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Is Dracula Real?

Updated on March 26, 2015
Christopher Lee as Count Dracula.
Christopher Lee as Count Dracula. | Source

From overexcited teenagers to serious adults, vampires have fascinated many for centuries. But before Edward Cullen or Lestat there was the most mysterious and fascinating vampire of them all, Count Dracula. Some adore him, while most fear him. But how was he born and how did he get so popular?

Postmortem painting of Vlad the Impaler from Kunsthistorisches Museum (Viena).
Postmortem painting of Vlad the Impaler from Kunsthistorisches Museum (Viena). | Source

Fun fact

The legend says that during Vlad The Impaler's rule the people were so scared of being punished for wrong doings that one could leave a satchel of gold in the middle of the road and still find it there the next morning.

The man behind the myth

Vlad Țepeș (Vlad the Impaler), aslo called Vlad Drăculea( drac in Romanian means devil), was born 1431 in the citadel of Sighișoara, to Vlad Dracul and a Transilvanian noblewoman.

He was married three times: first to Cnaejna Bathory, a Transilvanian noblewoman, then to Jusztina Szilagyi and last to Ilona Nelipic, Matei Corvin’s cousin. He had two boys from his first marriage, Radu and Vlad, other two boys from his second, Mihail and Mihnea cel Rau ( Mihnea the Bad), and a girl from his third, Zaleska.

During his reign Wallachia obtained a temporary independence from the Ottoman Empire. Vlad the Impaler was infamous for his severity, making of habit of spearing as a form of execution, thus receiving the name Țepeș (țeapă in Romanian means spear). Because of his conflicts with the tradesmen from Brașov they characterized him, in a propagandistic manner, as a prince with a demonic cruelty.

Scene from the 1992 adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Gary Oldman played the role of Dracula.
Scene from the 1992 adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Gary Oldman played the role of Dracula. | Source
The cover of the first edition of Bram Stoker's Dracula.
The cover of the first edition of Bram Stoker's Dracula. | Source

Did you know the story behind the famous character of Dracula?

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The book that made Dracula famous

Bram stoker’s book, Dracula, isn’t directly based on Vlad Drăculea’s reign, but is a fiction that takes place in XIX century Transilvania and England. Because of the novel’s success Transilvania is associated with the fictitious character Dracula.

The Irish writer could have easily consulted the XV century Saxon writings at the Royal Library of London, also found in the British Museum collections. In these documents Vlad the Impaler was described as a monster, a human blood drinker and an amateur of cruelties. He most probably had access also to Johann Christian Engel’s book History of Moldavia and Wallachia, in which Vlad the Impaler was described as bloody tyrant, which probably gave him idea to base his fictitious character, Dracula, on the Wallachian prince. Some historians came with the idea that Stoker might have had a friendly relationship with Arminius Vambery, a Hungarian professor from the University of Budapest, hence the possibility of the professor offering him information on Vlad the Impaler. This hypothesis is also reinforced by the fact that for his 1897 novel Dr. Abraham Van Helsing mentions his friend, Arminius, as a source for his knowledge about Vlad III, the so called Dracula. It is important to acknowledge that this looks to be the only source of inspiration, as there is no real connection between historical character, Vlad Drăculea( 1431-1476), and the modern myth of the vampire portrayed in Bram Stoker’s book. The writer used folk sources, historical mentions and personal experiences on which to base his complex character. On the other hand it is important to mention that the land’s history writers of the time, generally the Saxons, used the word drac with its “devil” connotation in order to cast a shadow on the prince’s reputation. So the association of the two words, dragon and diavol (dragon and devil), and the nickname Drăculea might be an explanation to why Bram Stoker associated Vlad the Impaler with vampirism. A source of inspiration for Stoker’s demonic character was the official clothing of the Order of the Dragon, an important symbolic element, bein represented by a black cape over a red shirt, worn of Fridays to commemorate Jesus Christ’s suffering. Bram Stoker was also the one to associate this European myth to a South American animal: the bat, the so called Vampir( Demonus Rotundus).

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