Twilight: The Cullen Family’s Missing Origin Story Explained

Twilight cut a lot of Cullen family backstory, but the dark canon origins of the vampire clan have been laid out in detail by author Stephenie Meyer.

The Twilight franchise’s Cullen clan arrives in the series fully formed, but the saga does have an in-depth backstory for how the family got together. By the time the action of the Twilight saga begins, Bella Swan’s ageless love interest Edward Cullen has already been living with the Cullen family for some time. The 108-year-old vampire met his adopted family years before the series began, and their individual backstories aren’t revealed in much detail until the third Twilight movie, 2010’s Eclipse.

However, the story of how the Cullen family was assembled over the decades is never fully revealed onscreen. Viewers can piece it together from context, but the in-depth history of how the Cullen clan came to be is only outlined in an accompanying lore bible written by Twilight creator Stephenie Meyer. This book goes into detail explaining how and when Carlisle was turned, how he met his mate Esme, and when they adopted the rest of the Cullens.

The Cullen clan arrive in the Twilight series as a pre-existing unit, but how did the vampire family come into existence? The answer is spread across numerous centuries, beginning with Carlisle Cullen’s exile from England. This led the young vampire to take up residence in America, resulting in him encountering a young Edward Cullen. After that fateful meeting, Esme and Carlisle met and their relationship began. Eventually, the found family “adopted” Rosalie Hale and Emmett Cullen after turning them into vampires to save their lives, before being tracked down by their final members Alice and Jasper.

Carlisle Cullen’s Origin Story

Born in 1640s London, Carlisle’s eternal life as a vampire had an ironic start. Although he was a sensitive soul who wanted to help people from a young age, Carlisle was born to a strict father who led paranoid patrols that hunted witches. This led to Carlisle being bitten by a vampire and fleeing his home, after which he made a major discovery. Carlisle (and, by extension, Twilight’s vampires) didn’t need human blood to survive, with the character instead living off animal blood. This allowed him to keep a low profile and avoid endangering other people while he lived as a vampire. Carlisle eventually met with the Volturi and lived with them for some time before partying ways with the coven and moving to America.

Carlisle’s Journey To America

Carlisle arrived in America and lived as a drifter for a long time, but the loneliness of existing as a vampire got to him. In 1918, he was working as a doctor when he encountered a young Edward Cullen, a flu-stricken boy who was on the brink of death. Aware that conventional medical intervention alone wouldn’t save the boy, the vampiric Carlisle Cullen started a coven of his own by turning Edward into a vampire, adopting the boy as his own after the death of Edward’s mother, and passing him off as his brother.

Carlisle Meets His Mate Esme

Carlisle continued to work as a doctor in cities throughout the US, with Edward continuing to pose as his brother wherever the duo moved. It was in this capacity that Carlisle encountered the young Esme Cullen, who was badly injured after attempting to take her life. Carlisle operated on Esme to the best of his abilities but, as was the case with Edward, he was aware that this alone would be insufficient to save her. Carlisle offered to turn Esme into a vampire and his patient trusted him since, in a wild coincidence, he had operated on her earlier in her life when Esme was a child and Carlisle was living in another city under another name. Thus, Esme Cullen became Carlisle’s mate, Edward started posing as their son rather than Carlisle’s brother, and the earliest iteration of the Cullen family was born.

How Rosalie And Emmet Met The Cullens

Rosalie Hale’s journey to becoming a vampire was marked by tragedy, as her former fiancée and his friends brutally beat her and left her for dead in the street. Fortunately, Carlisle encountered her at the right moment and managed to save Rosalie by turning her into a vampire, a choice that came with the fringe benefit of allowing Rosalie to take violent revenge on her tormentors. Rosalie then became a member of the Cullen family, posing as their daughter, and eventually encountered a mate of her own in Emmett. A gentle giant, Emmett almost died while wrestling a bear, only to be saved by the intervention of Rosalie. He joined the Cullen clan in Twilight’s traditional vampire fashion, as one of the coven’s vampires turned him to save him from life-threatening injuries, and he then spent the rest of his eternal life with them.

Why Jasper And Alice Tracked The Cullens Down

Alice and Jasper’s journey to joining the Cullen family is a little different from the rest of its members. While fate brought Edward and Carlisle together, led Carlisle to save Rosalie’s life, and allowed Rosalie to save Emmett’s life in turn, Alice and Jasper actively tracked down the Cullens. Jasper encountered Alice when she saw him in a vision of her future and sought him out, and after the couple’s first meeting, Alice experienced a similar vision telling her that the Cullen clan would be a welcoming home for the couple. Thus, the Twilight saga’s version of the Cullen clan came into existence as Alice and Jasper set out to make Alice’s vision come to life, tracking down the Cullens and joining their family by posing as a second pair of adopted siblings.

Why Twilight’s Movie Adaptations Cut The Cullen Family History

Unfortunately, the Twilight movies didn’t have sufficient screen time to cover the origins of the Cullen clan. However, it is also more than understandable, as the Cullen family history was mostly covered in each sibling’s individual backstory. Although Carlisle and Esme weren’t given any onscreen backstories, their origins are also the least cinematic stories of the bunch, which makes this creative decision understandable. However, the exclusion of Emmett Cullen’s bizarre backstory is a lot harder to justify. When Rosalie’s rampage of vengeance was a highlight of the Twilight movie the sequence appeared in, cutting Emmett’s battle with a bear and his subsequent saving by an angelic vampire seems to be one of the saga’s worst calls. However, the Twilight movies were often accused of failing to capitalize on their campy, melodramatic source material in their dour adaptations, so it is no surprise that the wildest element of the Cullen clan’s backstory ended up on the cutting room floor despite its obvious potential.

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