February 28, 2013

Vampires and Transylvania: Dracula vs Edward Cullen

After looking at my previous topics, another one came to me. What is with people and their assumption that all of a sudden vampires are cool and harmless? I blame modern movies and television for this idea people have about vampires. Sure, Dracula was a cool story, but he was more of a cautionary tale. Women were not encouraged to pursue him. Actually, they were encouraged to run as fast as they could if they ever met him. Modern writers and media have ruined the vampire myth. I would really blame Twilight for this. The younger generations probably think that all vampires sparkle when they walk in the sunlight. They probably do not know about Angel, let alone Dracula.

 Girls think that Edward Cullen is the best thing to come along. The thing is they just like the actor that plays him in the movies, Robert Patterson. When it comes to the actual character of Edward Cullen, I find him really whiny. He has the whole brooding thing down pat, and that would really annoy me after a while. Also, I am not really fond of the personal pity party thing he does. He is usually feeling sorry for himself because he is a vampire. Okay, sure it may not be the best thing to be, but seriously, one would think that after a century he would have found some way to make the best of things. He also tried to push Bella away at the beginning. At one point he actually left her. Personally, I would want to have someone to share eternity with.
Then there is Dracula. He took his immortality for all he could get. He hunted and played games with the peasants around his castle. He went around seducing women wherever he could. He travelled the world. He had multiple wives and did not complain that he did not want to change them into vampire, unlike another vampire we all know. Dracula loved the idea of having children with his wives. As we saw in the movie Van Helsing, Dracula was willing to go to extreme lengths to give his children life. As a character profile, Dracula is very confident in every move he makes. In any story told about him, he never believes that someone can beat him. 

I think that The Key of Awesome described things pretty good in their song TWILIGHT SUCK! Emo Vampire Song. It is Dracula singing about how the vampire myth has gotten all messed up. They mention how the vampires of today are all whiny and weak. This video is really well done. They have the guy playing Dracula dressed in traditional Dracula clothing, including cape. One of the song's lines really makes me laugh. It basically says that Dracula wants no part of where the mythology of vampires is heading, and to wake him up when the world grows a pair of fangs. When it comes down to it, I would take Dracula over Edward Cullen any day.

February 21, 2013

Movie Review of Van Helsing

Van Helsing... I consider it to be a great movie — when I look at it as a movie. I found a lot of trouble with consistencies throughout the movie and the mythology of the movie. This movie has some interesting ideas, but looking at the message under their ideas really makes a person look at the movie in a different light.
One of the biggest things I noticed in the movie actually happens more towards the end, when the children of Dracula came to life. They looked like little bat like creatures. The thing is, Dracula and his wives were all human at first. Okay, sure, eventually they all became vampires and could take on bat like forms, but those are not their natural forms. One would think that the children would be born/hatched looking a little more humanoid. Sure, the children can still have some bat like features, since they are born vampires. I just still believe that they should have been born more humanoid. They could have been given the ability to shape shift like Dracula and his wives.

It is interesting to look at one of the messages being told through this movie. It is pretty much centred on the fact that Van Helsing is the only one who can kill Dracula and the fact that Van Helsing is Gabriel, one of the archangels. This means that only a servant of God is able to kill Dracula. No one else had the ability to do this. Over four centuries one family devoted all of their time and energy, even their lives, to finding a way to defeat Dracula. Then, Van Helsing walks in and within a few days, no more than a week, he is able to find things out, and kill Dracula, all by using maps to find Dracula's Castle. He did not even know who Dracula was before being given the job by the monks. This message could be interpreted as saying that servants of God are better than everyone else.

Now, to look at the choice of actors in this movie. Hugh Jackman is an amazing actor. I felt that he was great in this role. He was able to take on the role of the brooding man very well. Kate Beckinsale, kind of let me down. Her accent did not seem to always be the same scene from scene. It was also different from, and stronger than, that of the local villagers. One would think that the accents of the villagers would be stronger than that of the noble house. There is also the fact that she did not really seem able to stick to one role. One minute she is a strong confident woman, in need of no man to help her, and the next minute she is like a damsel in distress, needing Van Helsing to save her. Granted, this could be a character flaw and not the fault of the actress at all. They may not have been able to decide how they wanted their character to react towards different situations that she had to face.

February 20, 2013

The History of Transylvania, Romania is Found in Maps

To say that Europe has a long history would be an understatement- and most people would wonder how much you can generalize after this.  After all Europe has millions of years of history to it- one can still find dinosaur fossils in many parts of the continent.  When it comes to more of a modern history, such as Romania and its relationship with Transylvania,  You can go and read more books, or you can look at maps.  Both tell a story, but one you can learn from by looking at the information graphically instead of trying to form the pictures in your mind from the text.

This map is from about 1600, just after Michael the Brave was killed after uniting the three principalities of Wallachia, Moldavia and Transylvania.  You can see what would become Romania, and also you can see Transylvania.  On the left is Hungary, and the main heading is "Ottoman", referring to the Ottoman Empire which ruled this part of Europe. (You can also see part of the word Empire at the bottom of the map.)  There was no Romania at this time, but there were many of the castles either built or being built we have come to identify with Transylvania and Romania.

You can also learn about the history of schools in Transylvania.  This map shows some of the areas where there were churches and schools.  While it is mostly focused on the German Saxons, this map gives a person an idea of where people lived. There are facts and legends that need to be put into the proper context, especially when it comes to Transylvania.  Maps help people do this.  They can see and learn from them.  Not all the information is there, but some is.

Each map provides details and parts of history.  When it comes to Transylvania, there is a lot of history to deal with.  There are as many legends out there as well, and if a person understands the history, the legends become more interesting.  The map above shows one of the major German Saxon cities, but it also gives a good indication of the type of region in Europe that Transylvania was part of.  You can see the details of mountains and hills and rivers from this map.  The history of Transylvania is found in maps, but you have to know what to look for.

February 14, 2013

Werewolves In the Movies

Movies are interesting to me, especially anything to do with werewolves. 

They can be used for many different things. For example they can be used to get across certain points, facts, or myths. I recently watched the movie Blood and Chocolate. Finally, a movie set in Romania that does not involve Dracula or any vampires at all. This movie is set in Bucharest, Romania. The best-known myth in this city is that of the werewolf. Intriguing, isn't it, that Dracula’s biggest enemy originates from somewhere so close to him?

 Werewolves were not always the feared creatures of myth that they are today. I personally blame the movies like Ginger Snaps for that reputation. The original werewolf myth, the myth of the Loup Garou, is extremely different from the modern-day, Hollywood werewolf myth. For example, a person is either born Loup Garou or not, there is not a chance of becoming one. 

There is no bite that can infect someone and transform them into a werewolf. For the modern werewolf, shifting forms from human to wolf or wolf to human is extremely painful. For the Loup Garou it is effortless to shift forms and completely painless. The full moon does not force them to transform either; they can transform whenever they choose. Silver does still affect Loup Garou, as it says in all werewolf myths. It is also said that if someone is able to hurt a Loup Garou, they will catch a glimpse of the animal inside. It is all in the eyes.

Now back to the idea of the reputation that the werewolf has. Many movies have really made a shambles of how werewolves are seen. The Loup Garou were revered by people. There are rumours that they were descended from royalty in Bucharest and the surrounding region. There was a time where they ruled cities and countries. 

They were not the feared creatures that most people know werewolves as, similar to how the Romans saw them as. Don’t get me wrong, they were very much respected and people gave them space if the Loup Garou was known to be a Loup Garou. And they were not romanticized like they are in Twilight. They were not all muscular like in Twilight either. Another part about the werewolf myth from Twilight that is opposite from the Loup Garou myth is that there was an equal chance of the wolf being male or female was equal.

After watching Blood and Chocolate, I was interested in learning more about the Loup Garou. I wanted to confirm the information that was given in the movie, see if the writer, director and producers got their facts straight. Turns out that they did do their research. 

I also found out some more interesting things. For example, people in Romania don’t really know the myth of Dracula the vampire. They just know the historical story of Vlad the Impaler, who was a prince of Wallachia which was a part of the Kingdom of Romania from the unification of two principalities. Both myths have a connection to royal lines and were mortal enemies. Makes me wonder if these two royal families were competing for power in Romania. Another thing is that Romanians may not have known about Dracula as a vampire, but they sure knew about the Loup Garou. They even had churches decorated with images of the Loup Garou. 

February 10, 2013

Traveling In Romania? Touring Around Transylvania is a Must

North Americans feel a need to go and visit Europe.  Most people buy travel books about a few specific and well known countries, such as England, France, Spain or Portugal.  Unfortunately for them, they miss out on other Eastern European countries that can offer them a completely different perspective of history.

There is a strong Middle Eastern and Russian influence in these areas.  Romania, one of these countries, is no different.  Compared to much of Western Europe, where the countries were created long before the 19th Century, it was not until the 1850s that Eastern Europe began to form the countries we talk about now. For example: Greece, Bulgaria, and Romania became nations around this time, all of whom were princedoms or kingdoms.  They are hidden gems, and you should travel there to see them first-hand.  If you are travelling in Romania, there is one part of it you must visit: That area is Transylvania.

Travelling to Romania takes a bit of planning; there is no "Hotel Transylvania," but there are plenty of wonderful places to stay and areas to explore. You can start in Bucharest, but once you are in Transylvania, there is, seemingly, another whole world to explore.  Bran Castle is a popular site, as is the Black Church in Brasov, Romania.  It is a  little ways away from the 'main' attraction of Bran Castle.  

There is also the city of TimiÈ™oara, found outside of Transylvania in the Banat region. There you can tour Huniade Castle, which was built for John Hunyadi. This is also where the Romanian revolution of 1989 began.  It is a city alive with culture and history, and one which most people find amazing.

The Royal Palaces of Romania are a joy to see, and Transylvania itself has many royal places to see for those who love both royalty and history.  There is even a Western European connection here; the current British royal family, through Queen Mary, has relatives born in Transylvania.  King George V (her husband) was the first cousin of Queen Marie of Romania.  Since there is no official Romanian royal family, many of the palaces are open to the public.  (King Michael of Romania, although not the King of Romania since 1947, uses the Elizabeth Palace in Bucharest.)

If you are travelling in Romania, you should bring with you a good book on the Romanian language, but knowing a bit of Hungarian and German will also help.  There are some areas where most people speak Hungarian, and they are generally found in Transylvania, as this used to be a part of the kingdom of Hungary. 

Romania has a lot of tourist areas to explore, so it is best if you have more than a day or two to visit there.  The most exciting of the places you can see is Bran Castle.

Romania, along with some other Eastern European countries, still uses the leu (plural: lei) as its official currency, but it does plan on adopting the Euro after 2015.  You should be prepared for this when travelling in Transylvania and close to the border of Hungary, which uses its own currency, the forint.

When you do travel in Eastern Europe, be sure to travel into Transylvania.  It will be the highlight of your trip.

February 7, 2013

Review of the Movie Hotel Transylvania

Watching the movie Hotel Transylvania made me think a lot. It takes all of the old Dracula movies and changes everything. The directors of the old movies had seemed to work hard at the image of Dracula, making him scary. Then Hotel Transylvania went and made him a bumbling father. Okay, sure, Dracula could have had kids, but that doesn't mean he would become any less scary. For me, he would be even scarier, especially if he had a daughter — which he has in Hotel Transylvania. Even in the movie Van Helsing, when Dracula has kids, he is still terrifying.

I am a mythology buff so here is another part of this movie that really bugs me: In Hotel Transylvania, Dracula is good friends with a werewolf. No matter what movie you see, you will never see vampire and werewolves actually getting along; Twilight doesn't count because the werewolves still hated the vampires. The movie also advances the myth that Dracula can only be killed by a werewolf. I can't help but ask, why in the world would Dracula be friendly with the very being that could kill him? It makes no sense to me.

Another thing that bothers me is that there is no way a human would be able to be around that many monsters and fool them all with a simple costume. It makes my head hurt. Even if they ended up putting in the disclaimer that the werewolf’s smelling abilities were off, his children’s smelling abilities were. There would have been at least one monster there that should have seen through the disguise and caught on that there was a human among them. Seriously, Frankenstein believing that he has a long lost cousin? Frankenstein has no family; he was created by a scientist, who was named Frankenstein, and not the monster, who was murdered not long after creating Frankenstein- but that is the humour of Hotel Transylvania.

And then there was a scene where Dracula, Frankenstein, the werewolf and the invisible man were in the city, in broad daylight... Dracula was able to stand in the sun without burning because he had his cape wrapped around him and was wearing a big sun hat. Then when the humans realized that there were real monsters at their monster fair, they weren't scared of them at all — this after Frankenstein freaked out when the invisible man showed him fire. I'm sorry, but I would be running scared if I ever saw the true Dracula or Frankenstein. I love the stories about these characters, but they are scary.

But as much as I have ranted about this movie and what it got wrong, it is a generally good movie. Children (and children at heart) will love it because it is not really scary and it’s actually pretty funny at times. If this movie makes people want to read the books about any of the monsters, then they should be prepared to find out that the books portray monsters who are very different from this movie. Traditionally, Dracula is not really the cool guy who throws the best party every year. They have to realize that Frankenstein is not really the cool loving uncle. Other than that, the movie is a pretty good story about love and acceptance.

February 2, 2013

Why Queen Marie of Romania Wrote And Published Books

Most people know that Marie of Romania was born a British princess and was the eldest daughter of Prince Alfred of the United Kingdom and Grand Duchess Maria of Russia. She married the future King Ferdinand of Romania in 1893, and she ruled as consort with the title Queen of Romania for almost 13 years (1914-1927). She also wrote and published books on royalty and Romania.

She wrote many books to bring Romania some "exposure" to others; most people had heard of Transylvania, or of Romania, but they really didn't know much about this land.  Marie also knew that the area needed money, and the means by which she contributed to increasing the kingdom's income was to write about herself and about Romania.  One of her more famous books, The Story of My Life, is still available, but because she was a part of the "war to end all wars," other writers have written about her.  This is the means that Bran Castle became a part of the royal residences, and why Marie spent time in Transylvania, so that there would be exposure to a royal person, which would allow for more money, as even during that time, royalty is money.

She wrote books to give herself a creative outlet, and she also understood that there was a need to promote Romania to America, where she knew that there would be money, or funds, sent to Romania after the end of World War One.  This, she took to mean that there would be needed quickly as Romania, after the Paris Peace talks, had grown in population and territory. Many of her books were published between 1912 and  1933, but most were written or published during the war or after.

Just like Bran Castle provides a lot of money to Transylvania and Romania, Queen Marie understood that she needed to make money for Romania to keep her people happy and content.  She simply had to look to Hungary and Austria to understand the importance of this fact.