Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot

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Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot

Post  Aslinn Dhan on Tue Feb 21, 2012 5:07 pm

So, it was inevitable that next to Dracula, I would talk about the second most popular Vampire book and that is 'Salem's Lot.

Instead of going through the plot of the book, which I hope you will investigate on your own and read, I want to talk about how Stephen King uses the mythology and things we may be familiar with from True Blood and the Sookie Books.

One of the first things King does is joins the Vampire story with Satanism and the occult. We are introduced to this through a character we never actually meet, the legendary Hubie Marsten who owned the big house on the hill, known as Marsten House to the denizens of 'Salem's Lot. Now there are two editions of 'Salem's Lot and I recommend the special extended version, it has a lot of goodies that helps you understand the back story to some extent. Now, I don't think King wishes you to infer that Satanists conjured the Vampires, his premise is that evil becomes a beacon for more evil. But we get the demonic Vampire imagery from the Fellowship of the Sun who cast Vampires as the damned.

The first death is the death of Win Purinton's dog Doc. He is hung by his head on the fence of the cemetery. One of the features of the this dog is he is all black and has white dots above his eyes. In folklore and mythology, the white dots are "angel eyes" which allow the animal to see the undead.

The next death is a young boy and there is a disturbing scene where it is pretty obvious the boy is being "sacrificed" to something.

"Oh my father, favor me now. Lord of the Flies favor me now. Now I bring you spoiled meat and reeking flesh. I have made sacrifice for your favor. With my left hand I bring it. Make a sign for me on this ground, consecrated in your name. I await a sign to begin your work."

The next time we hear prayer is during the funeral for Danny Glick, the brother of the young boy who was obviously sacrificed. As Father Callahan prays the rite of the dead, there is the interspersing of the diabolical prayer with each line of the prayer the priest reads. He is being given to God, but he is already one of the damned.

As with all Stephen King novels, there is a young admirable boy who is our protagonist. He knows about the monsters, they get you in the end. But he also knows the secrets and he knows the signs and he is one of the first citizens to be visited by a Vampire.

There are a couple of types who might be able to fill the Renfield role. There is Straker, who is Barlow's day guy and my be blood bound to his Vampire, the absent Mr. Straker, and then there is Dud Rodgers, who falls more into the RM Renfield type of Vampire toady.

Now, King admits to being heavily influenced by Dracula, so you aren't going to be meeting any really cute yummable Vampires in this book. But he does mirror Dracula by having a sort of glamour. He also writes that Vampires give you a feeling of paranoia. Barlow also echoes Dracula when he encounters Dud in the city dump: "I love the predators of the night: Rats, owls, wolves...."

Dud even recognizes there are things happening to him. He realizes he is being glamoured: "I'll be buggered, if he ain't hypnotizing me just like that Mr. Mephisto," (If you remember, Mephisto is the demon Mephistopheles, the deal maker in Faust)

Mr. Burke, the high school lit teacher is the Van Helsing character and Ben Mears, our hero, is our Jonathan Harker, and Dr. Jimmy Cody is the good Doctor John Seward, and the girl Susan is the tragic Lucy/Mina.

Among other mythic characteristics, they play on the belief Vampires cannot be seen in the mirror and they are repelled by roses and garlic and holy images and the Host. Jimmy Cody, despite the fact he is a doctor, says that the hair and the nails of the dead grow in the coffin, which is not true. They play on the Incubus and Succubus facets of the Vampire story and tie sexual attraction when the victim is being bitten. The goddess Kali is mentioned in an off handed description and Vampires can become mist and walk through solid walls. Father Callahan mentions the mark of Cain, but it is difficult to understand if he meant Vampires are the mark of Cain or if being polluted by Vampire blood was a mark of being cursed like the mark of Cain.

Barlow, the head Vampire in charge, tells Father Callahan he is not the Serpent, but the father of the Serpent. This is an allusion to the legends of the white worm, which are allusions to the devil and associated with Vampirism. This is a part of the story in Dracula when they go into Carfax Abbey and exorcise the resting place of Dracula. In True Blood, the opening titles show white things coming from the ground in the form of maggots and other things. In the Sookie Books, when Sookie takes blood from Bill before they go to Fangtasia she says she has a fantasy of white things coming from the ground as she drinks Bill's blood and makes love to him simultaneously.

So, if you have not read 'Salem's Lot or seen the movie, I recommend the one with David Soul over the modern version, I recommend it highly. It is a masterful work, paying hommage to the classic Dracula and the film Nosferatu, and is one of many sources for True Blood and to some extent, the Sookie books.

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Aslinn Dhan
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