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View Full Version : Any vampire lore regarding surviving a neck-snapping?



Mark Moore
08-25-2014, 03:54 AM
I'm trying to avoid anything introduced by film and television in my vampire-related series (I have the vampires walk around in daylight just fine), so I'm curious to know if there's anything in vampire lore that says a vampire will still be "alive" if its neck is snapped (meaning it's not a valid way to kill them).

ShaunHorton
08-25-2014, 04:05 AM
Given their status as undead, generally speaking, a snapped neck would cause paralysis and a major inconvenience, but it wouldn't kill them.

When a neck is 'snapped', it severs the major connections from the brain to the rest of the body. The major organs shut down because the brain isn't telling them to keep working anymore.

Since vampires don't rely on a beating heart or working lungs to stay 'alive', such an act wouldn't be able to kill them. As I said though, it would likely involve paralysis as the nerves to the limbs are severed as well, and unless your vampire has fair regenerative abilities, they'll need help with sustenance from that point on.

StormChord
08-25-2014, 05:01 AM
It seems like the general trope is, because it wouldn't kill them instantly, they can just snap it right back into place with no ill effects.

Cath
08-25-2014, 05:24 AM
This belongs in SFF

Once!
08-25-2014, 11:59 AM
Not a vampire expert, but couldn't the early vampires change themselves into bats or wolves or other such creatures? If so, then I'd imagine that they could change into a bat, then change back into a human (sans broken neck).

A bit like rebooting a computer. Heck, they are mythological creatures so doesn't anything (within reason) work?

NRoach
08-25-2014, 03:46 PM
The thing which is giving me pause if that beheading traditionally kills vampires; a snapped neck could, functionally, be just the same as a beheading for your purposes, I suppose.

eparadysz
08-25-2014, 07:09 PM
"Vampire Diaries" does this several times per episode, usually just to get someone out of the way temporarily.

Shadow_Ferret
08-25-2014, 07:14 PM
Heck, they are mythological creatures so doesn't anything (within reason) work?
I would think this depends on the writer's view of such things. When I use mythological creatures I try to stay as close and true to the myths as possible.

Myrealana
08-25-2014, 08:21 PM
If you go back to Bram Stoker, I think the only way to kill a vampire was by a stake through the heart, followed by decapitation. It seems to me that a broken neck, so long as the head remains attached, would not be sufficient.

But the bottom line is that vampires are fictional, so whatever suits your kind of vampires is right.

Mark Moore
08-25-2014, 08:37 PM
If you go back to Bram Stoker, I think the only way to kill a vampire was by a stake through the heart, followed by decapitation. It seems to me that a broken neck, so long as the head remains attached, would not be sufficient.

But the bottom line is that vampires are fictional, so whatever suits your kind of vampires is right.

Well, from what I've read, stakes can't kill vampires in the traditional lore; they're used to hold vampires in place while you kill them in another manner, so that's what I use them for in my series.

Stoker got it right by having Dracula be able to walk around in the daytime (the sunlight-kills-vampires thing was introduced in a 1920 German silent film). I have my vampires walk around in the daylight, too.

I have them cast reflections, because the no-reflections thing makes no sense no matter how you look at it.

But I'd really be interested to know if there's any mention in the traditional lore about the effects of neck-snapping, or does it simply never come up?

Myrealana
08-25-2014, 08:50 PM
Right, the stake didn't kill them, it just immobilized them while you cut off their head.

And maybe stuff the mouth with garlic? Was that a later addition?

onesecondglance
08-25-2014, 09:26 PM
^ yep, stakes just hold 'em down. The garlic was to make sure they didn't resurrect again - old-style vamps are very hard to kill.

In most lore, there are implied healing abilities. Vampires aren't zombies, where their flesh corrodes - they are the opposite, their flesh incorruptible. Everything except stakes / decapitation / exposure to sunlight is temporary damage only, so a snapped neck would just heal.

Tricky scenarios like "what happens if you chop a leg off" aren't usually covered.

Roxxsmom
08-25-2014, 11:59 PM
Traditionally, I think vampires have to have wooden stake through the heart, or sunlight, or holy water, or have their head severed and buried on hallowed ground and stuffed with garlic or some such thing.

Normal injuries don't phase them. Though it would be fun to have one accumulate damage but still be alive. Or maybe they survive but only heal very slowly. So a vampire running, or hey, crawling around with a floppy, broken neck for a while.

But it's your story, and there have been enough liberties with vampire lore over the years that as long as you give them a believable Achilles heel (with maybe a nod to the misconception or myth that they can only be killed in the above ways), you can have them be vulnerable to whatever you want them to. It's your universe.

Dryad
08-26-2014, 01:39 AM
Regarding pre-film folklore, snapping won't kill them.

Paul Barber's Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality provides a comprehensive study of collective folklore on vampires. It's not the easiest of reads, but it most directly points towards what you're asking about.

Vampire Forensics: Uncovering the Origins of an Enduring Legend by Mark Collins Jenkins is a much more entertaining read, but it doesn't have the same folkloric inclusiveness by a long shot of the other book.

From Demons to Dracula: The Creation of the Modern Vampire Myth by Matthew Beresford focuses much more on the dissemination of the vampire myth through literature and film, but it begins with folkloric roots. It does, also, include the early literature.

And that's the extent of my vampire folklore library.

onesecondglance
08-26-2014, 02:16 AM
Paul Barber's Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality provides a comprehensive study of collective folklore on vampires. It's not the easiest of reads, but it most directly points towards what you're asking about.

^ this one is well worth reading.

Also recommend Blood Read: The Vampire As Metaphor In Contemporary Culture (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Read-Vampire-Metaphor-Contemporary/dp/0812216288). Less on the folklore, more on the philosophy, but an interesting read nonetheless.

Jacob_Wallace
08-26-2014, 09:29 AM
Depends on how purist you wanna be.

Kinda hard to talk about vampire lore without going into films and tv since the two influence each other so much these days. And old vampire myths are so different from modern day that they're practically a different creature.

Old legend vampires were damn near impossible to kill though. Stakes did nothing. They were just a physical means to hold a vampire in the coffin, no real significance to the heart just that it was the center of mass and therefore most likely to hold a vampire down. Sunlight just took away their powers. The only way to kill them was to decapitate and burn them. Your choice if you want a neck break to count as decapitation.

I can't think of any time this was used in combat in literature (either effectively or ineffectively) it's usually full decapitation. Now I know you said no movies, but neck snapping didn't work in Blade, at least not for the reapers. They just snapped their head back into place and kept moving.

Lillith1991
08-26-2014, 01:45 PM
Well, from what I've read, stakes can't kill vampires in the traditional lore; they're used to hold vampires in place while you kill them in another manner, so that's what I use them for in my series.

Stoker got it right by having Dracula be able to walk around in the daytime (the sunlight-kills-vampires thing was introduced in a 1920 German silent film). I have my vampires walk around in the daylight, too.

I have them cast reflections, because the no-reflections thing makes no sense no matter how you look at it.

But I'd really be interested to know if there's any mention in the traditional lore about the effects of neck-snapping, or does it simply never come up?

The bolded bit is mine. Depending on the legends, some vampires don't actually have reflections because they don't have souls. It all depends on where the vampire myth is coming from. Also, they're mythic/magical beings. Whether they have a reflection or not won't make them more realistic.

Myrealana
08-26-2014, 04:20 PM
The bolded bit is mine. Depending on the legends, some vampires don't actually have reflections because they don't have souls. It all depends on where the vampire myth is coming from. Also, they're mythic/magical beings. Whether they have a reflection or not won't make them more realistic.
My vampires have reflections, but people can't stand to look at them in a mirror because they're wrong. Their lack of soul makes the mirror show them as off.

JimmyB27
08-26-2014, 06:22 PM
The bolded bit is mine. Depending on the legends, some vampires don't actually have reflections because they don't have souls. It all depends on where the vampire myth is coming from. Also, they're mythic/magical beings. Whether they have a reflection or not won't make them more realistic.

The wall opposite the mirror in my bathroom has no soul either, but it still has a reflection. ;)

Reziac
08-27-2014, 09:25 PM
I have them cast reflections, because the no-reflections thing makes no sense no matter how you look at it.

And this gave me the thought: What if they don't cast reflections because they're not really there? What if they're some sort of projection? (Which would also explain why so many things don't harm them.)

Mark Moore
08-28-2014, 05:14 AM
And this gave me the thought: What if they don't cast reflections because they're not really there? What if they're some sort of projection? (Which would also explain why so many things don't harm them.) But there are things that still do harm them. And physical contact can still be made between the vampire and everything else. Another thing that irritates me about the no-reflection thing is how the vampire's clothes won't be reflected either - but only while the vampire is wearing them.

Reziac
08-28-2014, 05:59 AM
But there are things that still do harm them. And physical contact can still be made between the vampire and everything else. Another thing that irritates me about the no-reflection thing is how the vampire's clothes won't be reflected either - but only while the vampire is wearing them.

They're actually aliens that project an invisibility field. :)

Or maybe now the Invisible Man is explained. :D

I agree it's not logical, any more than shapeshifters who take their clothes with them. But that doesn't mean we can't Make Shit Up to explain it, at least sufficiently well for the Willing Suspension of Disbelief.

Tepelus
08-28-2014, 06:19 AM
Vampires in and of themselves aren't logical, so why should any myths surrounding them be as well?

Reziac
08-28-2014, 06:36 AM
Vampires in and of themselves aren't logical, so why should any myths surrounding them be as well?

This is true :) They only need to be self-consistent, and self-logical, not realworld logical.

Hmm. Are vampires only invisible in mirrors made from silver? What about bronze or steel mirrors?

Mark Moore
08-28-2014, 05:38 PM
Hmm. Are vampires only invisible in mirrors made from silver? What about bronze or steel mirrors?

Angel doesn't cast a reflection, despite having a soul, but he does cast a shadow, and he can be video-taped.

Reziac
08-28-2014, 06:42 PM
Angel doesn't cast a reflection, despite having a soul, but he does cast a shadow, and he can be video-taped.

Huh. So maybe if we back mirrors with chrome oxide instead of silver... ;)

Roxxsmom
08-29-2014, 03:41 AM
I never understood the vampires don't reflect because they lack souls thing. Christian tradition says animals lack souls too, yet no one ever seemed to think it strange that they have reflections (for the record, my position on animal souls is that they have them. Not always sure about people, though).

RevanWright
08-29-2014, 04:42 AM
Thinking about Christopher Pike's The Last Vampire (Thirst) series. I can't remember exactly if any of them had their neck snapped, but I'm pretty sure that type of vampire could survive it. I remember the MC ripping heads off after snapping vampire necks, otherwise they might heal.

Zilge
08-29-2014, 04:59 AM
I tried to write a story about vampires some four years ago. Catch is, in my draft, vampires were just normal people with enhanced speed, strenght, healing, reflexes and a thirst for blood. They weren't demons or some sort of supernatural being.

Vampires in my story could survive the sunlight as well as a neck snap, but the latter would take several hours to completly heal. However, if shot or injured enough times, a vampire would be history.

Although it's up to you decide how you wanna make your vampires. Create your own rules and make sure they are consistent within the setting you've created. :)

Jacob_Wallace
08-29-2014, 05:55 AM
No mirrors made the least amount of sense out of all vampire lore, IMO.

For one, the reasoning behind it. No soul. A chair doesn't have a soul either, yet it has a reflection.

Second, shouldn't their clothes still be reflected?

Mark Moore
08-29-2014, 06:43 AM
No mirrors made the least amount of sense out of all vampire lore, IMO.

For one, the reasoning behind it. No soul. A chair doesn't have a soul either, yet it has a reflection.

And it makes even less sense when the vampires do have souls, such as Angel or, going back to "Dracula", Lucy (the whole point of killing her was so her soul could find rest).


Second, shouldn't their clothes still be reflected?

They should, and I've never seen any vampire fiction explain that away.

I recently rewatched the 1931 "Dracula". A point is made of Dracula not casting a reflection, and his clothes don't either. However, what about, say, his cape that he hung on the rack at the music hall?