Due to the fact that Traditional Vampires come in just about every shape and size not covered by Modern Vampires, doing a post about them in general is near impossible. So I’m going to stop doing the general V is for Vampire posts in favour of skipping straight ahead to the individual Bestiary posts – despite the fact that I will start by covering, one by one, all the traditional forms of Vampire. As many of these are less well known in general, if anyone has reputable sources of further information or finds any errors, I would be happy to improve any of the posts.
V is for Vampire Fruit and Vegetables
Common Name: Vampire Watermelon (or Pumpkin or Fruit or Vegetables)
Species: S. Strigoi
Binomial Name: S. Strigoi Curcurbita
Conservation Status: Endangered
Range: Vampire Fruits and Vegetables are traditionally from and found in the Balkans region, and have been spread – albeit rarely and in a very scattered manner – by the travels of the Romani people. Although in modern times the S. Strigoi Curcurbita is rare even in its place of origin.
Habitat: Vampire Fruits and Vegetables (traditionally, just gourds, but it has occasionally been expanded) are a very rare sight, although in recent years their situation has improved as they moved from Critically Endangered to just Endangered in conservational status. They are occasionally found in books and webcomics – typically humorous in nature – and in verbal jokes.
Evolution: It is difficult to give specifics about the evolution of plant-based vampires, given that it is unclear whether vegetable vampires were ever truly believed in or just created as a joke. Certainly the vampire originated in the 18th century and the belief that cats, dogs and inanimate objects left out on the full moon can become vampires is certainly an old one (we cannot give its dates for certain, but it certainly predates the beginnings of the Modern Vampire – S. Stokerii – in the 19th century). However, this variant – the vegetable vampire – cannot be proved to exist before the middle of the 20th century, when it was given a brief paragraph in one Tatomir Vukanović’s account of his travels through Serbia in the years 1933-1948. However, it is important to note that it is impossible to tell whether the people of the two towns in which he encountered this belief were telling him about real beliefs which had existed in their towns for some time, or whether it was simply one person playing a prank and the other people he talked with deciding to run with it. It is also possible that they were always a humorous joke within the traditional folklore. Nevertheless, this makes it one of the most recently evolved of the traditional vampires.
The descriptions of vampiric vegetables making noises, the “blood” that appears on them (actually a perfectly normal discolouration which occasionally appears after some time), and the descriptions of them stirring can be attributed to the normal process of decomposition (decomposition gases making noise and straining to escape a hard shell and possibly making the vegetable burst or roll, discolorations appearing on the outside, and the minor damage to humans, being easily caused by all the gases and filth that unintentionally keeping rotting food in your home, with your good food, can cause). This also makes sense as most traditional types of vampire are associated with rot.
Physical Description: Traditionally, S. Strigoi Curcurbita always takes the form of a pumpkin or watermelon with a “drop” of “blood” on its skin. However, possibly due to modern people’s lack of understanding of the differences between fruits and vegetables (and their uncertainty of what, exactly, defines a squash), modern times have seen S. Strigoi Curcurbita in many different formerly-edible plant forms.
Strengths: Some unspecified ability to cause harm to humans at night. Also; they have apparent ambulatory abilities, despite a lack of legs.
Weaknesses: Boiling water and fire, just like regular fruits and vegetables.
Diet: Unknown. Presumably blood.
Reproduction: It seems that vampire vegetables are less inclined to reproduce than they are to transform (spawn?) spontaneously. This happens in various ways: after normal watermelons or pumpkins have been “fighting each other” (I’m not going to try to explain how that one works), being kept for more than ten days after being ground, being kept after Christmas, when used as a siphon, or when left unopened for three years (which actually makes it far better preserved than normal gourds).
Behaviour: S. Strigoi Curcurbita don’t actually …do much. They make noises – this was transcribed by Tatomir Vukanović, as he was told it by those he interviewed, as “brrrl”. They stir and shake. Sometimes they wander around the house they are kept in at night and do minor harm to the people who live there. They do not appear to do anything to defend themselves when they are destroyed by being dropped into pots of boiling water.
Competition: None. They seem to get along well with the traditional vampires that take the form of inanimate objects, and nothing else seems to want that particular folk-ecological niche. Except vampire bunnies, which are from the kingdom Pop-culturia, and presumably eat vampire vegetables – making them predators, not competition.
Pros and Cons in Television:
Pros: Watermelons and pumpkins are not members of any television actors’ guilds and do not need to be paid or go on strike, and they’re easily switched out for others of their kinds.
Cons: Unless you are writing a children’s cartoon; no amount of special effects or jump scares can make these vampires believable. Moreover, if you’re not using them as a one off thing for a single episode – preferably an all just a dream episode – or an imagination spot in one scene, I wish you luck which you will desperately need to keep your funding after a script like that. If you’re intending to make them major players throughout a series, I sincerely hope it’s an animated piece staring anthropomorphised fruits and vegetables in general, otherwise you’re probably digging your own grave out in that vegetable patch.
Pros and Cons in Film:
Pros: If you’re making a B movie horror flick this might just be the monster for you, provided that your characters are very self-aware of the insanity of this particular danger and make “witty comments” about how the Explains Things Placeholder wise character has got to be kidding. If you are writing a parody of a horror film or just a straight up comedy this might also be a good choice of monsters. If you’re quite talented at drama, it might be worth considering as a delusion suffered by a mentally ill character, so long as none of the other characters are shown to believe it and it is played as a definite delusion. It would also, in that case, take a heck of a lot of explaining.
Cons: Where to start? Vampiric vegetables are not a well known thing, so the very premise is going to break the audience’s suspension of disbelief. In a film the sheer length of the story would require them to hold a great deal more story-weight than they are capable of taking. There is no way to make the special effects and props believable and especially not believably frightening. Working with food is always a nightmare. The only form of film vampire vegetables would make any sense in is horror flick parodies and those are always based on a real horror film trend that came first. Those who believe they are responsible for the morality of their country and protecting the innocence of children will misunderstand the message and assume it is “don’t eat vegetables” rather than the true “eat your vegetables before they become demonically-possessed, rot, and start eating you”.
Pros and Cons in Theatre:
Pros: Well …um. Yeah. I got nothing. Even if you’re allowed to eat your “co-star” vegetables each night to prevent them going off, because new ones will be bought the next day or are in the fridge, you’re going to be fucking sick of gourds by the wrap party – where the remains of it will be served.
Cons: Working with food is always a disaster. This is even more true of foods which, if they are dropped and hit the ground, will shatter irreparably between scenes rather than simply being filthy and easy to pile back on to the (plastic) plate – because actors are always eating weird shit anyway and really, who’s going to notice as long as you keep the other props people and the A.D. quiet? Fruits and vegetables are small and difficult to see from the audience, which is especially bad when they’re likely to be your antagonists. There’s always one idiot on set who will eat the prop by mistake. You’ll be constantly inundated by the stench of them and by the time the wrap party comes and they are served your stomach will turn at the thought of them. Bored actors will inevitably attempt to play catch and wind up breaking something. Do you really want to risk watermelon juice and pumpkin seeds in your expensive lights and sound equipment? Vegetables are extremely difficult to put on wires, strings or hidden wheeled boards so that they can look like they are moving under their own power. Foods may need to be replaced each night and therefore are exceedingly expensive. Stage make up on vegetables is not likely to work well, if it works at all. Working with food is always a disaster.
Pros and Cons in Books:
Pros: Vegetable vampires can make very good puns or one scene jokes. If you’re channelling Stephen King or are H.P. Lovecraft come again, or think you are either of those but are actually just running on your own steam of talent, you may be able to make vampiric vegetables sufficiently horrifying in a psychological horror, or drama, novel – so long as the focus is on delusion, obsession and mental illness, and not actual vegetables turning into actual vampires and actually attempting to suck your blood, because that’s just silly. Speaking of silly, if you are aiming your work at children then a vampiric fruit or vegetable could work very well – especially as a warning or explanation regarding food that may have gone off.
Cons: Regarding children’s stories, what I said earlier about overly-loudly-moral adults misunderstanding the message of a story with vampire vegetables (back in the film section) hold true here as well. For non-children’s stories, you have to explain and describe it very well in a manner which is funny and not directly lifted from when PTerry did it, in order to use vampire vegetables as a pun or one off scene. If you are going to make it your main focus, you had damn well better be good at writing psychological horror, because otherwise it’s going to be laughable rather than scary. In all cases the premise of vampiric vegetables is extremely off putting to the average audience and is not likely to sell well. There is also very little in general that can be done with it.