The Renfield
aka: Renfield

"Historically, he...Dracula has found some way of exerting his will more strongly over one human for a period of time...We first became aware of the one he controlled through the rural rumor. He'd take a single human to taunt the townsfolk, scare them. They had a word for him, it was Anglo-Saxon in origin, 'the one who lives at the edge of the field.'"

Vampires are usually bad for human health, especially the evil ones. But that doesn't stop certain people from going into a vampire's servitude. Part of the reason is, when you can't go out in sunlight, there's a lot of things you can't do for yourself. Part of the reason is that sometimes you just need minions.

Enter The Renfield. Reasons for this can vary; either the slave has wilfully gone into servitude, the would-be slave got addicted to the vampire's blood, the vampire used some sort of mind-control power, occasionally they'll just be hired, and/or the vampire simply tempted the would-be servant with the possibility of becoming a vampire as well.

This trope is usually associated with Pragmatic Villainy(for vampires, at least) for a few reasons, one of them being that having a servant/ally who doesn't have the same weaknesses as you can be pretty useful at times...if you can resist the urge to suck him dry of his blood, that is. For example, said servant can guard and protect your coffin/tomb/resting place during the day to make sure that no vampire hunters come along to stake you, pour holy water all over your body or cut your head off while you sleep.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Part 3 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Dio employs several human Stand users in order to defeat the Joestars. While some have been mind-controlled, almost everyone else serves him willingly with near-fanatical devotion. To be fair though, most of them serve Dio only out of promises of great wealth/the threat of being killed by him. The ones in the Cairo Mansion are extremely loyal out of respect, particularly Vanilla Ice who kills himself because Dio mentioned he needed to feed soon. For his devotion Vanilla Ice is turned into a vampire which leads to his downfall.
    • in Part 1, he has several zombie minions that he uses to capture the townsfolk that live in the shadow of his castle. Most of them look human on the outside, save for Page, Jones, Plant and Bornnam, but have freakish powers and abilities to make them stronger. Jack the Ripper becomes one of Dio's minions in order to get with that power.

    Comic Books 
  • In the comic book adaptation of The Extinction Parade, the vampires use human servants to manage and put a living human face on their finances, as well as to cover up their misdeeds. Most of them are recruited through promises of wealth or eternal life, or through simple intimidation. The narrator and her partner Laila have one that they call Willem (real name Mohammed Ishak), whose family has served them in this capacity for several generations. While they do live comfortably, they often resent the behind-the-back insults and dismissive attitudes of their vampire masters, as shown when Willem snaps, tells the vampires that they're screwed because they never learned to care for themselves, and throws himself to the zombies.
  • Fiends of the Eastern Front: Corporal Cringu is the human servant of the Rumanian vampires, responsible for driving a truck full of coffins near the frontlines and protecting them during daylight.
  • The "Lord of Nightmares" story arc of American Vampire describes Renfield as a result of Dracula taking over the mind of someone to do his bidding and act as his agent and in a Mouth of Sauron capacity. There have been several over the centuries. The Renfield of this story arc, an American named Tommy Glass, works with the Soviets to successfully free Darcula from his prison in the Tower Bridge.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Batman vs. Dracula has the actual Dracula give the role to The Penguin, though he's actually hypnotized. As as side note, Vampire Joker takes Renfield's weird habits, like eating bugs.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Knock in Nosferatu is a Captain Ersatz of Renfield because they couldn't get the rights. Unlike the original, though, he's in league with the vampire from the beginning.
  • Dracula's Daughter had Sandor as Renfield to the eponymous daughter. It's also a bit of a Subverted Trope, however, in that he manipulates her into continuing to be evil and drinking blood in the hopes that she'll eventually make him into a vampire too. When she finally rejects him once and for all in favor of a handsome young doctor, the furious Sandor kills her.
  • In 30 Days of Night a detestable character takes care of a few chores in the opening that pave the way for a group of vampires later, believing that they'll make him a vampire in exchange. Naturally, they kill him when they meet up with him later. This isn't the case in the graphic novel as the guy was seemingly in the process of becoming a vampire, and gets killed before the other vampires show up.
  • In Let the Right One In, Eli's "guardian" seems to love her, despite her usually treating him callously. Depending on your interpretation, young Oskar may have taken over his role by the end of the movie.
    • In the book on which the film was based, his motivation was a paedophile's lust for and fascination with an unchanging child; the author of the book, in the course of writing the screenplay, dropped this sub-plot as being one too many and far too squicky.
    • In Let Me In, Abby's "guardian" is implied to be a boy that fell in love with Abby when he was a young boy and has taken care of her ever since. Owen seems to have taken over this role with Abby by the end of the film.
  • Eric the Hunchback serves as Renfield for Dracula in Santo y Blue Demon contra Drácula y el Hombre Lobo. Though he plays the usual role of a loyal servant who can move around and do things that a vampire can't, there's an interesting twist to this: It turns out that, even though Eric is mortal, he has become so evil that he is not immune to the film's Achilles' Heel for vampires, the Dagger of Boidros: it can destroy him as well.
  • In Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Renfield himself is a major character, and he's a spoof of his novel self, like everyone else in the film.
  • Similar to the Dracula's Daughter film mentioned above, Blood for Dracula has a Renfield who is mostly in control. Dracula is sick and dying, so Renfield is the one who comes up with the plan to go to Italy and seduce wealthy young women. He even bosses Dracula around in one scene since the count is no longer in any shape to retaliate.
  • Ian from Only Lovers Left Alive is an interesting case. He's by no means Adam's slave- in fact, he seems to be the closest thing Adam has to a friend, though Adam simply uses him as a means to obtain things he can't or won't get himself. (He does pay Ian handsomely, though.) Ian is also perfectly unaware of what his boss is.
  • An interesting twist on the trope in Dracula Untold, in that Dracula hates the behavior. The gypsy Shkelgim recognises Vlad as a vampire partway through the film, and makes an offer to serve him, offering some of his own blood for Vlad to drink. Vlad, in the midst of resisting his bloodlust, angrily refuses him. At the end of the film, Shkelgim shows up again, drags Dracula's body into a tent, and uses his blood to revive him.
  • What We Do in the Shadows has three "familiars" that function in this role for their vampire masters:
    • Deacon has Jackie, who does all of his mundane household chores in the hopes that she will be made a vampire as well, a deal that Deacon clearly has no intention of holding up and is upset when Nick turns her anyway.
    • Phillip was this for Viago, until the latter moved to New Zealand in a failed attempt to find his girlfriend. In a disastrous Skype call many years later, it's shown that Phillip has been waiting all this time for Viago to return and make him immortal too.
    • Jackie's husband is this for her at the end of the film, in a rather extreme example of the Henpecked Husband trope.
  • In the Blade series, these guys are called familiars, who help the vampires with their day-to-day running of the hidden world. Blade hates these guys about as much as he hates vampires, since they're essentially selling out their own species. It also really depends on the vampire as to the familiar's survival rate: Deacon Frost is fond of feeding on them if they do something to piss him off, while Lord Damaskinos actually has a pretty good understanding with his human lawyer.
  • Lifeforce Colonel Tom Carlsen is revealed to be the Renfield to the Space Girl's Dracula. Carlsen admits being compelled by the female vampire to open her container and allowed her to drain the lifeforce and kill the rest of the crew aboard the space shuttle Churchill, while he escaped to Earth via emergency pod.

  • The Trope Namer is Renfield in Dracula. While he certainly seems willing to become Dracula's slave, being locked in at Dr. Seward's sanatorium rather limits his options and the Count seems to more or less ignore him throughout. (Until he finally visits him in his cell and kills him.) In the original his death was also a Crowning Moment of Awesome. Renfield at one point demands that he be moved so that Dracula will not compel him to let him into the house to attack Mina. When this fails, the second time Dracula enters, he grabs Dracula and tries to kill him with his bare hands, while the Count is in mist form. And he would have succeeded, too, if Dracula hadn't used his Hypnotic Eyes.
  • Paradise Rot: Kampo may have been one once, but now he's simply Jackson's zombie manservant.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Black Court vampires can exert mental domination on humans to create permanent mindslaves. They are actually referred to as "Renfields" because Bram Stoker "wrote the book" on slaying Black Court vampires. These Renfields are more competent than most examples of the trope, and more tragic. Or at least, they are competent within narrow fields: they make great cannon-fodder Mooks, and they might be useful for similarly mindless tasks, but they aren't so good at complex thought, given that their minds have been forcibly ripped away and replaced by unthinking obedience. So utterly destroyed are their human selves that killing Renfields is not even considered murder by the White Council of wizards. (Ordinary law enforcement, unfortunately, has a hard time telling the difference)
    • The White Court's thralls (emotionally drained human husks) might also count as this. Red Court vampires can do something similar because their saliva is an addictive narcotic. Alternately, the Reds and Whites just hire them for their muscle.
  • This is a semi-official rank in vampire society in Nancy A. Collins's Sonja Blue series. Humans with some telepathic ability and a psychological disposition to submission are often enslaved by master vampires (via Mind Rape, which an ideal candidate for the job will actually enjoy) and used as personal assistants. The position is referred to as "renfield" (in lower case), but the master of such a servant dehumanizes him/her by addressing him/her only as "Renfield" (upper case).
  • Similarly, vampires in the Anita Blake series call the humans who serve them, those who have been bitten a few times and are thus somewhat in thrall to the vampire, Renfields. When asked "What did you call them before Stoker's book came out?", the answer was simply "slaves".
  • In Stephen King's vampire novel 'Salem's Lot, Mr. Straker serves in this role, but subverts it in that he is quite capable as the vampire's daytime operative.
  • The vampires in Patricia Briggs's Mercy Thompson novels have "sheep" — people who are kept on hand as walking meals — whose Sycophantic Servant-ness varies depending on how the vampire treats them. They all become increasingly subservient to and dependent on the vampire after repeated feedings. If there are enough sheep to keep the feedings infrequent, then the people can stay healthy indefinitely, and there are some benefits (such as cancers being kept in remission), which logically explains why some of them are quite happy with their lot. Stefan, the most sympathetic vampire, does this on purpose, seeking out potential sheep who need a safe haven or medical help. Eventually, the vampire may decide to "turn" a sheep, but this isn't always possible.
  • Krishna of Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town is referred to as a Renfield in-story. Unusually for this trope, he begins with self-righteous intentions as a wannabe monster-hunter, but both his sadism and his toadyism are readily apparent early on, and he readily sides with an undead fiend who's blatantly the most evil character in the book.
  • In Charlie Huston's Already Dead and its sequels, the vampires of New York classify humans who know about them based on characters from Stoker's novel. Renfields are willing servants, Van Helsings are enemies, Lucys are wannabees and Minas refrain from judging vampires solely by their nature.
  • Sour Billy Tipton in Fevre Dream serves as a competent version to Damon Julian. He's been told that he'll be transformed into a vampire one day, which is impossible.
  • In The Parasol Protectorate, vampires are widely accepted in London society and offer a chance at immortality to anyone with excess soul. Those tempted may choose to serve the local hive as a drone, and eventually petition for the bite. The werewolf equivalents are called clavigers.
  • Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Count Saint-Germain has Roger as his undying servant for most of the books. In Blood Games, we learn that Roger is a ghoul, revived shortly after his human death by Saint-Germain and bound to his service (and that Saint-Germain had another servant before Roger). Roger never seems to resent his position, though how much of his loyalty is due to the binding and how much to gratitude is never clear. Saint-Germain later created another ghoul servant and transferred his service somehow to Olivia.
  • Dora Wilk Series has "renfelds", human servants of vampires who must obey every wish of their master and act as a snack from time to time, but are awarded with extremely prolonged lives and possibility of becoming vampire in the future.
  • People who work for Volturi in the Twilight saga, such as their receptionist Gianna, hope that they will be transformed into vampires, but may be also killed.
  • In The Saga of Darren Shan, Darren becomes a half-vampire in order to save his friend, forcing him into this role.
  • The Rhesus Chart by Charles Stross. An ancient vampire points out that such people are necessary for him to function in the modern world, given that even the English language has changed over the past century, let alone fashion or technology. Besides which vampires by nature and necessity have to be secretive and isolated from society, so the vampire gets round this by training a mind-controlled surrogate from every generation to act in his stead.
  • In The Strain, wealthy businessman Eldritch Palmer helps the Master, one of the original vampires, sneak into the United States and uses his influence to keep news of the resulting vampire plague out of the media. He does this of his own free will, as he hopes the Master will show him the secret to immortality.
  • The vampires of Seleme Manor in Unique have several live in servants. All of them serve willingly and regularly exert themselves to curry favor with their immortal employers. This probably has at least something to do with Aelfric's insistence on treating humans as people and not simply food; even Ophelia treats the servants like well trained and pampered pets.
  • Voldemort from the Harry Potter books is a lich and not a vampire, but during his stint as The Disembodied, he has several slavishly devoted followers who work to restore his physical form. In book one, his first such follower is Quirinus Quirrell, whom he manipulates by playing on his desire to impress people. In book two, Ginny Weasley fills this role after becoming possessed by one of Voldemort's soul fragments. Finally, in book four, Wormtail and Barty Crouch, Jr. work in tandem to create a new body for their master.
  • The Last American Vampire has human Secret Keeper personal assistants to vampires, called Renfields, to help their employers cope with the time and place they're in and take care of those pesky daytime errands. One example was Bram Stoker.

    Live-Action TV 
  • True to the original, the Sycophantic Servant in Dark Shadows — Willie Loomis — was also an unwilling servant who couldn't quite overcome his master's unnatural charisma.
  • The Sycophantic Servant in Young Dracula is actually named Renfield. His grandfather is brought back from the dead in one episode, very angry about not being transformed into a vampire as was promised, meaning that the Draculas have managed to keep multiple generations serving them with this promise they have no intention of fulfilling.
  • Maria Walters, a Satanist who desires to be integrated with a demon in The Exorcist. Her wealth and connections are instrumental in the plans of her possessed comrades, but she is denied what she wants because "the ox pulls the cart, it doesn't sit at the farmer's table." She is even compared to the Trope Namer at one point.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Vampire: The Masquerade:
    • Ghouls, mortals who have been given the gift of vampire blood while they are still alive, which bestows upon them a weakened version of the Vampire's curse, extending their lifespans and allowing them to use weakened versions of Vampire powers, as well as forging a supernatural emotional bond with the vampire. If the ghoul feeds from the same vampire three times, he or she becomes Blood Bound, making them supernaturally-enforced sycophants to their vampiric regent. Most of them are willing, but some are not (and these kinds tend to be really heartbreaking). A Ghoul's "Reinfieldness" varies considerably; a good Ghoul can be a Hyper-Competent Sidekick, a Battle Butler, or another invaluable aid. Ghouls need not be human, either: animals are just as eligible.
    • There's also Blood Dolls, mortals who have been fed from a couple of times and are psychologically addicted to the Kiss of the Vampire, though some tend to confuse them with ghouls.
    • Vampire: The Requiem mixes things up by introducing the thrall, a human who drinks the same vampire's blood three times, thus enslaving them, but who has not been granted any of the supernatural powers of a ghoul (becoming a ghoul requires the donating vampire, or regnant, to forcefully will the transformation). Vampire blood, or vitae in vampire parlance, possesses addictive qualities which become stronger the more often it is consumed, so some thralls may continue to sample their regnant's blood even if they receive no supernatural benefit for doing so. The benefit of using thralls over ghouls is that they are less psychically taxing to maintain and aren't noticed as anything other than human by supernatural means of surveillance; by default, younger vampires who don't know how to create proper ghouls end up creating thralls instead. The term "thrall" can also be applied to animals and other vampires if they are subject to a blood bond, or vinculum in vampire parlance.
  • Hunter: The Reckoning shares a universe with Masquerade, and thus features ghouls as possible antagonists. For bonus points, the online mailing-list Hunter-Net uses alternate words to describe different supernaturals, and the one they picked for ghouls was Renfields.
  • The Dracula Dossier uses the term "Renfield" to indicate a human granted limited vampiric powers by Dracula or another vampire. Humans who use Seward Serum to gain similar abilities are known as "Jacks" (after Dr. John "Jack" Seward, from the original novel). But since the Seward Serum is ultimately derived from Dracula's blood, users are vulnerable to his control despite what their bosses told them. "Jacking up" before going after Dracula can and probably will backfire.

    Video Games 
  • Shaft to Dracula in the Castlevania series. Although he's The Dragon, one might consider Death to be this also.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines:
    • The game features several, in the form of the ghouls. Knox Harrington (a reference to Knock of Nosferatu), a hyperactive fanboy was recruited by the Nosferatu agent Betram Tung, mainly because he was able to divert attention away from Betram's less palatable schemes. Vandal Cleaver is Therese Voerman's ghoul and works the desk at the local blood bank, selling to vampires; unusually for a Sycophantic Servant, Vandal is sarcastic, bitter (referring to his master as "the Queen Bitch,") and actually quite dangerous to humans, though he's too cowardly to attack a vampire and can easily be intimidated by the PC. Romero, Isaac's ghoul, lives in a cemetery in Hollywood and isn't even allowed to take a break for five minutes to seek out human contact, but is completely content so long as he gets to shoot zombies. Then there's Mercurio, who is totally dedicated to LaCroix, but is very much aware that this is because of the ghouling process, and accepts the situation because there are no better options.
      Mercurio: Just so you understand, my loyalties are all but written in blood, so my opinion of the guy is moot."
    • The player character can get a Sycophantic Servant of their own, if they feel so inclined (and choose the right dialogue options early on); if you learn about ghouling from Mercurio or Knox, you can use your blood to save and enslave Heather, the woman in the hospital who was hit by a car. No matter how badly you treat her, she stays devoted to you, bringing you fresh prey, a useful item, and even trying to give you her college fund. If you don't get rid of her, she'll get killed by your enemies. Only Heather is a good example of this trope. The rest are actually modest examples of this trope at best and better fit other side-kick roles; they are generally quite competent in their tasks, provided one doesn't ask too much from them. Heather, on the other hand, isn't that useful, though she adds some Fanservice and Fetish Fuel to a game already swimming in those tropes.
  • The cyber-punk gothic adventure game BloodNet features a character named Renfield who can join protagonist Ransom Stark's party. This Renfield is exceptionally misguided, as he worships vampires yet Ransom's quest is to cure his vampirism.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • Throughout the series and in background lore, vampires often possess powerful Charm-like spells with which they can enthrall mortals into their service. Other mortals willingly serve Vampires, typically hoping to become vampires themselves.
    • In Skyrim's Dawnguard DLC, the Volkihar vampire clan employs a human gatekeeper who appears to be one of these. Rargal Thrallmaster is a member of the clan and is tasked with overseeing their thralls and feeding cattle.
  • In Mordheim: City of the Damned, one of the Undead Hero Units is the Dreg, a misshapen wretch of a man said to live in isolation on the fringes of civilisation, recruited by vampires to guard their coffins or venture into towns and villages during the day. His bow lets him provide needed ranged support while standing near the Vampire he serves, where he can use his "Humble Servant" special ability to sacrifice some of his HP to replenish the Vampire's.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Duck Dodgers episode "I'm Gonna Get You, Fat Sucka", Dodgers himself takes this role once hypnotized by Count Muerte — complete with eating bugs.
  • Uncle becomes this in an episode of Jackie Chan Adventures when his chi is stolen by a jiangshi.

Alternative Title(s): Renfield