The North Tower #37: Severus Snape 3: The Vampire Rumours
Hi everybody. Had a bunch of essays due, sorry for the delay. You probably have no interest in knowing the details of my presently chaotic life, so I’ll just skip to today’s article. This is going to be the second last one on Snape for this time around, I think. Going over some of my earlier work, I realised that I have talked about our dear Potions Master quite a bit and I think weve covered the most important parts. Today, I wanted to address the question Is Severus Snape a Vampire?, before wrapping up the series next time with the What can we expect for this character before the end of the series?-discussion. So let’s get started, shall we?
The rumour/theory that Snape should actually turn out to be a vampire is a very persistent one. The people promoting it are usually very dedicated to their cause and probably won’t care too much about what I have to say on the subject. This doesn’t bother me; the main reason why I want to address the issue is because of the ambiguity of the source material, not because I want to prove anybody wrong/right (though I have my own opinion, which I think will be quite clear.)
From what I’ve understood when reading e-mails, posts in forums etc, the main arguments for why Snape should be a vampire are the following:
- He is referred to as a bat on several occasions (e.g. bat of the dungeons) and might have the ability to turn into one (Ron/Harry discussion in GoF).
- He has sallow skin.
- He usually stays in his dungeons.
- There’s a joke in PoA that maybe Hogwarts will get a vampire as their next DADA teacher.
- He walks around Hogwarts a lot during the night (or so it seems, always out of bed to catch Harry out of bed.)
- The fact that he shows himself outdoors on several occasions during daytime is explained by him being a Potion Master and thus possibly capable of creating some sort of potion or cream to protect himself against the sunlight.
This is all circumstantial evidence in the best of cases, and it’s quite easy to make an equally circumstantial case against Snape being a vampire. Fact remains that unless JKR says so, there is no solid proof for either position and we can argue over the question endlessly or devote our time to other things.
What I find interesting with the sort of argumentation carried on by both sides, however, is the underlying rules which everybody seem to agree on, yet which have never been outlined in the Rowling universe. As with many mythological creatures, there are different legends and theories surrounding them, giving different versions of how they are created, how they live, what can kill them, etc. The information surrounding vampires (in our world, that is) is a very good example. There are different theories and stories about them, simple as that. Let me give you some examples from different interpretations in modern day pop culture (since that is where most people get their conceptions of things, including me).
- When it comes to Dracula (one of the most famous vamps), the creatures of the night sleep in coffins and can turn into bats. You put a stake through the heart to make sure they wont rise again from their graves.
- In Buffy, staking equals puff of dust, holy water and crosses burn, and decapitation, sunlight and fire are the other ways of killing the undead menace. Some vampires have mental powers (thrall mind control), only Dracula (who makes a guest appearance in season five) can turn into a bat, and sleeping in coffins is such a stereotype. In Buffy (and the spin-off Angel), theres a whole vampire culture, complete with customs such as staying in on Halloween, which is dead for the undead. Buffy vampires were first created when some of the pure demons of old mixed themselves with humans before getting kicked out of our dimension.
- In White Wolf’s roleplaying rules for Vampire, the Dark Ages, a vampire can’t eat or drink anything which hasn’t got blood in it. The first vampire was the biblical figure Cain (Adam and Eves son), and vampires adhere to different clans, determining their physical, mental and social attributes. If one vampire drinks another vampires blood three times, it becomes enslaved to the other. (And many other examples)
My point is that everyone who writes about vampires tweaks the different legends to suit their purpose. One might like the coffins, another wants his vampires to be able to eat normal food (e.g. Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer or the vampires drinking wine in Interview with a Vampire). A third wants to be able to get around the sunlight issue and so on. What most people seem to agree upon is that a vampire a) drinks blood, b) doesn’t have a reflection, c) doesn’t like stakes, fire, sunlight, crosses or holy water, d) can sire a new vampire by drinking all their blood and then letting the victim drink some of theirs.
JKR won’t necessarily make use of all this, should she choose to include vampires in her story. She has the same right to pick and choose from the pool of vampiric legend as any other author. So far, she has only told us very few of the rules that exist for vampirism in the Potterverse. From Neville’s confusion with the vampire essay he needs to write (in PoA), we know that there is something about garlic, and we know from PS/SS that Quirrell bumped into some blood-suckers in the Black Forest. That’s pretty much it, and until JKR gives us more facts, most argumentation becomes pointless, since we simply don’t know whether this or that rule applies in Harry Potter.
Nevertheless, let’s look at the above arguments for why Snape should be a vampire (mainly because its fun to see the mix of influence, and to show how the no-side can be argued as well :-)).
- Number one is based on the Dracula legend of vampires as bats. We have no idea if this holds true in the Potterverse or if Snape is actually capable of this transformation (though he could technically be an unregistered animagus). The reference as bat is usually made with reference to his black robes, billowing around him and might very well be a normal insult without deeper meaning.
- Number two refers to the idea that vampires should be pale. Snape’s skin is described as sallow, which is not quite the same thing. Sallow indicates yellowish, sickly-looking skin, though it usually implies pale as well.
- Number three is based on the vampires presumed need to stay out of sunlight and dwell in dark places. When it comes to Snape, the bloke both lives and works in the dungeons. That’s where he’s supposed to be. It would be a lot more noteworthy if we kept seeing him in the Astronomy Tower.
- Number four is an example of the fact that as soon as something is mentioned and/or joked about in the books, at least one person immediately draws the conclusion that this is going to happen later on. This isn’t necessarily true. Some things are elements of foreshadowing, I completely agree, and the examples are many. Still, there are a lot of jokes and mentions of things which will most likely never play out and which are just there for comic relief. Personally, I think that the maybe well get a vampire as DADA teacher-joke has the feeling of a foreshadowing comment, and there might very well be a vampire in books 6 and/or 7. To make it Snape simply because he’s supposed to want the DADA job is a bit of a stretch in my opinion.
- Number five is a reference to the creature of the night image. Snape does seem to patrol more than the other teachers (not as much as Filch though), but then we don’t know how patrol is organised. Quite possibly, Harry is just unlucky to run into him on the specific nights when he sneaks out under the invisibility cloak.
- The Potion/cream/sunlight protection idea exists both in BtVS and Vampire (the roleplaying game), where you have the Gem of Amarra in one and some high level spells and nifty magical diamonds in the other. To the but he is such a gifted Potions Master-argument, I’d like to counter with the fact that Snape was outdoors during the day in the Pensieve memory – at the age of sixteen and most likely before his skills with potions reached the level he has in the actual series. Provided that he was already a vampire back then hm, hm ..
I’d like to develop the age-issue a little further. When it comes to describing Snape, JKR is quite consistent: the sixteen-year-old memory has the same characteristics as the thirty-something teacher version (sallow skin, lank black hair, big nose ). One of the general vampire characteristics that pretty much everyone agrees on is that a vampire is dead. Since they are dead, they don’t age. So, in order for Snape to be a vampire (provided that JKR doesn’t invent her own mythology concerning them), he needs to a) have died/been sired and b) stay that age forever. Now, the appearance hasnt changed that much since he was a teenager, but he has aged since then. He’s only in his early thirties when Harry comes to Hogwarts and only in his early twenties when he first starts to teach there. He’s never referred to as a young man (cf. Quirrell), and it seems rather unlikely to me that he would have been turned while working at Hogwarts, after Voldemorts fall and under Dumbledores protection. And if hed become a vampire while still an active Death Eater, he would look like an eternal twenty-year-old. (Aha! Unless he uses an ageing potion to hide this fact! I can hear you shout from across the digital abyss. But would it work on somebody who’s not alive? I would counter. And so on, which only serves to underline my previous argument that we don’t have enough facts to make a solid case here.)
What I wonder about most when thinking about Rowling and vampires is where they would fit into the wizard society. Honeydukes carries blood-flavoured lollipops (presumably for vampire clients) in their selection, which should indicate that there are at least a few possible customers in the village (unless the sweets are just made as a joke, like some of the other flavours seem to be), but the only ones weve heard about live in the Black Forest (PS/SS). On another note, werewolves have their own entry in Magical Beasts and Where to Find Them, vampires don’t, which I find very odd. Vampires arent even mentioned in the introduction, where the definitions of a beast are described and discussed. If vampires in the Potterverse were to follow the demon-in-a-human-body model, the vampire would most likely be considered a beast, since it hunts, feeds on and kills a lot of people. Considering that theres said to be quite a bit of legislation against friendly half-breeds such as merpeople and werewolves, it would be quite remarkable for vampires to go free, even if a vampire in Rowling’s world would turn out to be something quite harmless and essentially human. And I severely doubt this, since the species was listed amongst the dark creatures studied in DADA in PoA.
The bottom line when it comes to vampires, though, is that a) they drink blood and b) they are dead (or undead as the term has it). If you remove one of those characteristics, its hard to see how the creature would still be a vampire. (Some people make it work though. If you want an original and very interesting take on the Snape-as-a-vampire theme, I recommend the story Forbidden Obsession by Corazon at Ashwinder.sycophanthex.com. Warning: This article is NC-17. It adds a whole new dimension to the vampire legends, dividing vampires into two kinds alive and undead. Well worth a read.) If Snape were a vampire, hed need to feed somehow, and I doubt that Dumbledore would allow him to snack on the students. And an Angel solution (giving him a soul and making him good) would just feel so wrong somehow. 🙂
I would like to see JKR elaborate on the vampire theme and include a creature of the night as a character in future books, and there is nothing saying that she wont do that. I don’t think she’ll upgrade Snape into one though, for the main reason that I dont see what his character has to gain by this transformation. There is so much she already has to work with when it comes to him, and I personally think that a human backstory would be far more interesting than the discovery that he’s really a controlled demon, drinking potions and avoiding mirrors so as not to get discovered. The case against him, as it stands, is highly circumstantial and we dont even know if the rules that form the grounds for these arguments hold true in the Potterverse. So far, weve only seen one instance of vampirism in the series and it had nothing to do with Snape it was Quirrellmort drinking the blood from the unicorn.
Personally, I don’t believe that Severus Snape is a vampire any more than I believe that Lupin is actually James Potter (which I was right about, hehe :-)). And until JKR at least defines what a vampire is and how it functions in her world, I dont really think that its possible to make a solid case. For either side.
See you next time, I’ll probably wrap up the Snape-series then. If you have a special issue you wish me to address (which I haven’t already discussed that is), please send it to me through the feedback form.