What we often call morality is in fact defense… The only morality adequate to the complexities of life is one that has been sculpted in the presence of the shadow.
— Thomas Moore, Dark Eros: The Imagination of Sadism
In no guise is the Demon Lover gentle. He’s an erotic force of nature. He’ll gobble you up like a wolf, drain you dry and leave you wanting more. He’ll compose fantastic symphonies in your honor before killing you, or lead you “over the mountain” and “into the woods.” His “teeth do brightly shine,” even as he shifts from fox to wolf to stag to devil. As the “Black Man” of witch-hunt sabbat lore, he makes everyone literally kiss his ass. He “may be love’s bitch” but at least he’s man enough admit it.
So what’s up with Edward Cullen? How did we go from Pan, the Nephilm and Dracula to this shimmering emo-boy? Maybe it’s because, like all archetypes, this immortal figure shifts to accommodate his time and culture. And perhaps, in an age of rape drugs and porn sites, celebricults and pro-anorexia propaganda, our whole world has become a Demon Lover… and in that world, the real transgression is to care.
Edward Cullen cares about his paramour. Cares enough to avoid her, save her, challenge his own nature and risk the loss of immortality. Unlike the Demon Lovers who fill our daily lives, he’s willing to defy what he’s supposed to be in order tobecome better through the power of love. Yes, he’s a predator – a safer one than the world around him! He’s the animus protector for millions of young women, and if he seems feeble in comparison to, say, Dracula, then maybe it’s because so many of them have to be strong in their day-to-day lives.
In stories, the protagonist assumes an audience proxy role. Through that character, the audience vicariously lives the tale. And in Twilight, Bella Swan becomes a cipher, a blank screen onto which fans can project themselves. There, Edward both tempts and protects. He stops onrushing SUVs and hormones alike in their tracks. He’s the Bad Boy who cares enough about you to be good for a change. In our world, that’s no small thing. For millions of Twilight fans, it’s potent medicine for a sickening age.
As archetypes, the Demon Lover and the Temptress challenge us to recognize the shadow we crave both in mates and in ourselves. They inspire us to break rules, act carelessly, even spit in the face of our gods. They warn us of the costs of transgression, but make that transgression look so damned good we’re tempted to go there anyway. Maybe in that process, we might become whole, even on the edge of an abyss. We may perish, but at least we won’t be left wondering what it was we might have missed.
No sentient being in this world is allowed to remain innocent forever. In order for us to thrive, our own instructive nature drives us to face the fact that things are not as they seem. The wild creative function pushes us to learn about the many states of being, perception, and knowing… There, sometimes for the first time in our lives we have a chance to cease walking into walls of our making, and learn to pass through them instead.
— Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves
“The Daemon Lover,” “Lady Isabel and the Elf-Knight,” “The Raggle Taggle Gypsies” (aka “Black Jack Davy” and “The Gypsy Laddie”), “Reynardine” (aka “The Mountains High”), “Tam Lin” and many other traditional – and oft-revised – folk ballads
“Red Hot Riding Hood,” an MGM cartoon directed by Tex Avery
“Wolf” by Francesca Lia Block; appearing in The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold (Joanna Cotler Books/ HarperCollins, 2000)
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brönte (1847)
Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage by Lord George Byron (1812-1818)
“The Company of Wolves” by Angela Carter (from The Bloody Chamber, 1979); adapted by the author, along with various other tales, into the Neil Jordan film In the Company of Wolves (1984)
The Wraeththu series by Storm Constantine (1987-2008)
American Indian Myths and Legends, edited by Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz (Pantheon Books, 1984)
Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D (Ballantine Books, 1992)
Sirens and Other Daemon Lovers, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling (HarperPrism, 1998)
The English Novel: Form and Function by Dorothy van Ghent (International Thomson Publishing, 1953)
“Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Robber Bridegroom,” compiled by the Brothers Grimm (among others)
Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (1891)
Divine Madness: Archetypes of Romantic Love by John Ryan Hayle (Shambhala books, 1990)
The Incubus in English Literature: Provenance and Progeny by Nicolas Kiessling (Washington State University Press, 1977)
The Songs of Maldoror, by the Comte de Lautréamonet (aka, Isidore Ducasse; 1869)
“The Princess” by D.H. Lawrence (1924)
“Mr. Right” by Richard Christian Matheson; appearing inHot Blood: Tales of Provocative Horror, edited by Jeff Gelb and Lonn Friend (Pocket Book, 1989; originally published 1980)
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (Little-Brown, 2006)
For Love of the Dark One: Songs of Mirabai by Mirabai (Hohm Press, 1998)
Coyote Blue by Christopher Moore (Avon, 1994)
Dark Eros: The Imagination of Sadism by Thomas Moore (Spring Publications, 1990)
The Poisoned Embrace: A Brief History of Sexual Pessimism by Lawrence Osborne (Bloomsbury Publishing Ltd., 1993)
Demon-Lovers and Their Victims in British Fiction by Toni Reed (University Press of Kentucky, 1988)
Interview With the Vampire and The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice (Alfred A. Knopf, 1976, 1985)
Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV show) by Joss Whedon (1997-2003)
“Little Red” by Wendy Wheeler; appearing in Snow White, Blood Red, edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling (EOS/ HarperCollins, 1993)
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890)
The Misfits: A Study of Sexual Outsiders by Colin Wilson (Carroll & Graf, 1989)