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Vlad the Impaler - Dracula

Vlad the Impaler the Inspiration Behind Count Dracula

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Although vampires are often associated with Christianity (vampires are said to be repelled by holy objects such as crucifixes and holy water), the belief in these creatures, or beings with vampiric qualities, has been held since ancient times. In Ancient Greece and Rome, for instance, there are stories about beings that return from the dead to drink the blood of the living. In 1897 AD, Bram Stoker, an Irish writer, wrote a novel called Dracula, which has since become one of the classics of the Gothic horror genre. Despite the fact that Dracula is a fictional character, it should be said that Stoker did not pull him out of thin air. Instead, Dracula is believed to be based on a real, historical figure, though how much of a vampire he was will be decided by the readers.

Stoker’s Dracula is thought to have been based on the 15 th century Prince of Wallachia (modern day Romania), Vlad III. Vlad was born sometime between 1428 and 1431, probably in Sighişaora, Transylvania. His patronymic, ‘Dracul’, means Dragon, derived from the membership of his father, Vlad II Dracul, in the Order of the Dragon. This was an order of chivalry founded by Sigismund, the King of Hungary, for the defence of Christianity in Eastern Europe against the Ottoman Empire.

The Ambras Castle Portrait of Vlad III

The Ambras Castle Portrait of Vlad III . Photo source: Wikimedia .

In 1442, Vlad and his brother, Radu, were taken as hostages by the Ottomans to ensure the loyalty of their father. In 1448, Vlad was released, and with Ottoman support, occupied the Wallachian throne before he was overthrown in the autumn of the same year. However, Vlad regained his throne in 1456 and remained the Prince of Wallachia until 1462. In 1462, the Ottomans, under Mehmed II (the same Sultan who conquered Constantinople), invaded Wallachia, but were driven back by Vlad’s use of guerrilla warfare. Vlad’s triumph did not last long, however, as Mehmed II left Vlad’s brother, Radu, with the task of subduing Wallachia. Despite winning a couple more victories against the Ottomans, Vlad was soon short of cash and sought the help of the Hungarians/were intercepted by them whilst retreating. Consequently, Vlad was arrested and thrown into prison. He would only be released from captivity 12 years later. Radu’s sudden death in 1475 enabled Vlad to claim the Wallachian throne once more in 1476, but he died in the same year in a battle against the Ottomans.

Although Vlad was infamous throughout Europe for his cruelty (according to certain sources), it is perhaps his favourite mode of execution that ensured his place in history.  Vlad III was known after his death as Vlad Țepeș (the Impaler). Impalement was Vlad’s preferred method of execution, and it is recorded that he did this on a grand scale. It is said that as he retreated from a battle against the Ottomans in 1462, he impaled and put on display some 20,000 people outside the city of Targoviste as a deterrent to the pursuing Ottoman forces. This psychological attack worked, as it is claimed that the sight was so repulsive that Mehmed II, after seeing the scale of Vlad's carnage and the thousands of decaying bodies being picked apart by crows, turned back and retreated to Constantinople.         

Nevertheless, this is just one side of the story. Vlad III has been hailed by Romanians as a national hero for defending the country against the invading Ottomans. Even during his time, he was seen as a defender of Christendom, in spite of the atrocities that he committed. It is perhaps Stoker’s Dracula that has propelled Vlad to international stardom. In this modern day, Dracula has become a brand name that fuelled the development of ‘Dracula tourism’ in Romania. In 2001, Romania intended to construct a ‘Dracula Land’, a theme park based on Dracula. Domestic and international opposition to this project, however, resulted in its suspension and eventual abandonment. Yet, this was not a complete loss for Romania, as it brought Romania into the attention of the world and successfully highlighted what that country had to offer tourists, apart from Dracula himself.

Featured image: An artist’s depiction of Vlad III as Dracula. Image source .

By Ḏḥwty

References

Beresford, M., 2008. From Demons to Dracula: The Creation of the Modern Vampire Myth. London: Reaktion Books.

Britannica, Encyclopaedia, 2014. Vlad III. [Online]
Available at: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/631524/Vlad-III
[Accessed 3 May 2014].

Lallanilla, M., 2013. The Real Dracula: Vlad the Impaler. [Online]
Available at: http://www.livescience.com/40843-real-dracula-vlad-the-impaler.html
[Accessed 3 May 2014].

Light, D., 2012. The Dracula Dilemma: Tourism, Identity and the State in Romania. Farnham: Ashgate.

Wikipedia, 2014. Vlad the Impaler. [Online]
Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vlad_III_the_Impaler
[Accessed 3 May 2014].

Comments

When Vlad was Imprisoned in Hungary, he impaled rats that he caught.

I’ve always found it interesting that after death in December 1476 or early January 1477, his head was supposedly cut off and sent to Mehmed II. The traditional place of burial was  in the Monastery of Snagov but when it was excavated, the corpse that was supposed to be him had a head. Perhaps he didn’t die and is still out there (Ha ha)

Good evening,
I came across your article about Vlad Tepes of Wallachia being the inspiration behind the fictional Count Dracula. In part this is true, however, of equal importance in the formation of the character was Bram Stokers acquaintanceship with a gentleman by the name of Arminius van Buren, of Budapest, whom, it is known, corresponded with Mr. Stoker on a number of occasions prior to the writing of the novel. Mr. van Buren was a source, apparently, of great knowledge on local folklore and mythology and while Mr. Stoker may have indeed cross referenced information regarding Vlad it is doubtful that the Wallachian defender was the sole inspiration for the character. Indeed, it would seem that the character of Count Dracula was a polyglot of sources.
Respectfully,
T

Bram Stoker knew little more than the name Dracula, which he read of in an early 19th century travel guide he found in the Whitby library in May of 1890.He liked the sound of it and it's etymology [son of the dragon or devil].The brief quote he used was so vague it seems to have merged Vlad 3 with his father, Dracul.The title VOIVODE was cited but not the first name Vlad.The date was also quite obscure. Vlad was not called the impaler and was not always recognized as 'Dracula' until the 20th century by historians.Although the British museum had one of the german pamphlets on Vlad tsepesh there is no evidence Stoker ever saw or heard of it. The segment in the novel where the count describes his 'ancestors' was almost a direct lift from the book by Wilkinson from Whitby. The impaler horror tales are nowhere mentioned in the novel or Stoker's notes.Had he known of them Stoker surely would've used it as it would make his villain yet more fearsome.So, Vlad 3 and the vampire count share a name but little else. The latter, for example, was a Szekely nobleman from Transylvania not a Vlach ruler of Wallachia to the south.

Promethean Fires

Vlad Dracula’s pained Princedom was for years impaled
On ancient fundamental tines — vengeance and hate –
Transfixing Transylvania’s haunted valleys, veiled
Black monumental mountains, to a blood-stained fate.

So many died because some few had wished it so;
As many were impoverished to fee false schemes,
And many cried whose tears could not persuade their foe
Shew pity when cold polity decreed drear dreams.

Time’s tyrants cannot live with truth or liberty;
They must suppress them or themselves be swept aside.
But freedom’s potent passion cedes no sovereignty
Whatever despot strategies oppose its pride.

Peoples who can’t protect their rightful human dues –
Though bound by cruel ties enforced with terror’s wrack,
Their bodies battered and resentful spirits bruised –
Will still assert themselves and win their freedom back.

Truth, hope and liberty are quintessential desires
That cannot be extirpate; they are Promethean fires!.

J. A. Bosworth

actually the jews had and some do still practice cannibalism and blood ritual.

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