For good or for bad, Romania will remain in history mainly with the myth of Count Vlad Dracula and the existence of vampires. With his novel the Irish writer Bram Stoker gave life to a fictional character so inspiring for the public, it still keeps appearing as a timeless theme in art, cinema, and literature.
The Romanian folklore is rich in myths and beliefs about vampires and mysterious creatures. Their real folk can put some light on the way we see the myth of Dracula. The most spread viewpoint about vampires is strictly western, in the way they are presented in movies and books. Earlier images of vampires in Romanian folklore are different.
The Romanian vampires
The ancient concepts about vampires differ from slightly newer mythology in a spiritual way. Oldest beliefs about vampires view them as demons or spirits without any human characteristics. However, the Romanian myths are Slavic myths, an aged couple of hundred years, imagining the vampires as living creatures-witches, or revenants – who came back from the dead.
“Strigoi Vii “is a Romanian nickname for demons or witches. They are believed to be living witches/male or female/, who will turn into vampires after their death. Often a child born with some physical defect is thought to be designed to become a vampire. People believe the Strigoi have no souls, or they can send their souls away.
Also called “Strigoi mort” they are creatures who came back from the dead reanimated. They attack their families and livestock to suck their body fluids or blood. Romanians believe the dead Strigoi come at night and have specific characteristics- don’t eat garlic, they fear daylight, have no reflection in the mirror. These features can be found in many other mythological characters in Slavic folklore, but thanks to Dracula’s popularity, they’ve become a mark for vampirism. People used to open graves some years after the death, to check for any suspicious marks on the body for vampirism.
Vlad Tepes and Vlad Dracula – The person behind the legend
When Bram Stoker wrote his novel is assumed he was inspired by an actual person – the Romanian Prince Vlad Tepes, or also called Vlad the Impaler. Vlad Tepes was a Romanian voivode –ruler of Wallachia, although born in Sighisoara. Sighisoara is in Transilvania region and thus the reason it is thought Transilvania is the homeland of vampires.
The name Dracula has interesting etymology:
The father Vlad Tepes, the old voivode also called Vlad became part of a chivalric order founded by the King of Hungary – The order of dragon. This brought the nickname Dracul – dragon to the old Vlad. Thus his son was called Dracula – The son of Dracul. In more modern Romanian mythology the word “draw” is linked to the perception of the devil.
The young prince Vlad was held in prison in the hands of the Ottoman Turks and during this time his father – the current voivode was killed. The empty throne was soon taken by Vlad Tepes. He will remain in history as both incredibly powerful ruler and the person who stood against Ottoman Turks.
His bloody portrait, relating him to the vision of vampire is formed thanks to his cruel punishments. Vlad Dracula is familiar with impaling hundreds of rivals and Ottoman prisoners on sticks.
Whether Vlad Tepes or Vlad Dracula was a real vampire, we will never know. He is known as a national hero in Romania, along with the weird stories about blood drinking. He is the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s novel, but not only his persona is responsible for a bloody mixture of which consists the image of the modern vampire. Romanian folklore, mythology, and beliefs have designed the supernatural figure of the vampire.
But don’t count too much on history and keep a bowl of holy water and icon near to your bed. Just in case!