Monday, October 8, 2012

Mysterious Mondays: "Luella Miller" by Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman

"All but Luella shone white in the moonlight."
(from The Literary Gothic)

Short stories for Halloween continues, with "Luella Miller" by Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman.  This is an eerie tale of a young woman who moves to a small village to assume the post of schoolteacher.  Related many years after the young woman's demise by the now elderly woman, Lydia Anderson, who was her neighbor, this narrative slowly but relentlessly reveals a rather sinister aspect of the schoolteacher's character.  It seems that everyone who develops an attachment to Luella Miller begins to suffer failing health and soon passes away.  The saddest aspect of this story is the fact that, even though the young woman seems to have a childlike dependence on the assistance of others and engages in immature behavior to obtain it, she does not appear to comprehend her deleterious effect on them.  No one can be certain that her intentions are evil.  In fact, when confronted by Lydia Anderson, Luella actually attempts to become more independent until her own health begins to fail and yet another villager comes to her rescue, to his own detriment.  After that, no one will go near her, and she finally expires herself, but, according to Lydia Anderson, not without the aid of the spirits of her former victims.

Once again the author provides a glimpse into the New England character as the down-to-earth villagers do their best to understand and cope with a supernatural situation.  You can read the story here, or listen to an audio version on YouTube.  If you are interested, you can even read a scholarly analysis of this tale's theme here.  This is a vampire tale unlike any other, and well worth reading.

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