The Dracula Was Just a Character in a Story, But Vlad the Impaler Was Real
Before vampires started sparkling and fighting to win the love of teenage girls, they were feared by humans. The old stories depicted them as scary centuries-old supernatural creatures. They were violent blood-sucking beasts that rose from the coffin after the sun went down. Bram Stoker's Dracula may have given birth to the modern-day vampires, but the true inspiration for Count Dracula was Vlad III who was also known as Vlad the Impaler.
Vlad III was a Vovoide (another word for 'Prince') of Wallachia, who gained notoriety for his brutal way of punishing his enemies and traitors. His father Vlad II was part of a secret order that consisted of those of nobility that defended Christianity. It was called the "Order of the Dragon". And his father was known as Vlad Dracul (Vlad the Dragon). The Order of Dragon was especially against the Ottoman Empire for their religious views. The two younger sons of Vlad II - Radu and Vlad III, were held by the Ottomans to ensure that their father didn't betray them during the fight between the Ottoman Empire and Hungary. During the captivity, Radu turned faithful to the Ottoman, but Vlad III didn’t. His hatred for them only grew as the time went by.
Vlad III, being the son of Vlad Dracul, was also known as Dracula, which means “Son of the Dragon”. After countless battles, Vlad III became the ruler of Wallachia, and he ruled with more than the proverbial iron fist. He was merciless to his enemies and traitors, and he punished them by driving a stake through their body and planting the stake on the ground as their body hung. This way, they writhed in pain and agony till death greeted them. The display of such cruelty was a way of invoking fear in his enemies and keep them from entering the kingdom. And that is how Vlad III became Vlad the Impaler. And that is exactly why the Dracula can be killed by driving a stake through its heart.
He was also said to have used certain unconventional tactics to ensure victory while fighting against the Turks, such as poisoning water resources in their path, sending sick people to mingle with them and disease them. And when the Turks attacked Wallachia, he sent his soldiers dressed up as Turks and attacked their camp which led to confusion and killing among the Turks themselves. His violent tendencies were changed into an actual thirst for blood by Stoker when he wrote the novel, and sometimes that was how Vlad III himself was depicted in the old stories.
Certain other stories have him nailing people's turbans to their heads, dipping his bread in the blood of those he killed, and maiming anyone who dared to disobey him. If not this, he was said to wash his hands in the blood of his victims, and sit in the midst of his impaled victims while having his dinner. Not all of these stories are true. Even those that are true have been exaggerated to a great extent. These stories were mostly spread after his death, using pamphlets that were just gaining popularity and the ones writing them were merely doing so in order to show their hate for the king or to gain popularity. Vlad III is depicted in a very different manner in some other writings. He was called a hero who kept the enemies of the kingdom at bay, and the kingdom itself a peaceful place. But those are not the parts that Bram Stoker considered when he wrote his novel, it was his scary and inhumane aspects that he looked for to make the iconic villain.
Count Dracula is the titular character and also the antagonist in Bram Stoker's novel 'Dracula' released in 1897. Bram Stoker's Dracula has had various adaptations, and it has become an epitome of horror and Halloween. It is said to have inspired the idea of vampires, werewolves and some other modern mythical creatures. In the novel, Stoker depicts Dracula as an undead being with superhuman abilities. The similarities do not lie in any of the superhuman aspects but in their brutality, name and their physical appearances. Count Dracula cannot die, but Vlad III did die. But as the rest of his stories, there are claims that his resting site was discovered decades ago and was found to be empty. There is no definitive proof of what happened, how he lived and how he died. How much of a monster or hero Vlad III was depends on what aspects of the stories you choose to accept as true.