Dracula – we all know the tales. We all heard the legends. We’ve all witnessed the thrill and passion for the supernatural. And we all wanted, at least for a split second at some point, to be immortal.
The Legend of Dracula has put a fantastic spin on Transylvania for the longest time. While people around the world continue to fantasize and look into mysticism, we are about to learn all about the facts surrounding the legend of Dracula.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula: Where it all Began
The year was 1897, and Bram Stoker published his infamous Gothic novel, Dracula – which became the basis of an entire genre of film and literature.
It is a well know fact that Bram Stoker’s main inspiration was the former Prince of Wallachia, Vlad the Impaler. The author got his ideas upon hearing the tales the folk told, about the very cruel ruler.
The tale begins when a young lawyer from England, Jonathan Harker arrives in Transylvania to visit a client of his firm, Count Dracula. The man gets a little shattered as the locals start telling him scary tales upon hearing his destination: Dracula Castle.
Nonetheless, he continues his journey as he has to finalize some transactions. When Jonathan Harker meets Count Dracula he notices that the man standing in front of him is very pale and strange. The lawyer. starts to be genuinely concerned when he accidentally cuts himself while shaving and Count Dracula lunged at his throat.
At that moment the lawyer realized he is dealing with a vampire, and he would be his next victim. He tried to attack the vampire, but his efforts were in vain. Jonathan was not murdered however but held a prisoner in the castle while Dracula left Transylvania for England with 50 boxes of dirt.
Back in England, Mina (Johnatan’s fiancee) is visiting a friend named Lucy Westenra, who has recently gotten engaged. One night Mina finds herself in a position where she has to find Lucy, as she was suffering from sleepwalking.
When Mina finds her near a graveyard, she sees a shape hovering over her for a split second. Mina notices two small red marks on Lucy’s neck. Over the following days, Lucy falls ill.
Mina takes Lucy to see Dr. Seward and Dr. Van Helsing, who, after failed blood transfusions, decide further. They then drape Lucy and her room with garlic—a strategy used to ward off vampires. Lucy, however, soon dies, only to soon wake up as a vampire.
They arrive in Transylvania to find the vampire buried in the final box of dirt and they cut off his head and stab him through his heart. Dracula turns to dust.
Inspiration and Symbolism
The novel is fairly complex especially in its representation of gender. This has allowed numerous and, sometimes contradictory, interpretations.
Dracula has been interpreted as anxiety about eastern Europeans invading western Europe – as is the representation of a Transylvanian who arrives in London and terrorizes every soul.
Others see Bram Stoker’s Dracula as an exploration of suppressed sexual desire. Also, a reaction to the conservative norms in Britain. Notably, it inverts the era’s stereotypical gender roles through the highly sexualized actions of female vampires.
Draculea. Vlad the Impaler. Dracula.
The most popular opinion between critics is that Legend of Dracula‘s main source of inspiration was Vlad the Impaler, prince of Wallachia born in Transylvania in the 15th century.
He was popularly known as Draculea, meaning Son of Dracul (as the family was a part of the knight order called Order of the Dragon). Although his name was derived from Dracul, which in Latin means Dragon, in modern Romanian Dracul is translated as Devil.
Vlad was feared because he used to impale his opponents, enemies, and everyone standing in his way of consolidating power in Wallachia.
There are some claiming that while his victims were dying in the stakes, Vlad would dip bread in their blood and eat it in front of them. However, this is not confirmed.
Vlad III was born in 1431 in Sighisoara Citadel, son of Vlad II – the illegitimate son of Mircea the Brave. The name of his mother does not appear in many documents. By the way, we have plenty of tours that will take you to Sighisoara Citadel, have a look by clicking here.
However, many believe that her name was Alexandra I of Moldavia.
Vlad the Impaler lived in Sighisoara Citadel until the age of seven. When he was 11, his father refused to support the Ottoman invasion of Transylvania. Sultan Murad II ordered Vlad II to meet him – in order to prove his loyalty. The father departed together with his 2 sons – Vlad the Impaler and Radu the Handsome.
Nonetheless, the second they met the sultan, they were all imprisoned. By the end of the year, Vlad the II was released. The sultan refused to free the two boys – he kept them as insurance of his loyalty to the Ottoman Empire.
Sultan’s plan all along was to raise and train both Vlad the Impaler and his brother, Radu the Handsome in Ottoman culture and to train them as warriors for the Ottoman Empire.
Thus Radu grew very close to the Ottoman ways and became one of them. Vlad III vowed to make them pay in the most atrocious ways. They were released in 1447, upon their father’s death (by Iancu de Hunedoara – his castle is one of the most beautiful ones in Europe, see our tour by clicking here), and the rest is, how they say, history.
Wars of Dracula
Dracula – Vlad the Impaler – has dedicated his entire life to one purpose. To make the Ottomans, and whoever helped them, pay for destroying his family. He came to power three times.
From the Fortress of Poenari – where Dracula resided – he rose to rule Wallachia -. How? Ruthlessly, with no mercy, and this is the time he got his now-famous nickname Vlad the Impaler. And his reputation grew stronger and bigger by the day, and here’s why.
Impaling had, firstly, an impact on people’s morale, since the victims died extremely slow and in agony. Second, impaling seemed to be challenging, because there were only a few ways to do it “right”.
The trick was not to hit any vital organs, so the victims would cry in pain for days. Pretty cruel, huh? Does the whole Dracula thing make more sense now?
Vlad the Impaler has led his entire life driven by the vow of revanche. He often ordered people to be skinned, nailed, roasted, burned, or buried alive. On his list? Betraying noblemen, thieves, ottomans (of course), and whoever crossed his path on his way to absolute power. As a curiosity, he murdered over 500 noblemen, plus their families.
Make no mistake, during Vlad the Impaler’s rule, Wallachia has knows incredible economic, political and cultural growth. So he wasn’t all bad, was he?
How did Dracula Die?
Knowing all of the above, many wonder how did Dracula die? They say the greater the power, the more enemies. Dracula was no exception. After years of fighting the ottomans and his noblemen, they were eventually the ones to have ended him.
Vlad the Impaler was captured by a few trusted (but say to buy) noblemen, upon the request of the Ottoman Sultan. The noblemen delivered him to the ottomans, they beheaded him, chopped his body into pieces, and sent his head to the sultan Mohamed II.
Where is Dracula Buried?
There are a lot of theories as to where the remains of Vlad the Impaler are. And extremely diverse too. Some historians believe that his remains lie in Naples, Italy.
Others (and most) agreed that his remains lie in Snagov, near Bucharest. If you want to pay a visit, you can check out our tour to take you there.
On the Footsteps of Vlad the Impaler
In his climb to the throne of Wallachia and up to his death, Dracula has moved quite a lot. He kept Poenari Fortress as his main residence (for reasons we will explain later). But how about Bran Castle, widely known as Dracula’s Castle? Or Targoviste Fortress? Let’s dive into it.
Bram Stoker’s idea of Dracula’s Castle is said to have started from Bran Castle, in Brasov County. What’s funny though is that the author has never seen this castle.
Bran Castle is a medieval fortress in the Southern Carpathian Mountains and one of Romania’s top tourist attractions. It was erected by the Teutonic Knights for a brief period. Like most of his kind, Bran Fortress was constructed in order to prevent the expansion of the Ottoman Empire.
Thus it did belong (temporarily) to Mircea the Old, Bran was, for the longest time, a customs house, and not a residence. It was used by Hungarian voivodes such as Janos Hunyadi, or King Sigismund.
In what Dracula is concerned, he has never resided there. The only connection Vlad the Impaler has with Dracula’s Castle is the fact that he was held prisoner there for two months.
How did the whole Dracula’s Castle thing start? By the similarities of the castles described by Bram Stoker in his novel. And the fact that the action took place in Transylvania.
And make no mistake, there is something of a crisp vibe in the castle and around it.
Regardless of the reality, Bran Castle is a special place, and everyone loves it. Willing to give it a try? Have a look at our tours to take you there.
Poenari Fortress aka The Real Home of Dracula
According to a local legend, Vlad the Impaler spotted Poenari Fortress while he was hunting down the Arges River. He noticed the ruins on the very top of Mount Albina, and he saw an opportunity.
The fortress was surrounded by the river, with an excellent 360 degrees view: the perfect spot for a defense fortress.
Dracula, however, had no money to restore Poenari Fortress. He went to seek help from the noblemen; they all turned him down. According to the stories, Vlad cursed all of them and sworn to rebuild the fortress into a magnificent one.
He took all his subjects – men, women, and even children – and forced them to rebuild Poenari. Some say Mount Albina looked a lot like an anthill, with people going up and down tirelessly, regardless of the weather.
After Vlad the Impaler’s death in 1476, Poenari Fortress continued to be used. But the location didn’t make it a very friendly place to live in. So it was eventually abandoned.
Today, we can still see the ruins of what once was Dracula’s Fortress. We have a great tour that will take you to Poenari, click here and read more.
The Royal Court of Targoviste
The Royal Court of Targoviste is a complex of monuments and buildings that have known a great expansion during the time of Vlad the Impaler. Located in the city of Targoviste, on Arges River, the former capital of Wallachia.
The Palace was the residence of many royals throughout history, and a true testament of medieval arts and culture. It was transformed into a museum in 1967.
The entire place carries marks and symbols of great people to have crossed the doors of the Royal Court – also, there is a great exhibition dedicated to Count Dracula. Book this tour for a ride to the Royal Court of Targoviste.
Myths and Legends of Dracula, Vampires and Supernatural Creatures
No one knows when humans first invented vampire figures, but legends date back at least 4,000 years to the Assyrians and Babylonians of Mesopotamia. The Mesopotamians feared Lamastu (also spelled Lamashtu), a demonic goddess who hunted people.
In Assyrian legends, Lamastu, the daughter of the god Anu, snuck into people’s homes at night and stole or killed babies, either in their cradles or in their mother’s womb. Those who believed these legends attributed the sudden death syndrome of children or miscarriages to this monster.
Lamassu is often associated with Lilith, a prominent figure in some Jewish texts. Writings about Lilith vary considerably, but the most common version of the story is that she was the first woman.
God created Adam and Lilith from Earth, but soon problems arose between them. Lilith refused to obey Adam because they are both made of earth.
In an ancient version of the legend, Lilith left Eden and gave birth to her own children.
God sent three angels to bring her back, and when she refused, they promised to kill 100 of her children daily until she returned. Lilith instead vowed to destroy people’s children.
Vampires in European Folklore
The legend of Dracula, and the modern legends about vampires that derived from it, were directly inspired by Eastern European folklore. The historical archives contain dozens of mythical vampire figures in this region, dating back hundreds of years. These vampires have different habits and characteristics, but most can be classified into one of two categories:
- Demons (or subjects of the devil) who have resurrected corpses so that they can walk among the living
- Spirits of dead people who do not want to leave their own bodies.
Vampires from Moldova, Wallachia, and Transylvania (regions of Romania) are called strigoi. The strigoi are human spirits who have returned from the dead.
Unlike upir (Russia) or vrykolakas (Greece), the strigoi go through several stages before leaving the grave. Initially, they become an invisible poltergeist, who tortures his family members by moving furniture and stealing food.
After a while it becomes visible, looking exactly like when they were a living person. Again, the strigoi returns to his family, steals their cattle, begs for food, and brings diseases.
Eventually, they feed on humans; first the family members and then anyone who gets in their way.
Who made Dracula…Dracula?
According to a very popular opinion, vampires can also be turned into vampires. So, it doesn’t necessarily have to be your spirit that has come back. There can be a vampire that chooses to transform you. That was also Dracula‘s faith.
The Gypsy Healer Lianda
It seems that Lianda, a gypsy healer residing in a gypsy nomad camp in Transilvania was turned, late in life, into a vampire. She had the strength, stamina, and features of any vampire, and she could also shapeshift into a wolf.
Some say that Lianda secretly worked for the lord of vampires, Varnae. The story gets interesting when we learn that Varnae has started a chain of events to turn Vlad the Impaler, Prince of Wallachia into the new lord of all vampires.
At the same time, the ottoman Turac wanted Lianda to help him capture Vlad the Impaler and make him their vassal. Despising the ottoman invasion, Lianda decided to bite Vlad the Impaler and turn him into the vampire Dracula. Furthermore, he was named Lord of all Vampires.
Lianda ended up with a wooden stake in her heart, but at least she gave the world Dracula.
The Legend of Dracula. The Lord of all Vampires
The Lord of all Vampires, Dracula was a character of many nuances. Intelligent, persuasive, intellectual, cruel, and ambitious. After all, it must have been something special about him in order to be chosen as a leader for all vampires.
Dracula’s Abilities and Weaknesses
Dracula’s intelligence was above average and he was tutored by notable names of the 15th century. Physically, he was outstandingly good in hand-to-hand combat and swording, having been trained in the Ottoman army.
Due to his vampire abilities, he possessed more stamina and incredible strength. He would control the people he has turned, humans would stop doing anything at the view of his gaze. At the same time, he could control rats, mice, bats, and wolves as well as thunderstorms.
But a balance has to exist. Even the almighty Achilles had his bad heel. Dracula, like all other vampires, needed blood in order to survive. When deprived, he got extremely weak and vulnerable. He was easily injured by silver, Christian crucifixes, or wooden stakes in his heart.
In addition, no vampires, Vlad included, were ever able to enter a house without being invited in. Once done so, they could come and go as they pleased.
Vampirism at its Finest
As stories usually go, finding out his powers took some time even to the legendary Dracula. And this moment wasn’t until Turac murdered his wife Maria. According to the legend, Vlad III got so mad that he managed to break his hands-free, biting and slaying the ottomans.
At this time, Dracula thoughts he was not good enough to raise his children, so he left them with the gypsies. But rather sooner than later, his thoughts were troubled and started feeding on gypsies, blaming them for what he had become.
Upon undergoing multiple wars with gypsies, fellow vampires, and ottomans, Vlad wanted the ultimate price: to murder Sultan Murad II. So he invited him and his soldiers to Dracula’s Castle and killed them all, with the help of his 3 brides. This was the time he took his title: Count Dracula.
Gypsy legends say that Vlad Tepulus, Dracula’s son who grew alongside them, has grown to hate his father. And he did. So much that when the time comes he wanted to kill his father. Instead, Count Dracula ended up murdering his own son.
Although Count Dracula’s legend continues up to the modern era, it follows the same pattern, all over again. Centuries of darkness, suffering, anger, and despair.
From the time he became the Lord of all Vampires, he was bound to be doomed. And he knew it all too well. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, right?
How did he die, according to legends? Debatable, as some say he was eventually killed with a wooden stake in his heart. While others believe that he is still very much alive, and he has been in hiding. That’s kind of a scary thought though, isn’t it?
Legacy of Dracula
After all this time, there are a few things that we know for a fact. The legend of Dracula has inspired so many authors, screenwriters, and artists in general. For some reason, people have been fascinated by the tales of immortal beings sucking the life out of other beings, human or not.
Books have been written. Movies and TV series have had tremendous success. And the explanation is one: we love tales. We love knowing that there might just be something stronger, bigger, and more powerful than we could ever be.
And some of us might even dream sometimes about becoming one of them. The idea of inconceivable strength, speed, and, above all, immortality.
Visiting Romania and following the footsteps of Dracula might not promise you immortality, but how great is it thinking about the things that maybe happened there hundreds of years ago?
Our tours following Dracula
These tours are handpicked. Thoughtfully chosen and arranged in order for you to have the best experience.
- The Real Dracula Tour: 11 hours / 79 euros for adults, 59 euros for children. Click here to book this tour.
- On the Footsteps of Dracula Tour: 11 hours / 129 euros per person aged +7. Click here to book this tour.
- Peles Castle and Bran Castle Tour: 12 hours / 89 euros per person aged +7. Click here to book this tour.
It is important to know where the legend ends and where reality begins. Dracula has fascinated people for the longest time, and it will continue to do so. And why wouldn’t it?
Count Dracula is more than happy to have you following in his footsteps? The question is … are you?
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