Six Fantastic and Mythological Beings from the Blade Trilogy
In the original Blade trilogy, Wesley Snipes played Eric Brooks, the title character also known as Blade. The film, written by David S. Goyer and directed by Stephen Norrington, was released in 1998 and quickly became a huge success. Based on the image of a Marvel Comics superhero, it eventually prepared the ground for other comic book film adaptations that would come later on. Also, as a commercial success, the movie spanned two sequels and gathered a cult following. There was also a series and now a reboot is in development.
The Blade Trilogy: A Short Overview
The character of Blade was introduced to audiences on the original poster of the 1998 movie as someone with “the power of an immortal,” “the soul of a human,” and “the heart of a hero.” Born human, Blade had all vampire strengths and none of their weaknesses after his mother was bitten by a vampire during the final stage of her pregnancy. Blade was taken off the streets by Abraham Whistler whom he respected as a mentor and a father figure. He went on to become a vampire hunter and in the first movie he confronted Deacon Frost, the leader of a group of younger vampires acting as a faction desiring to start a war between humans and vampires.
Throughout the trilogy, Blade faced other opponents as well and many other characters are introduced to viewers. Some of these are based upon or inspired by actual mythological figures, while others are just invented characters of fiction. To shed some light in this regard, six such examples of characters from the Blade trilogy taken from the realms of mythology will be presented and explained in what follows.
Illustration of a Chinese vampire, known as a jiang shi. (CC BY SA)
6. Vampires in the Blade Trilogy
The Blade trilogy mainly revolves around vampire mythology. As a mythical being, the image of the vampire has spread all over the globe. Vampire legends exist even in China, where the specific vampires of local folklore are called Jiang Shi, creatures who do not feed on blood, but on chi (that life energy of living beings). In Europe, vampires are a type of living dead or animated corpses that rise from their graves at night to feast upon the vital essence of living humans which exists in blood.
For vampires, it is just as the character Renfield from Bram Stoker's Dracula stated it: “The blood is the life." In Romania, local folklore talks about vampire-like entities known as strigoi. These undead rise from their graves to torment the living, especially the ones who have wronged or mistreated them during life. Much older vampire legends go back to antiquity, even as old as ancient Sumer.
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The Blade films bring forth a unique perspective in regard to vampires. In the universe presented by the trilogy, crosses and holy water have no effect against vampires. Instead, only silver, garlic and sunlight are effective. The movies present vampirism as a disease, vampire blood being unable to sustain hemoglobin which results in the need of vampires to consume human blood in order to survive.
This is pointed out by hematologist Karen Jenson. She is also the one who introduces Blade to EDTA, an anticoagulant which he can use as a weapon against vampires which influences them negatively on a cellular level, actually making them burst into pieces. Vampires also cannot stand UV light which causes them severe burns. Another new element introduced by the trilogy to vampire lore is the serum used by Blade to suppress his thirst for blood.
5. Familiars in the Blade Trilogy
In European legends, witches were said to employ familiars or familiar spirits to assist and help them in the practice of witchcraft. Such familiars could manifest themselves in various forms. Most often, these spirits would take on animal form. In this sense, many people know that, in the past, black cats were associated with witches. The explanation is that, in fact, a witch's cat was believed to be her familiar.
The belief claimed that the black cat was the form chosen by the witch's familiar spirit to manifest itself. Such spirits were sent by the Devil to aid witches who had sold their souls on the basis of an infernal contract. For this reason, even today, in some countries the superstition about black cats bringing bad luck still exists. This happens because, in the past, black cats were thought to be familiars aiding witches by carrying out the curses or evil spells to the houses of those intended for.
The Blade films took this idea even further. With vampires feeding on human blood, they are presented as the ultimate predators or as the top of the food chain. In time, society has evolved and vampires employ certain humans as familiars to help them and do their bidding. In this way, vampires have succeeded in infiltrating the institutions of the human government. Their familiars do the work vampires cannot do during daytime because sunlight is harmful to them.
In the Blade trilogy, human familiars have no problem with exposure to sunlight and they remain loyal and hardworking because, if they prove their worth, maybe their masters will turn them into vampires. Human familiars desperately want to be turned into vampires themselves because they are tempted by the promise of eternal life, or that of a really long life. The vampires in the Blade trilogy are not indestructible immortals; they can be killed or, if unhurt, they can die, but only after having lived for centuries.
In the past black cats were associated with witches. (vladstar / Adobe Stock)
4. Erebus in the Blade Trilogy
To the ancient Greeks, Erebus was the primordial deity personifying darkness, who was also identified with the Roman equivalent of Scotus. His sister was Nyx, the goddess of the night, and, later on, she became his wife. Erebus was said to have been born of Chaos and he had been one of the first five beings in existence. Nyx stood at the beginning of creation and from their union other deities emerged like Hypnos (the god of sleep) and Thanatos (the god of death).
Sometimes, the term Erebus is also used to define a region from the Greek underworld. This refers to the place where the souls of the deceased go to right after death, a place of darkness located somewhere between Earth and Hades.
The first film of the Blade trilogy introduces viewers to a secret vampire archive. Here, encased in glass, the pages of the Vampire Bible are kept. The text is also referred to as The Book of Erebus. As humans are active during daytime, in the distant past, they used to worship various Sun gods embodying the principle of light as a bringer of life.
Vampires are the Hominus Nocturna. As nocturnal beings, it is reasonable to assume that they could worship deities associated with the principle of darkness. In regard to The Book of Erebus, Deacon Frost is the one who manages to translate it and decode its secret meaning. The text discusses a method of using 12 pure-blood vampires each from a different house to awaken an old blood god.
3. La Magra in the Blade Trilogy
La Magra is the old blood god Deacon Frost intends to awaken. This vampire deity does not exist as such in mythology. However, this deity can be seen as the ultimate personification of vampire thirst and blood lust. Its manifestation might have been inspired by the practice of hematophagy. This is a term which defines feeding on blood or consuming blood as nourishment.
Hematophagy falls under the category of atypical feeding along with necrophagy (consuming the dead), cannibalism (feeding on members of the same species) and partenophagy (feeding on virgins, as exemplified by werewolf legends). Consuming blood as nourishment, vampires clearly practice hematophagy, but they are not the only ones associated with it. A more recent example in this regard is constituted by the case of the Chupacabra.
In the first film of the Blade trilogy, Deacon Frost enacts the ritual meant to awaken La Magra at the Temple of Eternal Night. He uses the souls of the 12 pure-blood vampires along with Blade's own blood and he succeeds in his task. He becomes possessed, turning into the earthly manifestation of the blood god, La Magra.
Also, there is one more interesting aspect here. The ritual enacted by Deacon Frost, with the 12 pure-blood vampires standing in a circle around him and the 13th vampire in the middle meant to receive the power of La Magra, reminds of another old legend. To be more precise, this ritual is reminiscent of the Mayan legend of the crystal skulls.
According to the crystal skulls legend, there are 13 crystal skulls in total that need to be found and gathered. Once brought together, 12 are placed in a circle with the 13th skull, a crimson red one and largest of them all, placed in the center. Once this is done, legend has it that they will change the world. However, it is not said whether the change will be for the better or for worse. As for the Maya, they used to value crystal above gold and they also practiced the ritual of blood-letting, human sacrifices and blood offerings.
Representation of Ishtar or Inanna housed at the British Museum. (Public domain)
2. Inanna in the Blade Trilogy
Originally, Inanna was worshiped in Sumer as the goddess of beauty, war, love, justice, sex and ruling power. Later on, the Akkadians, the Assyrians and the Babylonians began to worship her as the Queen of Heaven referred to as Ishtar. Her main cult center was located in the ancient Sumerian city of Uruk.
A seal discovered by archaeologists dating back to the Akkadian Empire presents an image of Ishtar. She is depicted as a powerful warrior goddess carrying weapons on her back, wearing a horned helmet and dominating a lion which she is holding on a leash. This goddess is the mythical deity who once issued the famous threat: “I shall set my face towards the infernal regions, I shall raise up the dead, and they will eat the living, I shall make the dead outnumber the living". So, why is this threat of hers so famous? Well, it is because it is one of the earliest references associated with vampirism.
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Moving on to the Blade trinity movie from 2004, this time Blade’s task was to face Dracula as his opponent. The film sets Dracula's origin in ancient Sumer. He is said to have been the first vampire and he has shapeshifting abilities. His actual origins remain unknown, but he remains considered the perfect vampire, the original progenitor of Hominus Nocturna who has gone by many names throughout the course of history, though currently taking on the name Drake.
His ability to shapeshift is attributed to a very malleable bone structure. In this way, he can assume the form of others, but they must be individuals similar in size and shape. He is immune to sunlight and he also has a demonic form in which he can transform referred to as the Beast. His demonic form has horns similar to those accompanying the depictions of the previously mentioned goddess. So, even though Inanna does not appear in the film and is not directly mentioned, she is definitely alluded to indirectly through references regarding Sumerian mythical beliefs related to the ancient origins of vampires.
The Blade trilogy provides a unique perspective to the idea of vampires. (konradbak / Adobe Stock)
1. The Dhampir in the Blade Trilogy
The image of the dhampir comes from the Balkans. A dhampir is a being resulting from the union of a human and a vampire. Generally, such cases refer to couples formed of male vampires and female humans. Female vampires do not usually show interest in male humans, so such unions are considered highly rare. The term defining the being resulting from such unusual unions is most likely derived from two Albanian words which put together and translated would mean “toothdrinker."
In other regions, the terms used in this regard can be translated with the meaning of “vampire's son." According to the existing legends, male dhampirs (having a paternal vampire descent) can possess the ability to see vampires that are invisible to regular humans and they can successfully practice sorcery. Also, in many cases, these male dhampirs would become vampire hunters.
In terms of powers and abilities, legends claim that dhampirs have both human and vampire powers. Such beings can sense supernatural entities and creatures within a certain distance, they can regenerate faster, they have heightened sight and hearing, they can consume regular food like humans, they have control over animals and they can withstand sunlight. This last ability is the one which has led to the use of the term “daywalker." While some dhampirs can also possess immortality, most of them can develop or present skills highly efficient in hunting down and destroying vampires.
In the context of the movie trilogy, obviously, Blade is the dhampir. In fact, Blade is directly referred to as “the Daywalker." As a character, Blade first appeared in the Marvel comics The Tomb of Dracula where he was not a daywalker. For the movie, his character was adapted and updated for a 1990s audience. Later on, his depiction in the comics was also modified to match the films.
When the project to develop the first film of the Blade trilogy was set up at New Line Cinema, there were talks about how to modify and update the character for the audience of the time. At a certain point during these talks, the studio actually asked if Blade could be white. The idea was immediately rejected because writer David S. Goyer wanted to take the character seriously. Wesley Snipes was always considered as the perfect choice for the character and in 1996 he was finally signed on to play Blade. From then on, film history was made.
Top image: Wesley Snipes played Eric Brooks in the Blade trilogy. Source: New Line Cinema / Fair Use
By Phoenix Vald
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