Dracula is based on a real person

Vampires

Myths and Legends

"Dracula" wasn't the beginning. From the earliest times there have been ideas similar to or related to the vampire in almost all cultures on earth. The fear of blood-sucking monsters and ghosts can also be found in the myths and legends of Asia, Africa and South America. According to legend, the Indian goddess Kali cut off the head of an invincible demon and drank the blood flowing out.

Vampirologist and mythologist Hans Meurer emphasizes: "Ancient folk beliefs knew a large number of bloodthirsty monsters. In addition to the goddess Kali, who had vampiric traits, blood was also of great value to the Aztecs, for example. Only blood was considered appropriate food for their gods ".

However, the blood-sucking monsters often existed as faceless mythical creatures, they were not concrete personalities as in today's vampire belief.

In Europe, too, there were myths and legends about various demons, which also had many similarities with the vampire. Here, however, most of them lacked the decisive vampire trait: They did not steal blood. It was only later that these European demons mingled with the figure of the oriental-ancient bloodsucker.

Since the 18th century, the vampire myth finally spread from the Balkans to all of Eastern and Central Europe. While in popular belief a vampire does not necessarily have to be a bloodsucker, it is precisely this image that was consolidated through literature and later through films.

Causes of the vampire belief

People have always looked for demons to express their primal fears and hidden desires. We try to explain the inexplicable through fictional demonic beings. The vampire is also such a means to an end.

The vampire myth is closely related to popular belief and religious history. Religion divides into good and bad. For example, the dead were seen as undead wandering around in an intermediate world because of guilt they had incurred during their lifetime.

These bad guys existed as a counterpart to the good guys, for example the angels. Because in the Middle Ages it was completely undisputed that there were not only guardian angels but also demons.

"Until around 1750, revenants were an important subject of serious - religious and philosophical - research," explains historian Hans Meurer. "Even after the Enlightenment had prevailed in the 18th century, people found what appeared to be vampires in the earth." These frightened the world even more and confirmed - despite being informed - the inexplicability of various phenomena.

Superstition flourished. "And still blooms", myth researcher Meurer is convinced: "Our ratio makes up only a small part of our being. If you look around you will notice how much superstition is still in us today. Whoever goes into the cellar singing or one Carrying a talisman around with him cannot claim that superstition is a thing of the past. "

The classic: "Dracula"

Since the first publication of "Dracula", the best-selling novel by Irishman Bram Stoker, the book has attracted a large readership worldwide and has shaped our image of vampires today.

Many of the old myths fell into oblivion and the vampire, who could previously have numerous manifestations and properties, has essentially been reduced to the vampire image that Stoker created in 1897: a count of impressive appearance - an equally seductive and frightening aristocrat with a fair complexion and long canines, owner of a creepy castle in Transylvania.

Many of the fictional elements in Stoker's novel are based on real people and places. Prince Vlad Tepes, also known as Vlad Draculea ("son of the dragon"), provided the historical template for Count Dracula. Vlad Tepes went down in the history of Wallachia as a cruel prince nicknamed "The Impaler". He is said to have impaled almost 24,000 Turks in the 15th century.

Although Stoker was never in Transylvania, he did not choose this region by chance: In the Eastern countries the belief in vampires was very much alive. People assumed that the dead would not decompose until they had served their sins. In addition, the natural conditions such as the climate and the nature of the earth ensured that many of the dead were preserved for a long time.

Especially on the Hungarian border there is a special floor covering that preserves the corpses and makes them look like vampires. Through numerous Hollywood productions and film variations, Stoker's vampire figure has steadily solidified.

What makes a vampire?

Vampires are undead. They are living dead whose main concern - at least in literature and film - is mostly to suck blood. Vampires need energy and life, which they get through the blood of the living.

And they also have extraordinary properties in other ways. Often the special abilities - especially since Stoker's novel "Dracula" - are common to all vampires, but sometimes they vary and appear in different combinations.

Vampires can often go straight up walls, make themselves invisible or transform themselves into other shapes such as bats or wolves. They avoid daylight and sleep in their dark coffins during the day, while at night they wake up and look for food.

In addition, vampires can develop above-average powers and never die naturally. In Stoker's "Dracula" even sunlight cannot harm the count.

Today, however, Dracula is mostly considered a shadow creature that avoids the sun. Legend has it that if sunlight falls on a vampire, it turns to dust. Fire or a wooden stake that is cruelly thrust through his heart also kills the vampire. The main repellants used are garlic and religious utensils such as crosses or holy water.

However, you can never be sure, because as I said: the properties vary. And a few vampires aren't even put off by garlic. In most cases, however, once you've identified a vampire, defense is simple: He'll only enter a house when asked to.

The lasting fascination

"Religion, death and sexuality - these are the only real topics in life", assumes myth researcher Hans Meurer and adds: "Vampire literature unites the important and interesting topics that concern mankind and will always concern him."

Mark Benecke, German chairman of the "Transylvanian Society of Dracula", puts it this way: "Vampire stories depict the perfect myth. While other works, such as Frankenstein, sometimes contain important elements, everything that makes a myth interesting is in vampire stories , united. "

Religion and the desire for immortality, blood, love, sexuality and immorality - these are just some of the topics vampire stories are about.

"In addition, news can still be picked up on vampire stories," adds Benecke, adding another reason. "Books and films have an individual touch, a current adaptation to the story, to groups or subcultures. These variations make the exciting topics even more exciting."

The spectrum of vampire films ranges from funny parodies like Polanski's "Dance of the Vampires" to blood-heavy film adaptations like in the 1980s, when great fear of the deadly and invisible disease AIDS first emerged, to modern hybrid forms.

Today's vampire films like "Blade" or "Underworld" are variations which, according to Benecke, combine a wild mixture of elements: "As in cool music clubs, hip-hop and techno are mixed there, in films for example werewolves and vampires."