Red Riding Hood is one of the oldest fairy tales, with some versions dating back to the 14th Century. The best known telling of the story is by the Brothers Grimm, and starts with Red Riding Hood crossing through a forest to visit her grandmother. She is approached by a wolf who asks her where she is going; in her innocence she tells him. He suggests she pick some flowers, and rushes off to the grandmother's house ahead of her. He gobbles up the old lady, then gets into her bed and disguises himself as her. When Red Riding Hood arrives, she does not notice at first; the deception gradually dawns on her as she utters the famous phrases about what big hands, eyes and teeth Granny has. The wolf then eats her too, but luckily a huntsman appears and cuts her and her grandmother out of the sleeping wolf's belly, replacing them with heavy stones. When the wolf awakens, he goes outside to drink from the well; the weight of the stones makes him fall in and he drowns.
There are many variations. In Charles Perrault's story, no huntsman arrives and nobody survives. In older versions, Red Riding Hood escapes through her own wits, rather than with male assistance. The story has been interpreted in a number of ways, from a simple tale of warning about the dangers of predators in the forest, to symbolising the girl's passage into womanhood.
quondam means former.
This is an allusion to the story of the Prodigal Son, as told in the Gospel of Luke (15:11-32).
The Prodigal Son asks his father to give him his inheritance early, and swiftly squanders it all. Reduced to absolute poverty, and after living in a pig pen for a while, the son returns home expecting his father to be angry. Instead the father throws a lavish party in celebration of his son's return, killing a fatted calf in his honour.
'prodigal' means 'recklessly extravagant'.
This is most likely a reference to God’s message in several Biblical verses of the Old Testament, such as Leviticus or Deuteronomy, where he explains that “the blood is the life; and thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh.” (Deuteronomy 12:23) See bookmark for page 24.
A simoom is a strong, dust-laden wind of the deserts of Arabia and North Africa. It moves in a cyclone (circular) form, carrying dust and sand in a suffocating rush. The name means ‘poison wind.’
Laudanum is a herbal preparation containing opium and alcohol, used in the 19th century to treat a number of different ailments, but mainly as an analgesic. It was sold without a prescription at the time, but today is strictly regulated. It is a narcotic drug that can induce a deep sleep.
Victorian death and mourning practices were elaborate. The appropriate clothes, jewellry, condolence letters and duration of mourning were firmly prescribed. Graves and tombs were often extravagant in size and sculpture.
Read Mourning and Funeral Usages, Harpers Bazaar 1886
A particularly peculiar Victorian habit was post-mortem photography. For poorer subjects, this memento mori might be the only photograph ever taken of them. A creepy assemblage of death photographs can be found here.
The Pampas are grass plains that spread across parts of Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. This vast and fertile region provides valuable grazing for cattle and a variety of wildlife.
"Going to grass" usually means retiring or resting, but Quincey seems to be suggesting something rather more precipitous.
Vampire bats are a species of bat native to the Americas that live on blood as their main food source. They do not suck blood but lap it from wounds inflicted on their prey. The common vampire bat feeds on mammals, even humans, puncturing the skin with razor-sharp incisor teeth that make a 7mm long and 8mm deep cut. The bat’s saliva contains anticoagulants that prevent the blood from clotting, prolonging the creature’s feeding time. Vampire bats only hunt at night, when it is fully dark.
Fictional vampires share attributes in common with the vampire bat. Like the bats, vampires hunt at night and bite the skin of their prey to draw blood. Many fictional vampires can also transform themselves into a bat, or even a flight of bats, and will often do so to access difficult to reach areas. In Stoker’s novel, Dracula is capable of shapeshifting into many different forms, including a bat, a dog, a large bird, a wolf, tendrils of mist and motes of dust.
Elms were once a common feature of the English landscape, and were often found in churchyards along with yew trees. Lord Byron wrote a poem, "Lines written beneath an elm in the churchyard of Harrow" (below). In Celtic mythology, elms are closely associated with death and the Underworld.
Around 1967 a virulent strain of Dutch elm disease arrived in Britain, killing off over 25 million trees. There are now very few mature elms left in the country.
This might sound like a foolish assumption on Seward's part, given the popular conception that bats are blind. In fact, all bats can see, although some species can't see in colour and their sight is not strong in daytime, hence the old saying "Blind as a bat".
Sight is not as important as echolocation for many species of bats. By emitting a series of ultrasonic noises and detecting the reflection of those noises off surfaces in their vicinity, bats can form a remarkable 3-dimensional impression of the placement of insects, trees and other objects around them, even in total darkness. Echolocation was first described in 1940, around the same time Radar was being developed, so Bram Stoker would not have known of this further bizarre attribute of Dracula's favourite creature. However he might have come across some early research into bats suggesting a mysterious "sixth sense", including an eighteenth century experiment showing that a bat was able to navigate around a dark room much more successfully than an owl - unless one of its ears was blocked.
This is a line from Thomas Hood’s poem The Death Bed (1846):
We watched her breathing through the night
Her breathing soft and low,
As in her breast the wave of life
Kept heaving to and fro.
So silently we seemed to speak,
So slowly moved about,
As we had lent her half our powers
To eke her living out.
Our very hopes belied our fears,
Our fears our hopes belied --
We thought her dying when she slept,
And sleeping when she died.
For when the morn came dim and sad,
And chill with early showers,
Her quiet eyelids closed -- she had
Another morn than ours.
Chapelle ardente means ‘burning chapel’ (French). It is called this because of the many candles burning around the platform on which the body is placed. A chapelle ardente is a chapel or resting place for important people when lying in state.
This is a reference to a line from Lord Byron’s poem The Giaour (1813).
He who hath bent him o'er the dead
Ere the first day of Death is fled,
The first dark day of Nothingness,
The last of Danger and Distress,
(Before Decay's effacing fingers
Have swept the lines where Beauty lingers,)
The poem is one of the earliest fictional works to mention vampires:
But first, on earth as vampire sent,
Thy corse shall from its tomb be rent:
Then ghastly haunt thy native place,
And suck the blood of all thy race;
There from thy daughter, sister, wife,
At midnight drain the stream of life;
Yet loathe the banquet which perforce
Must feed thy livid living corse:
Thy victims ere they yet expire
Shall know the demon for their sire,
As cursing thee, thou cursing them,
Thy flowers are withered on the stem.