Staking A Vampire's Heart Was A Misunderstanding
This week, we'll be looking at a few different methods for killing vampires, but the most accepted one nowadays is driving a stake through their heart. The stake remains effective, even on modern vampires who wear sunblock or sparkle in daylight. The stake must be wood, which leads to such creative cinematic solutions as loading up a crossbow with sharpened wooden sticks, or even firing wooden bullets.
But why stakes? And why wooden stakes? Why should wood hurt the vampire more than steel, or magical silver? Is this some reference to the cross, or to tree magic?
Well, vampire myths use wooden stakes because that's what people used in real life. And those people used wooden stakes rather than any other kind simply because wood is the most common material for real stakes. Wooden stakes are cheap to buy or easy to make from branches in the forest.
When we say "real life," we're of course not referring to real-life vampires, but we are referring to real-life people who feared vampires. These people tried to prevent bodies from rising from the grave by staking them to the ground. The stake would enter the dirt, just as when you put down stakes for a tent when camping. That's what stakes are for—they aren't weapons, they're pieces of wood that go into the ground.
In stories, vampire hunters stab walking vampires, or puncture the heart of a sleeping vampire without actually pinning it to the earth, because people have forgotten the original goal of staking the dead. The heart, in particular, is a strange weak point for staking a vampire. Sure, it makes sense to stab the heart of a corpse to ensure it does not resurrect, but that doesn't mean it'll do a lick of good against the walking undead. We guess we have to assume there's some magical significance to the heart because it sure doesn't function as the source of life in the way it does in a normal human. A vampire's heart doesn't beat, everyone knows that.
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