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Myths and legends


Count DraculaCount DraculaDracula was the nickname given to a real historical figure: Vlad III (1431–76), or Vlad Draculea, Prince of Wallachia, a region of Romania lying between the Carpathians and the River Danube. A monstrous ruler, after his death he came to be known as Vlad the Impaler. The word Draculea means "Heir of the Order of the Dragon”, a group of warriors dedicated to protecting Christianity in Eastern Europe and fighting the Ottoman Turks. However, Draculea is now much better known as Count Dracula, the vampire. He was the main character in an 1897 novel by the Irish author Abraham (Bram) Stoker (1847–1912). Dracula’s legendary home may also be based on a real castle—Bran Castle in Transylvania, another region of Romania.

Bran Castle, TranslyvaniaBran Castle, Translyvania

Vlad the ImpalerVlad the Impaler

Vlad the Impaler

Vlad Draculea was regarded as a folk hero in Romania and Bulgaria for protecting his people from the Turks. But he was also a cruel tyrant. He earned his nickname “the Impaler” (tepes in Romanian) because of his horrific habit of having his enemies impaled on stakes (driven through their bodies). Reportedly, he would then listen to them scream in agony while he ate his dinner. Turkish soliders told of coming across “forests” of impaled victims. Reports of Vlad the Impaler's shocking acts may have led to the association of his nickname Dracula with vampires of ancient legend: corpses—described as “undead”—that rose from the grave at night to suck the blood of humans.

Stoker’s novel Count Dracula was made into a 1922 silent movie, called Nosferatu. A later film, released in 1931, starred the actor Bela Lugosi as the black-cloaked Count Dracula. This film established the genre of vampire horror movies that continues to this day.

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