Ten Things You Don’t Know About Dracula
1. He never once hints that he himself is Vlad the Impaler (although there is the suggestion that maybe he is related to that figure). For that matter, the most current scholarship into the novel indicates Stoker himself hardly knew anything more about the historical Vlad Tepes (pronounced tseh-PESH) than the name. It sounded good, so he used it. Certainly it was a more inspired choice than the character’s original name, Count Wampyr.
2. Dracula wanders around in broad daylight without any ill effect. While the play hinted at vulnerability to sunlight and the silent movie “Nosferatu” had the vampire dissolve in the sun, the novel shows him unfazed by it. This actually is in keeping with folklore, which nowhere has vampires harmed in any way by sunlight.
3. The only hint of how Dracula himself became a vampire is Van Helsing‘s reference to this very Dracula having attended the Scholomance, a legendary school of magic (not unlike a Satanic Hogwarts) where one out of every class the Devil “claims as his own.” Only legend of course, but it does constitute the sole clue within the novel of how the title character came to be undead.
4. Conrad Veidt, Lon Chaney Sr. and Frederick March were all considered for the lead in the first English-language film of the story. Of course the role eventually went to Bela Lugosi who’d already toured across the United States. Having campaigned so hard for the role, Lugosi managed to get himself hired for a minimal payment. Not a good businessman was Mr. Lugosi.
5. We know where Stoker got the word “Nosferatu,” but his source would seem to be in error. There is no reference anywhere else to that word prior to its publication. Was it made up, or simply a garbling of some genuine word? Well, there’s a slightly similar word in Greek that means “plague carrier” so it could be that.
6. Transylvanian vampires are called either Moroi or Strigoi–and neither one bears much resemblance at all to Dracula. He does not, for example, stink. At least no one ever mentions it. Neither would he appear to devour human flesh. If anything, he would seem to most closely match the attributes of an Austrian vampire. This makes even more sense when one considers that Stoker’s notes indicate the novel was originally going to start off in Styria, a province in south west Austria. This was also the setting of Joseph Sheridan LeFanu‘s vampire classic “Carmilla” published a quarter century before.
7. An essential part of the plot is routinely ignored in virtually all adaptations–namely, that Dracula’s victim Lucy was bitten and died while in a kind of trance. Hence her behavior is different that other vampires. The hint is that in effect she is sleep-walking as a member of the undead. This might explain her foolishness in bringing child victims back to the vicinity of her tomb.
8. Much is made in the opening chapters of how little Harker understands the local languages. Yet he seems to understand Dracula’s brides talking amongst themselves perfectly, just as he comprehends what a peasant woman yells at Dracula from below the castle walls. One has to wonder at just how accurate a chronicler Jonathan Harker might be, especially since these events are recorded in his diary. Did he edit them? Or did his imagination fill in the blanks of what was being said, and in his agitated state presume his guesses were in fact reality? The film “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” actually addresses this, by having the Brides speak Romanian not English.
9. Up until Dracula’s publication, bats were not associated with supernatural vampires. Wolves, cats, even owls and serpents–but not bats. One might think the connection would be obvious because bats are winged creatures of the night. A species of South American bats even drink blood (hence the name–vampire bat). But no, they were not, not until Stoker wrote his book and it was published. Even then he got basic facts wrong. Vampire bats are the size of small mice. Their wingspan is tiny, less than half a foot.
10. According to the lore presented in the novel, Dracula should have survived what the vampire-hunters do to him at the end. His heart is pierced by a metal knife, not a wooden stake. His head is not severed from his body. Sunlight falls upon him but in the book that means next-to-nothing. Yet not only does he seem to crumble to dust, Mina Harker notes that his face became peaceful, at rest–in much the same way Lucy’s did when she died the true death. Perhaps the simple fact is that Van Helsing didn’t know as much about vampires as he claimed?
D.MacDowell Blue blogs at http://zahirblue.blogspot.com/. He graduated from the National Shakespeare Conservatory and is now working on a web series called “End Of The Line” which he likes to describe as “Dexter Meets Twilight“.