History of Vampires

Charlotte Gerber
Man dressed as an ancient vampire

The history of vampires is often intertwined with the history of Vlad the Impaler, better known as the Son of Dracula. While this ruthless ruler of Wallachia was a blood thirsty one, he did not have fangs with which to puncture the necks of his victims and drink their blood. Bram Stoker used the story of Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, as the basis for his famous novel, Dracula.

The History of Vampires

In order to understand the fascination with a character that drinks the blood from a living person for his or her own satisfaction, a little background into Bram Stoker's character, Dracula or Vlad the Impaler, is needed.

Vlad the Impaler

Vlad was born into the royal family of Wallachia in 1431. He was born during a time in which his father was trying to keep Wallachia from being invaded by the Ottomans. His father gave up Vlad and one of his other brothers, Radu, to the sultan as hostages in order to keep them from invading the country. Vlad developed a well-known hatred toward Muslims during this time as a slave to the Turkish Sultan.

Vlad was returned to Wallachia as a puppet ruler for the Sultan in 1478. This occurred after enemies of the state executed his older brother. He escaped and fled to Moldavia to live under the protection of his uncle, Bogdan II. Unfortunately, the Ottomans continued to pursue him and were intent on spreading their empire throughout Europe. Vlad then fled to Hungary and became a military advisor. In 1456, Hungary invaded Serbia and drove out the Ottomans. Vlad then invaded Wallachia with his own army contingent, and once again became Prince of his native land.

Once Vlad was reigning again, he used impalement, the act of mounting people on sharp sticks driven through their torsos, to eliminate political enemies as well as political prisoners. Anyone who protected enemies of the Prince, including entire towns, were subject to his particular brand of execution. This included men, women, children and infants.

The total number of individuals impaled by Vlad is unknown, but by all accounts it is probably 40,000 or more.

Bram Stoker's Dracula

Bram Stoker penned the now famous Dracula novel in 1897 based largely upon the story of Vlad the Impaler, and possibly on the Hungarian noblewoman, Elizabeth Bathory. Countess Bathory was imprisoned after killing hundreds (possibly 600 or more) of servant girls so that she could bathe in their blood. She believed that bathing in blood would keep her young forever.The title of the book, Dracula comes from Vlad II's surname, Dracula. Vlad III's name Draculea translates to "son of the dragon" (the -lea suffix means "son of"). Over time, the word "Dracula" also came to mean "devil".

Movies and Television

Over the years, many films have been made about vampires, all of which can be traced back to the first "official" book about vampires, Dracula. The following movies are just a few of many made about vampires:

  • Nosferatu (1922)
  • Dracula (1931)
  • Dracula's Daughter (1936)
  • House of Dracula (1945)
  • Brides of Dracula (1960)
  • Last Man on Earth (1964)
  • Salem's Lot (1979)
  • The Hunger (1983)
  • Fright Night (1985)
  • The Lost Boys (1987)
  • Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)
  • Interview With the Vampire (1994)
  • Blade (1998)
  • Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
  • Twilight (2009)

Vampires in Books

The vampire characters that have been written about since Bram Stoker's Dracula are wide and varied. Men, as well as many women (not to mention a few children), have been vampire characters in novels. One of the pre-eminent authors in the world of vampire literature is Anne Rice. Her stories, which include The Vampire Chronicles and the New Tales of the Vampires, have achieved cult-like status and may be considered partially responsible for the ever-popular goth subculture. There are many other prominent authors in this genre, including:

  • Charlaine Harris (the Sookie Stackhouse series)
  • Laurell K. Hamilton
  • Gerry Bartlett
  • Stephenie Meyer
  • P.C. and Kristin Cast
  • Roberto Bolano
  • Kresley Cole

Those that enjoy the history of vampires are enchanted by the idea of everlasting life. In many of the books penned by various authors, there is also a sensual component as well as a superhuman one. Ultimately, these stories allow the reader to live vicariously through characters that get to choose who will live forever and who will die. This is a fantasy that keeps readers and movie goers alike always hungry for more.

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History of Vampires