After rewatching the Adventure Time Vampire King episode I found it wrought with deep and powerful symbolic & philosophical mystical meaning. After all, Adventure Time as a whole is a foundational mythological/metaphorical work of modern canon! Because of its incredibly poetic and deep concepts, it’s had a profound effect on those who’ve grown up watching it. So definitely, there is plenty of meaningful morcels to work within from the broad sense of the series itself. But what is it about the Vampire King character that’s so transcendental?
What we’re given here is the clash between two archetypal opponents. Marceline on the side of good(light) and the Vampire king on the side of evil(darkness). We come to find out that this clash between them has been a never-ending devil’s circle. Their struggle goes like this; Marceline will stake the vampire king and as a result, he bites her. He gets absorbed into her demonic spirit and she gets turned into a vampire. So this dance between them has repeated itself over and over and over again throughout the centuries. The Vampire King (despite being on the side of evil) decides at this point he has had enough and wants to get out of this endless wheel.
If you want to watch the Adventure Time Vampire King Clip then click Here:
When does the Adventure time vampire king appear?
He appears during the “Stakes” run. Stakes was a short mini-series within the adventure time show itself. A series within a series you could say, that only really lasted 8 episodes. The plot goes like this: Essentially marceline the demon queen has her vampire juice sucked out. Marceline requests that Princess Bubblegum remove her vampire side because she no longer wishes to be immortal. So of course Princess Bubblegum extracts the vampire essence from Marceline’s body. Yet later the essence escapes and turns into the vampires that Marceline consumed with her demon soul-sucking power.
As a result of the escaped vampire essences, the five deadliest Vampires come back to life: The Fool, The Empress, The Hierophant, The Moon, and of course, the most powerful Vampire of all, The Vampire King. Because of this Marceline has a flashback to the battle that she’d previously had with the all-powerful Vampire King. in it, it almost seemed as if he sacrificed himself in order to bite Marceline. This bite would destroy him, but make a vampire of her in his stead. Now that she must face all the Vampires once again, and since she realized that her opponent let her win that last time, and is now not so sure if she can adequately defeat this almost impenetrable foe.
Symbology of Adventure Time Vampires
Each of these vampires embodies a very important archetypal building block. They are not only the living embodiments of Marceline’s most hideous personality traits, but they also embody archetypal cosmic universals. Stakes is about Marceline once again facing the sinister faces of the shadow and reintegrating each trait into her persona thus ultimately uniting with the universal order.
“shadow is that hidden, repressed, for the most part, an inferior and guilt-laden personality whose ultimate ramifications reach back into the realm of our animal ancestors…If it has been believed hitherto that the human shadow was the source of evil, it can now be ascertained on a closer investigation that the unconscious man, that is his shadow does not consist only of morally reprehensible tendencies, but also displays a number of good qualities, such as normal instincts, appropriate reactions, realistic insights, creative impulses, etc “
Each Vampire is taken from the symbology of the Tarot. The Moon, The Hierophant, The Empress & The Moon, and of course the King. The first 4 are aspects of the Major Arcana. The Major Arcana Tarot cards represent the life lessons and karmic influences. What is strange, however, is that the King doesn’t belong to Major Arcana. You see the Major Arcana is 22 cards that represent infinite universals. While The King inhabits the substratum of the bottom deck. It is the sub-deck of Tarot cards called the “Minor Arcana” is the earth.
Why does The Vampire King belong to the lower Tarot?
I asked myself this question and it took me a while to figure it out. You see it goes back to the Chimerian principle. The Vampire Kings multiplicity in contingency. You see in the Minor Arcana there are 4 different cards that are Kings. In a way, The King (although being the most powerful vampire of the lot) is ultimately all three of these cards. Constantly shifting between the 4 kings and as he said tied up, to “the wheel of fortune.”
Though the Minor Arcana is in no way lesser than the major arcana, it is much more fluidity and subject to change. Whereas the Major Arcana has its entities solidified in a symbolic granite, the Minor Arcana is constantly undergoing change. In a way, a Minor Arcana card gains its power in its relation to the other cards that accompany it in a draw. In this way, its beings inhabit “lower” spaces. They undergo trials and tribulations. Instead of being imminent universals themselves, they are at the mercy of the order of the totality of the cards in the deck whereas the Major Arcana can stand alone on the high places of their own archetypal meanings. In this way the Vampire King is severely bound to the cosmic forces at hand and unable to escape the immutable flow of the given temporality.
More Symbolism within the Vampire King
To do a thorough reading on the Vampire King we need to first address his hideous yet awesome appearance. With the head of a lion, the arms of a reptile, the body of a man, and the legs of a chicken the Vampire King appears as what we call a Chimera. Symbolically a Chimera (Khimaira) is an animal full of totemic attributes. Coincidentally though, these attributes can be both negative and positive, depending n how you want to interpret them. For the reason of their ability to embody multiple meanings at once lends them to be extremely symbolic in a cultural context.
For this fact of his conflicting modes of being, we come to find out out the Vampire King is not what we were originally lead to expect. Just like there are 4 kings in the Minor Arcana. We can’t quite put our finger on which position the Vampire King plays in this cosmic dance. This is, never the less, a major part of the Chimerian multiplicity of meaning that arises from this mythological beast. A vex, a mystery to be resolved.
The Shadow: Dark places that Vampires inhabit
Vampires have a difficult time in the light. Therefore they tend to stay in cold and dark places. Hidden away from the world because when we bring them to the light they disintegrate. To understand the Vampire King we have to understand how Vampires comingle into the shadows. In a way, the Vampires themselves are merely parts of Marceline’s shadow. We’ve always known that she’s struggled with her inner Vampire and we see this quite often throughout the series. In many ways, it’s held her back in her life. Ultimately what we are meant to witness throughout this short vampire based series is the process of Marceline re-integrating with her shadow self. Like Dr. Jekyll finally accepting Mr.Hyde.
“Do you know your shadows stretches all the way down to hell?”
As above so below, as below so above…
Finally, when Vampire King and Marceline meet, the Vampire King does something extraordinarily unexpected. He begins to plea with her, but not out of fear of defeat. Throughout the entire ordeal, it’s only ever too apparent that the Vampire King is powerful enough to overpower our entire band of heroes. In fact, he does! All of the heroes try to attack him and he merely shrugs them off as if they are fleas on the back of a Lion. Yet he doesn’t destroy them.
Vampire King: “How many times do you want to do this marceline? ”
“Our lives are magnetized in a negative loop. But we can change our outcome this time.”
Marceline: “I like the outcome where you get staked!
Vampire King: “and you become a Vampire?
Marceline and the Vampire King are practically immortal. Because of this, they aren’t tethered to the cycle of death. Instead, they are tied to another cosmic cycle. In hermetics, it’s called the principle of deathlessness. They are locked in an eternal devil’s circle. Because of this, they see the rhythmic churnings of the cosmos. They know that nothing ever changes. The cosmic battle that they are locked in is only a part of the monotony. It’s like a prison and the Vampire King knows it. He doesn’t wish to be apart of the endless battle of light and dark anymore. He desires something greater. This is the reason he wants to plead with Marceline. Marceline, who embodies the light and he who embodies the darkness.
Vampire King: “I know I’ve been ruthless in the past, but tell me. What is the one thing you’ve learned about the world since you beat me all those hundreds of years ago?”
Marceline: Everything repeats over and over again. No one learns anything, because no one lives long to see the pattern.”
Vampire King: “And you still think THIS is the right way? Fighting me?
Marceline: The other ways like a black hole, an unknown.
Then the Vampire King utters his most famous lines in the entire series.
“I’m not afraid of the unknown. I have the power to change destiny!”
Queen of vampires, you weigh the scales of fate. Spill my guts, or face the unknown. Either way, I will not bite. For turning you would subjugate me to the wheel of fortune. I’m a King, not a hamster (in a wheel.) My path runs straight into the void, on a sick flaming chariot.”
Rather than be subjugated to the never-ending change of reality, the Vampire King no longer wants oppose fulfill his role as darkness (in opposing the light.) This is the dance of reality, but he’s been through it so long he sees it as a sort of prison. Something that needs to be escaped and transcended from, instead of a cliche set of events where there is an ultimate showdown between two forces and one topples the other.
Samsara: Marceline and the Vampire King Caught in the Wheel of Fortune
It was ultimately the Vampire King who changed Marceline into a vampire in the first place. Yet at that moment he was just fulfilling a never-ending cycle. Like a “hamster in a wheel.” We come to learn that this cosmic dance between the two opponents of light and dark lasts ages. In Hindu cosmology, the term Samsara best describes this endless wheel. Samsara is the Sanskrit word for “the World.” more or less it can be thought of as the never-ending dance of struggle. In this way, it’s a never-ending monotonous cycle of death and rebirth. Immortal and eternal. Yet it doesn’t just refer to reincarnation or the transmigration from one body to the next. Actually, it refers to a cyclicality of all life, matter, and existence.
Escaping the wheel and reaching Satori, Nirvana, Ataraxia, or Whatever you call it
Finally, Marceline agrees to end the never ending battle between dark and light. Instead, she ops to help “suck out his Vamp juice.” In the end when the heroes put the Vampire King into the machine that takes out his Vampire essence we see a very pregnant symbol emerge. The Vampire king climbs into the machine along with the Vampire cow that he’d turned at the beginning of the mini-series. When the heroes reopen the machine what they reveal is no longer the Chimera but a lion laying down with the cow. Neither infected with the vampire juice anymore.
The symbol of the lamb (or in this case cow) and the Lion laying down are symbols of the Messiah in Christianity and Judaism. Christ is a dichotomy after all. He has two forms the first which we see in the biblical new testament as the sacrificial beast and the second which we see in the end times in his return as a lion. The lamb or calf symbolizes gentleness, innocence, and purity. However when you couple it with a lion who is ferocious, strong, and formidable you have a very powerful symbol for Nirvana and reaching enlightenment through transcending beyond dichotomous toward the third form. This third thing is an amalgam of the two. It is called the Tertium Quid. The forming of a Tertium Quid is a transcendental state. It is something that cannot be classified into either of two groups considered exhaustive; an intermediate thing or factor
The “Stakes” mini-episodes are significant because they come at a turning point in the Adventure time series. At the series beginning, we were only given a loose glimpse at the land of OO. From its beginning, we only gleamed a small portion of the mythological potential. Although there was the semblance of another world, it hadn’t however taken on its mature manifest form yet. The level of worldbuilding at the Tolkienesque level, the way that the show’s creator Pendleton Ward had planned, wasn’t really apparent yet.
As the series progressed the story of Oo itself began to display a cosmic order. It had its own codes, rules and eventually, Adventure time itself began to unfold and claim its own place in the pop culture canon. At the point of the adventure Vampire king episode, the series was a full-fledged mini cult religion. Since secularism has replaced mainstream religion, the modern homo sapien gets their divine mythological insight from the texts created by cultmasters of pop culture like the Adventure time series. This makes these texts incredibly important readings for understanding cultural identity for the modern ethos.