Twilight: Carlisle Cullen’s Dark Backstory Explained

The Twilight saga is full of backstories that the blockbuster movie adaptations didn’t have time to focus on and Carlisle is no exception

The Twilight saga is full of backstories that the blockbuster movie adaptations didn’t have time to focus on, and Cullen clan patriarch Carlisle is no exception. Released in 2008, Thirteen director Catherine Hardwicke’s Twilight was a highly successful adaptation of Stephenie Meyers’ teen fantasy romance novel of the same name. Although the movie prompted plenty of mockeries online and critical disdain, the Twilight series was a Harry Potter-sized phenomenon among its intended audience and made stars of lead actors Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart.

Telling the tale of teenage vampire Edward Cullen and his mutual infatuation with moody small-town girl Bella Swan, the Twilight saga combined classic teen love story tropes with supernatural mythology and a legendary Edward-Jacob-Bella love triangle to win a huge fandom amongst teenage audiences. Although critics hated the Twilight movies, they were well-liked by fans of the novels despite some inconsistency between entries, with installments such as the disappointing New Moon failing to live up to fan’s hopes.

RELATED:Twilight: Jasper Cullen’s Dark Backstory Explained

However, despite the best attempts of 30 Days of Night director David Slade to delve into the dark backstories of Edward’s vampire family during his contribution to the franchise Eclipse, the Twilight movie adaptations didn’t have a long enough runtime to offer a look at every Cullen family member’s sordid past. Take, for example, Edward’s adopted father Carlisle Cullen. Like every member of the close-knit clan, Edward’s dad has a sad story from before the action of the Twilight saga begins, and it’s one that many fans missed out on as the movie series didn’t have sufficient screen time to delve into it. It’s a tale of angst, bloodshed, and eventual redemption through love that is classic Twilight, and one which fits the recurring themes of enduring love and chosen families that the movie and novel series address.

Carlisle Was A Vampire Hunter (Like His Father)


Born in 1640s London, the young Carlisle was not simply unfortunate enough to stumble across a vampire, like many characters in the series such as the first film’s villain, Cam Gigandet’s James. Instead, Carlisle actively sought out the undead, although this occupation wouldn’t have been the placid pacifist’s chosen job if he had any say in the matter. Born into a family whose patriarch resembled Vincent Price’s legendary Witchfinder General villain, Carlisle inherited the job of hunting witches, vampires, and any other suspected “paranormal beings” (read: a great many innocent people) from his Anglican preacher father. However, Carlisle’s soon-to-be un-beating heart was never in the job, and where his father was a bloodthirsty zealot, Carlisle attempted to be more measured and avoid the torture and murder of innocent people that his father reveled in. He did eventually uncover a coven of vampires dwelling in London’s sewers, but was bitten by one in his attempts to hunt them.

He Never Drank Human Blood

Peter Facinelli as Carlisle Cullen

Like any newborn vampire in the Twilight saga, Carlisle awoke from his ordeal with an insatiable thirst for human blood, the only thing that could sustain him. However, in a display of self-control that bordered on superheroic, Carlisle’s unique approach among the Twilight saga’s many vampires was to resist the allure of feeding on human blood throughout his transformation into a bloodsucker. He almost starved in the process, but the young man hoped that he would perish as he was unable to bear the monster he’d become. Like many classic vampires, from Dracula himself to the stars of Interview with A Vampire, Carlisle was tortured by his inability to die and soon found himself unbearably lonely, attempting suicide numerous times to no avail but never giving in to his thirst for sustenance. However, in a subversion of vampire cliches, Carlisle did find a workaround that allowed him to avoid killing humans without starving for his endless, immortal existence, one which he passed on to his vampire clan. Eventually drinking the blood of a deer made Carlisle realize he could survive on the vampiric equivalent of vegetarianism, allowing him to avoid any further bloodshed.

He Was In League With The Volturi For A Time

Marcus, Aro and Ciaus looking skeptically at Alice in Breaking Dawn Part 2

Carlisle eventually fled from England, where witch hunters such as his father had driven vampires into hiding and living a depressing half-existence in the safety of sewers (amongst the Twilight saga’s unfortunate implications, like its misuse of Quileute mythology, is the implication that some of the innocent people tortured and killed by witch hunters were, in fact, vampires). Upon arriving in Italy in the 1700s, Carlisle soon saw that this country’s vampires lived very differently, and as surprising as it may seem given his later heroic characterization, for a time he was involved with the eventual villains of the Twilight saga, the Volturi. Carlisle was fascinated by the worldly charms of the Volturi, who in turn found him good company. However, his “vegetarianism” never gelled with their human hunting and neither party ever convinced the other of their worldview (pro- or anti-humankind), so Carlisle and the Volturi parted amicably, at least until the events of the Twilight saga, and in particular Breaking Dawn.

RELATED:Twilight: Why Rami Malek’s Benjamin Is So Unique (& So Important)

He Met Edward As A Doctor

Eventually moving to America and becoming a doctor, Carlisle found a way to channel his endless time for study and love of people into rewarding work. He began working as a medical doctor, moving from city to city as a drifter, and avoiding establishing interpersonal relationships with co-workers as he did so to avoid becoming too attached to mortal humans. However, he was still lonely, until he eventually encountered a young Edward Cullen, a teenager dying of Spanish influenza in 1918. Aware he would be unable to save the boy through conventional means, Carlisle turned him into a vampire and aided him throughout his transformation, with the duo living together in a brotherly sort of relationship for some time before Edward Cullen’s love triangle with Bella.

And Later Met His Mate The Same Way

Elizabeth Reaser as Esme Cullen

Eventually, Carlisle encountered Esme, his eventual mate, in similar circumstances. Having fixed a broken bone of hers when she was a young girl and he was a pediatrician, Carlisle was surprised to see Esme admitted to his hospital after a grievous attempt at self-harm years later after losing her newborn baby to lung fever. Once again aware he’d be unable to save her life via conventional medicine, Carlisle decided to turn her only to discover Esme remembered him from their earlier encounter. As the pair fell in love, the younger Edward changed his cover story to being Carlisle’s son rather than brother, and the trio eventually started a family full of new vampire companions before the events of the Twilight saga finally take place. Unlike Jasper and Rosalie’s backstories, Carlisle’s story doesn’t even receive a truncated flashback retelling in the film series, a surprising oversight given how pivotal his character is to the narrative of the Twilight saga as a whole.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button