Vampires heal fast, that is a given of the Jossyverse. But, as always, the devil’s in the details.
The first question is just what can vampires heal from, and what will injure them permanently. They can obviously survive many horrific things that would kill a human. Angel has been speared through with swords or bits of wood on numerous occasions and healed up within a day or two (Somnambulist, A Hole in the World). It is also notable how little they bleed – presumably due to the lack of circulation. After being stabbed or shot, Angel seems to need bandaging, but we have never seen a significant amount of blood. This raises the interesting question of what the dressings are for.
The actual time taken to heal from cuts and bruises seem to be quite variable and, interestingly enough, bruises seem to be much slower than cuts. When Angel was cut in I’ve Got You Under My Skin the wound began to close up within a few minutes. After being stabbed through the chest with a sword, Angel was moving around with perfect ease and was apparently fine less than twenty-four hours later (A Hole in the World). By contrast, the bruises Spike received from his beating by Glory in Intervention were still visible in Tough Love, and those Spike and Angel gave one another in Destiny were still there in Harm’s Way which was specifically stated as being
Vampires can also recover from very serious burns (Darla and Dru post Redefinition), without scaring, but, just like bruising, burns seem to take some time to heal. Dru still had burn marks in Crush, Spike had them in Surprise.
Not of course that they bruise very easily, a vampire is likely to walk away from very forceful blows without any visible bruising or grazes. It is as if once they have actually been bruised or burnt it is so unusual that it takes longer to heal than their recovery time from cuts would suggest. All part of the mystical-whatsit, no doubt.
I am even left wondering if bruises and burns hurt a vampire more than cuts do. We know that
although they feel pain, they don’t hold back because of it (Potential) but it is obviously more complicated than that. Simple observation seems to show that a punch on the nose seems to hurt Spike far more than a sword-thrust through the chest hurts Angel.
One could posit that cuts, since they involve blood, have more powerful healing magic associated with them within the vampire. After all a bruise, being internal bleeding, doesn’t really ‘matter’ to the vampire, while a cut that caused them to lose precious blood would. It is all about the blood. Alternatively, one could posit that ME find bruises more sexy than cuts on their male leads.
The theory that it is the fact that blood is involved that makes cuts heal fastest is also ruined by the resilience of their bones. A vampire can survive a fall from a great height (Spike The Gift, Angel Shells) and walk away from it seemingly without broken bones. So although their bones can be broken if enough force is applied (Intervention) they clearly have great resistance.
Once broken, they do again take some time to heal, but unlike bruises, bones heal faster than for a human. Spike still had bruises and was limping in Tough Love from the bones that needed mending after Glory’s attentions. By Spiral both limp and bruises had cleared up, so in other words they were healing at about the same rate.
There is also the remarkable case of Colin’s eye. This is not Collin the Anointed but Colin the Master’s minion, who was punished in The Harvest by having his eye stabbed by the Master. Yet by Never Kill A Boy On The First Date (presumably a few weeks later) his eye was healed. Of course Colin may be exceptional for some reason. Fanon often suggests that a vampire’s ability to heal depends on his age. We do not know Colin’s age but he does seem to be the Master’s senior minion after Luke dies, and is therefore presumably not a stripling.
We do know that a vampire’s physiology changes with age. The Master – as old as any vampire on record according to Giles (Prophecy Girl) – had changed sufficiently that not only was he
past the curse of human features but his bones survived after he was dusted. Kakistos, so old that his hands and feet were cloven, did dust completely but was very hard to stake. It is therefore not unreasonable to assume that younger vampires are more easily hurt than older ones. Unfortunately there is very little direct evidence for this. Indeed, although Angel is 127 years older than Spike, their injuries seemed to be healing at approximately the same rate in Harm’s Way.
So what can’t a vampire recover from? One of the slowest physical injuries to heal was whatever happened to Spike in What’s My Line, Part 2. This involved burns and his being crushed by a falling organ, resulting in him being confined to a wheelchair for several months, but the exact nature of the problem was never mentioned. Since burns and bones heal reasonably fast it is fair to assume that the delay was caused by something else. The normal assumption is that, his spine having been broken, the time required was for the spinal cord to mend. In a human of course it never would have done, so Spike was still one up on the living.
There are only two canon instances of vampires with permanent injuries. The first is the member of the order of Aurelius who displeased the Master and cut off his hand in penance (Teacher’s Pet). Assuming this was indeed the vampire with the fork, the hand had clearly not re-grown. However, there is a considerable difference between damaged tissue healing – even an eye – and an entire limb reappearing, so perhaps this is not surprising.
What is surprising is the only other example of a wound not healing perfectly – the cut in Spike’s eyebrow. It is remarkable that this of all wounds should scar. The cut was a relatively small one, delivered cleanly by a sword, and there was a lot of blood involved – for it to leave a scar seems to contradict everything else observed. It was not the fact that a slayer inflicted the wound that made the difference – otherwise Spike would be covered in scars left by Buffy.
Incidentally, there is one scar that every vampire should have and doesn’t. The bite mark from where they were killed evidently heals over in the first moments of their rising. We know that the bites are left visible on the corpse (Welcome To The Hellmouth) yet no vampire has ever displayed a scar on his neck. The fanon that mentions a scar is wrong.
Just occasionally the bite wound is visible for a while after rising. It was visible as a raw, but not bleeding, wound for Spike’s mother. We do not know how long she had been risen at that point, it could have been as little as a few minutes, whilst assuming that Spike and Dru had been living in the house and Spike had just gone out for the early evening and then returned early enough for the theatres to still be open, it could not have been longer than a few hours.
So the conclusion is that a vampire can recover from any injury except having a limb actually removed and in one instance a small cut from a sword.
But as regards other health issues, vampires are more vulnerable than is often realised. Wesley once stated that vampires don’t get sick (Soul Purpose), Angel, who had after all just said that he was sick, clearly disagreed. And I think this is yet another instance of the W.C. propaganda being swallowed whole by Wes irrespective of the actual facts. Because there have been several instances of things which can make a vampire unwell.
In Soul Purpose it was a Selminth parasite. In Graduation Day, Part 1 it was an arrow with the poison
Killer of the Dead. And most significantly there was whatever was killing Dru in Season 2. And it was specifically stated that she would die unless cured.
- See, if I kill you now you go quick, and Dru hasn’t got a chance. And if Dru dies your little Rebecca of Sunnyhell Farm and all her mates are spared her coming-out party.
Indeed at one point it seems that Giles, in contrast to Wes, understands that a vampire can be sick.
- I found a description of the missing Du Lac manuscript…I haven’t managed to decipher the exact details, but I believe the purpose is to restore a weak and sick vampire back to full health.
We never learn exactly what it is that has put Dru’s life at risk. We know she was attacked (presumed killed by Giles) by an angry mob in Prague (Lie to Me) and that this resulted in her illness.
- Darling, are you going to eat something?
- I’m not hungry. I miss Prague.
- You nearly died in Prague. Idiot mob. This is the place for us. The Hellmouth will restore you, put color in your cheeks, metaphorically speaking, and in a few weeks’ time…
- The stars will align, and smile down on us.
We know no more than that about just what the mob did. Outside of the show’s canon, in the comic Tales of the Vampires, Dru got her injuries on a nasty torture machine with an unknown glowy something in a box (conveniently not pictured) to ensure the pain stayed with her for eternity. This is as good an explanation as any.
Now the business about Spike and Dru waiting for the stars to align is fascinating, because it shows that they already know they need to await a certain date before they can cure Dru, prior to their obtaining the Du Lac manuscript. In fact the manuscript is only needed because it can give them some detail that they have been missing until now, which implies they have tried to cure her before.
- By George, I think he’s got it! The key to your cure, ducks. The missing bloody link.
The missing link is of course the blood of Dru’s sire, Angel. As I have pointed out before, this lays to rest the fanon notion that vampire blood or sire’s blood is a well-known cure-all amongst vamps or it would presumably have occurred to them sooner. What else is interesting about this cure is that it will kill Angel.
- Now all we need’s the full moon tonight, and he will die, and you will be fully restored.
How exactly? It is of course a ritual, so it is possible that the magic will do it, but in the event Dru was cured perfectly well without Angel dying so that seems unlikely. So perhaps what would have killed Angel was something far simpler – the blood loss. Perhaps this is evidence that a vampire can be drained to death.
It is, after all, all about the blood.