Vlad III’s Most Accurate Portrayal in Foreign Media

Vlad III

There’s something about your country appearing or being mentioned in a movie or TV show that gives you a warm feeling inside, especially if you’re like me and come from Romania, an East European country that’s not all that famous around the world. Sadly, in my case, this can be a double edged sword. Do you happen to know what Romania is best known for? Vampires. Thanks in no small part to Bram Stocker’s Dracula, our Vlad III has become synonymous with a horror movie creature to an annoying extent in foreign medial and sometimes even local.

I was so glad when I found a light at the end of this tunnel. This light came all the way from Japan in the form of the anime character Vlad III, one of Fate/Apocrypha’s main characters. Unlike all the other Vlad the Impalers and Draculas, this one was not made into a vampire to appeal to pop culture’s views of the Wallachian voivode, but into the actual human ruler, who wants nothing to do with the monstrous impostor.


Vlad III’s wish for the Holy Grail

From the onset we learn that Vlad III ardently hates what had become of his legacy after his death and deeply resents this injustice. He gave his all to protecting his small country against the invading forces of the Turks, and all he got in return was being remembered as a monster? Of course, he was no saint, but at the same time neither was he all that out of the norm for his time or a senseless literal monster who slaughtered left and right because he wanted some blood to go with his main course.

Vlad III’s reason for participating in the Great Holy Grail War and competing for the Holy Grail, the omnipotent wish granting device, is wiping out this stain on his name. He perceives having his name muddied as the greatest dishonour and something he’ll fix if it kills him.


His rejection of his second Noble Phantasm

Servants, as a rule, have at least one Noble Phantasm, a manifestation of their legend. Think of it like a trump card, or an ultimate attack supposed to grant them victory in a fight. Often it appears in the form of a weapon, like Cú Chulainn’s spear Gáe Bolg; other times it is an ability, like Herakles’ God Hand, which grants him the ability to come back to life 12 times.

Vlad III has two such Noble Phantasm. His first and main one is called Kazikli Bey, and grants him the ability to summon a maximum of 20 thousand pikes within one kilometre of himself. To those familiar with Vlad the Impaler’s exploits, this ability is inspired by his forest of the impaled that greeted the Turks’ army at Târgoviște in 1462.

His second Noble Phantasm, Legend of Dracula, is not however based on life, rather on the rumors and popular perception that came after his death that portrayed him as a blood-sucking fiend. Despite making him many times stronger and giving him the power to easily vanquish all other Servants and claim the Holy Grail for himself, Vlad III refuses to use it out of principle and out of abhorence for what this second Noble Phantasm stands for, something which he makes clear to his Master, Darnic Prestone Yggdmillenia, upon being summoned.


His end parallels his historical fate

Heroic Spirits in the Fate franchise often play out their manifestation as Servants according to their legend. Fate’s Cú Chulainn, for example, is infamous for his bad luck to the point of it becoming an inside joke both among fans and across the franchise’s instalments. This mirrors his breaking a geas, which cursed him and eventually led to his death.

In much the same way, Vlad The Impaler’s life affects his Servanthood. Halfway throughout the series, he is betrayed by his Master and forced to use his Noble Phantasm against his wishes, effectively transforming him into a dangerous blood-thirsty creature that the other Servants have to team up in order to subdue. This act of treachery, while representative of Vlad’s unjust imprisonment orchestrated by his ally Matthias Corvinus and later the Wallachian boyar’s betrayal, can also be seen as his legacy being tarnished by the smear campaign started by his Saxon merchant and unintentionally continued by Bram Stocker’s book.


I’m not going to lie, seeing this version of Vlad the Impaler did make me feel vindicated, but this doesn’t mean that I automatically hate or think less of other versions of the Romanian voievode simply because they play into the vampire stereotype. In fact, Netflix’ Castlevania’s Dracula is another of my favourite versions of him due to his complexity and the fact that I’m a sucker for strong, intimidating men that are soft for and gentle with their wives.

Rather, it is the effect Dracula has had on pop culture, and subsequently on how foreigners treat us as a result that irks me. Fate/Apocrypha’s Vlad III was a refreshing foreign take on Vlad The Impaler’s story, not because it had anything new to say about him but because it went back to his roots and treated his relationship with his blood-sucking counterpart not as his defining feature, but as a role attributed by the passage of time and people’s bias.


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