On the 26th May 1897, Bram Stoker’s Gothic horror novel Dracula was first published. Although not the first vampire novel, Dracula was certainly responsible for defining modern ideas of vampires and for forever associating them with Romania.
Vlad III was king of Romania before it was Romania, and he had such an enormous bloodlust that he was given the epithet ‘the Impaler’. However, during his lifetime he also had another name. He was known as Dracula. Many people therefore believe that Stoker based his character on a real historical prince. But he didn’t.
Vlad III’s father, Vlad II, was a member of the Order of the Dragon, a chivalric order charged with fighting the enemies of Christianity. In the case of Vlad, this meant the Turks on his southern border. As a member of the Order of the Dragon, Vlad added the Romanian word for dragon – dracul –to his name, and so he became known as Vlad Dracul. As son of the dragon, Vlad III was known as Vlad Dracula. However, the word dracul also has another meaning in the Romanian language: it means devil.
We know from his notes that Bram Stoker read the 19th Century British Consul William Wilkinson’s book about life in Romania, the snazzily titled, “Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia”, and that he came across various references to the term Dracula. However, Stoker’s only interest in the word Dracula was that it was associated with people who portrayed devilish or cruel behaviour. The name fitted his literary creation perfectly.