D is for Dracula

vlad-the-impaler

Oh, stereotypes, don’t you just love them? Like the one about the Irish — all a bunch of drunks. Or the one about Canadians who still use dog sleds for transportation. We dismiss them as silly many times, or we take up the challenge and blog about it.

I’ve posted on this topic before, so I’ll share a quick story from my last visit to Romania.

While in Frankfurt, waiting to board a plane to Bucharest, our son (age four at the time) attracted the attention of a young couple. One topic led to the next — the usual ‘where are you heading’ chat — before the name Transylvania changed everything.

“Oh, Transylvania,” the young husband said, “We’d love to visit Dracula’s castle one day.”

I tried to smile while cringing inward. No mention of Romania/Transylvania escapes the Dracula stereotype.

 118px-Dracula-jpg

We trace this story to Bram Stocker, the novelist who decided to find his vampire in the mountains of Transylvania, the western part of Romania. But the story might’ve died a quick death without Hollywood, who made Dracula into an international brand.

The Romanian tourism industry didn’t help either when it decided to connect the brand with a Story, disregarding authenticity in favor of profits.

So, what tourists find mesmerizing generates mainly negative feelings among Romanians, because the story has no connection with the historical truth. The novel is based on writings by Vlad’s opponents (foreign colonists who despised Vlad’s control over trade), and politicians of the time (who disliked his methods of defending Christianity against the Ottomans).

But that matters very little to tourists in search of The Story. Thousands journey to Bran Castle (Vlad’s short-lived residence) every year, only to be generally disillusioned with what they find.

bran_castle_exterior

Bran Castle

While expecting remnants of the Impaler, tourists are overwhelmed by exhibits of Queen Maria’s vestiges. The place is representative of the Romanian royal family more than Vlad himself.  

Romanians see Prince Vlad as a hero who fought against the invasion of the Ottoman Empire. A 15th-century brave man.

His name Vlad Tepes of Wallachia, carries the nickname “Impaler” as a result of his methods of punishment — impaling invaders, criminals, and enemies. Yes, he used unthinkable methods of punishment at a time when The Rack, a device that pulled the victim’s arms until dislocated, was used in the west.

As I gently described my knowledge of Prince Vlad’s reign to the young couple in Frankfurt, I feared that didn’t change their perception. Like many brands, this one is stronger than the historical truth. 

~ Tomorrow’s post is Elegance. Hope you’ll join me again. I appreciate your visits and comments more than I can say.  

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Photos courtesy:  Thecount68, Wikimedia Commons, CC;  http://www.vladtheimpaler.info/pictures_of_vlad_the_impaler.html; exloringcastles.com

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42 responses to “D is for Dracula

  1. People believe what they want to believe. For good or for bad.

  2. If I’m honest (and I always am or just stay quiet!), I’ve never really ‘got’ the whole Dracula thing. Your post brings out another side though, thank you. And the castle is so beautiful it’s hard to imagine impaling going on there…

  3. Haha, of course the word Dracula immediately caught my attention. He was THE scarecrow of my childhood. Even decades later when I find vampire stories in general pretty boring the memory of intense emotions while watching these movies for the first time grabs me.

  4. Sometimes it’s best to leave people with their illusions/beliefs… as long as it’s harmless… :)
    Very interesting…

  5. Everyone has their own notions… I think that’s OK.

  6. I read the true story of Vlad many years ago and was amazed at how this man’s life so easily became what it wasn’t! These days people, especially young people, seem to get their kicks from an excess of blood and guts and Vlad fits the bill, plus he comes with a castle (which I think is fantastic!). Looking forward to learning more about Romania!

  7. I love this post! I was recently part of a discussion about the depiction of Dracula in the latest Hollywood remake starring the guy from The Tudors (I can never remember his name). What’s funny is that people were up in arms about how inaccurate the story was compared to Stoker’s. If only they dug a little deeper. Great post! Thanks for sharing :)

  8. People…people are just…yeah. -_- I love vampires, and of course Dracula is a big part of the history of the creatures, but never in a million years would I assume that Dracula’s castle was an actual place in Transylvania and that the fictional character was a real part of Romania’s history. >.>

    Then again, I know lots of Americans who think that Canada doesn’t ever have summer, so it’s not like there isn’t lots of different kinds of ignorance out there. lol

  9. It’s really no different than books or movies. We need to be entertained – to engage our creativity of thought. Knowing the truth about Vlad is good for your mind, but Vlad the Impaler may be good for the minds of others. Great post and beautiful castle I would love to visit no matter who it belonged to.

  10. I think every good lie has a smidgen of truth/facts buried beneath. And I think that’s what makes the whole Vlad thing so frustrating for Romanians. Real person, real place, made up story, just enough truth or facts and the rest fiction !

  11. Well, writing about elegance tomorrow is a good contrast to the subject of Dracula toady. Great post, so good that I just have to share it on Facebook.
    Deb@ http://debioneille.blogspot.com

  12. I LOVE this. I’m not a fan of Dracula, so I never really gave this much thought. I love knowing the truth though. It makes me giggle. :)

  13. Hi Silvia .. sometimes it’s easier to let sleeping dogs lie isn’t it .. and perhaps suggest they take that extra trip to have a good look round your country ..

    But loved finding out more about Vlad the Impaler – not a nice thought .. cheers Hilary

  14. I love hearing the truth behind legends. There were many brutal punishments in history and some still today.

  15. You might like the book “The Historian” by Elizabeth Kostova which gives an interesting take on Dracula too, of course it is a novel too but it is based on History and gives a little more facts than usual of course it is fiction,so, I always keep that in mind when reading Historical Fiction and I don’t take it as fact, just a fun read and then I go and research things I want to learn more about.
    Oh, and I agree with you, stereotypes are a tricky thing, they seem to have a smidgen of truth but we must keep them in perspective, and we seem to struggle with that ‘keeping it in perspective’ part :)

  16. I admit I like some of the vampire stories (Anne Rice for one) and loved the old black and white films as a kid. But like Tracey Lynn, I never considered them/him to be real! Thanks for the history lesson!!

  17. You might as well embrace the fame. I think it’s a creepy story. The castles of old, though, are filled with story and inspiration for stories. I’d love a chance to just explore!

  18. There are two sides to every story. I hadn’t thought to get the other side of this one. But without Bram Stoker, there would be no vampire phenom in fiction. Oh wait, that’s an argument against…

  19. Yes Indeed !! Draculas are lovable and Romania is a place full of mysteries and fantasies.

  20. Thank you for a new/old perspective – as the mom of a teenaged daughter who was all about that damn sparkly Edward, I welcome a real gritty vampire, but I also love learning the history. Thank you!

  21. I’m a vampire reader and sometimes writer. the topic of dracula and vampires is an extensive one. A TV show last year Dravula – didn’t make it in my mind but it’s a topic that fascinates many

  22. Thanks for the like. This is very interesting. I’m now a follower. I look forward to the rest of your A to Z posts.

    Best regards,
    Elizabeth

  23. I’m intrigued by stereotypes. Clearly they exist for a reason, and make sense at a macro level.but they break down much below 30,000ft. Dracula, on the other hand, lives up to his stereotype at every level. Bwahahhaha. (BTW thanks for the follow)

  24. Donna B. McNicol [@dbmcnicol]

    I recently had to do a little research on vampires (and werewolves) for a short story I had to write. Great post!!

    D.B. McNicol
    A to Z: Romance & Mystery…writing my life

  25. I just love reading your posts. They’re like pieces of jewels that I unwrap each time I come to a new post. :)

  26. How interesting, I had never read before about the reality of the castle as compared with what Dracula-fans imagine they will find! It is beautiful though. Thank you for sharing this!
    Nancy at Hungry Enough To Eat Six
    2014 A to Z Challenge Participant

  27. Oh how well I know what you’re talking about. I was born in Fagaras, a mere ~60 km away from Bran. I’ve been there so often I know the castle like my back pocket. And I love it, and the true stories around it, and every time some ignorant Westerner goes “OMG, you’re from Transylvania? So you’re, like, a vampire, right? Har har har!” I wish I could slap them sober. But usually, they’re just curious, and then—like you mentioned—vaguely disillusioned when they hear Bram Stoker pretty much made it all up..

  28. Veil of Ignorance is a very powerful aspect to humanity.

  29. barbaramarincel

    Have you ever read “The Historian”? It is quite the tour de force, and while it is centered around the idea that Dracula is alive and hunting, it does include quite a bit of factual information, presenting Vlad Tepes from both sides, and includes most of his actual life story. I loaned it to some Romanian friends and, to their surprise, they loved it. It also made me want to visit Romania–it sounds gorgeous! I’ve also read about Queen Marie, etc. it would be a wonderful place to visit for a couple of weeks–so much history! I’m glad you picked Romania as your theme, I’m learning so much from your posts!

  30. I could see the appeal for tourists. I can also understand the frustration of the locals. Either way, the photo is gorgeous, and quite frankly, I’d love to see a castle of any kind.

    Oh, as a Canadian, we no longer use dog sleds because it is too much effort to build an igloo to house the beasts. ;)

    Carrie~Anne at That Dizzy Chick

  31. Though this year in southern ontario we could have built an igloo village :D

  32. Bram Stoker lived in Ireland as a youth (His mother) where there are some pretty awful legends of some evil magic people, who must be buried upside down. If not, they will emerge because they need blood.
    Just an Irish thing. Regardless. Awful.

  33. Very interesting. And I agree with you. People love an entertaining story over the truth almost every time. :)

  34. An interesting challenge to people’s perception of historical figures base on fact and not fiction.

  35. I personally love both. Always liked the Dracula book but never connected the two. I’ve studied Vlad in some depth and you are completely right…completely misunderstood figure, nothing like a vampire,hahaha…and he only learnt his impaling ways from the Ottomans, when they had him prisoner, most of his childhood. Great historic figure and an intelligent man. Thank you, enjoyed that. :)
    On the A to Z Challenge Maggie@expatbrazil.

  36. My husband always found this too – he is from Transylvania, and when he got here to the United States, if he mentioned where he was from, people always mentioned Dracula and even asked to see his fangs.

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