12 Things You Might Not Know About The Original Dracula10
By Chris Littler
12 Things You Might Not Know About The Original Dracula
With all the vampire love that’s been going around recently, it’s easy to forget the bloodsucker who made it all possible. We’re referring, of course, to the first and only Count in our blood-filled hearts: Count Dracula. If it wasn’t for this so-evil-you-have-to-love-it nightwalker from Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, vampires probably wouldn’t be nearly as popular as they are today. And though a lot of us might be saturated with the whole vampire thing, it’s not his fault that his fellow undead have been twisted into the shirtless stuff of romance novels.
Count Dracula was, and remains, the most famous gothic villain of all time – which is really saying something when you consider the company he keeps. With the Mummy, the Wolfman, and modern-day hybrids like the vampire/zombie/werewolves in the series Vampire Zombie Werewolf, the fact that Count Dracula persists as the leader of the pack shows that regardless of his wrongdoings, we’ll forever be inviting him into our homes.
But there’s a lot about Count Dracula from Bram Stoker’s novel that people still don’t have quite right, and we think that’s a bloody shame.
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1. He was based on Vlad the Impaler.
Supposedly. A lot of websites are going to try to pass this off as fact. You can’t tweak the truth when you’re dealing in matters of death and undeath. Stoker never claimed inspiration for Count Dracula – that all came posthumously. That being said, there’s a lot of evidence that makes it seem like Vlad might be the basis for the Count. They both share similar “last names,” for example, and both hail from the lightning-plagued land of Transylvania. But there’s just as much evidence that Stoker based the Count on Elizabeth Bathory, who allegedly bathed in the blood of virgins to preserve her youth. We digged as much as we could, but we couldn’t find any evidence that Vlad slept in a coffin or had an unhealthy aversion to garlic.
2. He is the fictional character with the second-most film and television appearances.
Who’s number one? That’d be Sherlock Holmes, the world’s most brilliant detective. This is all based on numbers that we can’t really confirm, of course. It’s not like there’s a computer somewhere that exists solely to count the number of appearances Count Dracula has made in film and television. The good doctor’s original debut included fifty-six short stories and four novels, while the count only had one.
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3. He’s described as an elderly man with a grey moustache.
When one thinks of Count Dracula, one probably thinks of the version that Bela Lugosi made famous in the 1931 film. In it, he’s a dapper lad, with jet-black hair, a healthy, if not pale, complexion, and savory red lips. But the Count from Stoker’s novel is described as an older man with a grey moustache, more akin to Christopher Lee’s interpretation in the 1970 adaptation. As time goes on, interpretations of the Count seem to get younger and younger, presumably from all the youthful blood he’s been sucking on.
4. Dracula is his last name.
Get it right. Calling Count Dracula “Dracula” is like calling Frankenstein’s monster “Frankenstein.” In other words, no self-respecting person is going to correct you, but you’re certainly doing the murderous monster a grievous disrespect. Turns out there’s a lot in a name. The Count is named after Vlad the Impaler, who was a national Romanian hero after impaling as many as 100,000 invading Ottoman Turks, earning his way into the Order of the Dragon. Like a boy scout wearing his merit badges to school, Vlad changed his name to Vlad Dracul, which means “the dragon” or “the demon.” Dracula is either an homage to that ancient Order, or the man himself. Stoker never said. All we know is that it’s much better than the vampire’s original name: Count Wampyr.
5. The Dead Un-Dead was Stoker’s original title.
It’s entirely possible that The Dead Un-Dead, Stoker’s original title, would have been a smash success. How can something be both dead and un-dead, ravenous readers inquire! They simply must know!
6. Nosferatu is based on Dracula but not officially.
Nosferatu is a 1922 German expressionist horror film based on Bram Stoker’s novel. Since Stoker’s estate refused to grant them the rights, director F.W. Murnau and writer Henrik Galeen were forced to change a few elements. “Vampires” became “Noferatu” and “Count Dracula” became “Count Orlek.” With a little more creative freedom, they were able to add a little bit of vampire mythos that’s persisted until this day. Unlike the original Count Dracula, Count Orlek is deadly allergic to sunlight. He meets his undoing during a badly timed attack by an open window.
7. The removed second chapter was published shortly after Stoker’s death.
“Dracula’s Guest” is a short story by Bram Stoker released two years after the author’s death. In it, a narrator wanders around Munich on Walpurgis Night (like Halloween, but in Spring) and encounters a female vampire and a giant wolf who licks his neck. Its weird stuff, made even weirder considering that Dracula’s Guest was originally meant to be the second chapter of Stoker’s novel. The book’s publishers wisely decided to omit it, deeming it unnecessary to the story.
8. The sun isn’t fatal to him.
The original Count Dracula was weakened by the Sun, but it wasn’t enough to kill him. He spent his days entombed in his casket because daylight was bothersome to him. In that way, he’s kind of like a nerdy computer kid who doesn’t get out of his basement unless he absolutely has to. The concept of vampires being killed by the Sun was popularized by Nosterafu, the German adaptation of the book. So whenever someone laughs at the twinkly effect the Sun has on the vampires in Twilight, you can smile smugly, knowing that it’s truer to the original idea than everyone thinks it is.
9. He can turn into a wolf.
We think of the Wolfman as the human who could turn into a wolf, but it was Count Dracula who came up with the idea. In fact, Drac could turn into pretty much anything he wanted to in the Bram Stoker novel. If he needed to get into a locked room, he could transmogrify into vapor and slip in through a crack in the window. If he wanted to travel great distances quickly, or just slurp down some delicious grasshoppers, he could turn into a bat. He even turns into a rat at one point. To combat this amazing ability, Stoker made it so the Count couldn’t enter a home unless he was invited. Otherwise, he’d be downright unstoppable.
10. He has gypsy bodyguards.
Pretty much every interpretation of the Dracula story has the Count’s right hand man, Renfield, in it. Renfield is a bug-eating, googly-eyed madman with an undying allegiance to his dark master, making him a quintessential part of the story. But Renfield isn’t the only one on Ol’ Drac’s payroll. He also has a group of local gypsies who do his bidding. When Dracula returns from England weakened by his time away from Transylvanian soil, he’s spirited to his castle by his gypsy friends. The Gypsies even manage to kill off a major character in the book: Quincey Morris.
11. He has three (possibly incestuous) brides.
Dracula’s brides, three luscious, beautiful vixens, make an appearance in pretty much every Dracula film. What’s rarely depicted however, and what Stoker made note of in the text, is that the women seem to be related to the Count, and also to each other. Their features may coincidentally look alike, but it’s far more likely that Dracula and his brides were brother and sister at one point, or at the very least (neck) kissing cousins.
12. He isn’t killed with a stake through the heart.
Everyone knows the best way to kill a vampire – a wooden stake through the heart. Funny enough, that’s not how Van Helsing and his party of vengeful monster murderers dispatch the most famous vampire of them all. Catching Count Dracula asleep in his chambers just before sundown, Van Helsing shears the evil beast through the throat with a kukri, then stabs him in the heart with a bowie knife. A stake through the heart is dramatic and all, but there’s more than one way to skin a vampire.
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Chris Littler lives in Hollywood. He has a degree in Dramatic Writing from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, one of the most prestigious writing programs in America, which he totally plans to hang on the wall when he has a Study. Chris currently covers video games at UGO.com when he’s not performing improv at iO, and is currently writing a one-hour TV pilot with his friend Wes. Like everyone else you know, he has an album available to purchase on iTunes and has lots of things to say on his blog: chrislittler[dot]com.