The Vampire: Dracula: From the Writings of Bram Stoker to the Movie
Meet Bram Stoker
I've loved Dracula and Dracula movies since I was a kid. Watching Bela Lugosi transform from a bat into a suave and scary vampire right before my eyes often sent chills up my spine. So suave and debonair, but that's Hollywood's interpretation. How did the story of Dracula begin? Most of us know it was based on true events...Vlad the Impaler (Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia). Then along came the popular 'Count Dracula' in the novel "Dracula" (published in 1897, published in America in 1899) written by Bram Stoker.
A little drum roll please....Bram Stoker was born 165 years ago. A quick look at Bram Stoker tells us he was ill until he started school. Had no further illnesses after starting school and wound up being an athlete. He graduated from Trinity College in Dublin and then became interested in the theater. He was a critic for the Dublin Evening Mail and also wrote stories.
He married the lovely Florence Balcombe, who had been dating Oscar Wilde. Florence and Stoker had one child, a boy. After they were married they moved to London where Stoker managed the Lyceum Theatre.
Stoker spent years researching folklore and mythical stories about vampires. Dracula was written as a collection of diary entries, telegrams, letters, ship's logs, and newspaper clippings according to Wikipedia. The original 541 page manuscript was considered "horror fiction".
Further research into Bram Stoker's life led me to find out he was interested in the supernatural and the occult, perhaps leading to his interest in vampires. More to the point, he gave us Dracula! As mentioned earlier we know Stoker isn't responsible for the creation of Dracula but for the popularization. Stoker died in 1912.
The Novel in a Nutshell
The novel introduces us to a gracious host (Dracula) who lures an English real estate attorney to his castle. As the attorney leaves town headed for Dracula's castle he writes in his diary, " I shall never forget the last glimpse which I had of the inn yard and its crowd of picturesque figures, all crossing themselves, as they stood round the wide archway, with its background of rich foliage of oleander and orange trees in green tubs clustered in the centre of the yard." You know this isn't good! As he reaches the castle he says, "By-and-by, however, as I was curious to know how time was passing, I struck a match, and by its flame looked at my watch. It was within a few minutes of midnight. This gave me a sort of shock, for I suppose the general superstition about midnight was increased by my recent experiences. I waited with a sick feeling of suspense." Now you know we're on our way. Dracula uses him to gain information about England. Jonathan is attacked by Dracula and left to recover in a convent.
The ship Dracula takes to England is found aground with no survivors, only the casket filled with earth from Transylvania. (A large dog jumps off the ship and runs away...presumably our Count!) However, the ship's log tells of strange happenings and the disappearance of crew members.
In this novel we are introduced to Renfield, an insane man who eats insects, and Van Helsing, who knows Dracula is a vampire. Without going into too much detail, the English attorney had a girlfriend named Lucy whom Dracula looks up in England and turns into a vampire. When she starts to ravage the countryside Van Helsing hunts her down...they drive a stake through her heart, behead her, and fill her head with garlic....all bases covered here.
Remember our attorney? His name is John Harker and about this time he returns to England with his wife. Yes, you know his wife is going to be involved here. Dracula begins to visit Harker's wife Mina...he drinks her blood, gives her some of his...here's where it gets kinky....now he begins to control her mind and because they've swapped blood they are telepathically linked which also leads to Dracula's end.
VanHelsing uses their telepathic link to track Dracula. Dracula, being no dummy, heads back to Transylvania, but we all know VanHelsing catches up and kills Dracula turning him to dust.
Quotes from the Novel Dracula
Despair has its own calms.
Listen to them - children of the night. What music they make.
I want you to believe...to believe in things that you cannot.
No man knows till he experiences it, what it is like to feel his own life-blood drawn away into the woman he loves.
The last I saw of Count Dracula was his kissing his hand to me, with a red light of triumph in his eyes, and with a smile that Judas in hell might be proud of.
There was a great tomb more lordly than all the rest; huge it was, and nobly proportioned. On it was but one word, DRACULA.
The blood is life and it shall be mine.
My revenge is just begun! I spread it over centuries, and time is on my side.
And then away from home! Away to the quickest and nearest train! Away from this cursed land, where the devil and his children still walk with earthly feet!
According to Wikipedia the name 'Dracula' comes from the 'Order of the Dragon'. However it seems more like it came from Vlad II Dracul since Dracula means "Son of Dracul". Van Helsing says (in the novel) "He must, indeed, have been the Voivode Dracula who won his name against the Turk over the great river on the very frontier of Turkey-land." It is believed that Dracula's castle is fashioned after Slains Castle where Stoker once stayed.
Vampire myths have existed, all over the world, for thousands of years, from China to Greece.
Stoker also uses Christianity to fight the vampire! People pray throughout the novel and ask God for help; “Great God! Merciful God, let me be calm, for out of that way lies madness indeed.” The symbolism of Dracula being afraid of the cross and repelled by holy water...all Christian symbols. It is also interesting to note when Dracula comes to England he takes up residence in a run down abbey, a former religious center.
Although Stoker was a very 'moral' person, he uses many sensual scenes in Dracula. Female vampires are very seductive as is the debonair Count. It might also be noted Dracula only drinks the blood of women, how then become his followers and servants.
Amazingly, to me, the first time 'Dracula' appeared on stage was when Stoker himself wrote a play that appeared only once at the Lyceum Theatre. "Nosferatu",a German movie was made in 1922. The most popular adaptation is the 1931 film, "Dracula" starring our beloved Bela Lugosi. Many more Dracula films have been made with Coppola's version being considered more true to the book. Lugosi was not the first choice for this 1931 movie, Lon Chaney was. However, he died of throat cancer in 1928 and Lugosi lobbied for and got the part. Today, most of us see Lugosi as the ultimate Dracula.
Some changes took place in the film. For example, Renfield who was just a patient in an asylum in the novel but becomes the attorney that goes to Transylvania in the film. The villagers warn Renfield about Dracula...in the novel they warn of events and happenings but not Dracula in particular. Renfield also survives the ride to the castle with no driver in the carriage, in the novel there is a driver.
The 'three brides' in Dracula's castle lose their importance in the film and are only shown briefly.
Dracula turns Renfield into a mad man who eats rats and serves Dracula in the film, he was a made man in the novel. Dracula still sails to England but the journey plays a minor part in the movie. There is no explanation, in the movie, why Dracula goes to England. When the ship docks in London, Renfield is the only survivor, besides Dracula of course, in the novel there were no survivors. As in all things Hollywood, there has to be some comic relief. In "Dracula" that is Martin, the sanitarium employee who looks after Renfield.
Another 'new' happening in the movie is Dracula's lack of reflection in a mirror which leads Van Helsing to deduce he is a vampire. In the film Dracula feasts on the blood of strangers that he finds when walking the streets...this doesn't happen in the novel where he only 'feasts' on those he knows and particularly chooses.
Of course Lugosi's Hungarian accent added to the mystic of Dracula. This being the first Dracula movie with sound made him (Dracula/Lugosi) that much more sinister.
In the film, transfusions were given to Lucy to keep her alive...in the book she just died.
Bram Stoker wrote a novel of horror. He never depicted Dracula as a 'nice guy'. Dracula was a megalomaniac who drank blood so he could live for eternity. His depravity is apparent in the novel and is especially obvious when he feeds a child to his female vampires.
It has been said the house is a symbol for the soul. If this is true Stoker shows us that we invite evil into our soul for Dracula cannot enter any house unless he is invited in. Other than that he is very powerful. He summons Lucy to him while she is sleeping, and she comes. She then walks in graveyards and is undead...a vampire. He exerts a powerful hold over all women, i.e. his 'brides' in Transylvania. To quote the Shadow, "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men."
Stoker, in spite of his morality, hints at immorality in women. That women are attracted to and follow Dracula because he is sexually aggressive and they are attracted to that quality in him. To borrow another quote from Stoker's "Dracula", “The fair girl went on her knees and bent over me, fairly gloating. There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive, and as she arched her neck, she actually licked her lips like an animal, till I could see in the moonlight the moisture shining on the scarlet lips and on the red tongue as it lapped the white, sharp, teeth”
Again, in the novel, Dracula is called a "criminal". He is also a walking dead man...remember, he cannot be out in the sun, he needs blood to survive, the epitome of all that is evil. He never feels any sorrow or pity. Remember too, he can change into animals...the wolf, the bat. There is nothing good or endearing about this horrible creature, this monster.
Because of this evil and horror, Dracula has been made into a move over 200 times, a fascination that has lasted all these years. That should tell us there is someone out there interested in Dracula! Of course from the original Dracula there have been off-shoots, movies like "Van Helsing", "Twilight", "Salem's Lot", and more. A fascinating subject introduced to us in a novel 165 years ago. Put on your garlic necklace, grab your crucifix and if you haven't met Dracula...meet him now!
Please add your comments about this hub and Dracula...books or movies. Its always interesting to see what others think and have them add to my hub.
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