Famous Vampires: Dracula

When we think of Vampires, quite often people think of Dracula.
(excerpts from Wikipedia)

Dracula is an 1897 novel by Irish author Bram Stoker, featuring as its primary antagonist the vampire Count Dracula.

Dracula has been attributed to many literary genres including vampire literature, horror fiction, the gothic novel and invasion literature. Structurally it is an epistolary novel, that is, told as a series of diary entries and letters. Literary critics have examined many themes in the novel, such as the role of women in Victorian culture, conventional and conservative sexuality, immigration, colonialism, postcolonialism and folklore. Although Stoker did not invent the vampire, the novel’s influence on the popularity of vampires has been singularly responsible for many theatrical and film interpretations throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.

But who was Bram’s Dracula? Most people point to Vlad III the Impaler, Prince of Wallachia, more commonly known as Vlad the Impaler (Vlad ?epe? in Romanian), also known as Vlad Dracula, or simply Dracula (1431 – December 1476), was a Wallachian (present-day southern Romania) voivode. His three reigns were in 1448, 1456–1462, and 1476. Vlad the Impaler is known for the exceedingly cruel punishments he imposed during his reign.

As prince, Vlad maintained an independent policy in relation to the Ottoman Empire and was a defender of Wallachia against Ottoman expansionism.

But where does the vampire part come in? Well, research suggests that Stoker actually knew little about the Prince of Wallachia, but took what was there and embellished the hell out of it to make it the fantastic story which exists today.

Tales of vampires are still widespread in Eastern Europe. Similarly, the name of Dracula is still remembered in the Romanian oral tradition but that is the end of any connection between Dracula and the folkloric vampire. Outside of Stoker’s novel the name of Dracula was never linked with the vampires encountered in the folklore.

Despite his alleged inhuman cruelty, in Romania Dracula is remembered as a national hero who resisted the Turkish conquerors and asserted Romanian national sovereignty against the powerful Hungarian kingdom. He is also remembered in a similar manner in other Balkan countries, as he fought against the Turks.

It is somewhat ironic that Vlad’s name has often been thrown into the political and ethnic feuds between Hungarians and Romanians, because he was ultimately far from an enemy of Hungary. While he certainly had violent conflicts with some Hungarian nobles, he had just as many Hungarian friends and allies, and his successes in battle with the Turks largely benefited Hungary in the long term. Hungary later found itself under siege but was never entirely penetrated by Ottoman forces. Though neither the first nor the last powerful ruler to take on the Ottoman Empire, Vlad’s battle tactics were quite influential in damaging the impression of Turkish invincibility among Europeans and reversing the European aura of appeasement.

Romanian folklore and poetry, on the other hand, paints Vlad ?epe? as a hero. His favorite weapon being the stake, coupled with his reputation in his native country as a man who stood up to both foreign and domestic enemies, gives him the virtual opposite symbolism of Stoker’s vampire. In Romania, he is considered one of the greatest leaders in the country’s history, and was voted one of “100 Greatest Romanians” in the “Mari Români” television series aired in 2006.

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