Was there a real life Dracula?

November 12, 2019 § 4 Comments

The past few blogs posted have been about Dracula and Vampires and in this blog I am continuing the subject matter, but I want to bring attention to the history of Dracula. My first encounter with Vampires was with the infamous Twilight Saga, but my first encounter with an adaptation of the character Dracula, that I cared about, was in Hotel Transylvania.

Count Dracula in Hotel Transylvania 3
P.S. if you haven’t watched these movies I highly recommend!

 There have been a plethora of adaptations of the figure of Dracula and while reading Stoker’s novel I continued to be intrigued with the origin of the Dracula and vampire craze. While telling my dad about my interest, he asked me if I was aware of the historical figure named Vlad Dracula III. Now this may be old news to some, but I was personally unaware of this fact.  Vlad Dracula III, Prince of Wallachia also known as Vlad the Impaler is the original legendary Dracula figure. While I had heard of a figure in history who enjoyed impaling people, I was unfamiliar with the complete historical information and that Stoker used the name for his character Count Dracula. “Dracul” in Romanian means “Devil” which could be a reason why Stoker chose to use the name. After researching more about Vlad the Impaler, I saw that the direct similarities between him and Count Dracula were their shared name, the fact that they were aristocrats, and that they reigned down terror and brought fear to most people around them.  

Vlad the Impaler

While a lot of the beauty in literature is the creativity that writers pour into their work, I think it is also imperative to learn about their inspiration, if possible. I think knowing more about the culture, time period, information, and inspiration that an author was surrounded by, can add even more meaning to the text and possibly shed more light on a reader’s understanding of the text. As I have pointed out in my earlier blog, it seems like our society has begun to pay less attention to history as a whole and only focus on the present and the future. Past the basic history that every child has to learn, our societies’ knowledge of history varies depending on if people seek out more historical knowledge or not. In my experience I essentially only learned Alabama history until I was in High School, where I learned only about World War I and the Mongols. While everyone’s experience may not match mine, I believe most people would agree that history is becoming less known.

William Shakespeare

Literature naturally teaches us some history because we never stop reading works that are from previous centuries, but readers often miss beautiful connections and meanings that become revealed if you knew just a little bit more history and background. The original inspiration behind these literary geniuses and their stories often stem from real events and characters! Of course, this is not always the case because not every author is inspired by past events and people, but it happens more frequently than we may realize or know. Just to use one example, Shakespeare is famous for doing this because most of his plays were inspired directly from other plays, works, and historical figures and their lives. He would use direct names, and sometimes plots but would always add his own spin and creative genius to create the plays that we know and love to this day.

Dracula played by Christopher Lee in the 1958 film adaptation
Cinematic depiction of the Devil in the film Legend

Going back to Dracula, once I was equipped with the knowledge of Vlad the Impaler and that Dracula means devil, I realized some things. The first thing is that Dracula meaning “devil” furthers the notion that Count Dracula was alienated from the other Transylvanian people and in the Christian belief system it is believed that God isolated the devil from the people on Earth. The name itself marks him as other and even goes further to automatically turn that otherness into an evil thing because again in the Christian faith the devil is a god of darkness which is where Dracula operates. Secondly, the devil is associated with killing people and in most cases is considered terrifying and as a vampire that is exactly what the Count does and is considered.  Additionally, in some depictions of the devil, he has fangs and the most prominent feature of the vampire is their fangs. Of course, there are other connections that I can make between the Count, Vlad the Impaler and the devil, but my point is that these literary virtuosos are often inspired by real life events and people from the past. That is the great thing about history and who knows, with history as our guide anyone of us might have a masterpiece in one of our futures. Anchor Down!

~Heaven Russell

Sources https://www.cinemablend.com/news/2391162/new-hotel-transylvania-3-trailer-has-dracula-trying-to-find-love-on-the-high-seas https://www.britannica.com/biography/Vlad-the-Impaler https://www.livescience.com/40843-real-dracula-vlad-the-impaler.html https://www.biography.com/writer/william-shakespeare https://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/jun/24/dracula-stoker-review-colm-toibin https://www.sacurrent.com/sanantonio/the-devil-made-me-write-it-6-66-cinematic-satans-who-will-have-you-clutching-your-rosary/Content?oid=17106193

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§ 4 Responses to Was there a real life Dracula?

  • louthaink says:

    While I fully agree with your points about the necessity of learning history (I’m a history minor, after all), I do think it’s important to point out that it’s incredibly difficult to actually learn all of history. This is definitely an obvious point to make, but as time passes there is more history to learn. The same logic applies to the other disciplines as well. There are more classic books and books in general, there is more science (because we also have to learn all the old, wrong science before learning the new science), etc. My point with all of this is just that while it’s good to know as much as possible to be informed citizens of the world, there is so much to know that we can’t be expected to know it all.

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    • heaven says:

      You make a great point! My hope with this blogpost was that we be reminded of how important history is and that there is so much information out there that we can learn. I completely agree that there is no way we can be expected to know certain things, but I do think there should be a part in education systems across the board that emphasizes how important background knowledge and history is to learning in all subject matter!

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  • karlwithak1 says:

    Your invoking of Shakespeare’s inspirations really drove home your point for me. When reading a Shakespeare play, it is a whole and contained piece of art unto itself–no outside knowledge of Shakespeare’s influences are necessary. However, studying the texts which his work is based off of adds another layer of depth to his work. One added layer is when looking at how Shakespeare or another author’s work differ from the original source text. Their intentional deviation from their influences can reveal fundamentally important parts of the work as the author must have actively chosen to change the elements that differ and therefore is likely making a statement. I appreciate your assertion that the history of a work adds layers of meaning to the work and believe that even looking at how the work differs from its historical context can add meaning.

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  • audreymolina says:

    Wow, I had no clue there was any relationship between Dracula and Vlad the Impaler! My favorite literary genre of all time is historical fiction, so I love those kinds of connections. What is wonderful to me about storytelling and literature as an intellectual pursuit is that it unfailingly leads down unexpected paths of knowledge if you choose to follow them. Thanks for the insight!

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