Bram Stoker’s world-famous blood-sucker is introduced in the novel as a Hungarian (Szekler) count, living in his castle in the Tihuța Pass of the Carpathian mountains. But who is the historical figure? And was he really Hungarian?
The Order of the Dragon
The gothic novel was published in 1897 and tells the story of a wealthy count who would like to move from Transylvania to England to find new blood and spread the undead curse. Irish author Bram Stoker spent years researching European folklore and the stories of vampires. Dracula scholars believe that during this time he read somewhere the story of a cruel voivode who ruled Wallachia between 1448 and 1476 three times. He was Vlad III aka Vlad the Impaler.
Vlad was born in Segesvár (Sighișoara) around 1431 and was the second legitimate son of Vlad II who became the ruler of Wallachia in 1436. The name Dracula came after his father who was a member of the Order of the Dragon, a monarchical chivalric order founded in 1408 by Sigismund von Luxembourg who was King of Hungary and Emperor of the Holy-Roman-Empire. Vlad was proud of his membership so he wore it as a cognomen: Vlad II the Dragon. In fact, Dracula is the Slavonic genitive form of Dracul,
meaning “the son of Dracul (or the Dragon)”.
Not surprisingly, Vlad III was called Dracula already in the 15th century in diplomatic reports, and popular stories referred to him, which probably inspired Bram Stoker as well.
Impaling instead of blood-sucking
To ensure his father’s loyalty towards the sultan, he and his younger brother were held as hostages in the Ottoman Empire. After János Hunyadi, regent-governor of the Hungarian Kingdom invaded Wallachia and killed his eldest brother in 1447, he tried to get the throne with Ottoman help; however, he was defeated. Finally, in 1456, he managed to occupy the country with Hungarian help, and
impaled those resisting his rule to strengthen his position.
After he came into a conflict with the Transylvanian Saxons he plundered their villages and took the captured people home to impale them, too. He even attempted to capture the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II in 1462; however, he was not successful. He lost his throne in the same year and fleed to Hungary to seek help, but Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary imprisoned him and took him to Visegrád. He was held captive there until 1475 during which anecdotes about his cruelty started to spread in Germany and Italy. He was released at the request of Stephen III of Moldavia after which he returned home but was killed in battle before 1477.
All in all, it can be said that the original historical figure Bram Stoker created his world-famous vampire of was a cruel Romanian voivode ruling Wallachia for a couple of years and impaling his adversaries. Despite all of that, the first motion picture to feature Dracula was produced in Hungary (Dracula’s Death, 1921); however, its plot was totally different from Stoker’s novel. The most commercially successful adaptation of the story to date was the 1931 film in which Béla Lugosi portrayed the vampire Count. Here you can watch a short excerpt of it:
Photos: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vlad_the_Impaler#/media/File:Casa_Vlad_Dracul_din_Sighisoara4.JPG, facebook.com/pg/BranCastleOfficial