The legend of the real count Dracula

author: Raluca Tirnovean
date: October 24, 2016

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Late at night… under the full moon… stories by the campfire talk about the Transylvanian Count Dracula. His thirst for blood is infinite and his face is pale as if he was dead… But he is alive and has been for centuries.

This is the Dracula tourists hope to find when they visit Transylvania: a scary vampire, who turns into a bat, hunts the innocent and feeds on their blood. Luckily this story is just fiction. But don’t breathe with relief just yet, for Dracula is very much real and a bloody local figure, indeed. Here are some of the popular Transylvanian legends about Vlad the Impaler.

Dracula, a Transylvanian king

Vlad the 3rd, also known as Vlad the Impaler, or Dracula, was actually the leader of Wallachia – the southern Romanian province. He was born in the medieval city of Sighisoara so it’s not wrong to say he was Transylvanian. However, the fame he gained was due to his actions in Wallachia.

The castle of Dracula?

Bran Castle

If you visit the Bran Castle in Transylvania hoping to see a ghost or feel shivers down your spine, well… get ready to be disappointed. There are no vampires here because the Bran Castle has nothing to do with Dracula or any other bloodsucking creature. Actually, if we’re going, to be honest, none of the Transylvanian castles are haunted by either vampires or ghosts. As far as we know.

The real Dracula’s castle can be seen in Poienari. The citadel was built on top of an imposing cliff and can be reached by climbing 1480 stairs. It is now mostly ruined because most of the walls have fallen in the 19th century. Yes, including the haunted ones.

Dracula’s name

“Dracula” – it sounds devilish, draconic and evil. That is because it comes from the word “Dragon”, the nickname of Dracula’s father. Shockingly, the Dragon did not have too many heads or eyes, he was not a giant and he wouldn’t feed on humans either. In fact, he gained this nickname for becoming a member of the Dragon Order – as a sign of gratitude from the Hungarian king of the time. So, “Dracula” would be translated as the “young Dragon”, or “son of the Dragon”.

“Vlad the Impaler” – this nickname is no longer inherited from his father, this he gained himself. Meaning “the one who impales”, it comes from the fact that he would punish the traitors, the thieves or the enemies by impaling them on huge stakes and display them on the sides of the roads and on open fields where everyone could see them.

The local legends of Dracula

Even though the bloody one seems to be just fantasy, there are some local legends that are very likely to be true.

The legend of Dracula and the Golden Goblet

The people in Wallachia feared the cruel King because he had no mercy. Those who stole had their hands cut off, those who spoke ill of the King had their tongues cut off and those who raped women were also very cruelly punished. So this story should come as no surprise.

Apparently, in the centre of the Wallachian capital of the time there was a public fountain where people would stop for clean water. Vlad the Impaler left a golden cup by the fountain for everyone to use, but especially for the foreign visitors to see how rich the country was. You would expect it to get stolen, but on the contrary: not only did the golden goblet never disappear, but few dared to even use it. That is how much the Wallachians feared their King.

The Legend of Dracula and the boyar’s bag of money

Back in those days society was divided between the poor peasants and the rich noblemen: the boyars. Everyone knew how strict the King was and how important justice was to him so few broke the law. But from time to time the king used to test his people, in this case one of the boyars. Dracula had one of his guards steal this guy’s money bag with 100 golden coins in it.

In no time, the nobleman came to report the thievery, but instead of being honest, he claimed 200 coins were missing. The king paid him back the 200 coins, but then impaled him in the city centre with the bag of money hanging around his neck.

The legend of Dracula and the beggars

Dracula hated the beggars. Not the poor people who worked hard to survive, but the lazy ones, the crippled, the old or the ill that lived out of the mercy of others. He felt that they were taking advantage of honest people instead of working to ensure their own survival. This is why he decided to do something about it. He let everyone know that he would organize a feast to feed all the beggars. They all showed up and he set them at the table, abundant with the best of meals. Greedy, they started eating and they didn’t even notice when the king left the room. So while all the beggars were gorging, Dracula set them on fire and watched them all burn.

Dracula’s Death

We don’t really know (if or) how Dracula died, because we cannot find his remains. Apparently he was beheaded by the boyars who were sick of his obsession fur justice, but nobody really know for sure since we don’t have a body. His grave was thought to be inside the Snagov Monastery, but this hypothesis was rejected because those remains were eventually proved to be animal. Well, who knows? He might be a vampire after all.

You’ll learn many other stories about Vlad the Impaler when you visit Transylvania. Whether they are true, or not, one thing is certain: He wouldn’t drink human blood. Yes, he used to have breakfast between dead bodies. Yes, he one time nailed some Turks’ turbans to their heads for showing no respect. Yes, he once killed the wife of some guy who walked around with a dirty shirt. But no, he was no vampire. We know this for sure, even though we can’t really find his head.

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