Anyone who hears the word “vampire” automatically thinks of Dracula and “Vlad the Impaler” is only a split second away.
Why this undeniable bond between these ideas?
The answer is “Dracula” by Bram Stoker, considered by some critics the venerable ancestor of vampire literature, perhaps even that of the black novel; it appeared in the troubled times of the British Gothic novel, ending an era and opening a new one.
At the core of the novel stood a brilliant idea… it hadn`t been addressed so seriously in the past and it was already deeply rooted in people’s minds [then very tied to superstition]. An exceptional novel and popular work with historical retrospective and the opportunity to dive in folklore.
The main character is a vampire – and not an usual one, but the ghost of a legendary hero. To find a suitable name for his vampire Count, Stoker had done research at the British Museum of History and found a book that recorded the events from the 15th century in Moldavia and Wallachia. From the very first page is talks about Vlad the Impaler!
In gothic circles, “Dracula” is a relatively common word but who does it actually refer to? The Transylvanian Count, Stoker’s creation that was mutated by recent Hollywood productions … or the medieval prince who ruled over Wallachia, defending the Christian world from the invading Ottoman shadow?
๑۞๑ Sources of inspiration ๑۞๑
Besides the nineteenth century superstitions about vampires, there are a few historical figures who seem to have influenced Stoker when he created the character:
§ Countess Elizabeth Bathory [Hungary] was a mass-murderer who would bath in the blood of virgins to preserve her beauty.
§ Count of Saint-Germain [France] would claim that he is immortal and surrounded himself with 3-4 girlfriends, like Dracula and his undead brides.
The novel was written [with breaks] in about 25 years and Stoker has careful in choosing his sources, but although it is the most famous of its kind, “Dracula” is not the first literary material devoted to vampires. Although it is assumed that “Dracula” was born of nightmares the author had when he was on vacation with his family in Whitby, we see elements from“Carmilla” by Sheridan of Fenu [novel based almost entirely on Elizabeth Bathory] and from “The Vampyre” by John Polidor [first work with a relatively successful where the vampire is an aristocrat].
The original title of the manuscript was “The Dead Undead” and the main characted didn`t have a defined name. That is until he found the perfect name when documenting in the library.
Stoker rewrote certain passages and took over not only the name of Vlad Tepes. In the beginning, while the action is set in Transylvania, the castle described is that of Poienari [situated in the district of Arges in modern Romania]. Many associate that passage with the Bran Castle, but the image doesn`t correspond.
It should be noted that the part where Jonathan Harker arrives in the Carpathians was published two years after the death of the author, as “Dracula` s Guest ”
But not all readers were delighted with the choice that the author made in regard to his count. Especially now, Westerners tend to identify Dracula with Vlad the Impaler, and some are disappointed if they document themselves on the Wallachian ruler before reading the book.
To illustrate this feeling I will quote from the preface of the book “Dracula’s Diary”, in which Marin Mincu declares that:
I had bought Bram Stoker, I read it and found it deplorable. It was not at all the historical Dracula, who confronted Mehmed the 2nd, it was as if Stoker had taken into account only the legendary character.
It is not possible, I mean, to write a fictional novel because the true story can be found, in fragments, in the Wallachian, Turkish, Russian and German brochures that circulated throughout Europe since 1462, from the time when the character was alive. Yes, it would be interesting to know how the hero himself commented what was written about him.