Fantasy art by Luis Royo
OUR MONSTERS ARE DIFFERENT (TV TROPES)
This index of tropes celebrates the diverse range of supernatural (or pseudo-supernatural) beings and creatures that populate the world of fantasy, generally originating from mythology or folklore. As the title indicates, they tend to have characteristics that define them as particular beings and creatures (even if occasionally in name only), but may otherwise have different characteristics from setting to setting.
Vampires are a good case in point. They tend to have some characteristics that define them as a vampire – typically a hunger or need for blood (or life force or something else equally as vital, so even that’s variable), but they can vary so widely for other characteristics. Take sunlight – does it kill them? In a fiery explosion? Or does it just weaken them or force them into dormancy? Or have any effect at all? Or an effect that depends on other factors, like the age of the vampire? (Or worst of all, does it make them sparkle?)
Rinse and repeat with any other vampire characteristic. I have a soft spot for the obsessive compulsive disorders of vampires in European folklore – like the Count in Sesame Street on crack. You could stop them with a pile of seeds or some similar small objects, which they would not be able to resist picking up and counting. Of course, you can see why this rarely translates into cinematic or televised format, as it would make confronting Dracula or slaying vampires much less dramatic or interesting.
Speaking of vampires, despite a whole range of supernatural beings or creatures, the world of fantasy in film and television often seems to be dominated by the holy (or unholy) trinity of standard horror – vampires, werewolves and zombies. For that matter, werewolves would seem to come a distant third to the leading duo of vampires and zombies. I tend to think that this is because they are so readily replicated by human actors with minimal effects, as opposed to more fantastic creatures – but also because they so readily symbolize aspects of the human condition. I remember reading (in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction) that they each tend to symbolize (or embody fearful stereotypes of) one of the three social classes – vampires as the aristocratic and exploitative (or decadent) upper class, werewolves as the middle class (dare I say it, in a dog-eat-dog competitive world and only able to ‘wolf’ it up in occasional periods of leisure) and zombies as the mindless masses of the lower class
Vampirella by Amanda Conner
As much as I love all three of these (and particularly vampire girls), there’s a whole range of other fantasy beings and creatures out there, as demonstrated by the index of tropes. Some are almost as standard – demons and ghosts, dragons and giants, dwarves and elves (or other ‘fair folk’), even angels and gods. Others are more exotic – the index also gives special feature to trolls, skeletons, banshees, centaurs, cryptids, gargoyles, genies, ghouls, goblins, gnomes, gryphons, homunculi, liches, mermaids, ogres, orcs, spirits, titans and wights. And then you get to the really weird and fantastic beings and creatures…