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Count Dracula - The Prince of Darkness

Count Dracula

Dracula, which is actually written Draculea, is a nickname of Latin origin given to the Prince of Wallachia and means "son of the devil" or "son of the dragon". Early February 1431 in Nuremberg, Vlad II was officially appointed Prince of Wallachia by Emperor Sigmund of Luxembourg. In order to confirm this investiture, Vlad receives a gold medallion on which is engraved a dragon, the distinctive seal of the knights of the Order of the Dragon. It symbolizes the victory of good against evil and must be worn constantly.

Vlad the Dragon

Vlad II then moves to Transylvania where he builds hotels and has coins stamped with the dragon's image. People start calling him Dracul. Vlad III, the "son of the dragon", takes his father's nickname as a family name and becomes a Knight of the Order of the Dragon. He is a brave warrior and a clever politician who loves to be feared by people.

Following the death of his father, Vlad III is taken prisoner by the Turks and forced to serve the enemy’s army and learn their techniques of torture. He manages to escape thanks to the help of an aristocrat whose daughter will later become his companion. Under the passage of a comet, sign of ill omen, Vlad III seizes the throne of Wallachia in August 1456. He is then 25 years old.

Vlad III begins to reform the State and is absolutely ruthless in face of his enemies whom he condemns to impalement. His cruelty becomes legendary, and he subjects the Turks to the very ill-treatment he has been taught during his captivity. People call him Vlad Tepes, Vlad the Impaler. Legends claim that Prince Vlad used to eat his meals under the bloody corpses of his impaled victims.

Then captured by the Hungarians, Vlad III retakes power ten years later, in 1476, and is assassinated by his successor Laiota Basarab the same year. Pope Pius II, contemporary, left the following description of Vlad: "he was a tall and proud man".

Count Dracula the vampire

Dracula is for many people synonymous with vampire. How could a prince and military leader become that bloodthirsty creature of the night that many people know? The writings of a Russian monk found in a monastery at the end of the 15th century, signed Efrosin, recount anecdotes having as protagonist Count Dracula. Efrosin says that Vlad organized banquets where he encircled the table with impaled people. One passage in particular relates that Dracula allegedly impaled a servant who dared to cover his nose because of the putrid smell emanating from the corpses.

The legend of Dracula was forever immortalized by the successful Irish writer Bram Stoker who drew inspiration from the stories surrounding Prince Vlad's figure for his most famous novel published in 1897 and entitled Dracula.

From book to film

Bram Stoker depicts Dracula's persona as a tall old man with a long white mustache and pale, pointed ears. Still according to Stoker, Dracula also has hairy hands and long, sharp nails. He is able to shapeshift at will into a bat before disappearing behind some kind of a fog. On the other hand, Dracula is frightened by sacred symbols such as holy water, garlic and crosses of all kinds. Cinema, however, greatly modified Bram Stoker's vision, both physically and in terms of his evil powers. Among all the actors who have played Dracula, the golden palm goes to Bela Lugosi, who left his mark with his role as the Prince of Darkness. A horror movie star of the 1930s, Bela Lugosi, with his elegant and aristocratic look, plays Dracula in an unforgettable way even though his depiction is far from the hairy monster described by Stoker.

The origin of vampirism

How can one distinguish a man from a vampire? Science has tried to explain vampirism by comparing the distinctive signs attributed to vampires with those of diseases such as anemia. Characterized by a pallor and a great tiredness, anemia was formerly considered by superstitious people as being the sign of a vampirism attack.

But the disease most commonly associated with vampires is porphyria which stops the production of heme, an essential component of hemoglobin. At an advanced stage of this disease, the skin of the patient begins to crack in the sun, the scars are covered with a thick fluff, the lips are chapped to the point of revealing the dentition and the nose and the fingers are damaged , eaten away.

The fear of vampires

Dracula and vampires in general are highly symbolic evil figures. The taste for risk and the consciousness of death would be at the origin of the popularity and fascination of man for these creatures with long canines. Dracula, immortal, is then endowed with a very great power. But even seemingly invulnerable creatures have enemies and can be defeated. Van Helsing, the greatest vampire hunter in history, has seriously addressed the subject in his book De Nosferatu Mysteriis, kept at the Van Helsing Vampiric Society.

Weaknesses of vampires

In his book, Helsing very accurately describes the phenomenon of vampirism and gives some recipes to defeat these evil creatures. According to this specialist, vampires are creatures of darkness who feed on human blood, live outside the grace of God and are virtually immortal. However, to maintain their omnipotence, they must remain in their homeland. Among their many magical powers, one can turn into a wolf or bat, disappear at will in a sort of cloud of smoke, but also the magnetic force of their eyes and control of certain weather phenomena.

However, vampires also have weak points. The contact with holy water and other objects of the cult gives them serious burns; they hate garlic, daylight and mirrors, where their image is not reflected. But you can also become a vampire. At the end of a satanic rite, for example, provided you deny all that is sacred; thus were born the most extraordinary vampires. It can also be "contagion": anyone bitten by a vampire will become a vampire in turn. It will begin to show obvious signs of anemia, then reach a state of clinical death. Finally, according to Van Helsing, the only way to kill a vampire is to plant a woodstick in its heart (preferably ash), before beheading it.

Countess Bathory

The bloody countess Elizabeth Bathory has many similarities with the bloodthirsty creatures of the night that are vampires. Born in 1560 into one of the richest and oldest families of Transylvania, the Countess was tremendously vain and obsessed by the fear of losing her beauty. Legend has it that she hit one of her maids to the point where she began to bleed because she had pulled her hair. The girl's blood splattered Elizabeth's hand, who thought she saw the benefits on her skin. Persuaded to have discovered the secret of eternal youth, she instructed her butler to undress the girl and bleed her to death on the spot over the bathtub. She plunged there for a youthbath. Thus, for ten years, her servants gave young girls to the countess for her ritual bath. One of the victims managed to escape and inform the authorities. Elizabeth was arrested, but never imprisoned for her crimes: she was condemned to live recluse in her bedroom until the day she dies, doors and windows condemned forever. In 1614, after four years in prison, one of her guards found her dead.