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