November 9, 2018
Blood of Mortals
Dracula. The original blood sucker. The Count himself. The terror of Transylvania and the bane of nighttime walks. Everyone alive, near and far, knows the name of the original vampire. Bram Stoker’s most memorable creation along with being the star of many, many books and movies. But very few people know where Dracula’s name was derived from. I’m talking about Vlad Dracul III, former prince of Wallachia. And trust me when I say he has killed many, many more people than the Transylvanian Noble.
First, some background on where “Dracul” came from. Vlad III was the second son of Vlad II, the current Voivode of Wallachia at the time (Radu being the first son). Near the end of his rule in 1431, Sigismund of Luxembourg (The King of Luxembourg at the time) made Vlad II a member of the order of the dragon. This order was “based on the chivalric orders of the Crusades. The main purpose and idea of this order was the protection of the Western civilization from the Ottoman threat. The Order of the Dragon was a Christian order, which brought together both the Orthodox and the Catholics.” After his induction into the order, Vlad II was given the surname of “dracul” (which translates to “Dracula” in latin), and was then recognized as the Voivode (which literally translates to war-leader) of Wallachia and moved into Transylvania in 1436. You should be starting to get the idea. In November of 1447, Vlad II Dracul was assassinated.
Now we move onto his son, the (supposedly) bloodthirsty tyrant, Vlad III, A.K.A Vlad the Impaler. Born 1431 in Romania. In 1442, Vlad II, Vlad III, and Radu were captured and imprisoned by the Ottoman Sultan Murad II. Vlad II was released, while his kids were kept imprisoned to secure Vlad II’s loyalty. While imprisoned, Vlad III learned much of Turkish language, culture, warfare, and how their courts worked. Several years later, they too were released. After his father’s assassination, Vlad III became ruler for a short time, kicked off the throne by a traitor, killed said traitor to get his throne back, was then betrayed, imprisoned for 4 years, freed by his brother Radu, and was once again back on the throne. In short, he was a king three separate times.
Alright, now to the nitty gritty. There were multiple views on Vlad, but they can all be narrowed down into two categories. Those of Wallachia, who saw him as a hero for his constant defense of Wallachia from the Ottoman empire, his re-strengthening of their military, economy, agriculture, and trade industry.
“Manuscripts and documents in Romania and Bulgaria from the 15th century forward describe Vlad III as a just leader of his people, a hero and formidable warlord. His methods of punishment were harsh yet fair for that time period. His whole life-long effort was to keep the Ottoman Empire from conquering Wallachia. In The Slavonic Tales, it was written about Vlad III that: “And he hated evil in his country so much that, if anyone committed some harm, theft or robbery or a lye or an injustice, none of those remained alive.” (Burns 1)
Basically, his good reputation came from his subjects, those who he protected and supported. And then theirs everyone else’s view of him; a bloodthirsty tyrant who slaughtered others for enjoyment. Some people legitimately viewed him as a monster, while others just came up with massive amounts of slander to make him out to be more villainous then he actually was.
“Item: Ambassadors numbering fifty-five were sent from the Kingdom of Hungary and Saxony and Transylvania into Wallachia. Dracula kept them waiting for five weeks and had stakes made for their lodgings (for their impalement.) Therefore, they were in great distress. He did this because he feared treachery. Meanwhile he went to Wurtzland and destroyed the grain and had all the crops burned and he had the populace led in captivity out from the city called Kronstatt. Then Dracula rested near St. Jacob’s Chapel. H~ had the outskirts burned. Also, when day came, early iii the morning, he had women and men, young and old, impaled around the hill by the chapel and sat down among them and ate his breakfast with enjoyment.” (PRINCE DRACUL 1)
When anything is written by a historical figure, people tend to pay more attention to their more notorious deeds, while also ignoring the good. You could say he was victimized by history. Regardless, his actions from an outsider’s view were pretty monstrous. Adding together the multiple wars and battles he participated in, his time in the crusades, his elimination of political rivals, and his defense against multiple invading forces, he killed roughly 100,000 people! It’s also reported that he impaled 20,000 ottoman soldiers in a single day. Ivan the terrible couldn’t even rack up a kill count that quickly. Legends told of how he ate lunch in a forest of impaled corpses (of his own making of course), boiling gypsies alive and then having their friends eat them, and even killing a pope for eating bread. Vlad III participated in multiple battles during his war with the Turks, employed all sorts of guerrilla warfare tactics to beat the armies that severely outnumbered his own, and had the soldiers he impaled elevated at different heights to show their ranks (commanders and such being higher in the air while infantryman and such being closer to the ground. In the end, when he was killed in an ambush of Turkish soldiers, his head was cut off, preserved in honey, sent to Constantinople, and then impaled on a stake for all to see. One of the more ironic deaths in history.
Looking at the Seven Monster theories, Vlad the Impaler fits rather neatly into two. The first being thesis #1, “The Monster’s body is a cultural body” theory. This theory states that the monster is a culmination of some cultural aspect. Vlad came into power during a time of war so people were already scared. All of a sudden you have this guy coming in and starting to impale and scalp people. Anyone would be frightened by that, regardless of whether they were friend or foe. After that, imagination took flight, and there you have it. The second would be thesis #2 “Fear of monster is really a kind of desire”. For example, the thesis states that the monsters are rather enticing. Another way to look at it is that the monsters are scary, but we need them. Vlad might have been cruel and unusual with his punishments, along with his affinity for impalement, but the citizens of Wallachia needed him, as he protected them from invaders and helped them thrive. If you want to get really out there with your thought, think of it like this; Vlad was praised as a hero in Romania, and everyone has wanted to be a hero or king at some point in there. Vlad’s history just shows the darker side of being a hero/king, you might have to kill several thousand people to keep the safety of your own people.
My final argument on this is as follows. Vlad III did some terrible things in his lifetime, but almost all of it was in the name of his people and their protection. He didn’t go out of his way to brutally kill those who didn’t deserve it, he just brutally killed those who attacked his city and tried to betray him. He took an empire that had been ground into the dirt, and brought it back into a fearsome thriving one with a powerful defense, offense, and thriving people. This one, I refer to as just Vlad III. The legend of Vlad Tepes however, was created by years of political slander, overexaggeration, and some twisted (and creative) imagination. This painted him as a being that killed for pleasure, fed off of fear, thrived on agony, and made people eat their dead, roasted family members (and yes that was one of the legends). All of this terror condensed into a creature known as Vlad the Impaler. Vlad III is the hero of Romania, while Vlad the Impaler is the iconic monster of legend. Vlad was just one of those few who were victimized by history.
1.Pallardy, Richard. “Vlad the Impaler.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 17 Oct. 2018, www.britannica.com/biography/Vlad-the-Impaler.
A short biography about the life history and actions of Vlad III. Good for a short summary of certain parts of his life. I will either throw this somewhere near the beginning of the essay or scatter bits and pieces throughout. I don’t know much about the site itself, but I checked around on the other sites and the info matches up.
2.Interesting, All That’s. “The Real-Life Dracula Was Much Worse Than the Count Ever Was.” All That’s Interesting, All That’s Interesting, 25 Oct. 2018, www.allthatsinteresting.com/vlad-the-impaler.
Gives some of Vlad’s exploits in comparison to Dracula. Similar to the first one, but it focuses more on his exploits during wartime, what happened to his children, and what led to his nickname. From what I’ve read, all that’s interesting seems to post random facts about science, history, and news. Plenty of people seem to vouch for the information’s validity.
- Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. Monster Theory: Reading Culture. University of Minnesota Press, 1997.
The book that we the monster theories that we used in class originated from. I have to include this as I’m pretty sure I’ll lose half the points on my essay if I don’t. Though I cited the whole book, I’m focusing on the theories themselves. These are the theories that sum up monsters in their totality in a more…cultural aspect. What they symbolize and what led to their creation.
- Burns, Phyllis D. “Vlad III Dracula of Wallachia: Evil Villain or Hero?” Owlcation, Owlcation, 21 Dec. 2017, https://owlcation.com/humanities/Vlad-III-Dracula-of-Wallachia-evil-villain-or-hero
Again, another biography of Vlad. But this one is different in the fact that it doesn’t try to paint him as a soulless abomination that eats the fear of the masses and drinks the blood of mortals. It shows it in a relative standpoint both Vlad’s good and bad action throughout is rule. This article was written collectively by a multitude of historians and experts, and the fact that it actually has some good actions in it makes it much easier to believe (and accept) Vlad.
- Corvinas, Matthias. “PRINCE DRACULA.” Voir Dire, Rosenbach Museum, 1488, www.english.upenn.edu/~mgamer/Etexts/prince.dracula.html.
An English translation of the earliest known text about Vlad III. The pamphlet itself was written under the orders of a political rival of Prince Dracul, King Matthias Corvinas of Hungary, so the exploits within are probably greatly exaggerated. Though many of these deeds can be traced back to him in history. This thing is about as close to a first-hand experience as one can get.
A more modern version of the German wood cut image of Vlad dining amidst a “forest” of impaled corpses. While the dining part of this is an exaggeration, Vlad himself did create this scene in real life. It was so dreadful that it scared off one of the invading forces of the ottoman empire.