I never wanted to be a vampire. I just wanted to kill them. I’ve got a lifelong soft spot for hunters, and it pains me to see them used as one-note antagonists in chronicles. Be they purely after blood suckers or possessed of a broader mandate, hunters of all kinds can be characterized with nuance in the right hands. That’s why I want to talk about these brave souls who grow up to be members of Team Van Helsing.
We Can Be Heroes
Sometimes all a hunter wants is to be one of the good guys. In this case, good guys are defined as humans. Numerous supernatural creatures feed on, enslave, and endanger the lives of humanity. Hunters want to be the hero in this situation, liberating the enslaved and slaying the apex predator of humanity. This may be loyalty to their own species, the need to disprove humanity-as-prey, or the simple wish to better the world in the one way they know how. This particular mold of hunter is driven primarily by their wish to be a hero. Something they can’t word fuels them, and it’s often all they have to hold onto.
- Simon Sheppard, Dracula 2000
Beyond The Call
There’s a sense of being called to be a hunter for many. Much like there is to become doctors, firefighters, teachers, hunters have felt called to their role out of a sense of duty.
Then there’s a Calling to be a hunter. Mystic birthright, Divine mandate, an unknown imbuing by a force not yet understood. There is a massive force that is bigger than the hunter, and it has Called them to this duty. Blessing or curse, this summons to arms often comes with preternatural powers. Incredible strength, enhanced senses, visions—these hunters carry a grave additional burden. They have been touched by the supernatural, which marks them apart from the rest of the human race.
But there’s also the sense of spiritual calling to serve. There may be a hunter with no obvious supernatural or divine gifts, but they still felt called in the night by the small voice of something greater, often describing it as divine. Their superpowers-free calling doesn’t make them lesser than hunters with powers, and the tensions between them can be interesting.
They Felt The Call
- Characters in the RPG Hunter: The Reckoning
- Slayers in Buffy: The Vampire Slayer
I Will Have Vengeance
Hunters who have lost someone to the supernatural—or even been victimized by it—were once people with no need to go out and kill every damn bloodsucker in the world. But trauma can change anyone. They’ve reacted to their experiences by embracing a need for vengeance, perhaps wrestling with a sense of responsibility for the innocent of the world as well. They’ve been baptized by fire, and are some of the most terrifying hunters the supernatural world can ever create.
They Sought Vengeance
- Abraham Lincoln, in the novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
- John Winchester, in the television series Supernatural
Not to be confused with hunters who have been Called, there are families of hunters who have passed down the hunt to their children. These hunters are inheritors of a family-embraced duty to hunt the supernatural. Many of these families started out as vengeance seekers and Inquisitors, with subsequent generations redefining the meaning of the hunt for themselves.
- The Winchester sons of the television show Supernatural
- The Price family of the InCryptid book series
- Mary Van Helsing, Dracula 2000
Predator v Predator
Sometimes, fellow members of your species have to die. Vampires may turn against vampires, werewolves against werewolves. Whether it’s a tension between personal morals, or the breaching of the species’ very code of conduct, members of a supernatural community may turn against each other. This may be sanctioned by other members of their species, but it’s often “rogue” elements in vampire narratives who hunt their fellow kind. Because these individuals have become convinced that some—or even all—of their species has to die the tension here is primarily moral. Do you think the rest of the vampires are depraved blood gods that need ending? Have you seen the truly evil heart of your mentor, and recognized your elders must be destroyed? Seek co-existence with the humans but find yourself at an impasse with most of your species?
Sometimes, people have to die.
- Angel, of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, and later, Angel
- Hellboy, of the Hellboy comics
- Slimer, in The Real Ghostbusters
That’s Doctor Hunter to You
Monster hunters of a scientific bent are a tribe apart the rest. Not satisfied with the narratives of any other camp, these scientists are analytical, social, and straddle a very tense line. These observers only step in when there is no other choice. Much like government-sanctioned hunting seasons for over-populated prey or predator animals, these hunters resort to killing only when it makes sense. Many of them value the interplay of human-supernatural ecosystems, preferring study and observation to wholesale species elimination.
Unless it’s their own species.
Then some monsters definitely have to die.
Science Minded Hunters
- The Price family of the InCryptid series, by Seannan McGuire. Think of them as heavily armed cryptozoologists. If you can play nice with humans and cryptids alike, you get to live.
- Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, the eponymous hunter in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Note: it’s not explicitly stated the Van Helsing was a vampire hunter prior to the events of the novel.
- Angela March, in the British series Ultraviolet.
Have a favorite hunter from fiction, games or the silver screen? I’m always on the lookout for more hunters to study up on, so leave a name in the comments! Seen a great handling of hunters in your chronicle or someone else’s? Feel free to leave the story below.