in 1963 titled The Black Sabbath that included three short stories: The Telephone (sexy ghost story about a prostitute, Rosie), The Drop of Water (by Chekhov, classic dark and shadowy ghost story), and Wurdalak (vampires) starring Boris Karloff as Gorcha. I watched the film. Vintage horror at its best. Loved it.
Alexei Tolstoy (1817-1875) was a poet, playwright and novelist, second cousin to Leo Tolstoy. His historical drama trilogy The Death of Ivan the Terrible , Tsar Fiodor Iannovich, Tsar Boris are considered to be a part of the classic Russian literature of the 19th century. His first work of fiction was in 1841, The Vampire.
Read the Family of Vourdalak at AmericanLiterature.com
Listen to the audio at Weirdtales: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOcjg6iPRRM
Watch the film The Black Sabbath (Wurdalak with Boris Karloff on YouTube at DailyMotion.com).
Photo Credit: First image above is by Edvard Munch, The Vampire, 1893.
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