December 27, 2013

Elizabeth Bathory and Her Family

Hey everyone. I hope all of you are enjoying the holidays. Something that I really think about during this time of year is family. Everyone has a family that they care about, even if others don’t agree with how someone shows how they care for their family. Elizabeth Bathory may have been a serial killer, but she was also a woman with a family. She was married to Count Ferenc Nadasdy of Hungary, and she had 7 children with him. They had 4 sons and 3 daughters. Elizabeth also had a daughter outside of wedlock just before she married Ferenc. The family may not have been the most typical of families, but they were a family nonetheless.

            Elizabeth was only 12 years old when she was engaged to Ferenc. When she was 13 or 14, Elizabeth was reported to have had an affair with one of the servants at her family home. The result of this affair was Elizabeth’s first child, Anastasia Bathory. Needless to say, Count Ferenc was not happy about this news. He had the servant castrated and then thrown to the dogs as punishment for sleeping with Elizabeth. He then had Elizabeth shipped off to one of his estates where birth in secret, so that no one would know about her indiscretion. Ferenc made sure that the child, Anastasia, was kept a secret. He also made sure that there was no way to connect the Nadasdy or Bathory families with Anastasia. Elizabeth was to never see Anastasia.

            In the years of her marriage to Count Ferenc, Elizabeth did fulfill her wifely duties, and she gave him 7 children of his own — three daughters, Anna, Katalin, and Orsolya, and 4 sons, Pal, Miklos, Andras, and Gyorgy. These children were raised by governesses, just as Elizabeth was. This was the responsible thing to do back in the Middle Ages. Elizabeth would have had minimal contact with her children, especially during their infancy years. The thing is, in her own mind, Elizabeth was being a good mother if she had any contact at all with her children.

            There are questions about how a woman like Elizabeth Bathory could be a good mother and still commit the crimes that she did. There are also some unanswered questions about what Elizabeth did with her children during the five year span that she was killing. It is known that the children spent quite a bit of time with family members at the different estates that the Nadasdy family owned. There is also a very good chance that the children would have spent time with Elizabeth’s family. This could mean that they may have spent time in Transylvania, since Elizabeth was a cousin of the Duke of Transylvania on her mother’s side of the family.

            Sure, Elizabeth was nowhere near eligible to win the mother of the year award, but I will say that she at least had the decency to not have her children around when she was killing young women and bathing in their blood. In this way, she showed how she cared about her children. Elizabeth definitely had her own way of showing how she loved her children. 

December 20, 2013

Transylvania and the Fae

Superstitions — there are so many out there, from not stepping on a crack to spilling salt. Transylvania is sometimes called The Land of Superstition. Many people consider Transylvania to be a mystical and magical land. There are so many beautiful natural landscapes that make it appear magical to us in this day and age. Many of us are used to seeing buildings and highways everywhere. Through modern times, Transylvania has been able to maintain a lot of its natural landscapes. Beauty in nature can sometimes help to foster fairy myths, and one of the most commonly-held superstitions in Transylvania revolves around the existence of the Fae.

            The term Fae covers a lot of species. It covers fairies, elves, trolls, sirens, goblins, phookas, elementals, imps, and many others, and these are separated into two main factions: the light and the dark. Each member of each species can usually choose which faction they join. Usually, the majority of members of a given species will follow either light or dark, but there are always cases where one or two members of a species may choose to live differently than the rest. 

            The Fae are the fairies of the world. They are not much like the fairies we hear about today. The Fae of the forests are nothing like Tinker Bell and her friends. They are tricky and devious beings. They are immortal and tend to get bored from time to time. They like to play games with humans in villages that are near where the Fae live. These are the dark Fae. They are the ones who trick people into eating and drinking Fae food, and once someone does that, they can never go home again. The dark Fae are usually the ones who come and switch human babies with their own Fae babies. 

            Then again many of the light Fae enjoy playing tricks on people as well. The dark Fae are a bit more mean-spirited in their tricks than the light Fae. Humans are more likely to survive a trick or prank played by a light Fae than by a dark Fae. 

            One of the more mischievous Fae species is the phooka. They like to destroy crops. If any part of the harvest is left after Samhain (Halloween), then it belongs to the phookas. The common belief is that if someone tried to harvest anything after Samhain, the phookas would kill one of their cows.

            Granted, not all of the Fae like to create mischief. There are those who like to be left alone and to their own devices. These ones usually like to help nature in some way. These are commonly called the elves, nature fairies, elementals, water spirits and similar names. These Fae are mainly interested in existing in harmony with nature and preserving nature for future generations. The water spirits are one of the least seen Fae. They live in ponds and lakes, and they are extremely shy creatures. They are like the caretakers for the lakes and ponds. It is not likely for someone to see a water spirit, but if you ever do, count yourself very lucky.

December 12, 2013

Elizabeth Bathory: Fact or Fiction Pt 2

Continuing in the same vein as last week’s post on Elizabeth Bathory's fact and fiction, I have found three more details that may confuse some people. The first is Elizabeth’s upbringing. The second one I found this week were facts about her love life, and information about her marriage and possible affairs. The third set of facts that I found that had some discrepancies regarding how Elizabeth was punished and killed for her crimes. As I said in last week’s post, Elizabeth Bathory’s life story seems to be more like a legend and less like a biography, and some parts of her legend may be more believable than the reality. I find it very interesting that Elizabeth’s story situation is the opposite of Dracula’s. Where his legend is really exaggerated, Elizabeth’s life is what appears to be exaggerated.

            When people look at information about serial killers, they usually look at the person's childhood experiences. People expect to see someone who experienced a bad childhood, and perhaps the child was abused. That is not the case with Elizabeth Bathory, though. For that time period, Elizabeth had a great childhood. She grew up in a noble family in Hungary, she had wonderful tutors and she was raised to be a smart woman. The issue seems to have grown out of an obsession with her physical appearance. Elizabeth became very vain. As with most girls of the late 1500’s, Elizabeth was told she needed to maintain her good looks in order to attract a good husband and be successful in life. It is this vanity that led to her killing spree. Elizabeth started equating success with good looks.

            As a young woman, Elizabeth was a very beautiful woman, and she did marry well. She married Count Ferenc Nadasdy of Hungary. She bore him seven children — three daughters and four sons. It appears that Elizabeth was faithful to her husband during their marriage, although she committed one indiscretion when she slept with a servant and became pregnant just before they were to be married. Ferenc was a man who fought for the kingdom of Hungary, defending the borders, and this was how he died in the end, leaving Elizabeth a widow with seven children. She sent the children away to live with other family members. This would have opened up the opportunity for Elizabeth to consort with other men, which she in fact did. She apparently had a crush on a younger man, and she became involved with this man for a period of time. Being that he was younger, he ended his relationship with Elizabeth when he married another woman. Now this is where things get a little fuzzy. There are rumours that Elizabeth became involved with another man. The story goes that this man was into BDSM and he was the submissive. This relationship could have furthered Elizabeth’s violent tendencies. We must also bear in mind that Elizabeth was a titled noblewoman. Her husband may have encouraged her to make sure that the servants showed her the respect that she deserved, and at that time it was not abnormal for a lord or lady to abuse their servants.

            The final part of the story I'd like to discuss in this post is the method by which Elizabeth was punished and killed for her crimes. Some sources claim that Elizabeth was walled up in a room, and others say those people are crazy and Elizabeth was burned at the stake. People have said that the punishment of being walled in a room, essentially buried alive, is too cruel of a punishment for anyone. The thing is, that punishment was chosen for Elizabeth. She did kill over 600 young women for her own vain purposes. There was also a law referring specifically to allowable punishments for the aristocracy. In that time period, they weren’t allowed to kill any nobles. By closing her in a room, they technically didn’t execute Elizabeth. They created a set of circumstances that caused her death. The loop hole lies in the fact that they could still say that she was alive when they last saw her. They couldn’t kill her, but they needed a punishment that fit the crime.

December 5, 2013

Elizabeth Bathory The Blood Countess of Transylvania

As with Vlad Tepes/Dracula, Elizabeth Bathory's life story contains some details that may have gotten confused in with the legend. The difference between the legends of Dracula and the Blood Countess is that the legend of the Blood Countess is still mostly based in fact, whereas the legend of Dracula is a mixture of little fact and lots of fiction. Elizabeth Bathory, the Blood Countess, is one of the most famous serial killers in history. She is a woman that history will not soon forget. Her legend doesn’t exaggerate facts as much as some people believe it does. I have found a few details that people believe but have confused, or are false altogether. Let's look at some of the details that some people may get confused.
Foremost, Elizabeth did not drink the blood of maidens. She did kill a lot of maidens from the surrounding villages, bleed out the maidens and then bathe in their blood. Elizabeth believed that bathing in a maiden’s blood had the power to restore one's youthful appearance. She first started believing this when a drop of a servant’s blood hit her hand after she had beaten the servant. Elizabeth believed that the part of her skin that absorbed the blood appeared rejuvenated, and this is why she bathed in the blood instead of drink it. She believed that her skin was absorbing the blood while she bathed, and she believed this was her key to immortality.
I believe that the story of Elizabeth Bathory has been used as a kind of bogey monster with young girls. For example, a mother might say, “Make your bed, or Countess Bathory will take you in the night.” But Elizabeth was a noblewoman. She didn’t tend to much on her own, and she never went into villages to kidnap the maidens that she would eventually kill; she actually had them sent up to her at Cachtice Castle. She decided to start a finishing school for the maidens in the surrounding villages. The parents of the maidens sent the young girls to Elizabeth at Cachtice Castle for schooling. I find really odd and interesting that the body count reached 600 before Elizabeth was caught.
            Some people that I have spoken with didn’t believe that Elizabeth Bathory was a real woman. Apparently they don’t believe that a woman of medieval nobility would ever commit such a cruel act. In conversation with one of my friends, I told the story, but I left out Elizabeth's name and the fact that she was a woman. My friend still did not believe me. My friend thought that no one would be able to kill 100 people, let alone 600 people. When I tried to explain that she got away with it for so long because she was a woman of nobility, he joined the first group, not believing a woman of nobility would commit these acts. How my friends reacted made me think of how people reacted more recently to Lizzy Borden. She was able to kill both of her parents but never answered for her crime.
            Women can be just as lethal and conniving as men. The gender of a serial killer doesn’t matter. The main thing is that they tend to think differently. They think differently in order to justify to themselves and live with what they do.

November 30, 2013

Count Dracula: Fact or Fiction- Lovers

Time for another fact or fiction! 

Again, this one will be about Dracula because there is actually a fair amount of information we can confused when we try to separate Dracula from the man, Vlad Tepes. Then again, there are points that are the same about both Dracula and Vlad.

            One of the more interesting similarities between Dracula and Vlad Tepes is the reports of their love lives. Dracula had one wife who was the love of his life. Vlad Tepes was married twice. 

It is said that according to legend Vlad Tepes III loved his first wife (name unknown) with all of his heart. It is speculated that Vlad may have married the second time only for convenience, at the time he was a prisoner of the Hungarian Kingdom, and this was a means to an end. In the myths, Dracula’s first wife was killed by the invading armies of her husband's enemies or she was forced to kill herself. Many say she was killed by the Order of the Dragon in the myths, and the new Dracula TV show actually uses that as part of their plot driver. 

In reality, Vlad’s first wife killed herself when she thought that he had been killed by the Turks. Bram Stoker used this to his advantage when writing his book, and he incorporated the idea of Mina Harker being the reincarnation of Dracula’s beloved first wife. In the new Dracula they mention the name of Dracula’s first wife, but history didn't record name of Vlad’s first wife at all.  Interestingly enough there are both differences and similarities when looking at the love lives of Dracula and Vlad Tepes.

            Another similarity between the historical and fictional characters is found in the reports of the legendary cruelty that they both demonstrated. Bram Stoker chose to base the character of Dracula on Vlad Tepes due to Vlad’s immense reputation for cruelty. I do enjoy the irony that Count Dracula’s one weakness, and the method in which to kill him, a wooden stake to the heart, was Vlad’s most favoured way to kill his enemies. Vlad impaled his enemies on large wooden stakes and left them as a warning to others. This was a very similar practice to the Romans who left their enemies on crosses as a warning to others.  Not only that but the significance of a broken heart is one which Stoker also uses for this immortal lover.

Interestingly, both men have people in their lives whom they were kind to.  In the Van Helsing movie from 2004, Dracula had multiple wives and was, in a way, kind to them- as they would be the mothers of his offspring vampires. He also had Igor, Dr. Frankenstein’s old assistant, with him, and Dracula was, in a way, kind to him. Vlad Tepes was kind to those who were under his protection. Some of those people even saw Vlad as a saviour of kind.

            Let's now turn to the notion of immortality. Dracula is immortal with the limitations of his hunger for blood and he cannot have children ( The Van Helsing movie not withstanding). The limitation with the inability to have children is discussed in the Van Helsing movie of 2004. Vlad Tepes also had the image of immortality. When an enemy landed a good hit on Vlad during battle it would sometimes appear as though he was unscathed. This could have been accomplished in a few different ways. I have heard that one man had crimson thread woven into his black clothing so that when he bled it would appear like there was no blood there, due to the crimson colouring that was already in the cloak. 

Vlad's limitation was that he was actually human, and would die eventually in a rather horrible but fitting manner. 

November 23, 2013

Count Dracula vs Vlad Tepes

Bran Castle
I've been really busy writing my book and getting it together and out to be published, and I apologize for the delay in posting.  Publishing a book is very challenging, but I am glad to have this wonderful opportunity. I have been getting a lot of requests for a fact versus fiction series of posts, so tonight’s will be about Count Dracula vs. Vlad Tepes. I will talk about last names and nicknames, the Order of the Dragon, and princes and counts. There is a lot on Transylvania, and its role in Hungary at this point in history, but there is also a lot of Wallachia here, because Vlad III Tepes was a Prince of Wallachia.

First off: the last name versus nicknames. Vlad did go by Vlad Tepes, Vlad Dracula and Vlad the Impaler. One was his actual name and the other two were his nicknames, given by some of the peoples who lived in the area (the Transylvanian Saxons- the people who were culturally of Germanic origin- were one such group). Tepes was Vlad’s actual last name. The name “Dracula” was given to Vlad upon joining with the Order of the Dragon. “Dracula” means son of the Dragon. It could be that Vlad got this nickname because his father had the nickname Dracul when he was in the Order of the Dragon. 

Vlad earned having “the Impaler” tacked on to the end of his name when he came back to Wallachia from Turkey. (If you want to know why he was in Turkey please read this previous postof mine.) Vlad had developed a liking to impaling his victims on wooden stakes, partly because it was uncommon, but also because it struck fear into the community where he did these impaling. This was how he came to be called Vlad the Impaler. Three different names for one man, and just like Transylvania is a real place, Vlad Tepes Dracul was a real man. One was a surname, one a nickname and the final one was a tag on the end of his name.

            Another thing that some people may get confused about is the Order of the Dragon. There are some stories that describe the Order as a secret society. For example, the newest Dracula TV series claims that this is the case.   No one would know about it or how it worked.

       In reality, the order of the Dragon was not very secret, especially since men received nicknames that reflected their membership to the Order, like Dracul and Dracula. It was, indeed, a very exclusive group. New members had to be invited into the group by the Holy Roman Emperor of the time, and Kings such as the Kings of Hungary or Poland. The whole reason Vlad’s father joined was so that he would have the Empire's support in keeping his title as Prince of Wallachia. For support to be effective it would have to have been known that he was a member of the Order of the Dragon. Thus, the Order could not have been a secret society; it was just extremely exclusive.

           Let's now look at the confusion around his titles. The character Dracula was called a Count. Vlad Tepes was a Prince. There are some movies and TV shows that also acknowledge the character of Dracula as having been a Prince of Wallachia. Vlad was actually not supposed to inherit the title, though. It was supposed to to to his older brother, but he was assassinated along with their father while Vlad and his younger brother, Radu, were in Turkey. Vlad eventually avenged his father's and brother's deaths and took back the throne of Wallachia. The funny thing is that he actually was unable to hold the throne for very long either. He lost it three times. In total he only held onto the throne for 6 to 8 years; whereas the character of Dracula was said to have held his title since he inherited it. He never lost it to anyone.

            Interesting differences can be found when you just look at the fact versus the fiction. Don’t worry there is still more to come. If there are any requests for future fact versus fiction posts please let me know.


November 22, 2013

Is Transylvania a Real Place?

I was asked this question the other day, and as much as it pains me to repeat myself, it does need to be said: Transylvania is a true and real place, and it is a part of the country of Romania.  As much as we all love to see the magical and wonderful TV shows about Transylvania, people do forget that it is a part of an Eastern European country.

In an effort to tell people where my family lived, I mentioned that they came from the northern part of Romania, which is Transylvania.  This lead to some fairly odd looks.  Within a minute I was explaining that I was not joking and that there is a place by this name.

Their main question could be summed up like this: is Transylvania a real place?

It didn't seem to me like the person asking me this was being funny, but rather the person really wasn't sure about geography or history in general.  The person seemed to be well-read because we talked about Europe and the changes that have happened since the Second World War, and which sorts of authors one could read to improve one's knowledge of the details. ( Churchill by Roy Jenkins was mentioned.)  Still, it saddened me to have to explain (again) that, yes, it is a true place.

Is Transylvania a real place? Yes, it is found near the borders of Hungary, and the Ukraine, and it is a part of  Romania.  It has a unique cultural history and some memorable people who lived there, and who still live there.  It is filled with castles and citadels.  It also has many UNESCO heritage sites that generate a great deal of revenue for the country.

It is as real as the countries it was a part of, and it has had princes and Kings rule over it.  People who lived there, and those who live there now, find the place romanticized and filled with myths, but it is also misunderstood.  A good example is that most people in North America identify Dracula, the character from the novel of the same name before a Queen of Romania. This woman was a granddaughter of the famous Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, and was an instrumental figure during World War I.  Transylvania was so real to her that she and her husband were crowned there in 1922.

This is a real place and it is one that more people need to know about.

November 8, 2013

The TV show Dracula

Hello everyone. Since there seemed to be a fair amount of interest in the Dracula show I decided to write the second post. There are a few thing I want to say about the show. 

           First there is the fact that they actually incorporate historical facts into the show. Certainly, it is mainly about the myth, but they have brought facts about the man into the show as well. Then there is the fact that they are using other supernatural or mythical beings other than Dracula. The third fact is that Mina's character  is a smart woman; they kept her as a doctor even though this version of the story is set in Victorian England.

            I really love that the writers did their research for this show. They held true to the fact that Dracula was a Prince of Wallachia, and that Vlad Tepes and his father before him were a part of the Order of the Dragon. Actually, for those who have not yet seen the show, the existence of the Order of the Dragon is a plot driver for the show. The Order of the Dragon is tasked with hunting Dracula and all vampires. I like that  they portray Dracula as being a man out for vengeance. I enjoyed when they were naming off the titles and names of Dracula, calling him Vlad Tepes IV. They name him as being the Prince of Wallachia but also being the second born. Another historically-based plot driver is the fact that Vlad had a wife that he loved before Mina Murray. In order to make Dracula seem like the completely devoted man, they seem to have made Mina the reincarnation of Dracula’s previous wife.

            I really like the fact that they have maintained Mina being a smart woman. Her character has always been a doctor of some kind, and this fact is maintained in the show. In this show, Mina is attending medical school, studying to be a surgeon under the teachings of Professor Van Helsing. They have maintained the character's intelligence even thought the story is set in Victorian England when it was widely accepted for a woman to be brainy. I appreciate this because it is good for the audience, especially girls and young women, to see that there have always been women who were intelligent and well-educatved, even when it was not really socially accepted.

            Dracula is not the only mythical being that is used within the show. They include the existence of other vampires. The writers of the show make the distinction that Dracula is much older than the garden variety vampire and is therefore more powerful. They show this when the Order of the Dragon uses the seers to locate Dracula. Also, Abraham Van Helsing may be human but he is still legendary. I quite like how the writers have twisted this part of the story and have Van Helsing working with Dracula against the Order of the Dragon.

                                --S. Bennett

October 31, 2013

Bethlen Castle, Romania

It seems that everyone wants to know more about castles in Transylvania, Romania and seems that there have been some requests for another post on castles. Since I have already done posts on both Bran Castle (Dracula’s castle) and Cachtice Castle (Elizabeth Bathory’s castle), for this post I chose Magna Curia or Bethlen Castle, as it is more commonly known.  

            Bethlen Castle was built in 1582 by the Hungarian captain Ferenc Geszty at the foot of a hill. This is not exactly the most strategic place to build a castle. Most castles are built on top of a hill, not at the foot of one. Its style is based on the original castles, called Motte and Baileys castles. These castles were fairly basic-looking keeps built at the top of a hill. The cool thing was that they built some of the hills from the dirt that they dug up from the where they put the moat. This put them on higher ground, giving the defenders the advantage if they were attacked. This historical context made it even harder for me to understand why anyone would build Brethen Castle at the foot of a hill. It would be the worst place for a castle from a strategic point of view. Then again, this castle was built during the Renaissance, when people building castles were more concerned with how a castle looked and not what strategic placement it had.

            One of the men who lived in this castle was Sigismund Bathory. Sigismund joined the ranks of Christian princes fighting against the Turks in 1588, and it was he who signed the treaty that brought Wallachia under the sovereignty of Transylvania. Sigismund became Prince of Transylvania, ruling from 1599-1608.

            Gabriel Bathory also lived in Bethlen Castle. He ruled as Prince of Transylvania from 1608 until 1613.  I find it interesting that two members of the Bathory line ruled as Princes of Transylvania during the life span of Elizabeth Bathory and that Gabriel Bathory died the year before Elizabeth Bathory was found out and put to death.

            It was Gabriel Bathory who renovated Bethlen Castle. After the renovation, the building became known as Magna Curia. It was these renovations that made the building a good candidate to become a museum, and it was converted into one in 1882. Specifically, it became the Museum of Dacian and Romania Civilisation. Part of the reason Magna Curia was made into a museum was because it is located in Deva. The city of Deva was the capital of Transylvania for a period of time. The museum contains ethnographic, numismatic and natural science exhibits. I like the fact that some of the old castles of Transylvania have been turned into museums. This means that not only can people see the exhibits being shown, they get to see the castles themselves. It also means that the castles are maintained and will not just fall into ruin like some castles in other countries. 

October 25, 2013

Dracula: The Dark Prince A Movie Review

There are so many movie reviews out there, this one is mine.

This one is called Dracula: The Dark Prince, and I think it is an interesting take on the Dracula myth. I liked it because they included parts of actual history in the movie. The movie describes how he lived as a man, Vlad the Prince of Wallachia, and how he became the monster, Dracula. I also like the idea that Dracula loved a woman. I

t was the loss of his love that turned Vlad into Dracula. He became a monster, a vampire, when he lost his love and swore against God, saying how he would no longer follow in the ways of God. Then there is the fact of reincarnation that gets brought up. Dracula’s love is killed in the early part of the movie, and then her reincarnation appears as a vampire hunter out to kill Dracula. The methods used and the interpretation of the story of the movie are really interesting.

            A mixture of flash backs and comic book drawings tells the story in this movie. I found this to be a good way to describe the true agony that Vlad felt when his wife was killed by the priests that served him. There are just some emotions that cannot be truly shown that well by an actor, so sometimes it takes drawing it in order to get the idea across. Being able to highlight certain features is much easier to do in a sketch or drawing. I find that even my favourite actors are unable to fully portray some emotions in movies. Sure, some can get the emotions across in a TV series. 

The reason that they can do this is because they spend more time as that character and are more involved in the role. The opening credits in this film are a mixture of comic book images and images of the actors, and it details the story behind how Dracula became a vampire. The comic book images really come in handy when they need to portray the really, really emotional parts and bloody parts.

            I enjoyed the fact that they used reincarnation in this movie. I also really enjoyed they way they explain how Dracula became Dracula because I have not seen many movies that tried to explain how Dracula became a vampire. I also like that Dracula was in love, and it appeared that he was miserable without the woman he loved. 

I found it really interesting that they gave the name Elizabeth to Dracula’s love. The same name as the Blood Countess, the other person on whom the vampire myth is based. I also appreciated the love scenes, of course. No, I do not mean the ‘dirty’ love scenes, but those are there, too. I am talking, instead, about the sequence of scenes where Dracula convinces his love’s reincarnation to fall in love with him again. I will leave it to you to watch the movie to see what happens at the end.

October 10, 2013

The Boy Who Cried Werewolf

Hey everyone. The other night I was searching through my Netflix and came across the movie The Boy Who Cried Werewolf. I figured it might be an interesting movie, so I put it on. It is a movie for children and, as expected, it was more funny than scary. Sure, there were some semi-scary parts but not that many. The movie was released by Nickelodeon, the main character is played by Victoria Justice. 

The plot was your basic supernatural movie for children/teens: There were your traditional clichés, and there was the creepy castle in Romania.  They set the movie in a town called Wolfsburg. I've since learned that this is the name of an actual town, but it is not in Romania; it is in Germany. I am not sure that they were really going for accuracy, but with that being the case, I think they should have made up a city name that did not already exist. I think they were aiming to have the small town of Wolfsburg be just outside of Transylvania. There was mention of visiting Dracula’s castle. They also had your classic, creepy housekeeper, and throughout the movie, whenever someone said her name, wolves howled. The funny part about this was that the characters heard the wolves and actually commented on the howling. They tried to avoid saying her name as much as possible.

One of the more annoying clichés I saw in the movie was the transformation that the main character went through during the movie. At the beginning of the story she is a shy, awkward, and geeky teen. It seemed she would do anything to get noticed by the guy she liked. (She even paid for his lunch!) Now, I am not a hard core feminist or anything, but it makes me sad to see girls being portrayed like that in movies. It was not so much the shy, awkward and geeky part that I object to, but the doing anything to be noticed by the guy is unfortunate. They did save it, though, at the end. After going through her transformation throughout the movie she does change her outlook. She is no longer as shy or awkward, but she is still geeky, which is awesome. When the stereotypical hot guy from the beginning offers to buy her lunch, she turns him down, paying for her own lunch, and then she shoots him down when he asks her to the prom. For those who like the romantic flavour in a movie, she does get a guy at the end — he ends up with the guy who fell for her in Romania before she went through her transformation.

And then there is the brother. He is the movie buff and monster buff of the family. I found it interesting how he deals with the fact that his sister turns into a werewolf. He has to figure out everything in the plot of the movie and save his sister. It is actually due to his curiosity in their new castle that leads to his sister turning into a werewolf, so it is only fair that he should be the one to save her — which he has to do a few times. And what is a werewolf movie set in Romania without a few vampires? 

I really enjoyed the movie overall. It definitely makes for a good Halloween movie for those looking for something to watch with the children in the weeks to come.

October 3, 2013

Dracula 2013

It has come to my attention that there will be a new TV series on NBC called Dracula. I watched the trailer and it appears interesting. This show will be set in Victorian era London, and Dracula is living under the name Alexander Grayson. In the show he has an assistant who knows who he truly is, kind of like his sidekick, and Dracula is apparently on a quest.

The trailer is good and does not fully give away exactly what that quest is. I have a theory though. Within the trailer there are clips of flashback to Transylvania. By the clothing they are using my guess is that they are trying to portray a medieval Transylvania. The clip shows a woman being burned at the stake while Dracula tries to fight to save her. The clip happens just after Dracula meets a woman in London. The woman from London bears a striking resemblance to the woman from the flashback clip. My theory is that Dracula is searching for the woman he loved and watched die. There is a quick mention of how horrible it would be to turn the woman into a being like Dracula, meaning a vampire.

 I find it interesting that the writers for the show are playing with the idea of reincarnation. There are not many shows that bring that in as a plot driver because it can get complicated and go completely awry. I find that there are too many variables that exist in stories that deal with reincarnations and past lives. My guess is that in this case they are using it as a plot driver to advance the idea of true, everlasting love. They want to show a love that can span lifetimes. In this series, the woman does recognize Dracula. She mentions that she feels like they have met before. It also appears that Dracula has been looking for her through the years. I guess true love will win out, not matter what.
And this brings me to another point of confusion — true love and Dracula do not really mix. Well, actually it is more accurate to say that monogamous true love and Dracula do not mix. Many different stories portray Dracula having more than one wife. He truly loves all of his wives. That fact in the stories is always the same, though; Dracula does know how to love. 

There are two other stories that I know of where Dracula is monogamous. One was a teen novel called Dracula in Love by Karen Essex. As a teen novel it is very sappy and all about the woman finding true love. The fact that it is with Dracula just makes it an ‘epic’ love. The other one was the movie Hotel Transylvania. This one makes sense because it is a children’s movie and is about Dracula protecting his daughter. I find it interesting that all three stories have Dracula losing his love to villagers burning her at the stake.

I will likely make another post about the show once it airs, and I will wait for two or three episode to air before making another post. I will also only make it if there is interest in the post. 

September 26, 2013

Vampires, Loup Garou and Transylvania

Hey everyone. I know I have been talking about religion for this month’s posts. In each of those posts I have mentioned a mystical aspect that has been a part of Transylvania for centuries, and I would like to talk about that mystical aspect in this post. 

Romania, in general, is known for being the home of two major mystical races, the vampire and the werewolf. The majority, if not all, myths connected to vampires are connected in some way to Transylvania. The werewolf, or loup garou to be more accurate, originated in Bucharest, Romania but then spread to Transylvania. These races both had connections with a form of Pagan belief. (When I say Pagan, I am using it as a noun to generally describe those who follow a "religion of old", be it Wiccan, Druidic, Draconic, etc.)

            Getting back to the point, I will first talk about the vampire myths and Pagan beliefs connected to them. I know what people are thinking; there is no such thing as a vampire. I agree, there are no vampires as described in the myth. There are people, though, who believe that there are vampires out there. There are people out there who do drink blood. I am not sure how this is done, but I do know that they do not drain their victims to death. There was an episode on the original CSI television show that talked about people who drank blood — to them it symbolized life, kind of like how Elizabeth Bathory thought of blood. 

            Dracula is the most infamous of all vampires. He was said to have lived in Transylvania. The man that he is based on, Vlad Tepes, did live in Transylvania. Bram Stoker got the name of his character from Vlad Tepes' nickname, which was Dracula. The name means Son of the Dragon. Vampires and myths about them have really influenced how people outside of the are see Transylvania.

            The second important myth I'd like to discuss is the legend of the loup garou that has been a part of Romanian culture for centuries. It was one of the original myths that thrived in Romania, especially Bucharest. This is not the werewolf legend that is popular with modern media. There is one movie shows the legend of loup garou with at least partial accuracy, Blood and Chocolate. (I will not go into detail about the movie here because I have already done a previous post about it.) Loup garou were people who could take the shape of wolves whenever they chose. If a person could get close enough to hurt a loup garou and spill its blood, the loup garou would show their true nature. What really scared people about the loup garou was that they have complete control. They changed when they chose to and they retained the ability to think clearly while in wolf form. They did not lose themselves to the mind of the beast.

            Something I found interesting during my research was that the other religions that are prevalent in the area seemed to work around the local beliefs about vampires and loup garou. They did show that God was stronger and helped them defeat the vampires and loup garou. I find it interesting, too, that the legends of these two races not only survive to this day but have spread around the world.

September 24, 2013

Transylvania and Lutheranism

Hello again everyone. I have been talking about the religions that exist in Transylvania. I want to emphasize just how amazing it is that they are all getting along with each other. Transylvania is definitely a special place in that the people get along well, for the most part, and have gotten along well for the majority of history. This could be because Transylvania itself was founded by many different cultures. One of those cultures was the Germans, and some brought with them Lutheranism when they settled in the area.
Lutherans are another branch of Christianity, and they have a large influence in Western Christianity. The Lutherans follow the teachings of Martin Luther (1483 – 1546), a German monk and former Catholic priest. Luther took issue with was the discrepancies that he saw between what the Bible said and what he saw the Roman Catholic Church doing. Luther started things off with a challenge which he called the “95 Theses”, and he posted this document, challenging 95 theological issues, on the door of Wittenberg University in 1517.  What started as a challenge turned into a full blown fight. It turned into a split within the Catholic Church, and those who followed Luther’s teachings took on the name Lutherans.

Three main points sum up the basic teachings of Luther: “Grace alone, faith alone, and Scripture alone.” This translates as “Saved by the grace of God alone, Salvation is through faith alone, the Bible is the norm of life.” Where the Roman Catholics repent their sins and do penance, the Lutherans believe that they are saved by God's grace alone, not by anything that they did on this earth. The Lutherans believe that in order to gain salvation a person must have a confident trust in God and His promises. They also believe that the Bible is the only way to standard by which to judge teachings and doctrines. They live by very basic rules. There are really only three, almost everything falls into one of these three rules. There is another thing that Lutherans do slightly differently, and that is how they celebrate on October 31. This was the date in 1517 that Martin Luther initiated the challenge. To this day, Lutherans celebrate this day as the beginning of the Reformation.

The Lutherans would have embraced the mysticism of Transylvania in much the same fashion as the Roman Catholics. They did not have much thought to spare for anything of a mystical nature. They lived their lives in accordance to the Bible. The Bible does state that a good Christian would not bide a witch to live. Something to consider, though, was that there would have been those of Pagan beliefs in Transylvania throughout history. I am sure there would have been instances of non-acceptance throughout the history of Transylvania, but the fact remains that there are still those who hold to the Pagan beliefs of old. That tells me that there would have been some level of acceptance.

September 21, 2013

Transylvania and the Roman Catholic Church

Hey, everyone. The previous post I made was about the most commonly practised religion in Transylvania Eastern Orthodox Christianity. We have already discussed the fact that Transylvania is made up of many different cultures, and one of those cultures is Hungarian. 

Hungary has always held a large influence over Transylvania, and many Hungarians are Roman Catholic. Roman Catholicism is one of the most popular religions to this day all over the world. 

Over half of Hungary is currently populated by people who identify as Catholics. It therefor stands to reason that Hungarians would help bring the influence of the Roman Catholic Church to Transylvania when they came over.

Keep in mind that the Roman Catholic Church held more power than any other religion during the Middle Ages. Kings and princes from all over would seek the support of the Catholic Church to help hold their thrones. Vlad Dracul was no exception.

 He sought out the support of the King of the Holy Roman Empire in order to hold the title Prince of Wallachia against the forces of the Ottoman Empire. The Holy Roman Empire was ruled by a king who was appointed by the Pope, God’s representative on Earth in the eyes of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has always preferred a legal or a logical approach to problems.

Catholics believe in Christ’s humanity as well as divinity. They do not believe in the use of idols. Having Catholics in the East mixing with the other religions was not an easy feat to deal with. The Eastern Christians are more of a mystical religion, as I mentioned in my previous post. Mixing them with the logical and legal minded Catholics did not always go well. 

Generally, Catholics- and the Catholic church did not get along with any other religion very well. 

They also had issues with followers of the Protestant religion, dating back to the Middle Ages in England, with Pagans dating back to the origins of their own small beginnings, and with Muslims dating back to the Crusades over the Holy Land. It is amazing that all of these religions were able to live together within Transylvania and not be at war the whole time.
Transylvania is a land of mystery and fantasy. The Catholic Church does not deal well with things of fantasy; they go against the beliefs of the Catholic Church. They did come up with some interesting ways to co-exist with the fantasy aspects of Transylvania though. The one that really stands out in my mind is depicted well in a modern movie, Van Helsing. 

Van Helsing is portrayed not only as the best vampire hunter but also as the archangel Gabriel. They made him a servant of God. They made it appear that the Catholic Church had an underground group who were responsible for killing the monsters of myth, including Dracula. This reinforced the Catholic belief that none was more powerful then God. This meant that people who followed the Catholic religion did not fear things that went bump in the night, for God was stronger.


September 19, 2013

Transylvania and the Eastern Orthodox Church

Today’s post looks at religion in Transylvania, Romania. Many religions are practised throughout Transylvania today. The one most commonly practised by Romanians is Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and throughout this post I will discuss some of the history of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

            The Eastern Orthodox Church is a branch of the Christian Church. There were some major disagreements, both political and about doctrine, within the Christian Church during the Middle Ages. The religious issues resolved around the use of icons, the idea of the Holy Spirit being divine or not, and on which date the church should celebrate Easter. To some people, these issues may seem to be minor, but to the Medieval Christian Church these were huge issues. 

            Political divisions grew along the lines of how the Eastern churches and Western churches were run. The East thinkers tend to be more abstract and mystical thinkers while the Western thinkers give more weight to logic and law. The split between the two parts of the Church was major and public. History has named it the Great Schism.

            The Eastern Orthodox Church has some beliefs that are specific to them. The Church sees humanity as being able to fully participate in the divinity. To them sin came when the image of God was blurred and there was a barrier put up between man and God. The way in which Eastern Orthodox Christians gain salvation is much different than those of Western Christians. They do not see it necessary to justify the sin or gain pardon, they are more concerned with re-establishing the connection with God and the divinity. There is also the difference in how the Eastern Orthodox see Christ and divinity. They put more emphasis on the fact that Christ was always divine. They do agree that Christ became human, that he was the bridge between God and humanity. They also hold the Holy Spirit in a much higher standing in the East then in the West. The Eastern Orthodox will usually open with a prayer to the Holy Spirit.

            The fact that one of the main religions in Transylvania is greatly influenced by abstract thinking and mysticism is something I found interesting. It is still a Christian religion, but one that still believes in the mystical part of the world. Being in Transylvania, home of Dracula and vampires, I think it kind of makes sense. They are also quite close to Bucharest, Romania, home of the werewolf. 

            It appears to me that Eastern Orthodox gives the people of Transylvania the best of both worlds. They are able to believe in God and were able to go to heaven. They are also able to continue honouring their past and traditional beliefs. In the readings that I have done I have seen that history and traditions are important to Transylvania.