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9

The Real Dracula

It’s pretty much common knowledge that Bram Stoker based his title character Dracula on an actual person, Vlad Tepes (1431-1476). But what’s the story of the real Dracula? Was Vlad the Impaler really a vampire, or vampiric in any way? Let’s see…

Vlad Tepes (also known as Vlad Dracula, Vlad Dracul, Vlad the Impaler, Vlad  III) was the ruler of Wallachia, with the title of voivode (warlord or prince), that acquired a terrifying reputation due to his cruelty and the propaganda that was spread throughout Europe during his life and after his death. In Romania, Vlad has been honored historically for being the leader that defeated the Ottoman Turks.

Vlad was born in Sighisoara, Transylvania, the son of Vlad Dracul, Prince of Wallachia (d. 1447). Vlad and his brother Radu spent many years as hostages of the Turks, learning from them a lesson of humiliation, oppression and terror. For a short time in 1448, with the approval of the Ottomans, Vlad claimed power in Wallachia but was soon overthrown, fleeing to Moldavia and the safety of the Hungarians.

He returned to Wallachia in 1456, with the support of the Hungarians, embarking on a reign which lasted until 1462. During his reign he campaigned against the Turks, had Castle Dracula built, and he massacred thousands of his subjects by a variety of horrific methods, the most common being the stake (which is how he earned the name Vlad the Impaler). But, those that were tortured and murdered were those that broke his laws. When Vlad returned to Wallachia it was war torn, impoverish and overrun with crime and hunger, but with his leadership he brought prosperity and order back to the land.

In 1462 Vlad once again fled to Hungary because of the Ottomans, but once there he was imprisoned by King Matthias Corvinus, who feared Vlad. After twelve years he was released from imprisonment, but it wasn’t until 1476 that he was once again a voivode. But by this time Vlad had far too many enemies and he was killed.

After his death, Vlad became a legend due to all of the crazy rumors of his death and corpse. His headless body was said to be buried at Snagov, near Bucharest, but the wild gossip said that in truth, the grave was empty. Then they said that Vlad had not died, but that he went into hiding, waiting for the day he was needed again. Then, thanks to incredibly exaggerated and untrue writings that were circulated all over Europe, Vlad’s accomplishments as voivode were pushed aside and all he was known for was the grisly murders he committed. He had become viewed as an evil and cruel murderer, not as the leader that fought for his home.

While searching for someone to model his character after, Bram Stoker came across the shadowy figure of Vlad. Vlad Dracula fit the part perfectly: he died under mysterious circumstances, he was decapitated, his body was apparently never recovered, and he loved impaling people. Even the name Dracula had occult connotations.

Vlad and vampirism never mixed until Bram Stoker. Not once was it said that he was a vampire until Stoker’s character, Van Helsing, declared that the wicked vampire Dracula was, in truth, Vlad Tepes. And so the determined nobleman that had died hundreds of years before was thrown back into the European limelight, once again the victim of half truths. Vlad went from being accused of shedding the blood of innocents, to being accused of drinking it.

– Moonlight

Moonlight (aka Amanda) loves to write about, read about and learn about everything pertaining to vampires. You will most likely find her huddled over a book of vampire folklore with coffee in hand. Touch her coffee and she may bite you (and not in the fun way).
bram stokerdraculaMatthias Corvinusvampire historyVlad DraculVlad DraculaVlad IIIvlad tepesVlad the ImpalervoivodeWallachia

Moonlight • April 16, 2010


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  • Christine

    Elizabeth Miller has made good argument that Vlad was not inspiration of Stoker. Was he or not, Vlad seems to be filthy sicko who makes Count seems almost nice.

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  • Elena de Transilvania

    My dear all, i must say that i love my voievoid Vlad Tepes so much…actually Romania in our days need one like him….As his name said it TEPES..it means stake….it was an old old story i knew it from my grand mother who says that during his time at the throne of Valachia, there was common places where you could drink cold water from them called well,i guess.Each one of them was a gold cup , from which people could drink. Many people who was used to still, they stop during his rule, as if he catch them he will let the stake cross their body from the hall ass through the back side of the neck…hard for me to explain as i am not good in english…so…many bad people were afraid to do bad things , so all the time the golden cups you could find them everywhere….but one, after many years, an old women, came to drink water and she couldnt find the cup…then she exclaimed: Indeed our King is ded!

  • Aida Opera

    well… yeah thats true.. but z spellin a lil bit wrong..
    elena de transilvania, yeah u’re rit, me 2 ma grand ma was tellin me z same story.. and actually the stake thin we study it at school in z history classes,,

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  • Christine, Have you read anything historical about Vlad Dracula? Before you judge try looking at the facts. What does propaganda mean? It was made up about him to arrest him and make him look bad. Historically he was a hero to his people. Try looking up somthing concrete, and not made up. Elizabeth Miller does have her facts straight. She has read and re-read hundreds of times the notes to Bram Stokers book, which are located in the Rosenbach Museum in Philidelphia, the United States. Bram Stoker was originally going to name his book Count Vampire. Then, after he had most of his novel complete, he only read of the name ‘Dracula’ in William Wilkinsons book. So if Bram Stoker was almost done with his book, what do you think? Vlad Dracula brought prosperity to Wallachia after years of others greediness and taking over and leaving the people with nothing. Vlad Changed the entire system of Government. He had the inteligence and strength to do it. We could not imagine doing this today. No President has the guts or inteligence to do it. He built over a dozen monasterys and castles. (More than his cousin Stephen the Great who reigned for over twenty years in Moldavia) Vlad also was the only one to stop the tributes of children to the sultan. He also was celebrated throughout Europe as a hero and fierce fighter agasint the Turks, those who had tried to brainwash him for six years as a child, yet he did not become brainwashed after six years of being held a prisoner. How strong was this man? VLad road with his men, from town to town on the lower danube, burning all the Turk infested villages. Doing this also released the slaves of his people the Turks had held. Before calling names to someone Christine, get your facts in order of a man you do not know, nor does anyone. If George washington was pictured holding the reigns of a wild dog and his hand was painted open to release the dog on a child crawling only feet before him. Would you believe this picture? That is what the German Saxons did to Vlad. Do you believe everything in the National Enquierer also?

  • Yar.. Just i want to meet the Dracula..!

  • Redemption

    I read once, whether or not this is true I do not know. However it makes sense, when Vlad and Radu were children their mother was murdered in front of them, and their father was buried alive by the Turks. So if his actions may have seemed a bit extreme or cruel towards his enemies, look at what happened to him, it would be enough to drive anyone insane at least a little. Also it was said *speculative* that his brother betrayed him, after being brainwashed by the Turks, and in fact was the one who stabbed Vlad in the back in a church no less. I have not had the time to look into the details, but it makes one curious no?