‘Dracula’, origin and validity of a classic

On December 14, 1476, he died in Transylvania. the real count draculaVlad “The Impaler” (Vlad Tepes in Romanian), a sadistic prince who lived in the 15th century and “earned” that nickname from his penchant for nailing his enemies to stakes. There are those who maintain that he is in that historical character, an inhabitant of Wallachia (which together with Moldavia and Transylvania constituted the kingdom of Romania), would have been inspired Bram Stoker (Dublib, 1847-1912) to create his famous fictional creature, the most famous vampire of all time and which gave rise to a long list of versions in film, comics and theater.

To write his famous novel draculapublished in 1897 and translated into more than 50 languages, and engender this memorable creature, Stoker was advised by a scholar on oriental themes, the Hungarian professor Hermann (Arminius) Vámbéry, who would have met with the writer to comment on the adventures of the true dracula.

Owner of an ambiguous morality, Vlad Tepes was a hero in his land, for the fierce resistance he put up against the advance of the Ottomans, although he was extremely cruel to his enemies, whom he He was sentenced to death by impalement.



The vampire is one of the most feared and at the same time seductive creatures in popular culture. In the image, the Argentines Juan Rodó and Paola Krum. / Photo: Clarín Archive

Everything would have started, historians say, when, in 1444, Vlad’s father was forced to hand over two of his three children as hostages: the aforementioned Vlad, 13 years old, and his brother Radu, who were transferred to Istanbul by Generals of the Ottoman Empire.

Upon his return home, the young Dracula (“Dracula” is Romanian for ‘demon’) discovered that his father had been beaten to death and that his brother Mircea, the only one not taken hostage by the Ottomans, had been burned and buried alive. As revenge, Vlad became “The Impaler”, determined to spread terror in the town where their relatives had been betrayed.

Vlad III, also known as Vlad the Impaler, would have given rise to the myth of Count Dracula.  / Photo: Clarín Archive


Vlad III, also known as Vlad the Impaler, would have given rise to the myth of Count Dracula. / Photo: Clarín Archive

Vlad would then have become as famous for the methods he used to get rid of his victims as for the rectitude and insistence with which he defended honesty and order:. He argued that he used brutal means to achieve a more lasting peace, and the truth is that while there were historians who emphasized his cruelty, others argued that his cruelty was necessary.

Vlad may not have slept in a coffin or drank the blood of his victims, but the impalement, mass executions and torture that he specified were enough to sow terror among his contemporaries: it is estimated that between 1456 and 1462, During his rule, he executed around 100,000 people, most of them using the technique of impalement. There are versions that claim that he often drank the blood of his victims.

A man who asked him how he was able to withstand the smell of impalers was sent to impale him high up so that from above he could breathe fresh air.

Gary Oldman in the film adaptation directed by Francis Ford Coppola.  It premiered in 1992 and was a worldwide success.  / Photo: Clarín Archive


Gary Oldman in the film adaptation directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It premiered in 1992 and was a worldwide success. / Photo: Clarín Archive

Thus, there are those who maintain that Stoker would have had a first contact with this story through the aforementioned Arminius Vambery, a Hungarian professor at the University of Budapest, as well as through german, hungarian and russian legendsand on that historical basis he would have built the fiction, as well as his famous character, who drinks human blood to perpetuate his life eternally.

Although other studies -such as an essay published in 1998 by Professor Elizabeth Miller- suggest instead that Stoker was not inspired by the dark and brutal life of Vlad III “The Impaler” but by stories of the Irish folklore. In any case, Stoker’s great success was having made a realistic approach to a vampire story.

Stoker set the action in Transylvania: he needed the perfect place to set his story, and that region – present-day Romania – was it. It was inhabited by Romanians, Hungarians, Szeklers and Germans, and Vlad III was also born there.

At first, the novel published in 1897 went unnoticed: the Daily Mail compared the novel with The mysteries of Udolph, of Radcliffe, with Frankensteinby Mary Shelley, and with wuthering heights, by Emily Bronte. but the magazine The Athenaeum wrote: “It is nothing more than a crude contribution to the constructive art and to high literary creation”.

Bella Lugosi.  Poster for the film released in 1931. / Photo: Clarín Archive


Bella Lugosi. Poster for the film released in 1931. / Photo: Clarín Archive

It would not be until 1922, when the German film director FW Murnau brought the silent film masterpiece Nosferatu to the screen, and later when the Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi successfully played the evil count in various films, that the vampire character created by Stoker became world famousbecoming a myth of universal culture.

Until today, dracula (“The most beautiful horror novel ever written”, in the words of Oscar Wilde, and considered a masterpiece of universal literature, provokes readers and viewersIt’s a mixture of horror and morbid interest.

Versions for all tastes

​​ Reversed in all formats, Stoker’s classic was adapted to the cinema in a long sequence whose unavoidable figures are the vampire embodied by Bela Lugosi in Tod Browning’s 1931 version, Christopher Lee in Hammer’s 1958 version (he returned to play the role in 1969) and Gary Oldman in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 film. more than two hundred films Dracula as the main character and they enriched a myth that endures.

Buenos Aires billboard.  An image of "Dracula.  The musical", with Cecilia Milone and Juan Rodo.  / Photo: Clarin


Buenos Aires billboard. An image of “Dracula. The Musical”, with Cecilia Milone and Juan Rodo. / Photo: Clarin

Just as there were countlesss television series, comics, games and even children’s novelsY more than thirty adaptations to the theater (starting with Stoker’s own adaptation of his novel). Even in Argentina, where he also became known from Dracula. The musical, premiered by Pepe Cibrian Campoy and Angel Mahler in 1991 and which will have its farewell in October, in a series of presentations involving some 50 artists (with Juan Rodó, Cecilia Milone, Josefina Scaglione and Mariano Taccagni, Laura Silva and Pehuen Naranjo in leading roles).

Although the figure of the vampire already existed before, rooted in ancient popular beliefs of Central Europe -and has already been treated before by other writers, from Alexandre Dumas, Guy de Maupassant or Sheridan Le Fanu to Nikolai Gógol or Edgar Allan Poe- the dracula de Stoker gave his definitive literary form to that character who, for somewhat mysterious reasons, strikes a cultural note that continues to resonate in the present tense: the vampire is one of the most feared and at the same time seductive creatures in popular culture, a figure that refuses to dieand that each generation is resurrected under new perspectives.

Despite having written one of the most iconic horror stories of all time, its author died poor and forgotten.

Among the most recent novels and sagas that rescue vampirism, we can mention interview with the vampire (1994) by Anne Rice, the saga Twilight (2008-2012) or the series TrueBlood (2008-2014).

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‘Dracula’, origin and validity of a classic