J. Sheridan LeFanu – Carmilla

Carmilla

A young woman living at her father’s castle is the narrator of this novella. When a mysterious and beautiful stranger is stranded at the castle in odd circumstances and becomes a guest, the heroine quickly forms a close bond with her –but she subsequently discovers that her “friend” has a dark and lethal secret.

So gather round all, we’re gonna have a lil history lesson about this nice novella. First, it’s categorized as horror (note horror, not romance, just putting that out there now because it may seem like a romance as you get along) because vampires fall under ‘things that go bump in the night’ but truth be told, it’s not actually scary (hello, biggest scaredy-cat ever here – I cover my eyes when I walk past a horror movie). And yes, it has vampires. It’s basically a female Dracula EXCEPT its came out 26 years before the beloved Stoker version so this is the original and really doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Oh yeah, it’s a pretty old story (1872) and gothic vibes and pretty much just not the usual teen read of the month type thing that you usually see here but I felt like an exception has to be made here.

Okay, it’s actually a pretty neat little story. I actually have no idea what Dracula is about so I don’t know if they’re similar or not but the plot is pretty simple. This girl, Laura, (her name is mentioned only once the entire story), lives in Styria (yes this is a real place)

and she’s recounting basically the tale that changed her life. She lives basically in a castle schloss in the middle of nowhere with her father and governesses and that’s it and she’s pretty socially deprived which she says multiple time. Anyways, their closest neighbor, General Spielsdorf, had planned a visit to their schloss with his niece but at the last minute cancels the trip because his niece has died. His letter to Laura and her father does not mention a cause of death.

Well, Laura’s pretty upset that her potential friend isn’t coming anymore but lo and behold, that very night, a carriage crashes on their front lawn. A lady and her daughter are in the carriage and the daughter is unconscious. The lady is adamant that she has to continue her trip but she has to leave her daughter somewhere because she would not be able to handle the pace of the trip in her condition. Laura’s father volunteers to house the girl until the lady returns in 3 months. The lady and the carriage people strike the entire household as slightly off but they shrug it off. The lady leaves and the girl is escorted inside where as soon as she returns consciousness, Laura goes to greet her.

She’s shocked when she realizes that this is the exact same girl that was in a nightmare of hers when she was six or so and the girl apparently had dreams of her too. They immediately become friends. All Laura is able to find out about the girl is that her name is Carmilla and that she’s not allowed to disclose information about her family.

Carmilla says lots of pretty words to Laura and Laura falls in love with Carmilla but is also slightly repulsed by her. Carmilla falls absolutely and unquestionably in love with Laura and always walks with her, compliments her and calls her pet names. The words that Carmilla says are very eloquent and beautiful and would make you want to run around on the street screaming ‘THE FEELS! THE FEELS!’ but you also get a sense that this is not a typical romance.

Carmilla also has some odd habits:

-she doesn’t wake up until noon                                                                                                                                  -eats very little, usually just drink a cup of chocolate                                                                                                      -gets exhausted easily when they walk around outside

Laura notes that Carmilla is ususally very  languid  and calm, losing her temper on only two occasions, both of which Laura recounts. Then one day, a picture restorer comes around to return some pictures he restored and wow, what do you know, one of them, of a Mircalla Karnstein dated 1698, looks exactly like Carmilla. Laura loves the picture so much she hangs it in her room but Carmilla herself doesn’t seem to care much about the picture. They take a walk and look at the moon together and then Carmilla says some words that sound like a farewell but Laura writes it off as Carmilla being unwell.

After that, Laura starts having nightmares and loses her health rapidly. Her dreams pretty much dominate the last half of the book and she’s freaked out and stuff and then various peoples start hinting at…. well you know, vampires. SORRY SPOILER ALERT but its pretty obvious (to us) that Carmilla is a vampire. And I also kinda already said it at the very beginning. sorry. And the picture (Mircalla is an anagram of Carmilla)

Basically, it doesn’t end pretty. For Laura or Carmilla. It’s not a happily ever after (because vampire + 17th century) but it is a hella good ending. It ends conclusively and strongly and when you finish, you’re just like…. damn. It’s short so might as well give it a read, eh? It’s probs 80-100 pages (i’m not sure because my copy doesn’t have page numbers) but it’s a quick read that will probably be more than you expect. Just saying.

MEMORABLE QUOTES (remember when I said Carmilla says some pretty words?):

I have been in love with no one and never shall, unless it should be with you” – Chapter V Probably the best worded sentence in this entire book

Darling, darling, I live in you; and you would die for me, I love you so.”  -Chapter V Laura reacts to this by thinking that Carmilla is ill (Laura isn’t much of a romantic)

You are mine, you shall be mine, you and I are one forever.”  -Chapter IV Laura freaks out at this (understandably since they’ve only known each other a day or so)

Dearest, your little heart is wounded; think me not cruel because I obey the irresistible law of my strength and weakness; if your dear hear is wounded, my wild heart bleeds with yours. In the rapture of my enormous humiliation I live in your warm life, and you shall die — die, sweetly, die — into mine. I cannot help it; as I draw near to you, you, in your turn, will draw near to others, and learn the rapture of that cruelty, which yet is love; so, for a while, seek to know no more of me and mine but trust me with all your loving spirit.” – Chapter IV  Carmilla’s response to Laura trying to find out about her past. Yes, Carmilla can be a bit long winded but definitely eloquent and every thing she says is basically a declaration of love (which clues you in that this probably isn’t actually the romance you thought it was (or even a romance for that matter))

Rate: 4/5

**Okay okay, in case any of you were wondering (pretty sure no one), where I found this dusty old story from, I’ll tell you. I first found this delightful webseries on YouTube called, well, Carmilla. It loosely, very loosely  follows the plot of LeFanu’s novella. As in Carmilla and Laura get the happy-ier ending that the novella doesn’t have. It’s about a girl, Laura, who is just basically documenting her life at Silas University where some weird stuff happens. I am utterly obsessed with it right now because it’s just so cute and might probably be more interesting than the book itself.

You can binge watch it here > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4QzRfvkJZ4&list=PLbvYWjKFvS5rX2yv-k5AJ8oxPoZ9zHcpe

The two leading ladies

Elise Bauman as Laura Hollis

Natasha Negovanlis as Carmilla Karnstein

Each episode is only 2-5 minutes roughly, some are longer. But yeah, that’s where the desire to read a centuries old short story that almost no one has heard of, came from. (WARNING: RATED H FOR HELLA GAY)

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