Saturday, November 9, 2013

Typhoon Yolanda, Lucy Westenra, and the worst storm in Bram Stoker's Dracula





Typhoon Yolanda (International name Haiyan) passed through Central Philippines yesterday and left a trail of destruction, uprooting large trees, pulling out house roofs, and flooding the coastal cities.  It was the world's strongest typhoon with winds of 295 kph, above the 252 kph threshold for a Category 5 typhoon in the Saffir-Simpson scale (c.f. CNN).  The images and videos of the typhoon, such as ABS-CBN's Atom Araullo's coverage in Tacloban City, Leyte as shown above, reminds me of the sudden storm in Bram Stoker's Dracula:
Bram Stoker's Death Ship
Bram Stoker's Death Ship
Then without warning the tempest broke.  With  a rapidity which, at the time, seemed incredible, and even afterwards is impossible to realize, the whole aspect of nature at once became convulsed.  The waves rose in growing fury, each overtopping its fellow, till in a very few minutes the lately glassy sea was like a roaring and devouring monster.  White-crested waves beat madly on the level sands and rushed up the shelving cliffs; others broke over the piers, and with their spume swept the lanterns of the lighthouses which rise from the end of either pier of Whitby Harbour. The wind roared like thunder, and blew with such force that it was with difficulty that even strong men kept their feet, or clung with grim clasp to the iron stanchions.  It was found necessary to clear the entire piers from the mas of onlookers, or else the fatalities of the night would have been increased manifold. To add to the difficulties and dangers of the time, masses of sea-fog came drifting inland--white, wet clouds, which swept by in ghostly fashion, so dank and damp and cold that it needed but little effort of imagination to think that the spirits of those lost at sea were touching their living brethren with the clammy hands of death, and many a one shuddered as the wreaths of sea-mist swept by. At times the mist cleared, and the sea for some distance could be seen in the glare of the lightning, which now came thick and and fast, followed by such sudden peals of thunder that the whole sky overhead seemed trembling under the shock of the footsteps of the storm.  (p. 97)
This paragraph is a prefiguration of some of the scenes in novel.


Yolanda is a woman's name, e.g. Blessed Yolanda of Poland.  In the Bram Stoker's Dracula, there is also another woman: her name is Lucy.  Lucy is a lovely woman who sleep-walks at night in her dressing gown, walking like a White Lady in Filipino folklore, the ghost of lady walking in her burial dress. This corresponds to the phrase: ''white, wet clouds, which swept by in ghostly fashion.''  Actually, her sleep-walking was induced by the hypnotic commands of Count Dracula, who later sucked blood from her neck.  The loss of blood was so great that three men, including Van Helsing, has to donate blood to her through blood transfusion.  Lucy died and was buried, and became an undead who sucked the blood of little children astray in the the night:
Dracula The Graphic Novel: Original Text (Classical Comics)
There was a long spell of silence, a big, aching void, and then from the Professor a keen 'S-s-s-s !' He pointed; and far down the avenue of yews we saw a white figure advance--a dim white figure, which held something dark at its breast.  The figure stopped, and at the moment a ray of moonlight fell between the masses of driving clouds and showed in startling prominence a dark-haired woman, dressed in the cerements of the grave.  We could not see the face, for it was bent down over what we saw to be a fair-haired child. (p. 252)
During the day, Lucy sleeps in her coffin like the dead in peace.  She can pass through any small openings like a fog and only garlic, the Blessed Host, and Catholic sacramentals (Blessed Crucifix) can prevent her.  And just as the still sea suddenly turns into a storm-tossed waves, so does Lucy transform from a lovely woman to a devouring monster:
Dracula
Dracula
Lucy Westenra, but yet how changed.  The sweetness was turned to adamantine, heartless cruelty, and the purity to voluptuous wantonness... we could see that the lips were crimson with fresh blood, and that the stream had trickled over her chin and stained the purity of her lawn death-robe....Lucy's eyes in form and colour; but Lucy's unclean and full of hell-fire, instead of the pure, gentle orbs we knew....As she looked, her eyes blazed with unholy light, and the face became wreathed with a voluptuous simile....There was something diabolically sweet in her tones--something of the tingling of glass when struck--which rang through the brains even of us who heard the words addressed to another...Never did I see such baffled malice on a face; and never, I trust, shall such ever be seen again by mortal eyes.  The beautiful colour became livid, the eyes seemed to throw out sparkes of hell-fire, the brows were wrinkled as though the folds of the flesh were the coils of Medusa's snakes, and the lovely, blood-stained mouth grew to an open square, as in the passion masks of the Greeks and the Japanese.  If ever a face meant death--if looks could kill--we saw it at that moment. (pp. 253-254)
Lucy was only killed when a wooden stake pierced her heart, her head sawed, and her mouth stuffed with garlic.  And finally she rested in peace.  As Dr. Seward recounted:
Complete Works of Bram Stoker (Illustrated)
Complete Works of Bram Stoker (Illustrated)
There in coffin lay no longer the foul Thing that we had so dreaded and grown to hate that the work of her destruction was yielded as a privilege to the one best entitled to it, but Lucy as we had seen her in her life, with her face of unequalled sweetness and purity.  True that there were there, as we had seen them in life, the traces of care and pain and waste;  but these were all dear to us, for they marked her truth to what we knew One and all we felt that the holy calm that lay like sunshine over the wasted face and form was only an earthly token and symbol of the calm that was to reign for ever. (pp. 259-260)