Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Vlad the Impaler - the Man Behind the Myth

Bram Stoker's depiction of the master vampire Dracula has become so iconic that the character has been replicated countless times.  Dracula has become the pinnacle of vampire lore, a mold to which all others are compared.  However, an even more interesting story is centered around the man whom Stoker took inspiration from in his horrific antagonist:  Vlad the Impaler.

Vlad III (the Impaler) was born in Transylvania (present day Romania) in 1431, and would be destined to be a ruler, an avenger, and a monster.  In seventeen short years, he would rise to become the ruler of Wallachia, an area within modern day Romania.  The wake of blood and death he left in his path would prove to be more than enough inspiration for Bram Stoker.

Vlad's story actually begins with the story of his father, Vlad II.  Vlad II adopted the surname of Dracul, meaning dragon, when he was inducted into the Order of the Dragon.  This brotherhood of knights were sworn to protect the Holy Roman Empire and wage war against the Islamic Turks.  Surprisingly, Vlad Dracul betrayed the Empire and made a deal with the Turks - he would give up his two sons (one of which was Vlad III) to the Turkish Sultan in exchange for power and wealth as the ruler of Wallachia.

Vlad Dracul's life was cut short, however, when his brother (still loyal to the Holy Roman Empire) assassinated the traitor and filled the court with his followers.  Vlad III, taking the name of Dracula, meaning "son of Dracul", was released and eventually rose his own group of rebels to overthrow his uncle.  Dracula forced his uncle's strongest followers into slavery and killed and tortured the rest.

Although Dracula showed that he was skilled in various forms of torture and murder (burning alive, decapitation, etc), his favorite by far was impaling, in which a human body was impaled on a large vertical pole, the weight of the body slowly pulling it downwards.  The death was painful, and slow.  In this way, Vlad the Impaler struck fear into the hearts of his enemies and followers alike.

Another example of Dracula's brutality:  When he decided that hunger and poverty held no place in his kingdom, Vlad gathered all of the poor and hungry from the streets and invited them to a large banquet.  When asked if they would like to never feel the pains of hunger again, the pauper's were obviously overjoyed - until Vlad ordered the banquet hall sealed off and burned to the ground.  No one survived.

After many battles and shifting alliances, Dracula wandered down his father's footsteps one more time when his brother betrayed him.  Vlad's demise finally met up with him when he found himself in the middle of a battle that he could not win.  He was decapitated, and his head was impaled for all to see.

Now that you have read about the origin of the character of Bram Stoker's Dracula, head over to The Maiden's Court to listen in on a conversation between Heather and I about the similarities and differences of Dracula and Dracula in Love.

And also don't forget to enter the giveaway of Dracula.  It ends this Friday!


  1. So basically, Vlad the Impaler was a serial killer. Lovely that he was inspiration for a story.
    I suppose though, horror type of stories are inspired from somewhere. But still, it is creepy and sort of brings me the yucky thought that a story of today could be inspired by such likes of Jeffery Dahmer, or John Wayne Gacy. Something is kind of wrong with that. Know waht I mean?

    Wonder about serial killers, if their childhood has anything to do with their horridness, and suppose in this case Vlad's father certainly did not help. How nice of him to trade his son for power. Very nice.
    Serves the man right to be assignated by his brother who was loyal to his obligations. Like Father like son though...huh...a viloent family, indeed.

    As I continued reading your post, I thought..Oh my God, this guy was beyond horrid. Favorite torture method was to impale his victims.
    Geesh...this guy is enough for sure to build a story around nightmares. Can you imagine living anywhere near his authority? Scary stuff, and it seems it was accepted back then. Today, he would be a tyrant and one to be brought down if he were in power OR a seriel killer on the loose.

    So, Dracula was inpiried by this guy? Hmmm...it sheds a different light on the dracula stories, don't you think? At least it does for me.

    Interesting post, I should remember to share this one with a co-worker who likes to Wikipedia serial killers.

    I already read your conversation with Heather. I liked it. I did not comment there yet, but do plan on heading back over to comment.

  2. I always thought that Stoker could have put more of the original Vlad into Dracula. I know it would have been hard to do in a epistolary novel but I think if he had been able to include more of the background, the story would have been richer for it.