Sunday, 2 November 2008

Nosferatu annotated

Following up from my list of annotated editions of Dracula, I always find it interesting to see what they have to say about the origins of the word 'nosferatu' in connection with Abraham Van Helsing's words about the 'Un-Dead':

'Before we do anything, let me tell you this; it is out of the lore and experience of the ancients and of all those who have studied the powers of the Un-Dead. When they become such, there comes with the change the curse of immortality; they cannot die, but must go on age after age adding new victims and multiplying the evils of the world; for all that die from the preying of the Un-Dead becomes themselves Un-Dead, an prey on their kind. And so the circle goes on ever widening, like as the ripples from a stone thrown in the water. Friend Arthur, if you had met that kiss which you know of before poor Lucy die; or again, last night when you open your arms to her, you would in time, when you had died, have become nosferatu, as they call it in Eastern Europe, and would all time make more of those Un-Deads that so have fill us with horror.' (chapter XVI, 29 September)

So here is what the editors of the various annotated editions have to say:

Leonard Wolf (1975, 1993): 'A Romanian word meaning "not dead".'

Raymond McNally and Radu Florescu (1979): 'Stoker got this name from Emily Gerard's book The Land Beyond the Forest; the word may be a distortion of one of the Romanian words for devil, necuratru, which also means 'unclean'.'

Nina Auerbach and David J. Skal (1997): In a note to the appended excerpt from Emily Gerard's Transylvanian Superstitions they say: 'The word nosferatu appears in no Romanian or Hungarian dictionary, nor in any standard text on Eastern European folklore available to Gerard. It is possible she mistook a usage of the Romanian adjective nesuferit ("plaguesome") in connection with vampires and inadvertantly coined the now familiar term.'

Clive Leatherdale (1998, 2006): 'The word comes from 'Transylvanian Superstitions'.' He also comments on Van Helsing's speech by saying that 'to claim that vampirism spreads exponentially cannot be sustained, for otherwise the world would have long been vampirised.'

Leslie S. Klinger (2008): 'The term "nosferatu" is borrowed from Emily Gerard's 1885 "Transylvanian Superstitions," although subsequent scholars believe she misunderstood the actual Transylvanian word. For example, J. Gordon Melton (The Vampire Book) states that the word is a derivative of the Greek word nosophoros, meaning "plague carrier," whereas David Skal (V is for Vampire) contends that Gerard "must have recorded a corrupted or misunderstood version of the Roumanian adjective 'nesuferit' from the Latin 'not to suffer.'" Klinger then adds: 'In Mel Brooks's delicious Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995), Van Helsing (played by Brooks) advises the disturbed Jonathan Harker (Steven Weber) about the recently turned Lucy. "She's alive?" Harker asks. Van Helsing replies, "She's Nosferatu." Harker blurts out: "She's Italian?"'


[Septima] said...

Do you know where can i download J. Gordon Melton,The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead, the ebook?
The book doesnt exist where i live.

Niels K. Petersen said...

Unfortunately, I have no idea whether an e-book edition exists at all. However, I think you can purchase the 'physical' book at a reasonable price if you look at various internet shops, but do remember to look for the second edition! Currently marketplace sellers at offer it from $7.72.

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