Since it’s October, and Halloween is just around the corner, let’s remind ourselves of the famous immortal myth of “Dracula.” As we all know, the stereotypical image of “Dracula” pops up immediately in everyone’s head as being a supernatural creature (vampire) who lives in a Gothic-structured eerie castle, feeding on human blood. Correct? Yes. However… Have you ever asked yourself, who created this mythical creature? Is it all just fiction? Is there a tint of reality lost somewhere between the lines?
Dracula is a fictional character created by the famous Irish novelist, Bram Stoker. He wrote his successful Gothic epistolary novel “Dracula” in 1897, during the Victorian era. Unlike our society today, the Victorian period had “social restraint” due to the feudal system at the time. Any ‘curse words’ or reference to sexuality was deemed taboo, explaining as such why this novel became such a success. Stoker feeds the rebellious Victorian minds through his detailed description of the “Three Women” in chapter three, using phrases such as “wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips” or when the vampiress “bent over me until I could feel the movement of her breath upon me.” This is done through the character of Jonathan Harker (an English, married solicitor) being the allegorical representation of the weakness of man, losing the fight against temptation. This modern ideology (that challenged society’s expectations) gained the audience’s attention, thus explaining the popularity of this novel. This brings us to today’s still-relevant character of Dracula, the Vampire.
Bram Stoker’s background information on Romania
Now that one knows why this novel gained such popularity, one must consider some relevant contextual factors that led Stoker to write Dracula the way he did. Most importantly, one must not forget that Bram Stoker never, in fact, visited Bran Castle or even the country itself, being Romania, Transylvania (NOT in Budapest, Hungary as he sometimes mentions). He created this novel based on some secondary sources he obtained from the local library where he lived (Whitby, England). One of the main sources he used was “The Accounts of Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia” by William Wilkinson, as well as museum visits providing him with maps of Romania. His superficial, minimalistic research on the country is the main reason why he has numerous cultural and geographical errors in his novel. Stoker was mostly influenced by the Wallachian Prince (Voivode of Wallachia), called “Vlad Tepes” (Vlad the Impaler), who ruled Romania from (1448; 1456–1462; 1476) to create the character of Dracula, due to his cruel method of killing enemies — impaling their bodies. Stoker, nevertheless, uses specific language in describing the vampire to arouse a sense of disturbance in the reader’s thoughts, such as “there were hairs in the centre of his palms” or “sharp white teeth.” This inhumane description could also be interpreted as Stoker’s xenophobic attitude towards the East, as this was a common aspect in the Victorian period. More historical information can be found on http://The Real History That Went Into Bram Stoker’s Dracula | Timehttps://time.com › History › Opinion
The Gothic Architecture of Bran Castle
If the character of Dracula is just a made-up fictional character, then so is his castle, right? Well… some might interpret it in different ways, as some descriptions could in fact be very close to the given reality. Dracula’s castle is a symbol of the Gothic genre that Stoker tackles. It includes attributes such as “a great door, old and studded with large iron nails” or “round arches”. He even describes its location with phrases such as “the mighty slopes of the mountain” or “the castle is at the very edge of a terrible precipice!” These are just small leaves picked out from the whole forest of descriptions written by Stoker. As a person who visited Bran castle (Stoker’s main inspiration for creating Dracula’s castle), some descriptions are indeed quite accurate. The castle is indeed on the edge of a precipice, and even the atmosphere at night was “foggy” with a “full moon” as mentioned in the book. The castle, additionally, has “arched” Gothic architecture, yet that is because it was built in the 14th century for protection purposes (such as a defensive wall against the Ottoman Empire), so it had nothing to do with mythical creatures or evil powers.
Romanian Folklore and Superstitions
Apropos evil powers, I have to mention the fact that Stoker identifies folkloric allusions in his novel that are in fact present in the Romanian traditions. Instances of this would be the “stregoica” mentioned in the first chapter alluding to the Romanian folklore superstition of “undead” spirits roaming the land, or the idea of “scholomance” , which Stoker reads in Emily Gerard’s article on “Transylvanian Traditions.” More information about The movie adaptation of “Dracula” is mentioned at https://youtu.be/55DCKvh6l98
In conclusion, Stoker’s lack of research and background knowledge of the country led to many misconceptions and erroneous representation of Romania in Western Europe. Most importantly, this castle is, in reality, a beautiful place to visit, full of history and precious medieval costumes and objects displayed for tourists to see. I am sure that each visitor leaves the place loaded with historical facts and beautiful memories engraved in his/her mind forever. The locals always welcome tourists with open-arms and introduce them to their culture, including delicious foods and drinks! I saved the best for last – nature. The nature surrounding the castle is indescribable; it is heaven on earth. As such, visiting Bran Castle in Romania should be clearly enshrined on everyone’s bucket’s list. This is the perfect opportunity for you – Happy Halloween!