Angel or Devil
Playing with Mythology and Folklore in the Angelverse
Like its predecessor, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the television show Angel has made free use of the world’s folklore and mythology, often (as with Buffy) with tongue firmly in cheek. Demons are not always evil, ghosts like Spike can become tangible through sheer willpower and Armageddon is somehow always kept at bay, often through impossible twistings of reality–for instance, a vampire can have a son who saves the world and then is given a brand new set of memories in order to live a happy life. Yet all the variations on mythic and folkloric themes in both Buffy and Angel are perfectly valid, since there is no such thing as one “right” or “wrong” mythic or folkloric variant, and both enrich the shows and add little shivers of enjoyment to the viewer’s pleasure.1
Angel himself is obviously a folkloric being, a vampire. But he is also definitely an odd variation on the traditional vampire theme. In most of the world’s folk beliefs, a vampire has been portrayed as an evil, hideous, blood-drinking spirit that has inhabited a dead body to more easily stalk its living human prey. Buffy kept to that idea–at least at first–portraying vampires as bloodthirsty demons that inhabited the dead, particularly those unfortunate dead who rose out of the cemeteries of that doomed town of Sunnydale, there on the Hellmouth.
But Angel is unique. He is a vampire with a soul. This is an idea that is definitely not found anywhere in folklore, although of course all religions …