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Romania and the Myth and Origins of Dracula

by www.EasternEuropeans.co.uk
Romania - the Myth and Origins of Dracula
The History of Dracula - Fact and Legend Entwined

 Bram Stoker’s original version of Count Dracula’s life takes place in Transylvania, a region of Romania. A young solicitor, Jonathan Harker, is invited to Dracula’s castle to provide information and the contracts for the Count’s new acquisition, an estate in England. The story continues as Jonathan’s fiancée and her childhood friend are pursued by the Count, becoming his victims as a now-returned Jonathan and his compatriots attempt to stop the reign of terror. While this original story has become the basis for several movies, a few cartoons, a children’s television show puppet, and on a very basic level the character on a box of kids’ cereal, does the character of Vlad Dracula have his origins in anything but his author’s mind? Ask almost anyone who has heard the literary version and you will get the same answer – absolutely yes. And some people think the fictional version is less evil and bloodthirsty than the real-life man that inspired the vampire tale.

Deeply seated in Romania’s past is the story of Vlad the Impaler, a Wallachian blueblood and one of the most controversial figures in the country’s history. Also known in Romanian records as Vlad Tepes or Vlad Dracula (which translates as “Son of the Dragon, referring to Vlad’s father’s title which was given to him in 1431 when he was accepted into the Order of the Dragon, an anti-Islamic knighthood), While of Wallachian blood, he and his family had been exiled to the region of Transylvania when they were ousted from rule by an opposing faction. After years of war with the Ottoman Empire, Vlad was placed as Prince of Wallachia, where he continually warred with invaders and opponents to his rule. Dying in 1476 at approximately 45 years old, he has left behind stories and images that continue to haunt the world.
Atrocities committed to memory and written down by German and Turkish warriors, as well as his captors during his relatively brief imprisonment in Turkey include torturing and killing small animals, nailing hats or other badges of office onto people’s bodies, and the mutilation of unfaithful or unchaste women. However, Dracula is most famous for his tendency to execute almost anyone who stood in his way, disagreed with him, cheated customers, or just generally didn’t fit his ideals by impaling them on stakes and leaving them on display. There are well-documented anecdotes of warring factions arriving at a town after Vlad the Impaler, only to find thousands of men, women, children, and even infants suspended on stakes - sometimes head-down, sometimes head-up – with Vlad’s soldiers feasting among them.
Tourists to modern-day Romania are often directed to Bran Castle on the historical border of Romania and Wallachia, where Vlad the Impaler was rumored to have lived (most likely it was where he was imprisoned for a few days as opposed to have resided); other sites in the region include a restaurant in Sighisoara which used to be a house where Vlad did in fact live for a time, and the citadel in the same city which offers a glimpse of living conditions in his era. While there is not much else still in existence to prove that Vlad Dracula was indeed the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s legend, one has only to speak to the Romanian people to know that the legend has soaked into their culture, as sure as his victim’s blood soaked into the ground so many years ago.
Transylvania image reproduced courtesy of siliconium.net

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