"No one is the same as anyone else. Every human being is an odd stranger."
Carlos Drummond de Andrade(5)
Bram is how the bedridden boy (bedridden is anyone who is sick in bed) Abraham liked to be called. He suffered from a serious illness until he was eight years old and during this time, his devoted mother, Mrs Stoker, besides fairy tales, told him ghost stories. Ah, the boy liked it!
Bram Stoker was born in 1847 in Dublin, the capital of Ireland and eventually became much less famous than his creation, Dracula. Ireland is a northern European country that is situated on an island.
Two languages are spoken in Ireland, Irish and English. When he was 16 Bram Stoker entered Dublin University and wrote his first essay(1). He was a brilliant student and when he graduated (graduated from University) he went to work in Dublin Castle as a civil servant (one who works for the government), just as his father had done. Bram Stoker loved the world of theatre and started writing short stories and plays. One day Stocker decided to write his first horror tale, "The Chain of the Destiny", which was published in the Shamrock periodical (newspaper) in 1875.
Stoker had a penchant for horror readings. He had already read the horror book "Camille" by Sheridan Le Fanu and the short story "The Vampire" by John Polidori when he decided to write "Dracula". In other words, vampires "existed" long before Bram Stoker, what didn't exist before was this charming, elegant, seductive vampire who bewitched all women called Dracula.
It is important to mention here that Ireland is a cold country, where it rains a lot and full of cliffs(2) on its coast with the sea. At the time when Bram Stoker created his character "Dracula", there was still no electric light. The lighting of the streets and houses at that time was done by gas, which gave a sinister (frightening) atmosphere to any environment. Therefore all that cold, often rainy weather and little light favoured the imagination of ghosts and discussions about the supernatural(3) among Europeans, especially in Northern Europe.
Stoker was fortunate(4) to learn about the existence of a very cruel nobleman who lived in the 15th century, i.e. in the 1400s, in Transylvania, a region of Romania. This nobleman had been a prince named Vlad and was known as Vlad Tepes, which in the Romanian language means Vlad, "the impaler". Impaler is the name of the person who practised impalement. And what's that? It is a monstrous method of killing someone by piercing the victim's anus with a wooden stake.
Romania is a country that lies in the eastern part of Europe and its name comes exactly from the Roman Empire. The capital of Romania is Bucharest.
Before he got the nickname Tepes, Vlad was called Dracula because of his father. Vlad Tepes' father, also called Vlad, was part of the Order of Dragons and was known as Vlad Dracul, as "Dracul" means dragon in the Romanian language. The "Order of Dragons" was a secret group that aimed to fight against the enemies of Christians. The Order of Dragons had the support of the emperor of Rome.
Vlad Dracul, the father, started calling his son Vlad Dracula, which means, Vlad the "son of the dragon", the "little dragon". Vlad Dracula later changed his nickname to Vlad Tepes, after he became known as the impaler.
Transylvania at that time was a region of serious conflicts, because it was situated between the Roman Empire, which believed in Jesus Christ as a prophet, and the Ottoman Empire, which had Mohammed as a prophet. Despite being "so faithful to the sayings of their prophets", Christians and Muslims (those who follow the teachings of Mohammed) sought to convince each other, by force and slaughter, to join (join) their own religion. In other words, while the Turks were pressuring the rulers of Transylvania to become Muslim, the Christian rulers were ordering the people of the region to defend their faith at any cost, including by waging war. It was a horrible and completely unpeaceful time for people living in Transylvania.
Vlad Dracula then became prince of Wallachia, a region of Transylvania and was able to drive the Turks and later the Hungarians out of Wallachia. This is why he is, by many Romanians, remembered as a hero. The reality is that Vlad Dracula is known to have been a very, very, very bad man and no one who despises human life, who commits the atrocities that Vlad Dracula did, can be mentioned (cited) as a hero. Even the people of his village were very afraid of him.
The real Dracula of Transylvania took pleasure in seeing his victims suffer at the hour of death. He devised deadly contraptions to torture people to death. He even killed women and children without mercy and watched with pleasure the terrible executions (deaths). He killed for fun. The much-loved Dracula of Bram Stoker is nice if compared to the violent bloodthirsty Dracula of the real world. After all, what are a few marks on the neck from a few bites made by a well-dressed, black-clad, well-educated, cultured, charming vampire who promises "eternal life"?
After Dracula, Stoker would never write another such successful tale. Bram Stoker died in London in 1912. Ten years after his death, the first film based on his Dracula novel, Nosferato, premiered.
Today Dracula's castle is a museum containing arts from the Middle Ages and is certainly one of the most visited places in Romania. Before you wonder, the answer is "No"; the museum reception does not hand out garlic to visitors.
The real Dracula, the one from Romania, is said to have died a cruel death at the hand of the Turks. The fake Dracula lives on very well to this day in various books, films and in our imagination.
Other important or curious facts of the same year in which Stoker was born:
- Afonso Penna, Brazilian politician is born.
- Alexander Graham Bell, scientist, inventor of the telephone and founder of the Bell telephone company, is born.
- Thomas Edison, great scientist, and inventor of the incandescent light bulb, is born.
- The first masked balls take place in the carnival of Recife.
1 - When Bram Stoker's Dracula was created, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein already existed. Frankenstein is from 1820.
2 - Possibly the two actors who best played Dracula on film were Bela Lugosi (1882 - 1956), a naturalised Hungarian-American actor who first played Dracula in 1931 and Christopher Lee, an English actor who was born in 1922 and died in 2015.
1 - Essay: A brief literary text setting out ideas, criticisms or moral or philosophical thoughts about any subject.
2 - Cliff: A coastal geographic form characterised by an abrupt meeting of the land with the sea.
3 - Supernatural: It is everything that science has not yet managed to explain.
4 - It came to be: An old expression adopted from the time when there were not so many ports for ships to dock. The ships then looked for a place where they could anchor safely. A place deep enough for a ship to anchor was called calha (trough). A ship either ran aground (which was good) or ran aground (which was bad). So when we say, "The event came in handy" it means that the event was timely and brought good consequences.
5 - Carlos Drummond de Andrade: was a Brazilian poet, storyteller and chronicler, born in the city of Itabira in Minas Gerais. Some of the most popular poems written by Drummond are "No meio do caminho" and "José".
Test your knowledge:
1 - Who created Count Dracula?
1. The Englishman Charles Dickens;
2. The Irishman James Joyce;
3. The Irishman Bram Stoker;
2 - How many and which languages are spoken in Ireland?
1. Two, Irish and English;
2. Two, Irish and French;
3. Two, English and German;
3 - Who was created first, the monster Frankenstein or the vampire Count Dracula?
2. Both were created at the same time;
3. The vampire Count Dracula;
4 - Who wrote Frankenstein?
1. An Irish writer named Bram Stoker;
2. An English writer named Mary Shelley;
3. An Irish writer named Oscar Wilde;
5 - Who invented the light bulb and when?
1. The Englishman George Stephenson in 1825;
2. Englishman Henry Mill in 1714;
3. The American Thomas Edison in 1847;
Thank you for reading!
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