Sherlock the Vampire…or the Vampire Hunter?

Looking at Sherlock Holmes through the lens of Dracula, he shares quite a few characteristics with the immortal blood-drinker.

At the very beginning of the first Sherlock Holmes story, his deductions are compared to supernatural powers: “You would certainly have been burned, had you lived a few centuries ago,” Watson declares (Doyle, 2). Immediately Sherlock is associated with the supernatural, his powers of deduction considered magical and witchlike. Dracula too is associated with the supernatural from the very beginning of the book (when he controls the wolves).

Doyle also makes a point of pointing out Sherlock’s more childish habits, such as when he “chuckled and wriggled on his chair, as was his habit when in high spirits” (22). This description is reminiscent of a few-month-old child wriggling on a high chair, or an excitable toddler who can’t sit still. In the BBC Sherlock TV show, you often see Sherlock throwing temper tantrums (such as this one or this one). Dracula is often compared to a child as well, with Dr. Van Helsing commenting “in some faculties of mind he has been, and is, an only child” (Stoker, 322) and often referring to Dracula’s “child-brain.”

Watson describes his time spent with Sherlock as one that “utterly submerged my mind” (Doyle, 91). His time as Sherlock’s companion consumed him, consumed his time and his thoughts almost completely – for all that he is married and should have a life outside of his adventures with Sherlock, his stories of Sherlock almost completely eclipse that part of his life and minimize any mention of his married life. In a similar fashion, Dracula can control the mind and actions of Mina when she is under his thrall; Dracula is described as a “controlling force subduing or restraining her, or inciting her to action” (Stoker, 350).

Despite the hopeless ending of “The Final Problem,” confirming Sherlock’s death, the release of the story “The Empty House” revived the detective, in a way granting him immortality. Even after his “death,” Sherlock Holmes never died in the minds and hearts of his fans – the publication of “The Empty House” simply made it official. The idea of Sherlock Holmes has never died, with countless reincarnations from print to movies to TV shows, from the 1800’s to the future. Dracula is an immortal being, as long as he continues to drink blood and avoids stakes to the heart, decapitation and sunlight. And he too, enjoys the immortality of multiple reincarnations across time and media.

Eating is not usually a priority for Sherlock, with work taking precedence: “We shall have time for a mouthful of dinner before we go” (Doyle, 95). This lack of eating is even more obvious in the BBC Sherlock (like when John and Sherlock are on their not-date and Sherlock puts aside the menu). Jonathan Harker notes that Dracula has a similar habit of not eating: “It is strange that as yet I have not seen the Count eat or drink” (Stoker, 33). Of course, the Count doesn’t eat or drink because he survives on blood; Sherlock doesn’t eat because “digestion slows [him] down.”

Watson describes Holmes as springing “like a tiger” (Doyle, 102), similarly to how Van Helsing describes Dracula: “‘But will not the Count take his rebuff wisely? Since he has been driven from England, will he not avoid it, as a tiger does the village from which he has been hunted?’… ‘This that we hunt from our village is a tiger, too, a man-eater, and he [will] never cease to prowl’ (Stoker, 341).

Sherlock himself, however, refers to himself as a tiger hunter and the criminal he is chasing as a tiger (Doyle, 103). In this comparison, Sherlock is the Van Helsing character who uses his knowledge and abilities to defend the status quo, rather than disrupt it like the criminals he reveals and punishes.

Despite his vampiric qualities, overall Sherlock Holmes’ motives align more with Van Helsing – they are both the bringers of justice, the knowledgeable outsiders who reinstate the status quo. The only reason British society admires and accepts these outsiders is that rather than defy the status quo, as vampires and criminals do, these outsiders focus on how to use their knowledge to defeat these disruptive influences and maintain the status quo – they are useful, and thus, they are accepted and revered.

One thought on “Sherlock the Vampire…or the Vampire Hunter?”

  1. I enjoyed the detailed and compelling close reading of the similarities between Sherlock Holmes and Dracula. While these two figures are not usually considered side by side, your argument links them quite clearly. In addition to what you’ve stated above we might add gender disruption to this list of similarity. Dracula is both masculine and feminine in many ways, and Sherlock also uses masculinity and femininity as tools to accomplish a task. I’m curious about what we learn about Dracula in comparing him to Sherlock. Could we find a Watson figure? Is blood Dracula’s cocaine? You open up interesting possibilities.

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