This is the fourth part to our series on Myths and Legends. Moving to Romania, here we discuss the legend of Dracula and Dracula in real life.
We have all, if not seen, at least heard of movies and novels about Dracula, the blood-sucking monster of Transylvania. This is of course one of the most famous legends taking place in Romania, but it isn’t a Romanian Legend. The blood-sucking monster story is more an Irish creation – by novelist Bram Stoker – than anything. Is Dracula then a fiction character, and we can all sleep well at night? No. Dracula was real, and he was born in Transylvania, but that’s about as close as the Dracula from the movies gets to Dracula in real life.
Dracula in Real Life
Dracula was a real person, more commonly known in medieval Romania as Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia or Vlad the Impaler. I know, the “impaler” is not a nice nickname, and unfortunately Vlad III did like to impale people and was famous for it. But nobody is perfect. In fact, overall, Vlad III was known as a just ruler and is actually a figure of heroism in Romania. He was known to be a harsh ruler, and brutal with his enemies, but just to his people and incredibly brave.
Vlad III ruled in Romania in the 15th century. His father Vlad II, was knighted under the Order of the Dragon, which gave him a new surname: Dracul, as the old Romanian word for dragon was drac. Naturally, his son, Vlad III, was called “son of Dracul” or Drăculea in old Romanian. You get it now. But to make matters worse for Vlad III, in modern Romanian drac means “the devil, ” so Vlad III has been mistakenly believed to be called “son of the devil.”
In reality, the Order of the Dragon had nothing to do with the devil, but everything to do with fighting the Ottoman Empire. As you might remember, the crusades were a thing during 15th century Europe, so it was common for European kings to fight against the Turks. Although Vlad III had a small army compared to the Ottomans, he had good tactics, was brutal and brave, so for a long time he was able to repel the Ottoman invasion. But eventually he was overcome by the vastness of the Turk army and killed.
The story of Dracula is a Romanian legend, not of blood-sucking monsters but of bravery and heroism. Whether you think Dracula in real life was better or worse than the Dracula from the movies, that doesn’t take away from the thrill around this legend, in either version. Moreover, this only adds to the richness of the Romanian culture. There is so much Dracula touring you can do in Romania before or after your service program. What are you waiting for?