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Hotel Transylvania: The Untold Truth

Trigger Warning: Mentions of blood and gore

Published in 1897, Bram Stoker’s Gothic novel “Dracula” launched an entire genre of literature and film about vampires, a group of sinister figures who use their supernatural powers to hunt humans and supposedly feast on their blood. As the spooky season approaches, the legend of Count Dracula ages another year, but like any vampire, it remains timeless and immortal to the spirit of Halloween. Find out more about the history of what nightmares are made out of as narrated by Suhasini Mitra.


To create this immortal antihero, Stoker certainly drew on popular Central European folktales about the nosferatu (‘the undead’), but he also seems to have been inspired by historical accounts of the 15th-century Romanian prince known as Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler. Born in Transylvania as the second son of a nobleman, later a king called Vlad II Dracul, he took the name ‘Dracula’, meaning ‘son of Dracul’, when he was initiated into a secret order of Christian knights known as the ‘Order of the Dragon’.

As the ruler of Walachia (now a part of Romania), Vlad Tepes became notorious for the brutal tactics he employed against his enemies, including torture, mutilation and mass murder. Though he didn’t shy away from disembowelment, decapitation or boiling or skinning his victims alive, his preferred method was impalement, or driving a wooden stake through their bodies and leaving them to die of exposure.

Owing to his father Vlad II’s weak attempts to capture his kingdom from the Ottoman Turks, Vlad III had to consolidate his power as voivode (a title given to a local governor or ruler in central or eastern Europe) of the king after finally winning back his kingdom. Vlad needed to quell the incessant conflicts that had historically taken place between Wallachia's boyars. According to legends that circulated after his death, Vlad invited hundreds of these boyars to a banquet and, knowing they would challenge his authority, had his guests stabbed and their still-twitching bodies impaled on spikes.

Some particularly gruesome accounts claimed that Vlad liked to dine among the impaled bodies of his victims, and would even dip his bread into their blood. These gory details, as well as his legally adopted name and his birthplace of Transylvania have convinced many scholars that Vlad the Impaler provided partial inspiration for Stoker’s famous vampire.

Vlad is credited with impaling dozens of Saxon merchants in Kronstadt (present-day Braşov, Romania), who were once allied with the boyars, in 1456. Around the same time, a group of Ottoman envoys allegedly had an audience with Vlad but declined to remove their turbans, citing a religious custom. Commending them on their religious devotion, Vlad ensured that their turbans would forever remain on their heads by reportedly having the head coverings nailed to their skulls.

Not long after the impalement of Ottoman prisoners of war, in August 1462, Vlad was forced into exile in Hungary, unable to defeat his much more powerful adversary, Mehmet II. Vlad was imprisoned for a number of years during his exile, though during that same time he married and had two children.

In 1476, with the support of the voivode of Moldavia, Stephen III the Great (1457-1504), Vlad made one last effort to reclaim his seat as ruler of Wallachia. He successfully stole back the throne, but his triumph was short-lived. Later that year, while marching to yet another battle with the Ottomans, Vlad and a small vanguard of soldiers were ambushed, and Vlad was killed.

Thus, continues the tales of Dracula. Hundreds of books have been written on the tales of Vampires and Dracula and a number of movies have been made based on the verbal tales that have lived for over 500 years now. Authors are still writing dystopian books based on the theme of the blood thirsty Vlad III, movies for kids such as Hotel Transylvania are being made which revolve around the theme of Dracula. Who knows how long shall the tale of this bloodthirsty tyrant go on for? Will it be buried with time, or shall it remain undead, immortal and as terrifying as ever? Only time will tell.

Written by Suhasini Mitra

Illustrated by Anannya Pincha






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