Growing Up With Vampires: Twilight, The Originals and Other (Vampire) Stories

The Originals (2013). Image Credits: CW Network

I was born in the ’90s so I had the opportunity to witness the mass phenomenon that was Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight novel; I was 14 years old when the book series became incredibly popular in Italy and I still remember when the first book in the series, with its iconic cover featuring two white hands holding a red apple, became a common presence on school desks thanks to word of mouth among my classmates. It was the year 2008 (it had been three years since Twilight was published in the States); at that time Facebook was in its infancy, while Instagram and TikTok were yet to be founded. The concept of “viral” as we know it today did not yet exist (think of what is happening these days with Greta Gerwig’s upcoming Barbie movie, whose teaser trailer has accumulated more than 13 million views on YouTube in just 48 hours), but in 2008 the popularity of the book series was mainly due to the imminent release of the Twilight film adaptation starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. I remember spotting the Twilight novels everywhere, passed from hand to hand and read by dozens of my peers, including those who were not particularly fond of reading. Having been an avid reader since I was a child (my parents recall that I learned to read when I was less than four years old), I was urged to buy Twilight and immersed myself in reading the novel that was probably my official introduction to the world of vampires. I say official because I have actually been a fan of horror tales since primary school; I used to love R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series (to which I would like to devote a separate blog article), published during the 1990s and early 2000s and including more than 60 titles. Although there was no vampire present as a recurring character, the 21st Goosebumps book, titled Vampire Breath, was among my favorites in the series.

The book numbered just over 100 pages and was both chilling and humorous. Although vampires were already present in the history of film and literature, Twilight signified the birth of a genre of its own, which became one of the main subcategories of the fantasy novel.

Twilight book cover. Image Credits: Little, Brown and Company


Reading Twilight was like discovering something completely new and distinguished: the books helped establish the paranormal romance genre, and Twilight was one of the first novels in which the human protagonist falls in love with a supernatural being. The plot revolves around Bella Swan, a teenager who has recently moved to live with her father in the rainy town of Forks( in the Washington state), where she falls madly in love with a schoolmate, the vampire Edward Cullen. The series consists of four novels, and although it is full of supernatural elements and fights between fantastic creatures, the story focuses mainly on the love story between the two main characters, which is also full of twists and turns. Twilight created a real cult following in those years, especially with the release of all four films based on the books; the Bella/Edward/Jacob love triangle helped create Team Edward and Team Jacob “groups” (I remember changing my opinion on this matter several times back in the day) and fifteen years later the series remains a staple of late 2000s/early 2010s pop culture. The love story between Bella and Edward was a perfect representation of thwarted love and the meeting of different worlds; moreover, Bella’s character is portrayed as shy and clumsy, so it was easy for most teenagers of the time (including yours truly) to identify with her. Twilight has recently been rediscovered by today’s teenagers, who review the book series, make parodies of scenes from the movies and mimic Bella’s style on TikTok; personally, however, I would be very interested in visiting some of the places where the series was filmed, especially Cannon Beach in Oregon and Montepulciano in Central Italy (Volterra in the books).

: Growing Up With Vampires: Twilight, The Originals and Other (Vampire) Stories
The Vampire Diaries (2009). Image Credits: The CW Network


Between my second and third year of high school, I had to read Bram Stoker’s Dracula because it was one of the required reads in my literature course and I found it incredibly fascinating also thanks to its epistolary novel structure. This happened in parallel with the airing of the first season of The Vampire Diaries, which consecrated the figure of the vampire as the protagonist of the literary paranormal romance genre; based on the books by Lisa J. Smith (which I read simultaneously with the release of the show), The Vampire Diaries quickly achieved worldwide popularity. The series follows Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev), a teenager living in the fictional town of Mystic Falls, Virginia, whose life gets turned upside down when she discovers that her boyfriend Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley) is actually a vampire. He realizes that Elena looks exactly like Katherine Pierce, the vampire who turned him and his brother Damon into vampires in 1864. Both brothers fall in love with Elena and thus become a constant presence in her life. This brings havoc to the small town of Mystic Falls, which is often involved in supernatural situations, being the place where vampires and hybrids have been created since the Middle Ages, a time when it was simply a werewolf village that also counted the presence of some witches.

In addition to humans (mainly Elena’s schoolmates and a few Mystic Falls residents), most of the characters in The Vampire Diaries are supernatural creatures such as vampires, werewolves and witches, and even some of the human characters are destined to transform over the course of the seasons. The Vampire Diaries ends after the eighth season, but after the fourth season, a spin-off titled The Originals was created due to the incredible popularity of the character of Klaus Mikaelson (Joseph Morgan), one of the Original vampires whose origins date back to the 10th century A.D. , when Mystic Falls was just a village mainly inhabited by werewolves. Klaus and his siblings Elijah, Rebekah, Kol and Finn were turned into vampires by their own mother Esther, a witch, who created a new, werewolf-resistant species; they thus represent the first vampires to appear on earth.

The Originals (2013). Image Credits: The CW Network

The introduction of these characters allowed for an endless number of plot twists; Klaus was the main antagonist in The Vampire Diaries from the second to the fourth season, before becoming the undisputed protagonist of The Originals. This was mainly due to Joseph Morgan’s extraordinary talent as Klaus and to the fact that the writing team behind TVD and The Originals masterfully developed the plot and key characteristics not only of Klaus but also of the other characters that make up The Originals. Morgan said of his character, “I feel that for Klaus there is no line between right and wrong. He does what he wants. […] He is the most terrifying character ever seen in Mystic Falls. […] Just when you think he can’t get any scarier and you say, ‘All right, that has to be the last terrible thing he does,’ he does worse. The element of surprise and casual fun with which he goes through this transformation makes him very dangerous.” I intend to avoid spoilers as much as I can (although both series ended a few years ago), but I would like to point out that The Originals allowed the character of the vampire/werewolf hybrid Klaus to show multiple sides of his personality (plus, Joseph Morgan got to showcase his immense talent as an actor); over the course of the spin-off seasons, Klaus goes through a series of changes and it is even possible to talk about character redemption with the end of the fifth and final season of The Originals.

While I have a sentimental attachment to The Vampire Diaries because it was one of the first TV series I fell in love with as a teenager (compared to the books, on the other hand, I only enjoyed the first two because I prefer the TV series plot), I think The Originals is the best vampire TV show I have seen so far. While The Vampire Diaries tended to focus on the romantic relationships between the various characters with incursions by supernatural enemies over the course of the seasons, The Originals dealt with themes such as family, both surrogate and non-surrogate, sibling relationships, and the importance of supporting each other during tough times. The Vampire Diaries changed pace a bit with the exit of Nina Dobrev as Elena at the end of season six, so I struggled to follow the last two seasons because I did not particularly love the narrative cues, especially regarding the antagonists and one of the love entanglements (although I found the relationship between Bonnie and Enzo very well-developed). Nevertheless, I think the series finale was very moving; not as much as The Originals, which made me cry a lot and which I kept thinking about for many days afterwards.

The plot of The Originals is very intricate; it is a show with darker aspects than TVD (it also features a number of dark objects as key elements in the unfolding of the story) and the characters all have a Shakespearean feel to them. Set in the French Quarter of the city of New Orleans (which I want to visit so badly), it follows the lives of the Original hybrid Klaus Mikaelson and his family, amid intrigue, dangerous enemies, betrayal, and deadly fights. Even though it is a supernatural series, the psychological characteristics and relationships between the different characters make it incredibly human.

Besides the Original creatures Klaus, Elijah, Rebekah, Kol, Finn, and Freya (the eldest sister, who is a witch), other characters include vampire Marcel Gerard (Charles Michael Davis), a sort of “surrogate son” and frenemy of Klaus’s, sorcerer Vincent Griffith (Yusuf Gatewood), who is a loyal friend of Marcel’s, and Davina (Danielle Campbell), a young witch who was saved by Marcel from a coven of witches. Among the main characters are Hayley (Phoebe Tonkin), a werewolf with whom Klaus had his daughter Hope (played by actress Summer Fontana as a child and later by Danielle Rose Russell), who over the seasons of The Originals becomes a key character around whom most of the events revolve. I found the father-daughter relationship between Klaus and Hope particularly moving, especially because it brought out the “human” side of Klaus.

The series ending was very emotional and bittersweet but at the same time it gave meaning to the whole story and left room for a spin-off titled Legacies, which aired from 2018 to 2022.

Legacies (2018). Image Credits: The CW Network

Legacies chronicles Hope Mikaelson’s life as a teenager and student at the Salvatore School for the Young and Gifted, founded by Alaric Saltzman and Caroline Forbes at the end of The Vampire Diaries (the two were among the main characters of TVD from start to finish). Only a few characters from The Originals appear in Legacies and only in certain episodes; the main protagonists are Hope and her fellow students, who face numerous challenges against dangerous enemies and dark forces that threaten the stability of the school. The series has many dark academia vibes and in some ways reminds me a lot of the dynamics witnessed in Harry Potter. I am currently finishing the second season and overall I find the show to be well done, although the target audience is different from The Originals because Legacies is more appealing to teenagers, given also the age of the main characters. The romantic element is always included (Hope begins a relationship with the human-in-reality-supernatural Landon, played by actor Aria Shahghasemi, and there are also some LGBT relationships, certainly in keeping with the times) but the suspenseful story mainly focuses on the clashes between supernatural creatures and the eternal struggle between good and evil. Hope is a wonderful character and the writers did a great job in its development; although she has been somewhat scarred by the traumatic events of the past, she is incredibly gifted as a “tribrid”, independent, loyal to her comrades, and willing to sacrifice herself for the greater good.


The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice. Image Credits: Loren Cutler

One of my absolute favorite books with vampire characters is Interview With The Vampire (the eponymous movie is amazing as well). I love Anne Rice’s novels and have recently purchased an autographed copy of Prince Lestat, which I intend to read in the near future. Another writer who wrote a lot about vampires is Richelle Mead, both in the Georgina Kincaid series (which I have yet to read) and in Vampire Academy, which has a spin-off series titled Bloodlines. Both series belong to the paranormal romance genre and I am very much into Vampire Academy. The writing is fantastic and so are the characters; it is also quite humorous (I have yet to read Bloodlines). As for the adaptations, the Vampire Academy movie came out in 2014 and was not very successful; a 2022 TV adaptation by Julie Plec seems to have appealed more to the audience despite being canceled after its first season aired on Peacock; it might find another network so I am willing to watch it anyway. Julie Plec also wrote a book trilogy based on The Originals; although it has mixed reviews, I would like to read that as well. Many years ago I read a book trilogy titled A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, starring a vampire and a witch as the main characters, and I would like to re-read it before watching its TV adaptation. A very engaging book series about vampires was Blue Bloods by Melissa de La Cruz; I read it in the early 2000s and it may be described as The Vampire Diaries-meet-Gossip Girl.

There are also numerous vampire-themed books that I haven’t read yet but have heard very good things about: Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno Garcia, Empire Of The Vampire by Jay Kristoff, The Southern Book Club Guide To Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix, Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist , Salem’s Lot by Stephen King and Vampires In The Lemon Grove by Karen Russell. I have also been recommended Woman, Eating by Claire Kohda , Our Share of Night by Mariana Enriquez (which came out very recently and has a peculiar plot), The Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R Ward and A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising by Raymond A. Villareal (the latter was recommended by Joseph Morgan on Instagram a few years ago).

As for TV shows, apart from Vampire Academy and A Discovery of Witches I wouldn’t mind watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer because it was very popular in the late 1990s when I was a kid. I saw a few episodes at the time because my nanny was a fan of the show, and it is one of the first paranormal series ever created. The First Kill is a recent Netflix series that I am interested in checking out as well. What We Do In The Shadows, described on iMDB as “a look at the daily (or rather nocturnal) lives of three vampires who have lived together for over 100 years on Staten Island”, seems very interesting and I have been told it is incredibly funny.

Regarding vampire movies, besides Interview With The Vampire (1994) I also enjoyed Underworld (2000), Only Lovers Left Alive (2013), Byzantium (2012) and Near Dark (1987). For those who do not particularly like the horror genre I suggest Vampires Vs the Bronx (2020), which I included in my Halloween movie recommendation article, because it is primarily a dark comedy. I saw 30 Days of Night (2007) many years ago but remember little of the film so I will have to watch it again soon. I would also like to watch Nosferatu (1922) because it is one of the first classics starring a vampire, like the old movies with actor Bela Lugosi in the role of Dracula.

Why do we like vampires so much? Probably it has to do with the fact that they are mysterious and fascinating creatures; they often trigger repressed desires and hidden fears in human beings. They connect us to our dark side and epitomize the idea of immortality. Whatever the reason may be, the popularity of vampires in classic literature and pop culture is likely to endure.


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