As Halloween draws closer, it becomes more and more evident that this is the prime time of year for all things Gothic and I love every minute of it. Everywhere you look you can find evidence of the Gothic in the mainstream world. With the release of Dracula Untold, the showing of old Dracula films on television and a host of articles, it is evident that the king of vampires himself is top of mind in the world of pop culture.
A recent article published by IO9 discusses the fact that Bram Stoker did not actually base his Dracula on Vlad the Impaler. I personally haven’t done a lot of research into this area, but if I ever returned to the world of academia, I would certainly be interested in looking into Stoker’s journals and reading scholarship about it. The article, titled very decisively No, Bram Stoker Did Not Model Dracula on Vlad The Impaler, states that it is very possible that Stoker had no knowledge of Vlad The Impaler himself while he was researching his character. The fact that both Vlad and Stoker’s vampire are known by the name “Dracula” is nothing more than a coincidence.
For the modern world, Dracula is intimately and inextricably connected to Vlad The Impaler. Most films give Dracula’s origins as being Vlad The Impaler and thus the myth perpetuates. The most recent film about the story of Dracula, Dracula Untold, seems to take a particular twist on the legend. Unfortunately, I have not yet seen the film, but hope to remedy that problem soon. Regardless, according to Stoker’s notes, he discovered that the name Dracula means “Devil” in Wallachian and thus bestowed the name on his villain.
It seems hard to believe that Stoker did not base his character on the infamous tyrant. There are so many connections between the two such as the legend that Vlad The Impaler drank the blood of his enemies. Things of that nature. Plus, the idea that an author would base a character on a real person is not so foreign at the time of Gothic literature’s height. The time in which Stoker published (1897) was not far beyond the time when people were taking real live crime stories, ripping them from the headlines and telling the “real story” behind the crime. This heralded the beginning of the true crime/fiction hybrid tale which eventually leads to Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and, if you’re looking for a more recent example, Jayne Anne Phillips’ new novel, Quiet Dell.
Regardless of Dracula’s origins, Stoker creates a perfect Gothic novel when he transcribes the story of Dracula and all the characters portrayed in the famous novel. You have scary castles in the middle of nowhere, you have danger and intrigue and beautiful heroines. Even though the facts may not point to Dracula and Vlad being tied together, I doubt that the modern world will ever be able to extricate the story of Dracula from the historical villain. But I’d love to see a documentary put itself to the task.