Thu, 19 October 2017
Blood-sucking. Hypnotizing. Shape shifting. Magical. Is this a vampire? No. It’s a Lamia. John Keats, today on The Classic Tales Podcast.
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The Lamia is the predecessor to the modern vampire. She is originally from Greek Mythology. Lamia was a mistress of the God Zeus. After a run-in with Zeus’ jealous wife Hera, Lamia was turned into a monster that devours children, resembling a snake.
Mothers throughout Europe used to frighten their children with stories of the Lamia, in hopes to induce good behavior.
Later traditions refer to many Lamiae. These were folkloric monsters similar to vampires and succubae that seduced young men and fed on their blood.
Today’s tale is a narrative poem composed of rhyming couplets. It tells the story of a rather sympathetic Lamia who is granted human form by the God Hermes. The major source of Keats’ material for the poem was a brief passage in Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy, published in 1621. It tells of the marriage of a 25 year old philosopher, Menippus Lycius, to “a phantasm in the habit of a fair gentlewoman”.
And now, Lamia, by John Keats.