deviations from vampire legend

Vampires have existed in a variety of cultures almost since the dawn of time. Until the 19th century, they were believed to be monsters, rather than the stereotype of a more aristocratic being who could infiltrate the world around us, as popularised by Bram Stoker. Legend has developed since, with pop culture shows such as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", which tackles concepts such as a vampire with a soul and possible redemption for a creature previously believed to have had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Bella lists her observations when she is researching on the internet: "Speed, strength, beauty, pale skin, eyes that shift colour; and then Jacob’s criteria: blood drinkers, enemies of the werewolf, cold-skinned and immortal." (TW7) An excellent summary of vampire legend can be found on Wikipedia.

Our Twilight vampires are different yet again, and there are frequent divergences from the vampires of legend, although some features remain the same. As Stephenie Meyer explains, "Almost all of the superstitions about vampire limitations are entirely false in my world. Vampires don’t really have any limits, other than the self-imposed guideline to keep their existence a secret. No unconscious periods, no problem with sunlight, crosses, garlic, holy water, wooden stakes, etc… These are all myths–deliberately placed in earlier centuries to mislead impressionable humans and make them feel safe." (PC8)

1. Vampires are cold to the touch This is definitely true in Twilight. From the very first time Bella encounters Edward’s skin we discover that "his fingers were ice-cold" (TW2) The other Cullens seem to have similarly icy skin: Carlisle has "cool fingers" (TW3), Esme has a "cold stone grasp" (TW15), and so on.

2. As they are dead, vampires do not need oxygen for survival. Again, this is true. Bella notices from her first encounter with Edward that "he continued to sit so still it looked like he wasn’t breathing." (TW1). He explains this in more depth to Bella later in the novel when she asks how long he can go without breathing: "Indefinitely, I suppose. I don’t know. It gets a bit uncomfortable, being without a sense of smell." (TW16).

3. Vampires have pale skin and fangs. All of the Cullens have very pale skin, "Paler than me, the albino" (TW1); skin that is regularly described as "marble" (TW13) in both its colour and perfection. The skin is also remarkable because of the "purplish bruiselike shadows" beneath the eyes indicative of a lack of sleep. However, the Twilight vampires, "Do not have fangs. Their teeth are so sharp and strong that fangs are hardly necessary (they could bite through steel, if so inclined, a human neck is like butter)" (PC1) In many ways, Meyer’s vampires are much more violent than the vampires of legend, as their drinking of blood involves much more savaging of flesh than two tidy fang holes in a neck.

4. Vampires can shift shape and even fly (sometimes in the form of a bat) Bella asks about this when Edward offers to show her how he travels through the forest: "Will you turn into a bat?" I asked warily. He laughed, louder than I had ever heard. "Like I haven’t heard that one before." (TW13) It’s fair to assume from Edward’s response that this stereotypical expectation is so far from true that it is laughable. Instead of flight, Stephenie Meyer’s vampires have the skill of extreme speed and fast reflexes. Their running is the equivalent of flying. The five-mile hike to the meadow is done on the return journey "in a matter of minutes" (TW13), and Edward’s driving is similarly fast, but very safe due to his speedy reflexes: "I’ve never been in an accident." (TW9) Any flight, however, has to be done in an aeroplane, such as Edward "catching the first flight out of Seattle" (TW21) to be with Bella!

5. Vampires don’t have reflections in a mirror In Twilight  vampires do have a reflection. On the flight from James, Bella notes Edward’s hesitation when "I saw his expression in the mirror," (TW18) of the car. In PC4, Stephenie Meyer dismisses this part of vampire lore, saying it will be addressed in New Moon, but her vampires definitely do have reflections.

6. A vampire can only enter a house if he is invited in. "Vampires need no invitation to enter any house." (PC8). We see Edward retrieving Bella’s truck keys from her house without any invitation, and he is is capable of watching her at night without her knowledge.

7. Sunlight may burn or kill vampires. Bella had heard of this myth herself: "Vampires couldn’t come out in the daytime, the sun would burn them to a cinder." (TW7) Although none of the Cullens attend school when it is sunny, this is not because the sun hurts them, because "it doesn’t," but because they "can’t go out in the sunlight" at least, not where anyone can see," (TW9) because of the dazzling diamond-like glittering in the skin. Sunlight marks vampires out for what they are, but does not harm them in any way.

8. Vampires cannot eat human food. Their sustenance comes from blood alone. This feature of vampires is seen right from the very first chapter when Alice throws away her, "unopened soda, unbitten apple" (TW1). Bella gets curious enough to ask Edward what would happen if he actually did eat something, and Edward "deliberately bit off a mouthful [of pizza], chewed quickly and then swallowed." (TW10), thereby proving that it is possible for vampires to physically eat. However, we are also told that due to the physical changes inherent in becoming a vampire, "He’d have to cough it up later to get rid of it. Not the most pleasant thing, which is why the vampires only eat food when they absolutely have to in order to blend in." (PC7)

9. Crosses, garlic, holy water and similar items ward off vampires. Stephenie Meyer sums this up best: "Bunch of garbage."(PC4) The Cullens are so unaffected by this that they even have an old wooden cross hanging in their home, which used to belong to Carlisle’s father. Edward laughs and admits, "It is sort of ironic." (TW15)

10. Vampires can be killed by decapitation, a wooden stake or a consecrated bullet through the heart. Vampires can be killed, although only other vampires are strong enough to do it. Emmett and Jasper "took care" of James (TW24) and it is likely that they followed the known way to end a vampires existence, namely, "to tear him to shreds and then burn the pieces."  (TW19) It is impossible for a human to kill a vampire by any means because they are too strong to be susceptible to humans or human weapons: "You try shoving wood through granite." (PC4)

11. Vampires sleep in coffins. Again, this is something that Bella remembers about vampires when she is first investigating them: "They slept in coffins all day and only came out at night." (TW7). This is obviously highly unlikely as the Cullens are usually at school, or at work during the day, and is something that Bella and Edward joke about later when Bella is visiting the Cullen home. "No coffins?"  (TW15) Apart from anything else, in the Twilight world, vampires don’t sleep. "I can’t sleep" (TW9), so coffins would be entirely redundant anyway!