“The Soldier and the Vampire” is a Russian fairy tale found within the collection “Draculea” and included by William Ralston Shedden-Ralston in the volume “Russian Fairy Tales.” The story specifically belongs to the section dedicated to ghost stories.

As always, before proceeding, we remind you that this column is in collaboration with Bloody Reader and we remind you to also read their article.

The Soldier and the Vampire – Plot

Russian Fairy Tales- A Choice Collection of Muscovite Folk-lore- Annotated by William Ralston Shedden Ralston
Russian Fairy Tales- A Choice Collection of Muscovite Folk-lore- Annotated by William Ralston Shedden Ralston
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A soldier, returning to his village, glimpses a figure in a cemetery at night. He soon realizes that it is the Vampire (Warlock) that his friend had spoken to him about that same afternoon. Nevertheless, the soldier decides to spend the night with him in an attempt to discover his intentions.

Review

The story of the soldier and the vampire is very different from the tales we have seen so far as it is a true fairy tale, intended to be such. This differentiates it from texts like “The Nabeshima Cat,” which is more of a legend.

As in the cat story, however, the soldier represents that common man who finds himself unexpectedly becoming a hero not so much for his strength but particularly for his wit and his ability to turn the situation to his advantage.

The Warlock or Strigoi: other ways of defining a vampire

The term used within the fairy tale to define the vampire is that of Warlock, which, as we will see better tomorrow, refers to the term strigoi. The term Strigoi is in fact the term used in Russia, but also in other Baltic countries and in Romania.

Russian fairy tales are no exception and use this term. The strigoi, a term that in some texts is also referred to as the figure of Dracula, has in addition to the standard characteristics of a vampire, some magical abilities.

Un antidoto contro l'ateismo Henry More British Library digitised image from page 217 of "Varney, the vampyre : or, The Feast of blood"
Title: “Varney, the vampyre : or, The Feast of blood”
Author(s): Rymer, James Malcolm, approximately 1814-1884 [person]
British Library shelfmark: “Digital Store RB.23.a.31447”
Page: 217
© British Library

In the fairy tale we have examined, the creature shows the ability to take on the animal form (whether it is one or multiple animals at once). It also explains what its weaknesses are, which include sunlight, which immediately puts it into a deep sleep state. As we have already seen in other stories, it is also possible to end its existence by burning its body.

However, there is an important clause: no part of the vampire’s body must escape the fire. And this is to be understood even in the numerous animal forms.

The magical element

The magical element in the fairy tale environment is often present, whether it is owned by the antagonist or, on the contrary, by a helper of the protagonist.

In this specific case, however, it highlights the characteristics of a creature, which, if partly from the fantastic, on the other hand is quite common among myths and legends not only in the indicated area but that have crossed all of Europe, albeit with different names.

The magic of the vampire, of the warlock, is clearly a kind of dark magic as is often found in these stories of spirits and ghosts, but perhaps that is also one of the aspects that makes them interesting.

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