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Who is Vlad Tepes and why he became the prototype of the vampire Count Dracula

Dracula, prince of darkness - the most famous and, perhaps,the most popular mythical character. The legendary novel by Bram Storker, written in 1987, became the basis of the entire "Gothic" subculture, as well as the ancestor of the whole "vampire" genre in literature and cinema. However, not everyone knows that the historical and no less terrifying character became the prototype of Count Dracula - the military leader of Wallachia (which joined Moldova in 1859) in the period from 1448 to 1476, known as Vlad III, aka Vlad Dracula (son of the Dragon), or Vlad the Impaler. According to some historical records, he was a brutal, even sadistic leader known for torturing his enemies. According to some estimates, he killed more than 80,000 people in his life. Most of them were impaled. Why was the hero of the novel named after him? According to one legend, Stoker came across the name "Dracula" in an old history textbook, from where he learned that in Wallachia it could mean "the devil." However, in Romania Vlad Tepes is not considered a devil at all. Here he is considered a national hero. He is remembered as the defender of his people from foreign invasion - Turkish soldiers and German merchants.

Vlad III, ruler of Wallachia, who became the prototype of Count Dracula


  • 1 Family of Count Vlad Dracula
  • 2 Board of Vlad Tepes
  • 3 Foreign policy of Vlad III
  • 4 How the legend of Count Dracula was born

Family of Count Vlad Dracula

Vlad III was born in 1431 in Transylvania,rocky green part of modern Romania. True, it officially became part of this country only in 1947. His mother was a princess from Moldavia, and his father, Vlad II, was the illegitimate son of a Wallachian nobleman. Vlad II spent his youth at the court of Sigismund of Luxembourg, King of Hungary and future emperor of the Roman Empire.

In the same year when Vlad III was born, his fatherwas admitted to the Order of the Dragon. Like other knightly orders, this Christian military society was modeled after the medieval crusaders. Its members were high-ranking knights who were obliged to fight heresy and resist the Ottoman Empire.

After joining the order, Vlad II received the surnameDracul (Dragon). His son Vlad III was known as Vlad Dracul, or Dracula, “the son of the Dragon”. In 1436, Sigismund made Vlad II the governor of Wallachia, but Vlad II did not remain loyal to him. Soon he went over to the side of the enemy - entered into an alliance with the Ottoman leader Sultan Murad II. To get a guarantee of loyalty, Murad demanded that Vlad II give him two of his sons, one of whom was Vlad III.

According to some reports, after the murder of his father and brother, Vlad II was possessed by a desire for revenge, which he carried out in the most cruel way.

In 1447, Vlad II was overthrown from his post.ruler of Wallachia, captured and killed by local boyars and aristocrats. In the same year, Vlad III's older brother was killed. He was blinded and buried alive. Janos Hunyadi, the regent of Hungary (head of state), who initiated the assassination of Vlad II, appointed Vladislav II, another Wallachian nobleman, as the new governor. It is possible that these events caused Vlad III to thirst for revenge. Soon after his release from Ottoman captivity (around 1447), he began his struggle for power.

In 1448, with the help of the Ottoman Empire, a 16-year-oldVlad III expelled Vladislav II from Wallachia and ascended the throne. True, he had a chance to be a voivode for only two months before the Hungarians reinstated Vladislav in office. Vlad III went into exile. Little is known about the next eight years of his life, except that he traveled through Moldova and the Ottoman Empire.

At some point, Vlad III switched to anotherside in the Ottoman-Hungarian conflict, enlisting the military support of Hungary. At about the same time, Vladislav II, who joined the Turks, changed his oath. Vlad III met Vladislav on the outskirts of Targovishte on July 22, 1456 and beheaded him during hand-to-hand combat. Since then, the reign of Vlad III began.

There is a version according to which Vlad III was not a cruel ruler, but became a victim of the propaganda of that time. Rumors slandering Dracula were spread by his enemies.

Board of Vlad Tepes

Vlad III began his reign with a strictsuppression of crime. He began to pursue a policy of zero tolerance for even minor offenses such as lying. For public office, he selected commoners, thus creating a class of completely subordinate officials. As a result, he could appoint, dismiss and even execute his new officials at will.

Vlad III also had a plan of retaliation regardingthe dignitaries who killed his father and older brother, which he brought to life in 1459. Vlad invited the boyars to a big Easter banquet with their families (about 200 people in total). There he dealt with women and the elderly, and forced men to slave labor. Many of them subsequently died of starvation during the construction of Poenari Castle, one of Vlad III's favorite residences.

Poenari Castle - the favorite residence of "Count Dracula"

The ruler created a new elite from the peasants,distinguished themselves on the battlefield, and also created a kind of national guard. He freed the peasants and artisans of Wallachia from the tribute they paid to the Ottoman Empire. According to some reports, his cruelty was sometimes directed at his own people. According to one legend, in order to get rid of the homeless and the poor, whom the ruler considered thieves, he invited a large number of people to a feast, locked the doors and burned everyone alive. In addition, Vlad III exterminated the gypsies or forcibly sent them into the army. The German population also had a hard time, which he first imposed a tax burden, and then wiped out entire German villages and killed thousands of people.

In 1459, when the city of Kronstadt (now Brasov)supported rival Vlad III, the governor's response was cruel. He killed some 30,000 people and reportedly dined with his victims to personally observe their suffering. He ordered Kronstadt itself to be burned to the ground. Returning to Wallachia, the ruler impaled German merchants who had violated his trade laws.

Foreign policy of Vlad III

As for Vlad III's foreign policy, shediffered from the policies of his father and many other leaders of the time. He never stopped opposing the Turks. Vlad III's tactics against the Ottoman Empire, both on the battlefield and beyond, were extremely brutal.

Vlad III remained an implacable enemy of the Ottoman Empire until the end of his life.

Over time, the power, economy and troops of Vlad IIIweakened so much that Matthias I, king of Hungary, was able to take him prisoner in 1462. Vlad was imprisoned in Hungary for 12 years. At the same time, power in Wallachia passed from hand to hand several times. Around 1475, Matthias I sent Vlad III to retake Wallachia to Hungary. In November 1476, Dracula won his first victory, but a month later suffered a severe defeat. His rival, supported by Ottoman troops, ambushed, killed and beheaded Vlad. His severed head was sent to Mehmed II in Constantinople to be displayed over the gates of the city.

Bram Stoker, author of the legendary novel about Count Dracula

How the legend of Count Dracula was born

Vlad III could have remained just an episodeMiddle Ages, if not for the book of William Wilkinson, British Consul in Wallachia, published in 1820. It mentions the infamous military leader Vlad Tepes. It is known that Bram Stoker has never been to Vlad's homeland, but came across a book by Wilkinson in 1890.

“Dracula in Wallachian language means“ Devil ”. Wallachians used to give it as a surname to any person who stood out for his courage, cruelty or cunning, ”wrote Bram Stoker.

A novel published in 1897 thrilledreaders who began to speculate about Stoker's source of inspiration. Many have assumed that the bloody life of Vlad Tepes, the medieval Wallachian ruler, was the only basis for Stoker's character. However, the writer used many sources for his creation.

Vampires were in vogue in the late Victorianperiod, and Stoker was probably familiar with earlier Gothic works. Many assume that the writer was inspired by them, but after reading the book by William Wilkinson, he turned his vampire into Dracula. By the way, describing the condition of a person bitten by a vampire, Bram Stoker, like the other authors of vampire novels of that time, lists the symptoms of leukemia.

Actor Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula

However, more recently, some scientists andhistorians have put forward an intriguing alternative theory of the primary source of Dracula - a 19th century cholera epidemic that killed up to 1,000 people in the western Irish city of Sligo. Stoker's mother, Charlotte Thornley, survived the event at the age of 14. She later described it to her son in gruesome detail.

To prevent people from escaping from Sligo and notto spread the plague, officials dug trenches around the city and blocked roads. Corpses lay in the street. Doctors and nurses took patients with cholera, intoxicated with opium or laudanum, and placed them prematurely in mass graves.

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Stoker was fascinated by the description of cholera victims,who were buried alive. This may have served as the basis for describing Dracula's undead. In an interview, Stoker even admitted that his story "is inspired by the idea that someone is buried before his death." But, be that as it may, the novel turned out to be really brilliant. After reading it, many probably wondered - can a person really become a vampire and feed on blood? We have already answered this question earlier.