“Each doll has been exactly like the rest. They would crowd me out of my bedroom if I kept them. But I do not keep them. I burn them, sooner or later. I smash their china faces in with the poker. I watch the fire eat their hair.”
– Anne Rice, The Queen of the Damned
So many vampire worlds have bought into the ‘child vampire’ vibe; that one element in any story that can turn the tale from one of minor horror to a story rife with terror. These, of course, number those such as Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter, Twilight, and The Vampire Diaries, among others. But the most iconic and coldly beautiful child vampire in literary history has to be Claudia in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles.
Claudia, a child of no more than five or six years is alone in a room with her dead mother when she is introduced to the story in Interview with the Vampire. At this point we do not know her name, nor do we register the relevance of her to the entirety of the tale, as it seems that she is merely another mortal victim meant to teach Louis some lesson he has not yet learnt. He is pounding the streets to get away from Lestat who has, once again, driven him to terrible truths that he cannot, in good conscience, abide.
So he chooses instead to feed on a little girl. Or perhaps ‘chooses’ is the incorrect word. He is driven to do so. He is in a passion and distraught, and seeking to make his agony stop if only for a short while – something that Lestat has been driving him to do. And so he feeds on the little girl, as she thinks he is comforting her: trying to kill her, though her heart won’t allow him. Lestat finds the two together and makes a mockery of the situation, putting the scene into even further horror for Louis who realises the insanity of it – he has not fed on a human in years and now he chooses to kill a little girl.
Lestat knows that Louis is too sensitive, too human. He has tried to change that side of Louis, but with every interference, Louis only becomes more stubborn. Worst of all, he also knows that Louis will leave him, soon, and that is something he won’t accept, so he finds the small child where she is being cared for, pretends to be her father and takes her back to their apartments. He implies to Louis that, in order to create closure, feel liberated of his pain, Louis must finish what he started.
It is, of course, a ploy on the part of Lestat to force Louis to take a part in Claudia’s making and thus bind her not just to himself, but to both of them, to secure his companion’s loyalty. Yes, there were other reasons for what he did; it is made abundantly clear in later novels that Louis’s view of everything Lestat ever did is squeezed into a very small scope of mistrust and awe-inspired fear. But one of the reasons had to be the certainty that if Louis created a vampire of that child, he would stay to care for her. He loved her.
“Tonight, I confide with pen and paper because I know which direction my hatred will take me. And I fear for those who have roused my wrath.”
– Anne Rice, Merrick
Regrettably for Louis, Claudia could never love him back with the same level of devotion that he has for her. Claudia, being a child when she was made, has no recollection of ever being human. She was too young to have been brought into her humanity when she became a vampire, and this made of her an immortal with no compassion. She could feel, but not as an adult might feel. She had the maturity of an adult in her mind, but only of an adult vampire, as if her human roots had never been.
In the sub-text of vampirism, one thing is made clear, people can change, but the personality traits that are most prevalent to their character is only further buried within them as time moves forward. So, to qualify, they may change superficially – small opinions and sometimes even beliefs can be altered – but their core behaviour does not differ. Thus, Claudia, who had only ever known the mind of a child as a human – the mind prone to selfish acts, minor cruelties (as all children who do not yet understand their own gentle natures) – tantrums, and greed, could never grow past that mind into an adult. She could be tutored by Louis and learn to be like Lestat in killing, but that is simply evident of a child’s curiosity and impressionable persona.
She also suffered a child’s manipulative nature.
In The Queen of the Damned and Merrick, we gain further insight to Claudia, through the discovery of journal entries she had written, documenting her time with her two ‘fathers.’ It is evident from these that Claudia made a conscious decision between the two vampires. She chose to disrupt their existences in the same way hers had been disrupted when she was a mortal child. She deliberated and finally decided that Louis was the more malleable of the two, the one less prone to fits of domineering, and thus a better candidate for a companion. She actively chose Louis because she could manipulate him as she never could Lestat, who would not be led.
It is clear that Claudia set about her plan of ‘killing’ Lestat long before she committed the crime. Without Lestat tying Louis down, she was free to convince him to go with her anywhere. She needed him – a fact which she saw as further fuel for her hatred towards him – because she could do nothing on her own, being too young and, thus, too noticeable.
“The fact is, one must die for this or the pain in me will never be sealed off, and immortality is but a monstrous measurement of what I will suffer till the world revolves to its ultimate end.”
– Anne Rice, Merrick
Louis, of course, could never have seen this manipulation. He was blinded by love for Claudia, and dearly devoted to her, even after she killed Lestat. It was an act that he ‘allowed’ to take place and he began to find her monstrous thereafter (still, this did not detract from his love). Constantly referring to her demonic eyes and the way they blazed with intent when he looked at her. Or the fact that he had a vision of her looking at him with empty sockets. And it is true, the mind of a child can oftentimes be terrifying, especially a child as learned and ambitious as Claudia, with as much rage in her.
A child with an adult’s knowledge.
When Louis fell to Armand’s ‘spell,’ Claudia was devastated; not because she could not bear to lose him, specifically, but because she could not bear to be alone. It was physically impossible for her to exist on her own and she needed a substitute, which she found in Madeleine. Just too late, however. Too late for her or her new ‘mother’ to leave Paris with their lives.
Louis states that it is pain that he saw in Claudia’s eyes in those last few nights before she died. But really, it is more of injustice. It is the pain that children feel when they feel they are being denied something they are owed, when they believe that everything is so thoroughly unfair that they should be allowed some sort of compensation. And things are unfair for Claudia, though, when we are faced with how Louis suffers for her, it doesn’t seem so. She is a child to everyone, and is duly treated as one. She has no say over her own physical form even, as people are constantly reaching out to her, playing with her hair, picking her up. And she knows there are things that adults enjoy that she should have been allowed to experience in her lifetime, and that she never will.
Regardless of how much she desires being a woman, she never can be.
When Claudia is killed, Louis’ pain is palpable. One never sees the true downfalls in one’s own children. And Claudia is Louis’ child more accurately than for any other vampire. To Lestat, she was a tool and a beautiful doll that he could teach in ways he could not with Louis, but their relationship soured too quickly. But to Louis, Claudia was a child he had taught and loved as his only close companion and she had reciprocated. At least on the surface.
Claudia’s story is tragic. Not simply because of the injustice of her small existence, but also for the fact that she was doomed from the beginning. Claudia could never have survived; it would not have been allowed. Eventually, somewhere, someone would have ended her life.