The legend of Dracula, as it is known today, comes from an actual figure in history.  Vlad III Dracula ruled Wallachia, a region of Romania, during the 15th century.  He called himself Dracula, son of the Dragon, in honor of his father, who was a member of the secret Order of the Dragon.  He was known throughout the land, however, as Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler.  He had a very vicious reputation as a ruler who impaled enemies and criminals on spikes for the smallest infraction.  One story says that Vlad would impale people and then drink their blood. Today, however, despite his cruel reputation, Vlad is looked upon by the people of Romania as a folk hero for driving out the Turks.
 
The legend of Dracula was immortalized in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel of the same name.  Stoker, a native of Ireland, and author of sensational stories, first heard the story of Vlad the Impaler in 1890, and he began to study the history of the Romanian prince.  However, his novel contains almost none of the actual history; rather, the story is a fictional account based on myths and legends. His novel has become famous the world over and has helped to perpetuate the popular mythic view of vampires.
 
Stoker’s novel has been turned into several plays and movies.  It was adapted into a play by John Balderston and Hamilton Deane in 1927; however, their play adaptation is quite different from Stoker’s novel.  The relationships of many of the characters were changed.  Perhaps best known is the 1931 film version starring Bela Lugosi as Dracula.
 
By Bob Bankard
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