Compendium Monstrum

To honor my husband’s wishes and to gratify his need for humor, I will provide my statement of how I enjoyed Vampires, Werewolves, Zombies: Compendium Monstrum by Herr Doktor Max Sturm and Baron Ludwig Von Drang. Please recite the following quote aloud or in your mind with the most possible amount of derision, confusion, and amusement:

Who writes like this!?

Mary Truong, 2021

Yes, the authors had provided their names and short biographies in this pocket-sized book. This somehow failed to enlighten me as to why an individual would provide both fact and fiction in the most confusing way possible. With this underwhelming quote thus stated and explained, I will proceed with the summary and analysis of the Compendium Monstrum.

Vampires, Werewolves, Zombies: Compendium Monstrum – The Summary on Vampires

The introductory pages to this small informational guide include outstanding drawings and short notes on what the reader can later expect. One such note was dated one hundred years prior to the book’s initial publication date. This, along with the mocking seriousness of the provided material, quickly alerted me to the joking nature of the book. Introductory notes aside, the authors dive right into the realm of vampires.

Old world maps are provided in miniature form, speckled with small bat figures to indicate where most vampire sightings have occurred. The book proceeds to detail every type of vampire which people in various cultures have accepted as real and true. The text then centers on Vlad the Impaler and the fictions inspired by his actions, such as Dracula by Bram Stoker. The remainder of the vampire section include the historical insanity that our ancestors accepted as normal, interspersed quotes from Dracula, and an old way of writing.

Vampires, Werewolves, Zombies: Compendium Monstrum – The Summary on Werewolves and Zombies

Old world maps are also given for werewolf and zombie sightings. Whereas vampire lore predominates in Transylvania, werewolf sightings were largely focused in France. Starting in the early 1500s and going on for nearly a century, people were tried in the courts, found guilty, and punished with a gruesome death for being classified as werewolves.

Zombies entered American culture when the French people took on slaves in what is now called Haiti and transferred them to states in the American south. Other fascinating facts and lore are provided on werewolves and zombies and are much more clearly defined than in the vampire section. The authors finish off the manual with an index, a bibliography, and other fun pages for the reader to explore.

Vampires, Werewolves, Zombies: Compendium Monstrum – The Analysis

I struggled to make sense of the section on vampires. Every quote had a source, but I had to be careful while I read them or else the overly complicated lingo would utterly confuse me. The research on Vlad the Impaler was well done, and I very much enjoyed the quotes from Dracula. I also appreciated how the author wrote all the vampiric information—which took up over half of the manual—in a smooth, storyline layout. But although I appreciated it, I can honestly say the same layout confused me when it came to fact and fiction.

The werewolf section was much clearer, and consequently much more enjoyable. I learned about the mental illness clinical lycanthropy, where an individual believes he or she is a wolf. It went into detail about how the French would brutally deal with these mentally affected individuals. Everything concerning how people dealt with “werewolves” sounded ludicrous but true:

A well-known example of this condition was the lycanthrope of Pavia, in Lombard, Italy, in 1541. Convinced he had become a wolf, the man attacked and killed several persons in fields outside town. After his capture, he continued to insist he was still a beast, saying he was hairy inside whereas wolves were hairy on the exterior. His captors cut him open to see if this was true, and he died soon after.
Vampire, Werewolves, Zombies: Compendium Monstrum, p. 96

I gleaned surprising information about the origins of the American zombie. Though I’ve heard about voodoo before, I had never researched into its origins or how it came to parts of the American south. African culture is fascinating, to say the least. Even though the means of how African culture entered America cannot be justified, the culture we adopted into the melting pot has significantly encouraged an increase in knowledge and experience.

Conclusion

Overall, the historical facts were interesting. The fictional quotes were enthralling and helpful in keeping the subject matter fun. However, I must deduct points for all the confusion I experienced in the reading. All the same, the book receives a passing grade.

7/10 score

I recommend this small book to anyone who is interested in the creatures of the night. Vampires raged through America’s media for several years during my young adult years, and I think some of us still cling to these fascinating, dark creatures.