Saturday, October 18, 2008

"Beware Catchpenny Titles!"

Jacqueline Simpson's review (Folklore 111.1, April 2000: pp. 140-141) of Pëtr Bogatyrëv's Vampires in the Carpathians: Magical Acts, Rites, and Beliefs in Subcarpathian Rus’ (Translated by Stephen Reynolds and Patricia A. Krafcik. East European Monographs, No. CDXCII. New York: East European Monographs: Distributed by Columbia University Press, 1998) hits the nail on the head. In discussing the book's actual vampire content, she writes:
Beware catchpenny titles! The reader seeking vampires will eventually learn (pp. 119-20) that one can prevent their visits by strewing poppy seeds or by putting wood shavings and thorns in the coffin, and destroy them by decapitation; on pp. 132-3 he or she will encounter the opyr in rather unfamiliar guise, as a demonic being which scares horses at pasture, or lives beside water and tries to drown people. (p. 140)

To be fair on the late
Bogatyrëv (1893-1971), the book's title wasn't his original choice, as Simpson goes on to note:
But the subtitle which renders the original title is a far truer indicator of this excellent book's contents; it begins with a long, systematic analysis of the principles underlying magical actions and verbal formulas, picking out the omens, divinations, and luck-enhancing actions prescribed for each date or event. (p. 140)

East European Monographs isn't the only publisher guilty of such deceptive titling. After alll, a similar tactic has been applied to Forests of the Vampire: Slavic Myth (Myth and Mankind, New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 2003).

Its index gives away how much coverage the "Vampire" of the title actually gets:
vampires, 94-99; kikimora and, 92, 93; in literature and film, 135-36 (p.143)

Then we have books which admittedly do contain a greater amount of vampire material, but inexplicably re-title the author's original work.

Take Dover Publications' The Vampire in Lore and Legend (2001) and Vampires and Vampirism (2005), both works authored by Montague Summers.

In his lifetime, Summers (1880-1948) never published any works under these names.

The first book is actually a retitling of The Vampire in Europe (1929) and the second is a retitling of The Vampire: His Kith and Kin (1928).

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