The Real Story of “Dracula” is Far More Frightening than Hollywood Could Ever Portray


The real Dracula would not have even gone by that name. He was Vlad Tepes, of the Order of the Dragon, roughly translated into Dracul, and he served as prince of Wallachia, a region in what is now Romania. Even more than 500 years after his death, he still remains a controversial figure. Though a folk hero to the Romanian people, and also to Eastern European Christians due to his vicious opposition against the Ottoman invasion of his home country, he is more known for his horrific cruelty than anything else. He is the man whose name was altered to “Dracula”, thus becoming a literary and film legend more than a century later. While Vlad’s entire life story may not be known, and the history that has been recorded over the centuries might not be entirely accurate (his enemies may have painted a more evil picture of him than what was true), what is certain is that he was, in fact, one of the most bloodthirsty rulers in human history, a man who had tens of thousands horrifically tortured and executed. It is a story that has never been told in Hollywood, though Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula spent the first few minutes on the “real” figure and his main method of execution: impalement. Be that as it may, I have waited years for the real story to be told. Given this current generation’s love of all things violent and bloody, and how such movies rake it in at the box office, you would think that by now, such a project would have sprung up. I was excited the other day, when I saw a trailer announced for a film due out in, of course, October, titled Dracula Untold, and thought that this might finally be it. Upon further inspection, I then learned the truth: it wasn’t.

Instead, what we have is, as my friend called it, a type of Satanic Batman-superhero character. If you watch the trailer, you will see battle scenes, which is accurate, but also a supernatural element, and how he meets an oracle of some kind who bestows the name “Dracula” upon him, something which never happened even if he did actually see an oracle. He is also seen with fangs, and biting quite a few necks. And, as we have in every version of the story, there are bats; lots and lots of bats, as the character has some kind of connection to them. This film is being labeled as “the origin story of the man who becomes Dracula”. This is a very misleading moniker. First of all, Vlad Tepes and Dracula are two totally different people: the first is a real figure of history, and the latter is a literary creation. Sure, Stoker took the blood-lust and geographical location from Vlad’s life and incorporated that into the blood-sucking vampire which is his main villain of the story, but that does not make him a real person. The two are separate, with their own identities. Secondly, based on the look of the film, it is going to be anything but historic and factual. This is not an origin story, merely a prequel to a story that was created in the mind of an author. Had it been marketed as such, no problems from me, but the character’s name in the film is Vlad Tepes.

Tepes was a villain. He was a barbaric individual. Stories say he gathered the blood in bowls at the bases of the stakes of those who he had impaled, and then would have them delivered to him so he could dip his bread in them and slurp it down with dinner, feasting in a “forest of death” as so many were impaled around him that the stakes resembled trees. We know for a fact he executed masses in this manner. It was a brutally slow and painful way to die, since the ends of such stakes were not particularly sharp, meaning the victim slid further and further down at an agonizing speed, before internal bleeding and trauma would cause them to die, something which could take more than a day. When everyone was dead, they remained in place, to serve as a warning to any and all enemies approaching his homeland of what their fate would be should they proceed. As you may gather, it was highly effective in this regard. The bodies rotted away, causing a ghastly sight and stench. During his reign, there was murder, torture, imprisonment, all the things that people just love to watch on the big screen. The worst part is that it is all true. A shining example of how the truth can be stranger, or scarier, than fiction, and not needing of a re-write or butchering.

The only known portrait of Vlad Tepes. Hmmm, where are the fangs?
The only known portrait of Vlad Tepes. Hmmm, where are the fangs?

There still is debate as to whether or not Vlad actually did drink any blood. Those reports come from sources who would not exactly have been warm to the Prince of Wallachia, so therefore their validity is called into question. Even still, his story makes for quite an epic film and would have been capped off by a beheading of Vlad himself, and his internment in a monastery where he rests today (the bones have since eroded and are lost to time, according to a preeminent scholar of the man, Radu Florescu). Mystery aside, “Dracula” as he will forever be remembered, was not a demon. He was not supernatural. He did not turn into a bat, nor command an army of them. He did not become a vampire upon his death. He never bit anyone’s neck.

If this sounds like just another history nut complaining, then you are correct: I am. Complaining because I am annoyed that this could have been something special. Filmmakers, for whatever reason, have long glossed over this story, the real story, and now, it will most likely never be made. If Dracula Untold fails, the nail is in the economic coffin. If it were to succeed, then any suggestion of such a project would be met with, “Oh, but the two are so similar”, by big-time producers, even though they are not. For all I know, Dracula Untold could be an amazing movie. I have nothing against it, and may it succeed to the best of its abilities. The point in writing this, though, is to make clear that this is a work of fiction, acting as the prequel to another work of fiction. History geeks, just watch the trailer and do not get excited if you felt, and feel, like I do. It is unfortunate. Another chance to tell a great, dramatic, and historic story passed over in favor of a CGI-laden, dark, supernatural bonanza.

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