Today, on the birthday of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, we celebrate Frankenstein Day. Shelley authored the classic gothic romance novel Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, which was written during the year without a summer (1816) and then published in 1818. If you haven’t read the famed tale, check it out here. The story resonates throughout popular culture, and is well known even by those who have neither read the book nor seen a film adaptation.
Of course, you’re going to want to celebrate this lovely holiday, so let’s take a look at some ways you can show your love for the 195-year-old Creature; but first, a warning…
1. Film Adaptations
There are countless film adaptations of Shelley’s classic novel, and it seems there are a few more on the way. However, the most famous is probably the 1931 Universal Studios version starring English actor Boris Karloff. Coupled with the sequel, The Bride of Frankenstein, Karloff’s Frankenstein films are horror classics, but are not completely novel-accurate. If you’re a huge Frankenstein fan and you’re looking for a film a bit more off the beaten path, try the 1910 silent-film version of Frankenstein, the very first film adaptation of the novel. It was filmed in the Bronx, New York, and the run time comes in at a whopping 12 minutes.
2. Graphic Novel
Want to reread Shelley’s novel to celebrate, but you’ve already done so about a million times? Then, switch it up! Graphic adaptations of classic novels can give you an entirely new perspective on a story, providing a lot of the original storyline with some breathtaking artwork. Don’t know where to start? Check out Frankenstein: The Graphic Novel By Jason Cobley.
So you’re a huge fan of Shelley’s tale and you know every detail of her novel, but are you aware of its origins? Of course, Shelley penned the tale, but her inspiration for her characters and the science involved are complex. The History Channel special In Search of the Real Frankenstein looks at the various people who inspired Herr Frankenstein for Shelley.
4. Frankenstein cupcakes
While The Creature is not depicted as a green and bolted monster in Shelley’s novel, that’s the image most people imagine when they picture Herr Frankenstein’s creation. Taste of Home has an attractive and tasty recipe for Frankenstein cupcakes for the skilled baker.
5. Frankenstein Frenzy
Quick! Some evil scientists are trying to capture you inside the laboratory. In order to obtain your freedom you have to fight your way out in this online game entitled “Frankenstein Frenzy”. Arguably, the Creature in Shelley’s book may have preferred to use his words (including some lovely quotes from Milton’s Paradise Lost) rather than his fists to make his way out of a situation, but the game is entertaining nonetheless.
6. Plan a Visit to Frankenstein Castle
In Darmstadt, Germany, on top of a hill sits Burg Frankenstein. Whether or not this castle was visited by Shelley and provided her with a basis for the setting of her story is argued by scholars, but the castle does have Halloween events each year on the estate of the old castle and ruins. Even if the story isn’t strongly connected to Shelley, the castle has adopted the legacy, and is prepared to scare your pants off.
7. The Manuscript
If you’re in the mood for another Frankenstein-centered trip, then you may enjoy making your way to the Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford, which houses a handwritten draft of Shelley’s novel with a number of editing marks made by her husband, poet Percy Shelley. You can also watch a video about the manuscript below.
8. Browse Old Book Covers
Apart from the stunning artwork involved in some of these pieces, looking at old book covers can give great insight into the way the world was when they were produced. Take a glance at some book covers for Frankenstein over the years and see if you can draw any conclusions about the audience they were being produced for. Here’s Flavorwire’s article on Vintage Covers of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
9. Read Up on Prometheus
Neoclassicism of the late 18th and early 19th century was largely preoccupied with the revitalization of Hellenic ideals and values, and so many references to Ancient Greek myths and cultural ideas are present in the works of writers from that time, including the Shelleys. In fact, Percy Shelley, our author’s husband, whom was also a famed poet, was known for his utilization of neoclassical ideas. Mary Shelley was also influenced by this movement; the full title of her novel is, after all, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, and there are strong connections to the original Greek myth of Prometheus in the tale. However, she is much more popularly associated with the Romantic Movement, largely due to her emphasis on feelings of terror and her appreciation of the sublime. Read the story of Prometheus here.
The best-known of Frankenstein parodies would probably be Young Frankenstein, a Mel Brooks film with Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle. In the 1974 comedy, Dr. Frankenstein’s Grandson has been trying to separate himself from his Grandfather’s infamous reputation, but after finding a book on his Grandfather’s work he takes over his Grandfather’s castle to recreate his experiments.
The Creature from Frankenstein is often associated with other horror movie monsters that premiered at the same time the Universal Studios film adaptation came out, in 1931. So, in 1948 comedians Bud Abbott and Lou Costello made a mashup comedy film with the various monsters called Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein. The Frankenstein monster, as he’s known in the film, was played by Glenn Strange, and appeared in the movie with Dracula and the Wolf Man, played by Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr., respectively. The film focuses on how Dracula is trying to revive the Frankenstein monster, and wants to use Lou Costello’s character’s brain to complete the creature, and so they try to capture and kill him. Meanwhile, the Wolf Man has made his way over from London and is killing people in the area, but Bus Abbott’s character keeps getting blamed for the attacks.
Herr Frankenstein and his Creature are well known pop culture figures, even 195 years after publication. Shelley created a story that has stood the test of time, not only remaining known, but relevant. (Her tale, which speaks of thirst for knowledge, the dangers of a God complex, and the search for identity, contains ideas which are still thoroughly relatable.) So, as you celebrate Frankenstein Day keep in mind the great contribution Shelley’s novel has made to society, and the lasting impression it has made.
Now, it’s time to celebrate. Let’s do the Monster Mash!
How are you going to celebrate Frankenstein Day?