The Origin of Count Dracula Essay
The Origin of Count Dracula
Bram Stoker’s Dracula has been one of the most popular Gothic novels since it was released in the 19th century. English professors all over the world are frequently trying to solve the question of the origin of Count Dracula. There are approximately four theories concerning the source of Dracula. The most elaborate and believable theory is that which states that Bram Stoker modeled his character, Dracula, after a 15th century warrior named Vlad “Tepes” Dracula. Despite common belief, Bram Stoker was not the creator of vampires. The belief in vampires has existed all throughout recorded history, since the beginning of time. When man realized that the “blood is the life”(Deuteronomy, 12:33), they also assumed that drinking blood would prolong their lives and renew their vitality. Since that time period, many legends and folklore have developed about the characteristics of vampires, most of which originated in Eastern Europe. According to Bulgarian folklore, vampires have only one nostril, which differs somewhat from the Polish idea of a sharp, pointed tongue. Hungarian tales began the legend that vampires could change into clouds of mist, in order to help them move around.
The majority of the legends that Stoker used in writing Dracula originated in Hungary, mainly because one of Stoker’s closest friends was Arminius Vambery, a Hungarian professor at Budapest. Vambery was an excellent source for Stoker because of his vast knowledge in the legends and folklore of vampires. Vambery is also thought to have introduced Stoker to the historical Vlad “Tepes” Dracula. From that point, Stoker took it upon himself to further his learning on the Wallachian prince by reading a book entitled An Account of Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia by William Wilkinson. In this particular book , there is a short section called “voivode Dracula”, which mean s “Prince Dracula”. According to Stoker’s notes, this is where he decided to change the name of his main character from “Count Wampyr” to “Count Dracula”, because “dracula” in the Wallachian language means “devil” or “dragon”. Stoker also used a number of fiction books in his research.
One book that particularly helped Stoker was The Golden Bough, by James Frazer. This book contains Romanian folklore that Stoker used to help guide him in writing his novel. One particular passage that Stoker referred to was: “Slavonian and Bulgarian peasants conceive cattle-plague as a foul fiend or vampyre that can be kept at bay by interposing a barrier of fire between it and the herd.” (Frazer, 641) Stoker portrayed this knowledge in the boko when he builds a fire around Mina to protect her from the oncoming vampire women in Chapter 27. Stoker also referred to a book named The Book of Were- Wolves by Sabine Baring-Gould. In this book, Stoker gained insight into the Hungarian Countess, Elizabeth Bathory. Because Stoker listed this book in his notes, many people have gotten the impression that Stoker modeled Dracula after Countess Bathory. The evidence that has been gathered in order to solve this puzzle, though, stands against that theory. In 1892, after many years of research, Stoker finally combined all of these legends to cleverly form one of the most original literary figures ever, Count Dracula.
When someone thinks of the word “vampire”, he is usually the first object to come to mind. Because the book has gained so much popularity all around the world, Count Dracula has come to typify our image of a vampire. This image is one of a creature that “represents immortality, forbidden desires, rebellion, power, eroticism.etc”(Miller, 2). That is one of the reasons that Dracula has held interest and fascination for over a century. During Stoker’s time, though, the book didn’t attract as much attention as he had hoped. He failed to secrue an American copyright, and, therefore, never made that much money for it. After reading the book, Stoker’s mother told him that “no other book [had] come near [Stoker’s] in originality”. Aside for the theatre productions, the actual book didn’t begin to receive scholarly attention until the 1970’s, when the increased interest in “Gothic” novels began to rise. This is also the time period when people began to wonder about the origin of the idea for Count Dracula. People began developing different theories and, after finding evidence against most, there are only four that have survived.
Despite Stoker’s claim that the idea came to him during a nightmare after crab supper, the most popular belief maintains that Stoker modeled Count Dracula after a historical Wallachian Prince, Vlad “Tepes” Dracula. The third theory suggests that Dracula is modeled after Countess Elizabeth Bathory, as discussed earlier. The fourth idea that has survived is that that claims that Stoker acquired the idea from is boss, Henry Irving, owner of the Lyceum theatre. The latter is one of the most rare beliefs and has lacked evidence since before Irving’s death. “Stoker was happy to stand in the wings applauding, whild Irving stood in the spotlight receiving that applause”(Farson, 249). After Irving’s death in 1905, Stoker suffered from a heart- attack that many people claim was the result of his best friend’s death. A few years later,Stoker began to write Personal Reminiscenes of Henry Irving, which was even more evidence against the proposterous theory. The theory that Dracula was modeled after Elizabeth Bathory, a Transylvanian countess known for her beauty, also lacks sufficient support. The only evidence that could possibly support the idea that Dracula was taken from Elizabeth Bathory is the fact that Stoker wrote in his notes that he referred to the book The Book of Were-Wolves. This book contains a short section concerning the Countess Bathory.
Bathory has also been referred to as the “Blood Countess”. It is assumed that she got this name from her desire for fresher skin, which she thought that she could get by drinking blood. Bathory’s desire for blood when, upon preparing for her husband’s return, her maid was brushing her hair. Apparently, the maid caused some sort of pain to Elizabeth while helping her get ready, so Elizabeth hit her with a brush. She hit her so hard, in fact, that the maid began to bleed. This is when Elizabeth noticed that the skin beneath the blood was brighter and more vibrant. After seeing this, Elizabeth thought that, if she bathed in the blood of young women, then her skin would retain its beauty forever. Elizabeth began to kill many young women, over 60 before she died, and bathe in their blood. In order to kill these women, Elizabeth devised a number of torture devices that would drain the blood in order for Elizabeth to use. A particularly disturbing device was called the “iron maiden”. This device was the size of a coffin but had tiny spikes in it. The spikes, in order to produce a more painful death, caused excessive bleeding that eventually cause the victim to bleed to death. Before that, though, Elizabeth had her servants insert two spikes into the tortured’s eyes, which obviously caused blindness.
Another device that she invented consisted of a cyndrical cage that was too narrow to sit in and too small to stand in, but lined with small spikes. The victim was put in this cage and hoisted above ground. The cage was then rocked back and forth until the maiden’s skin is pierced and she dies from the loss of blood. There have been claims that say that Elizabeth used to sit underneath the cage and shout vulgar comments at the women in the cages while soaking up their blood. When one of Elizabeth’s victims managed to escape, she went directly to the authorities. Because of Elizabeth’s strong political ties, she wasn’t sentenced to death, but the walls of her castle were sealed and she was forced to live there forever. It is possible that Elizabeth could have been contributed to the idea for Dracula, but it is not likely that she was the model for him. They share only two characteristics: they both live in Transylvania and they both share a love for blood. Elizabeth wanted to retain her beauty forever, but Dracula never seemed to obsess over his looks. In fact, he can’t be seen in a mirror’s reflection. Also, Elizabeth didn’t drink the blood, she only bathed in it. Dracula cannot live without drinking someone else’s blood. The most believable theory of Dracula’s origin is that of Vlad “Tepes” Dracula. Vlad “The Impaler” Dracula lived between 1431 and 1476 in Wallachia. Despite the fact that he was a direct descendant of the previous ruler, we was constantly fighting for the throne because the nobles had the right to vote on the prince among the eligible members of the family.
Because of this principle, Vlad ruled at three different times during his life, once for 2 months in 1448, a second time from 1456 to 1662 and the last time for 2 months in 1476. Vlad was an extremely strict ruler, hence the name “Impaler”. During his lifetime, he is said to have had 40,00 to 100,000 people impaled. The process of impaling was a long, painful and cruel process. “Dracula usually had a horse attached to each of the victim’s leg and a sharpened stake was gradually forced into the body. The end of the stake was usually oiled and care was taken that the stake not be too sharp; else the victim might die too rapidly from shock.” (Porter,7) This horrendous act is similar to using a stake as the only way to kill vampires, as shown by Stoker in the last chapter when Count Dracula is killed. Dracula was also a great warrior. During one of his many battles with the Turks in 1962, he impaled nearly 20,000 corpses. After that incident, the Turks began to get more aggressive with their fighting and forced Vlad Dracula out of his own country. He fled to Transylvania to plead with, his friend, King Matthius Corvinus.
Instead of aiding to Dracula, King Matthius had Dracula imprisoned for the next twenty years. During his 12 year imprisonment inside a tall tower near Buda, Dracula began a habit of torturing small animals. Dracula’s favorite animals to capture were mice and birds, many of which were mutilated in some way, but most were impaled on tiny spears. In Dracula, this act is comparable to Renfield’s attraction with the animals and insects during his imprisonment. Also during this imprisonment, Dracula renounced his original religion of the Orthodox faith and adopted Catholicism. The majority of the Romanians at that time were affiliated with the Eatern Orthodox church and looked upon Dracula’s renunciation as a very negative action. The Orthodox faith has contributed to the majority of the vampire folklore among Europeans. Transylvanians believe that all criminals, bastards, witches, magicians, excommunicated people, those born with teeth, and unbaptized children have the ability to become vampires. This explains the possibility of Vlad Dracula having the reputation of a vampire. It is definite that, despite his Catholic background, Dracula did not have a fetich for blood. There are many legends that tell of Vlad washing his hands in blood, or dining in front a field of impaled people, most often times, Christians. There is a famous woodcarving that has lasted through the ages that shows a picture of Vlad “Tepes” Dracula dining in front of acres of impaled people while someone beheads other victims.
Because Stoker is known to have seen this picture, a belief exists that this is why Stoker created Count Dracula with an aversion to food. Others believe that, when Stoker created the vampires in Dracula, he was modeling this after Vlad Dracula’s other favorite torture method, beheading. Not only do the habits of Vlad Dracula compare to the characteristics of vampires, Vlad Dracula and the fictional character of Count Dracula are similar physically. Dracula, as told through the eyes of Jonathon Harker, was a “tall, old man, clean-shaven, save for a long white mustache and clad in black from head to foot without a single speck of color around him anywhere” (Stoker, 43). Vlad, as described in the history records, was also tall, thin, clean-shaven except for a black mustache, and normally wore black. There is also stipulation that Stoker may have gained access to a pamphlet from the 15th century Wallachian culture. These pamphlets are similar to the tabloids of today’s generation. They were mostly stories that were written purely out of imagination, but many turned into legends and folklore.
Among these pamphlets, Stoker found stories that described Vlad Dracula as “an inhuman monster who terrorized the land and butchered innocents with sadistic glee”(Porter,9). This is exactly what Stoker needed. Along with the vampire folklore and legends that Stoker researched, Dracula was the perfect name to use for his novel. Not only did the actual meaning of the word fit his purpose, but also the fact that the only people that would recognize his name, would only recognize it for his brutal acts of cruelty. Psychologists today look back on Vlad Dracula and hypothesize that he was “a man of diseased and abnormal tendencies, the victim of acute moral insanity” (Hitchins,40). This was the perfect candidate for Stoker to model his character after. From all of the evidence that has been shown, there is a definite amount of similarities between Vlad “Tepes” Dracula and Count Dracula. Vlad “Tepes” was the representative that Stoker needed to instill the level of excitement and fear that he wanted to in people. people.