7 facts about Dracula you never heard about
They say that true villains never die and none is more famous than the immortal Count Dracula. Back in the spooky year of 1897, Bram Stoker’s iconic novel set the vampire legends on an international level and brought to light a series of legends that are nowadays well and alive in the minds of many. From Interview with a Vampire to Twilight, all vampire films were based on this novel and yet, there are still some aspects about the infamous Count few people know. Here’s 7 facts about Dracula you never heard about:
1. Bram Stoker never visited Transylvania
Despite Stoker’s long descriptive paragraphs about the place and that fact that it has since become synonymous with the vampire genre, Bram Stoker never actually visited Transylvania. He collected the legends from Transylvania, said to have the castle of Vlad Dracula who had a taste for blood and a penchant for inflicting the worst kind of pain on his foes.
Moreover, Stocker was in a poor financial condition that wouldn’t allow him to travel. One year before his death he was in fact so poor that he was forced to petition for a compassionate grant from the Royal Literary Fund. The novel wasn’t an initial success and Stoker earned little money from it. It wasn’t until the 1931 American movie starring Bela Lugosi that the popularity of the book began to grow, and has never been out of print since.
2. Dracula’s real powers
Throughout the novel, Count Dracula is gifted with several different supernatural abilities and is believed to have gained them through dealings with the Devil. He has superhuman strength which, according to Van Helsing, is equivalent to that of 20 strong men. He does not cast a shadow or have a reflection from mirrors. He is immune to conventional means of attack; he can defy gravity to a certain extent and possesses superhuman agility, able to climb vertical surfaces upside down in a reptilian manner. He can command animals such as rats, owls, bats, moths, foxes and wolves, but also change his form at will, able to grow and become small, his featured forms in the novel being that of a bat, a wolf, a large dog and a fog or mist. When the moonlight is shining, he can travel as elemental dust within its rays.
He has powerful hypnotic, telepathic and illusionary abilities. He also has the ability to vanish and reappear elsewhere at will. If he knows the path, he can come out from anything or into anything regardless of how close it is bound even if it is fused with fire.
And most stunning of all, he has amassed cunning and wisdom gained throughout centuries, and he is unable to die by the mere passing of time alone.
3. Dracula might have been inspired by a dream
Quite common among Victorian gothic fiction, Dracula is supposed to come from a nightmare, one possibly caused by seafood poisoning. According to biographer Harry Ludlam, Stoker said he was compelled to write down the tale after dreaming of “a vampire king rising from the tomb”—following a “helping of dressed crab at supper.” While the tale might not have actually had anything to do with what he dreamt that night, Stoker has been reported revisiting the frightening vision. In March 1890, he wrote in his notes that “a young man goes out—sees girls. One tries to kiss him not on the lips but throat. Old Count interferes—rage and fury diabolical. ‘This man belongs to me. I want him.’” Whether this is the actual nightmare or the beginning of the story is unclear, but Stoker made several references to having such a dream repeatedly while writing the book.
4. Dracula’s appearance
The original Dracula has almost nothing from the appearance that we’re used with from seeing on TV – the elegant and charming man seducing young girls. But rather “His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion. The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly sharp, white teeth…”
His appearance varies throughout the novel. At the beginning of the story, he is described as thin, with a long white mustache, pointed ears and sharp teeth. It is also noted later in the book by a zookeeper who sees him that “he has a hooked nose and a pointed beard with a streak of white in it”. He is dressed all in black and has hair on his palms. The man describes him as an old man, “cruel looking” and giving an effect of “extraordinary pallor”. When angered, the Count shows his true bestial nature, his blue eyes flaming red.
It was one of Bram Stoker’s old acquaintances, the actor Henry Irving, who was the inspiration for many of Dracula’s mannerisms. Bram Stoker always hoped that Irving would play the Count in the stage version of the novel but it never happened.
5. Dracula’s name
Originally known as Count Wampyr, Count Dracula didn’t have a first name and is known simply as Dracula. In the old language of Wallachia, the name Dracula means Devil. In nowadays Romanian it’s similar to Dracul which also means Devil but also has connotations for Dragon. Wallachians were accustomed to give it as a surname to any person who rendered himself conspicuous either by courage, cruel actions, or cunning.
6. Becoming a vampire
Stoker describes Dracula’s past life as a “soldier, statesman, and alchemist… He had a mighty brain, a learning beyond compare… there was no branch of knowledge of his time that he did not essay.“ Count Dracula is said to have studied alchemy and black magic at the academy of Scholomance in the Carpathian Mountains; the implication is that to defeat death and achieve immortality, the Count used his arcane knowledge to turn himself into a vampire.
He did that by making a pact with the devil according to hints left by Van Helsing when he discusses his origin. “The Draculas… were a great and noble race, though now and again were scions who were held by their coevals to have had dealings with the Evil One”. This adds to how Dracula is atypical among vampires since most of them in popular culture is sired by another vampire but Stoker’s creation seems to have been a self-made creature of the night, and one with special powers other vampires don’t possess.
7. Sacred ground
Legends in the book has it that vampires can only sleep on sacred earth so when Dracula travels to London he’s forced to pack with him a cargo of 50 wooden boxes, all filled with mouldy earth – replicas of his grave in Transylvania, one grave for each of the properties he intends on buying in the city.
Moreover, he is also limited in his ability to travel, as he can only cross running water at low or high tide. Due to this, he is unable to fly across a river in the form of a bat or mist or even by himself board a boat or step off a boat onto a dock unless he is physically carried over with assistance. He is also unable to enter a place unless invited to do so by someone of the household, even a visitor; once invited, he can enter and leave the premises at will.
In Romanian folklore
Dracula’s story is overall a mix of several geographical influences Bram Stoker used to set the base for his novel. From a dream to the dark Irish legends, the story has indeed incorporated some aspects of Romanian folklore. Here, there are legends about creatures that are phantoms of a dead person who leave the grave to draw energy from the living. They are attributed with the abilities to transform into an animal, become invisible, and to gain vitality from the blood of their victims and thus, linking the modern vampirism to old regional tales.