In commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein, we have selected this iconic story and ancillary materials as LitFare’s Book Of The Month for February 2018.

Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus is known in Greek mythology for his intelligence and being a champion of mankind. A Titan, he is identified as a cultural hero, credited with the creation of man from clay, defying the gods by stealing fire and giving it to humanity, and acting that enabled progress and civilization.

How Frankenstein Came About:

Travelling through Europe in 1814, Mary Wollstonecraft stopped in the town of Gernsheim along the Rhine River, which is approximately 10 miles from Frankenstein Castle. It was here two hundred years prior that an alchemist engaged in experiments aimed to purify, mature and perfect objects, the creation of an elixir of immortality, and the perfection of the human body and soul.

It was a few years later during her travels in the region of Geneva, Switzerland with her companions Lord Byron, John Polidori and Percy Shelley, that conversations on the occult and galvanism took place, and they decided to engage in a competition to see who could write the best horror story.

While contemplating this challenge including the stories of Frankenstein Castle and their conversations, Mary dreamt about a scientist who created life and was disheartened by what he made. It was this dream that later evolved into the novel’s story which was written by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley at the age of eighteen. It was originally published anonymously as a three-volume edition in London, England on January 1, 1818 when she was 20 years of age. Mary Shelley’s name appeared in the second edition published as two-volumes, in France in 1823.

On October 31, 1831 the first most popular one-volume edition appeared, which was significantly revised by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, was published by Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley.

With roots in the Gothic, Romanticism and Tragedy genres, it is also an early example of science fiction. Interestingly, Frankenstein, widely accepted as the name of the monster, is actually the name of the monster’s creator, Victor Frankenstein. In the novel, Victor’s creation is referred to as the, Creature, Monster, Fiend, and It.

The Story:

The story is exquisitely written in the past tense, through a series of first-person narratives by the story’s principle characters. And takes the reader from Geneva, Switzerland through the Swiss Alps, into England, Scotland and ending in the region of the Arctic Ice.

It examines the world of philosophical and physical creationism, and the resulting emotional torment on each of their lives. Remarkably illustrated is the humanness of the monster created by Victor Frankenstein. With the monster and its creator facing the consequences of their actions, including the creation and destruction of a mate for the monster, the story carries a deep sense of pain and sorrow for both.

It has been Frankenstein’s monster that has since been of considerable influence in popular culture spawning books, comic books, films, plays, television, artwork, Halloween costumes, toys, collectibles and just about anything else that the image of the monster could possibly be attached to.

Film Connection:

The first motion picture adaptation was written and directed by J. Searle Dawley and filmed in 1910 by Thomas Edison Studios in the Bronx, New York. From that point forward Frankenstein has been adapted to 54 film appearances.

The most iconic and recognized image of the creature was portrayed by Boris Karloff in the 1931 version which was adapted from the play by Peggy Webling, based on the novel written and revised by Mary Shelley. The first three Universal Studios films in the Frankenstein franchise, “Frankenstein,” “Bride of Frankenstein,” and “Son of Frankenstein,” were drawn from Mary Shelley’s novel. There was also a comedy spinoff of the story produced by 20th Century Fox in 1974, “Young Frankenstein.”

Since the first adaption in 1910, there have no less than seventy-four film adaptations produced in a variety of countries, including England, Mexico, Japan.

Stage:

The earliest stage adaption, Presumption or the Fate of Frankenstein written by Richard Brinsley Peake, was produced at the English Opera House in London in 1823. Frankenstein, or The Vampire’s Victim in 1887, was musical burlesque show composed by Meyer Lutz and written by Richard Henry. Since then there have been a variety of musical adaptations on Broadway, in the United Kingdom, Australia and Korea.

Television:

The television industry also produced an extensive list of story and theme adaptations that include made for TV movies; horror, supernatural and suspense series; animation and cartoons, as well as sitcoms. A sampling of these are: The Munsters, The Addams Family, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, Monster Force, Scooby-Doo, Sponge Bob Square Pants, and Bugs Bunny.

Music:

From the 1962 novelty Song, “Monster Mash” to the Edgar Winter Group’s 1973 “Frankenstein” instrumental, there is again, a long list of instrumental and lyrical musical compositions associated in some manner with Frankenstein.

Radio and Audio:

Through the golden years of radio, there have been numerous radio drama productions by both American Radio and the BBC. Even as late as 2014, Big Finish Productions released an audio version.

Summation:

Having only scratched the surface of this literary classic, we encourage everyone to journey into the world of Frankenstein, and explore what has become a benchmark for literature and film across multiple genres. We hope you find yourself spellbound by what you discover.

Much appreciation and respect to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley for creating Frankenstein and his Creature. And to all those who followed and adapted this tale in virtually every conceivable size, shape and manner, thank you…

Always remember those two most celebrated words spoken by Henry Frankenstein in 1931, “It’s Alive!”

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