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Count Dracula as portrayed by Béla Lugosi in 1931's Dracula

Count Dracula is the title character and primary antagonist of Bram Stoker's 1897 Gothic horror novel Dracula. He is described as an archetypal vampire. Some aspects of the character are inspired by the 15th century Romanian general and Wallachian Prince Vlad III the Impaler. The character appears frequently in popular culture, from films to animated media to breakfast cereals.

CharacteristicsEdit

Although early in the novel Dracula dons a mask of cordiality, he often flies into fits of rage when his plans are interfered with. When the three vampire women who live in his castle attempt to seduce Jonathan Harker, Dracula physically assaults one and ferociously berates them for their insubordination. He then relents and talks to them more kindly, telling them that he does indeed love each of them.

Dracula is very passionate about his warrior heritage, emotionally proclaiming his pride to Harker on how the Székely people are infused with the blood of heroes. He does express an interest in the history of the British Empire, speaking admiringly of its people. He has a somewhat primal and predatory worldview; he pities ordinary humans for their revulsion to their darker impulses.

Though usually portrayed as having a strong Eastern European accent, the original novel only specifies that his spoken English is excellent, though strangely toned.

His appearance varies in age. He is described early in the novel as thin, with a long white mustache, pointed ears and sharp teeth. It is also noted later in the novel (Chapter 11 subsection "THE ESCAPED WOLF") by a zookeeper that sees him that he has a hooked nose and a pointed beard with a streak of white in it. He is dressed all in black and has hair on his palms. Jonathan Harker described him as an old man; 'cruel looking' and giving an effect of 'extraordinary pallor.' When angered the Count showed his true bestial nature, his blue eyes flaming red.

As the novel progresses, Dracula is described as taking on a more and more youthful appearance.

In popular cutlureEdit

Dracula is arguably one of the most famous characters in popular culture. He has been portrayed by more actors in more film and television adaptations than any other horror character. Actors who have played him include Max Schreck, Béla Lugosi, John Carradine, Christopher Lee, Francis Lederer, Denholm Elliott, Jack Palance, Louis Jourdan, Frank Langella, Klaus Kinski, Gary Oldman, Leslie Nielsen, George Hamilton, Keith-Lee Castle, Gerard Butler, Richard Roxburgh, Marc Warren, Rutger Hauer, Stephen Billington and Dominic Purcell. Lon Chaney Jr. played either Dracula or his progeny in the Universal film, "Son of Dracula." The character is closely associated with the cultural archetype of the vampire, and remains a popular Halloween costume.

In Sesame Street there is a character called Count von Count who was based on Bela Lugosi's interpretation of Count Dracula.

In 2003, Count Dracula, as portrayed by Lugosi in the 1931 film, was named as the 33rd greatest movie villain by the American Film Institute.

ScholarshipEdit

Already in 1958, Cecil Kirtly proposed that Count Dracula shared his personal past with the historical Transylvanian-born Voivode Vlad III Dracula of Wallachia, also known as Vlad the Impaler or Vlad Țepeș. Following the publication of In Search of Dracula by Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally in 1972, this supposed connection attracted much popular attention.

Historically, the name "Dracula" is the given name of Vlad Ṭepeș' family, a name derived from a secret fraternal order of knights called the Order of the Dragon, founded by Sigismund of Luxembourg (king of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia, and Holy Roman Emperor) to uphold Christianity and defend the Empire against the Ottoman Turks. Vlad II Dracul, father of Vlad III, was admitted to the order around 1431 because of his bravery in fighting the Turks and was dubbed Dracul (Dragon) thus his son became Dracula (son of the dragon). From 1431 onward, Vlad II wore the emblem of the order and later, as ruler of Wallachia, his coinage bore the dragon symbol.

Stoker came across the name Dracula in his reading on Romanian history, and chose this to replace the name (Count Wampyr) that he had originally intended to use for his villain. However, some Dracula scholars, led by Elizabeth Miller, have questioned the depth of this connection as early as 1998. They argue that Stoker in fact knew little of the historic Vlad III except for the name "Dracula". While having a conversation with Jonathan Harker in Chapter 3, Dracula refers to his own background, and these speeches show elements which Stoker directly copied from Wilkinson's book. Stoker mentions the Voivode of the Dracula race who fought against the Turks after the defeat of Cossova, and was later betrayed by his brother, historical facts which unequivocally point to Vlad III, described as "Voïvode Dracula" by Wilkinson:

Who was it but one of my own race who as Voivode crossed the Danube and beat the Turk on his own ground? This was a Dracula indeed! Woe was it that his own unworthy brother, when he had fallen, sold his people to the Turk and brought the shame of slavery on them! Was it not this Dracula, indeed, who inspired that other of his race who in a later age again and again brought his forces over the great river into Turkey-land; who, when he was beaten back, came again, and again, though he had to come alone from the bloody field where his troops were being slaughtered, since he knew that he alone could ultimately triumph! (Chapter 3, pp 19) The Count's intended identity is later commented by Professor Van Helsing, referring to a letter from his friend Arminius:

He must, indeed, have been that Voivode Dracula who won his name against the Turk, over the great river on the very frontier of Turkey-land. (Chapter 18, pp 145) This indeed encourages the reader to identify the Count with the Voivode Dracula first mentioned by him in Chapter 3, the one betrayed by his brother: Vlad III Dracula, betrayed by his brother Radu the Handsome, who had chosen the side of the Turks. But as noted by the Dutch author Hans Corneel de Roos, in Chapter 25, Van Helsing and Mina drop this rudimentary connection to Vlad III and instead describe the Count's personal past as that of "that other of his race" who lived "in a later age". By smoothly exchanging Vlad III for a nameless double, Stoker avoided that his main character could be unambiguously linked to a historical person traceable in any history book.

Similarly, the novelist did not want to disclose the precise site of the Count's residence, Castle Dracula. As confirmed by Stoker's own handwritten research notes, the novelist had a specific location for the Castle in mind while writing the narrative: an empty mountain top in the Transylvanian Kelemen Alps near the former border with Moldavia. Efforts to promote the Poenari Castle (ca. 200 km away from the novel's place of action near the Borgo Pass) as the "real Castle Dracula" have no basis in Stoker’s writing; Stoker did not know this building. Regarding the Bran Castle near Brașov, Stoker possibly saw an illustration of Castle Bran (Törzburg) in Charles Boner's book on Transylvania. Although Stoker may have been inspired by its romantic appearance, neither Boner, nor Mazuchelli nor Crosse (who also mention Terzburg or Törzburg) associate it with Vlad III; for the site of his fictitious Castle Dracula, Stoker preferred an empty mountain top.

Furthermore, Stoker's detailed notes reveal that the novelist was very well aware of the ethnic and geo-political differences between the "Roumanians" or "Wallachs"/"Wallachians", descendants of the Dacians on the one hand, and the Székelys or Szeklers, allies of the Magyars or Hungarians on the other hand, whose interests were opposed to that of the Wallachians. In the novel's original typewritten manuscript, the Count speaks of throwing off the "Austrian yoke", which corresponds to the Szekler political point of view. This expression is crossed out, however, and replaced by "Hungarian yoke" (as appearing in the printed version), which matches the historical perspective of the Wallachians. This detail shows that in the end, Stoker opted for the Wallachian, not the Szekler interpretation, thus lending more consistency to the Romanian identity of his Count: although not identical with Vlad III, the Vampire is portrayed as one of the "Dracula race", which means he is a descendant of Vlad II Dracul, Vlad the Impaler's father.

It has been suggested by some that Stoker was influenced by the legend of Countess Elizabeth Báthory, who was born in the Kingdom of Hungary and accused of the murder of 80 young women, although these claims of influence may be false.

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