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====Vampires in European folklore====
[[File: Dracula 2.jpg|200px|thumb|left|A portrait of Vlad the Impaler]]
Many cultures have myths and legends about vampires and the first known references to these beings were in Ancient Mesopotamia. These figures are
very common in European legends, especially in the Balkans. Traditions about the vampire are in particular very much associated with Romania. Vampires are typically beings, who were once human, had died, and continue to exist because they are feeding on some vital force, usually the blood of the living. They are classed as a species of revenant, and that is a visible ghost or spirit.
Typically, they were criminals, social deviants, witches, and suicides, in life. These undead figures would haunt their old homes and remote areas. They are usually portrayed as evil figures who do harm to innocent people and often kill them, in their efforts to obtain blood.<ref> Frayling, Christopher (Vampyres, Lord Byron to Count Dracula (London: Faber, 1991), p 6 </ref>
[[File: Dracula 4.jpg|200px|thumb|left|Bela Lugosi as Dracula c 1939]]
Stoker (147-1912) was not the first to write about vampires. Polidori and Sheridan Le Fanu previously wrote about Vampires and these tales are considered to be masterpieces of the genre. Stoker’s character was different, and the vampire is as a very ambiguous and even human figure, unlike the traditional depictions of the beings as simply hideous and monstrous beings. In Stoker's work, Count Dracula’s early years are only briefly discussed. It appears that he was a member of the landed nobility and belonged to the Selkyer ethnic group, who are kin to the Hungarians. The native land of the Count is described as the land beyond the forest
, this is an old term to refer to the region of Transylvania in modern Romania.
Count Dracula we are told was
an outstanding figure in his times. He was a leader of his people and was also a great knight. The Count was very brave in the defense of his homeland against the Ottoman Turks, who constantly attacked his people. In Stoker’s novel, Dracula was a great warrior and knight who fearlessly fought the Muslim Turks and helped to maintain the freedom of his native land and people. The character is shown to be possessed of great intellect and a ferocious curiosity.<ref> Bram Stoker Dracula edited by Nina Auerbach and David J. Skal (London, Norton, 1997)</ref> There was no science or art that he did not study. However, like Faust, he grew dissatisfied with science and reason and began to study the dark arts and in particular alchemy and black magic. Stoker has his character studying magic and alchemy in an academy in the Carpathian Mountains in his native Transylvania.
Moreover, he is described as the leaders of the undead and those who drank the blood of the living. Stoker portrays Dracula to be hundreds of years old, but he appears to be young
because the blood of his many victims allowed him to stay young. In the Irishman’s novel, the character is shown traveling to England as part of his attempt to dominate the world. He is thwarted and later killed. Many of the characteristics of the Count were added by later writers and filmmakers. However, every representation of Dracula has been decisively influenced by the Dubliner’s novel.
====Vlad the Impaler====
The Wallachians at this stage were more afraid of their own ruler than the Ottomans and they began to desert him, and he was later forced from power and imprisoned by the Hungarians. Later he attempted to regain his crown but was killed in battle in 1477. As we can see there are similarities between Vlad the Impaler and the fictional Count Dracula, they both fought the Turks, for example. However, the Count was once a tolerant and beneficent ruler and person and that was not the case with Vlad the Impaler. Then there is the issue of impaling, the Count was never shown to have impaled anyone while Vlad Tepes had many thousands impaled. However, the Count’s name is derived from the cognomen of the terrifying ruler of Wallachia. <ref>Trow, p 78</ref> His father's name was Vlad Dracul or Vlad the Dragon, this cognomen was adopted by him after he became a member of the chivalrous Order of the Dragon. This name became the surname of Vlad’s family and indeed it became the dynastic name of the princely rulers of Wallachia. It appears that Stoker adapted the surname of Dracul and transformed it into Dracula.
==Elizabeth Báthory== Báthory was a Hungarian noblewoman who owned large estates in Central Europe. She belonged to one of the most powerful Hungarian families. In her castle along with a few accomplices, she murdered hundreds of young girls. It appears that Báthory was one of the world’s worst serial killers in European history. She was accused of the torture and murder of poor girls and servants.
The Hungarian noblewoman was never brought to trial because of her connections and was confined in a cell until her death. There are many tales told about Báthory crimes. They often link her to vampirism such as drinking and bathing in blood. This later led many to suppose that she inspired Stoker to create the character of Dracula. However, apart from the obvious fact that she was a woman while the Count was a male, there is also the fact that many of the stories about her vampiric tendencies were later inventions.<ref> Thorne, Tony. Countess Dracula (London, Bloomsbury, 1997), p 14 </ref>
Stoker was a regular visitor to the Irish countryside and partly grew up in County Sligo. At this time, he may have head many legends of ghosts and monsters. In particular, he may have heard the legend of Abhartach, which in Gaelic means dwarf. He was an ancient chieftain and a cruel ruler, who also practiced black magic. He was so cruel and evil who was assassinated by his own kin and buried. However, it appears that he rose from the dead and began to kill anyone he found and drank their blood. In Celtic mythology he is portrayed in ways that are very similar to the stereotypical vampire <ref> Middleton, Ian; Douglas Elwell; Jim Fitzpatrick Mysterious World: Ireland(Dublin, Elwell, Inc. 2006), pp. 717–718 </ref>
. The supposed grave of Abhartach can be visited in Northern Ireland. There are many other tales of vampires in Ireland such as the abbess who drank the blood of her nuns. Then there is the fabled Sidhe, a race of blood-sucking fairies who lived in a magical fortress in the mountains. It seems very likely that Stoker who was very interested in folklore was conversant with the tradition of blood-sucking revenants and ghosts in the Irish countryside.<ref>Middleton, p. 45</ref>
Count Dracula is one of the best-known figures in the horror genre. With regard to the figure who inspired the vampire, it was evidently not Elizabeth Báthory. While the creator of the Count was clearly familiar with Irish blood sucking revenants and fairies they do not appear to have inspired him to create
the bloodsucker. It is clear that Vlad the Impaler was the one historical figure who inspired the character of Dracula. This is seen in his nationality and the fact that he fought against the Turks like the fictional character. More significantly it can be seen in the name of the Count, which was clearly based on Vlad’s surname Dracul. While it is highly likely that the Irish horror writer based his character on Vlad the Impaler, in many ways the vampire is the creation of his imagination. Many of the traits of the Count are entirely fictional. ==Further Reading==
Leatherdale, Clive. Dracula: The Novel & the Legend: A Study of Bram Stoker's Gothic Masterpiece (New York, Aquarian Press, 1985).
Simpson-Housley, Paul. Bram Stoker's Dracula: Sucking Through the Century, 1897-1997. (New York, Dundurn, 1997).