Carmilla and Dracula: Gothic Vampire Icons

For today’s entry in Gothic Week I have chosen to take on the stories of two iconic vampires!    Carmilla was the original vampire story written by Joseph Sheridan LeFanu.   Dracula would come much later, written by Bram Stoker!   Both would take inspiration from actual deadly historical figures.   It is highly likely that both authors had used the same two historical vampires as inspiration.

The obvious character inspiration taken is Vlad the Impaler and Elizabeth Bathory.    It can be argued that Carmilla is far more similar to Bathory, and Dracula is more similar to Vlad.   But it is known that Stoker studied Bathory, as well, so Dracula takes inspiration from both greatly.   The brides of Dracula and Lucy as a vampire are the obvious female vampiric connection to Elizabeth Bathory!   I must also mention an additional possible inspiration for the female vampires in Dracula.    This is Lizzie Siddal’s story having inspired Stoker (likely) when he came up with the character Lucy.   I wrote an earlier post this week on that very subject!

Carmilla is a much shorter novel and therefore much faster paced.    Although it may be less pages, so much occurred in the novel Carmilla.    The titular character is very amazing at manipulating the people around her, and of seeming very innocent.    We do not see this in Stoker’s vampire, and it is likely because as a male he did not want to gain sympathy.    Both vampires are excellent at seducing young and beautiful women.   I also must note that both of these vampire characters can transform into animals.   Most remember Dracula being able to become a wolf, but Carmilla was also able to become a large cat!

There is even a great scene where Carmilla is seducing Laura, and controlling her dreams.   She is able to leave scratches in the aftermath of this, and that is one of the strange things that cause people to get clues as to what is going on.   The seduction scenes in both of these books is very similar.

Of course, both of these vampires meet their ends by having vampire hunters kill them.    Each vampire is a great example of what would become common tropes for vampire characters of their gender in most subsequent works of fiction.   Stoker likely took much inspiration from Carmilla.   I must also quickly mention they both owe a debt to The Vampyre by John Polidori, as that was an even earlier work of vampire fiction.    I focused on these two because I frankly prefer them!    I hope you have enjoyed this short overview of some of the commonalities of these great vampire works.   Let me know your  thoughts in the comments below!

Note on Image: The image at the top of the page is a cover of Carmilla.   I found the image on

Further Reading

  • Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan LeFanu
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker