The story of Dracula, one of the most popular stories in the world, has, and still does fascinate the minds of many people. It is a story full of mystery and unbelievable facts, but despite all of these there is truth to this story: Dracula really existed.
Who was Dracula? What is the story behind his life? Why did the legend start? How did it begin? These are a few questions I will try to answer.
First of all who was Dracula? Vlad Tepes (the Impaler) known as Dracula was a king in one of the historical parts of Romania: Tara Romaneasc„ (The Romanian Country) or Walachia. This borders the
Ottoman Empire on the South, the Black Sea on the East, and Moldavia and Transylvania on the North. Born in 1431 in Sighisoara, Transylvania, Dracula grew up in a Germanic, and later Turkish atmosphere (as a prisoner from 1444 until 1448), then died in 1476 in a fight defending his country. He ruled in 1448, between 1456-62, and later for three months in 1476. He belonged to the regent family of Basarab, from the country of Walachia, which started with the founder of the state Basarab the First. He was helped in regaining the throne of his father by the Prince of Transylvania, Ioan Corvin and later by his son Matei Corvin.
Vlad Tepes had a hard time ruling a country founded under the influence on three powerful empires, the Ottoman, the Poland and the Habsburgic, and also trying to maintain the country's independence. There were also internal problems regarding the heirs to the throne; this accounts for the interruption of his ruling of the country. For a better understanding it should be said that in the Romanian states there were several regal families, and they were fighting among themselves for who should rule the country. That is why Walachia was characterized by a high political instability.
One of the merits of Vlad was that during his rule there was relative political stability. He also he
started to organize the country on social, political and cultural levels. But his biggest merit is that he
succeeded in regaining the country's independence from the Turkish influence. He was regarded by the western powers as the leader of the anti-ottoman crusade; he was the one to dare to stand against Mohammed II or Mohammed the Conqueror, maybe the biggest sultan in the history of the Ottoman Empire(he is the one who defeated the last parts of the Eastern Roman Empire, occupying Constantinople). For the Romanians, Vlad Tepes was a good king; he is one of the prominent personages of the Romanian history.
A broad look over Europe of that time is necessary for a better understanding of the upcoming events. Pope Calixe III died in 1458, and is followed by the Pope Pie II, which would give in 1460 the bulle (the ordinances given by the Popes) announcing the beginning of the Crusade. The new king of Hungary Matei Corvin, showed reluctance in starting the war against the Turks, but he was willing to give financial and political support. In this context, he gave support to Vlad Tepes in his fight against the Turks.
In spite of the good relations between Vlad and Matei, there were a few points of conflict. One was the
former property of the Walachian crown: Fagaras and Almas, which were now under the control of the Transylvanian Prince. After an agreement, Fagaras was to return under the authority of Vlad, but Almas was given to the Saxon colonist. This is basically the beginning of the Dracula story.
At that time Transylvania was under the rule of the Hungarian crown. There was a vast action of colonization of the bordering area of the Empire, and Transylvania was one of them. In the region of Almas, which neighbors Walachia, during the XIII and XIV centuries Saxons were brought over. They
were given special rights regarding free commerce and no taxes, which during the rule of Vlad Dracu the
Father extended for them in Walachia too. The relative prosperity of the German community, and their unwillingness to follow the rule of Vlad Tepes, provoked him to start a punishment action in the spring of 1460. The action was a total success from the military point of view, bringing Almas under his authority. In this expedition more than 40,000 people were killed. As a method of revenge, a few years later a book about extreme actions and cruelty of Dracula was published. These combined with the folklore and with
few other factors such as his original way to kill by impaling, and his pleasure to kill, all motivated by state reasons, lead to the modern story of Dracula.
For a better understanding of the true character's of Vlad Tepes it is necessary to explain the origin of
his name. "Both father and son had the given name 'Vlad'. The names 'Dracul' and 'Dracula' are really nicknames. What's more, both of these nicknames had two meanings. 'Dracul' meant 'devil', as it still does
in Romanian today; in addition it meant 'dragon'. In 1431, the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund invested Vlad the father with the Order of Dragon, a semi-monastic, semi-military organization dedicated to
fighting the Turkish infields. 'Dracul' in the sense of 'dragon' stems from this. It also seems probable that
when the simple people saw Vlad the father bearing the standard with the dragon symbol they interpreted itas a sign that he was now in league with the devil. As for the son, he had two nicknames: he was called
Vlad Tepes, which signifies Vlad the Impaler, and he was called Dracula, a diminutive meaning 'son of the dragon'". Very important is that in many languages there is a interchangeability of the words "devil" and "vampire" which might be one of the reasons of the association of Vlad Tepes with vampirism.
The first book was published in 1463 and was called The History of Voivode Dracula (Geschichte Dracole Waide). It was an obvious attack against Vlad policy regarding the Germans, and that is why the
unbelievable story regarding his cruelty. The book circulated through Europe, especially in the German community until 1559-1568 and was published in several editions. This was one and maybe the largest area of diffusion of the story of Dracula.
A second area was the Russian bourgeoisie, where from 1468 a manuscript version circulated. From
there the story was passed on to the peasants creating an incredible vast folklore. Finally, the third area
where the story had a broad distribution was in South-East Europe. There, no written version existed but the story was well known as an oral tradition.
From that time several stories were published all over the Europe, and the story started to became
more and more of a departure from reality. A new kind of literature was created: The Vampire literature.
The masterpiece of this stile was the Stoker's book Dracula. The book was published for the first time in 1897, and had a great success due in part to the popularity of the subject already existing. Stroke is
somehow closer to the truth about Dracula than many other authors. That is because he searched for a long time though documents and spoke with historians and other people acquainted with the story of Dracula. In the beginning of the book there is an accurate description of the places where the story starts. Also the portrait of Dracula is, in some limits close to the real portrait of Vlad. The story's actions move to England, and from that point it is pure science fiction.
Starting with this book there has been an incredible explosion of movie and literature
related with vampirism. The Stoker great merit was that he created, or recreated, an incredible
personage, which enjoyed and still enjoys an unequaled popularity.
For us, Romanians, the story of Dracula is just a story, and only few people pay attention
to it; for us Dracula was Vlad Tepes the good king, the one who dare to face the Turks.