I’ve developed a new obsession that combines my love of obscure folklore, fruit, and weird vegetation into one glorious rabbit hole, and I suspect I’m going to be here a while. Send coffee and snacks.
The other day, a friend of mine tagged me on a post on the Book of Faces about an obscure bit of folklore that hails from the Romani people of the Balkans region, and it is a delightfully charming bit of lore.
No, not vampires that eat watermelons, but watermelons that turn into vampires.
Naturally, given my fondness for obscure and somewhat ridiculous monsters, I had to know more, and well, I might have lost most of the day poking the internet for more information.
The basics of the lore goes that if you leave a watermelon out for 10 days (or on a full moon, or for too long after Christmas, depending on the information source), it will turn into a vampire. Apparently pumpkins also harbor aspirations of vampirism. There seems to also be some contradiction over whether it’s all melons and just pumpkins, or all gourds and only watermelons. (No, I’m not at all thinking about getting my hands on a selection of melons and gourds to test each of the theories, and I’m *shocked* that you would assume such things of me. This bag of squash is totally for soup, I swear…)
Now, once the warned-of timespan has passed, the fruit is said to make a kind of growling noise and go rolling off to chase people down and I don’t know, try to trip them or something and be generally a nuisance. The poor things have a small problem and that is they have a distinct lack of teeth, so they’re not exactly a particularly threatening sort of vampire. You can identify them by the small amounts of blood they’re said to have on them, though how they get hold of blood seems to be lacking in information. I have a suspicion of someone tripping over a watermelon vampire in the dark and scraping their knees or something, which the melon then rolls around in.
They’re also rather easy to get rid of, unlike their more bitey cousins, in that to dispatch it, you just have to catch it, throw it in a pot of boiling water, scrub it with a broom, and then toss the vampire, water, and broom out. No holy water, or stakes, or anything!
I love them. I also may have read the original Bunnicula books a few times too many as a child, and have had “The celery stalks at midnight!” (read in a tone of voice that implies some sort of conspiratorially coded message that’s probably replied to with “The watermelons bathe in moonlight!”) wandering through my head all day…
I did discover an interesting thing about the actual plants themselves, because I had questions about the watermelon and pumpkin deal. See, pumpkins are a “New World” plant, and watermelon isn’t exactly endemic to Eastern Europe, either, which I suppose could lend itself to interesting stories about them, or it could also be a case of a mistranslation and assumption that any gourd was a pumpkin. Sort of like how corn used to be the generic word for grain, and it’s only recently been confined specifically to maize, or something along those lines. One thing that I was not aware of until this all crossed my path is that squashes, melons, cucumbers, and loofah are all the same family, which is pretty cool. Yay Science!
I’m now really, really tempted to do a series of vampiric fruit paintings, because, well, vampire fruit is clearly something the world needs more of. I’m also totally not going to do the experiment thing with the fruit, either, no matter what this notebook and pen in my hand makes it look like…