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, and/or the vampire simply tempted the would-be servant with the possibility of becoming a vampire as well
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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.
- 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.
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
- Renfield in the early film adaptation Dracula (1931).
- Knock in Nosferatu is a Captain Ersatz of Renfield because they couldn't get the rights.
- 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.
- Tom Waits as Renfield in Bram Stoker's Dracula.
- Artie Johnson in the Dracula spoof Love at First Bite.
- 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 msotly 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.)
- An interesting twist on the trope in Dracula Untold, in that Dracula hates the behavior. A gypsy 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. The same gypsy appears at the end of the film, and uses his blood to revive Dracula's body.
- 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.
- 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 Trilogy. 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.
- There's an entire slave trade in the Den of Shadows series to get Renfields.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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 V: Skyrim:
- Vampires have human Thralls as their lowliest mooks; if the player's level is high enough, they won't encounter thralls anymore, just the vampires themselves.
- Clan Volkihar in the Dawnguard add-on employs a human gatekeeper who appears to be one of these.
- 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.