Count Dracula is the title character of Bram Stoker's 1897 Gothic horror novel Dracula. He is considered to be both the prototypical and the archetypal vampire in subsequent works of fiction. He is also depicted in the novel to be the origin of werewolf legends. Some aspects of the character are believed to have been inspired by the 15th Century Wallachian Prince Vlad III the Impaler, who was also known as "Dracula". Other character aspects have been added or altered in subsequent popular fictional works. The character has subsequently frequently appeared or been referred to in popular culture and in pretty much all forms of entertainment media.
Bram Stoker's novel takes the form of an epistolary tale, in which Count Dracula's characteristics, powers, abilities and weaknesses are narrated by multiple narrators, from different perspectives.
Count Dracula is an undead, centuries-old vampire, and a Transylvanian nobleman who claims to be a Székely descended from Attila the Hun. He inhabits a decaying castle in the Carpathian Mountains near the Borgo Pass. Unlike the vampires of Eastern European folklore, which are portrayed as repulsive, corpse-like creatures, Dracula wears a veneer of aristocratic charm. In his conversations with Jonathan Harker, he reveals himself as deeply proud of his boyar heritage and nostalgic for the past, which he admits have become only a memory of heroism, honor and valor in modern times.
Details of his early life are obscure, but it is mentioned "he was in life a most wonderful man. Soldier, statesman, and alchemist. Which latter was the highest development of the science knowledge of his time. He had a mighty brain, a learning beyond compare, and a heart that knew no fear and no remorse... there was no branch of knowledge of his time that he did not essay." He studied the black arts at the academy of Scholomance in the Carpathian Mountains, overlooking the town of Sibiu (also known as Hermannstadt) and has a deep knowledge of alchemy and magic. Taking up arms, as befitting his rank and status as a voivode, he led troops against the Turks across the Danube. According to his nemesis Abraham Van Helsing, "He must indeed have been that Voivode Dracula who won his name against the Turk, over the great river on the very frontier of Turkey-land. If it be so, then was he no common man: for in that time, and for centuries after, he was spoken of as the cleverest and the most cunning, as well as the bravest of the sons of the land beyond the forest." Dead and buried in a great tomb in the chapel of his castle, Dracula returns from death as a vampire and lives for several centuries in his castle with three terrifyingly beautiful female vampires beside him.
In Dracula's Guest, the narrative follows an unnamed Englishman traveler as he wanders around Munich before leaving for Transylvania. It is Walpurgis Night and the young Englishman foolishly leaves his hotel, in spite of the coachman's warnings, and wanders through a dense forest alone. Along the way, he feels that he is being watched by a tall and thin stranger (possibly Count Dracula).
The short story climaxes in an old graveyard, where the Englishman encounters a sleeping female vampire called Countess Dolingen in a marble tomb with a large iron stake driven into it. This malevolent and beautiful vampire awakens from her marble bier to conjure a snowstorm before being struck by lightning and returning to her eternal prison. However, the Englishman's troubles are not quite over, as he is dragged away by an unseen force and rendered unconscious. He awakens to find a "gigantic" wolf lying on his chest and licking at his throat; however, the wolf merely keeps him warm and protects him until help arrives. When the Englishman is finally taken back to his hotel, a telegram awaits him from his expectant host Dracula, with a warning about "dangers from snow and wolves and night".
As the Dracula novel begins in the late 19th century, Dracula acts on a long-contemplated plan for world domination, and infiltrates London to begin his reign of terror. He summons Jonathan Harker, a newly qualified English solicitor, to provide legal support for a real estate transaction overseen by Harker's employer. Dracula at first charms Harker with his cordiality and historical knowledge, and even rescues him from the clutches of the three female vampires in the castle. In truth, however, Dracula merely wishes to keep Harker alive long enough to complete the legal transaction and to learn as much as possible about England.
Dracula leaves his castle and boards a Russian ship, the Demeter, taking along with him 50 boxes of Transylvanian soil, which he needs in order to regain his strength and rest during daylight. During the voyage to Whitby, a coastal town in northern England, he sustains himself on the ship's crew members. Only one body is later found, that of the captain, who is found tied up to the ship's helm. The captain's log is recovered and tells of strange events that had taken place during the ship's journey. Dracula leaves the ship in the form of a dog.
Soon the Count is menacing Harker's fiancée, Wilhelmina "Mina" Murray, and her friend, Lucy Westenra. There is also a notable link between Dracula and Renfield, a patient in an insane asylum overseen by John Seward, who is compelled to consume insects, spiders, birds, and other creatures—in ascending order of size—in order to absorb their "life force". Renfield acts as a kind of sensor, reacting to Dracula's proximity and supplying clues accordingly. Dracula begins to visit Lucy's bed chamber on a nightly basis, draining her of blood while simultaneously infecting her with the curse of vampirism. Not knowing the cause for Lucy's deterioration, her three suitors - Seward, Arthur Holmwood and Quincey Morris - call upon Seward's mentor, the Dutch doctor Abraham Van Helsing. Van Helsing soon deduces her condition's supernatural origins, but does not speak out. Despite an attempt at keeping the vampire at bay with garlic, Dracula attacks Lucy's house one final time, killing her mother and transforming Lucy herself into one of the undead.
Harker escapes Dracula's castle and returns to England, barely alive and deeply traumatized. On Seward's suggestion, Mina seeks Van Helsing's assistance in assessing Harker's health. She reads his journal and passes it along to Van Helsing. This unfolds the first clue to the identity of Lucy's assailant, which later prompts Mina to collect all of the events of Dracula's appearance in news articles, saved letters, newspaper clippings and the journals of each member of the group. This assists the group in investigating Dracula's movements and later discovering that Renfield's behavior is directly influenced by Dracula. They then discover that Dracula has purchased a residence just next door to Seward's. The group gathers intelligence to track the location of Dracula for the purpose of destroying him.
After the undead Lucy attacks several children, Van Helsing, Seward, Holmwood and Morris enter her crypt and destroy her to save her soul. Later, Harker joins them and the party work to discover Dracula's intentions. Harker aids the party in tracking down the locations of the boxes to the various residences of Dracula and discovers that Dracula purchased multiple real estate properties 'over the counter' throughout the North, South, East and West sides of London under the alias 'Count De Ville'. Dracula's main plan was to move each of his 50 boxes of earth to his various properties in order to arrange multiple lairs throughout and around the perimeter of London.
The party pries open each of the graves, places wafers of Sacramental bread within each of them, and seals them shut. This deprives the Count of his ability to seek safety in those boxes. Dracula gains entry into Seward's residence by coercing an invitation out of Renfield. As he attempts to enter the room in which Harker and Mina are staying, Renfield tries to stop him; Dracula then mortally wounds him. With his dying breath, Renfield tells Seward and Van Helsing that Dracula is after Mina. Van Helsing and Seward discover Dracula biting Mina then forcing her to drink his blood. The group repel Dracula using crucifixes and sacramental bread, forcing Dracula to flee by turning into a dark vapor. The party continue to hunt Dracula to search for his remaining lairs. Although Dracula's 'baptism' of Mina grants him a telepathic link to her, it backfires when Van Helsing hypnotizes Mina and uses her supernatural link with Dracula to track him as he flees back to Transylvania.
The heroes follow Dracula back to Transylvania, and in a climactic battle with Dracula's gypsy bodyguards, finally destroy him. Despite the popular image of Dracula having a stake driven through his heart to kill him, Mina's narrative describes his decapitation by Harker's kukri while Morris simultaneously pierced his heart with a Bowie knife (Mina Harker's Journal, 6 November, Dracula Chapter 27). His body then turns into dust, but not before Mina sees an expression of peace on his face.
Although early in the novel Dracula dons a mask of cordiality, he often flies into fits of rage when his plans are frustrated. When the three vampire women who live in his castle attempt to seduce Jonathan Harker, Dracula physically assaults one and ferociously berates them for their insubordination. He then relents and talks to them more kindly, telling them that he does indeed love each of them.
He has an appreciation for ancient architecture, and when purchasing a home he prefers them to be aged, saying "A new home would kill me", and that to make a new home habitable to him would take a century.
Dracula is very proud of his warrior heritage, proclaiming his pride to Harker on how the Székely people are infused with the blood of heroes. He also expresses an interest in the history of the British Empire, speaking admiringly of its people. He has a somewhat primal and predatory worldview; he pities ordinary humans for their revulsion to their darker impulses. He is not without human emotions, however; he often says that he too can love.
Though usually portrayed as having a strong Eastern European accent, the original novel only specifies that his spoken English is excellent, though strangely toned.
His appearance varies in age. He is described early in the novel as thin, with a long white mustache, pointed ears and sharp teeth. It is also noted later in the novel (Chapter 11 subsection "The Escaped Wolf") by a zookeeper who sees him that he has a hooked nose and a pointed beard with a streak of white in it. He is dressed all in black and has hair on his palms. Jonathan Harker described him as an old man, "cruel looking" and giving an effect of "extraordinary pallor". When angered, the Count showed his true bestial nature, his blue eyes flaming red.
As the novel progresses, Dracula is described as taking on a more and more youthful appearance. After Harker strikes him with a shovel, he is left with a scar on his forehead which he bears throughout the course of the novel.
Dracula also possesses great wealth and having Gypsies in his homeland who are loyal to him as servants and protectors.
Powers and weaknesses
Count Dracula is portrayed in the novel using many different supernatural abilities, and is believed to have gained his abilities through dealings with the Devil. Chapter 18 of the novel describes many of the abilities, limitations and weaknesses of vampires and Dracula in particular. Dracula has superhuman strength which, according to Van Helsing, is equivalent to that of 20 strong men. He does not cast a shadow or have a reflection from mirrors. He is immune to conventional means of attack; a sailor tries to stab him in the back with a knife, but the blade goes through his body as though it is air. Why Harker's and Morris' physical attacks are able to harm him in other parts of the book is never explained although it is noteworthy that the failed stabbing by the sailor occurred at night and the successful attacks were during daylight hours. The Count can defy gravity to a certain extent and possesses superhuman agility, able to climb vertical surfaces upside down in a reptilian manner. He can travel onto "unhallowed" ground such as the graves of suicides and those of his victims. He has powerful hypnotic, telepathic and illusionary abilities. He also has the ability to "within limitations" vanish and reappear elsewhere at will. If he knows the path, he can come out from anything or into anything regardless of how close it is bound even if it is fused with fire.
He has amassed cunning and wisdom throughout centuries, and he is unable to die by the mere passing of time alone.
He can command animals such as rats, owls, bats, moths, foxes and wolves. However, his control over these animals is limited, as seen when the party first enters his house in London. Although Dracula is able to summon thousands of rats to swarm and attack the group, Holmwood summons his trio of terriers to to battle the rats. The dogs prove very efficient rat killers, suggesting they are Manchester terriers trained for that purpose. Terrified by the dogs' onslaught, the rats flee and any control which Dracula had over them is gone.
Dracula can also manipulate the weather and, within his range, is able to direct the elements, such as storms, fog and mist.
Dracula can shapeshift at will, able to grow and become small, his featured forms in the novel being that of a bat, a wolf, a large dog and a fog or mist. When the moonlight is shining, he can travel as elemental dust within its rays. He is able to pass through tiny cracks or crevices while retaining his human form or in the form of a vapor; described by Van Helsing as the ability to slip through a hairbreadth space of a tomb door or coffin. This is also an ability used by his victim Lucy as a vampire. When the party breaks into her tomb, they dismantle the secured coffin to find it completely empty; her corpse being no longer located within.
One of Dracula's most mysterious powers is the ability to turn others into vampires by biting them. According to Van Helsing:
The vampire bite itself does not cause death. It is the method vampires use to drain blood of the victim and to increase their influence over them. This is described by Van Helsing:
Victims who are bitten by a vampire and do not die, are hypnotically influenced by them:
Van Helsing later describes the aftermath of a bitten victim when the vampire has been killed:
As Dracula slowly drains Lucy's blood, she dies from acute blood loss and later transforms into a vampire, despite the efforts of Seward and Van Helsing to provide her with blood transfusions.
He is aided by powers of necromancy and divination of the dead, that all who die by his hand may reanimate and do his bidding.
Dracula requires no other sustenance but fresh human blood, which has the effect of rejuvenating him and allowing him to grow younger. His power is drawn from the blood of others, and he cannot survive without it. Although drinking blood can rejuvenate his youth and strength, it does not give him the ability to regenerate; months after being struck on the head by a shovel, he still bears a scar from the impact.
Dracula's preferred victims are women. Harker states that he believes Dracula has a state of fasting as well as a state of feeding. Dracula does state to Mina however that exerting his abilities caused a desire to feed.
Vampire's Baptism of Blood
Count Dracula is depicted as the "King Vampire", and can control other vampires. To punish Mina and the party for their efforts against him, Dracula bites her on at least three occasions. He also forces her to drink his blood; this act curses her with the effects of vampirism and gives him a telepathic link to her thoughts. However, hypnotism was only able to be done before dawn. Van Helsing refers to the act of drinking blood by both the vampire and the victim the "Vampire's Baptism of Blood".
The effects changes Mina' physically and mentally over time. A few moments after Dracula attacks her, Van Helsing takes a wafer of sacramental bread and places it on her forehead to bless her; when the bread touches her skin, it burns her and leaves a scar on her forehead. Her teeth start growing longer but do not grow sharper. She begins to lose her appetite, feeling repulsed by normal food, begins to sleep more and more during the day; cannot wake unless at sunset and stops writing in her diary. When Van Helsing later crumbles the same bread in a circle around her, she is unable to cross or leave the circle, discovering a new form of protection.
Dracula's death can release the curse on any living victim of eventual transformation into vampire. However, Van Helsing reveals that were he to successfully escape, his continued existence would ensure that even if he did not victimize Mina further, she would transform into a vampire upon her eventual natural death.
Limitations of his powers
Dracula is much less powerful in daylight and is only able to shift his form at dawn, noon, and dusk (he can shift his form freely at night or if he is at his grave). The sun is not fatal to him, as sunlight does not burn and destroy him upon contact, though most of his abilities cease.
He is also limited in his ability to travel, as he can only cross running water at low or high tide. Due to this, he is unable to fly across a river in the form of a bat or mist or even by himself board a boat or step off a boat onto a dock unless he is physically carried over with assistance. He is also unable to enter a place unless invited to do so by someone of the household, even a visitor; once invited, he can enter and leave the premises at will.
Dracula has a bloodlust which he is seemingly unable to control. At the sight of blood he becomes enveloped in a demonic fury which is fueled by the need to feed. Other adaptations call this uncontrollable state 'the thirst'.
There are items which afflict him to the point he has no power and can even calm him from his insatiable appetite for blood. He is repulsed by garlic, as well as sacred items and symbols such as crucifixes, and sacramental bread.
Placing the branch of a wild rose upon the top of his coffin will render him unable to escape it; a sacred bullet fired into the coffin could kill him so that he remain true-dead.
Mountain Ash is also described as a form of protection from a vampire although the effects are unknown. This was believed to be used as protection against evil spirits and witches during the Victorian era.
The state of rest to which vampires are prone during the day is described in the novel as a deathlike sleep in which the vampire sleeps open-eyed, is unable to awaken or move, and also may be unaware of any presence of individuals who may be trespassing. Dracula is portrayed as being active in daylight at least once in order to pursue a victim. Dracula also purchases many properties throughout London 'over the counter' which shows that he does have the ability to have some type of presence in daylight.
He requires Transylvanian soil to be nearby to him in a foreign land or to be entombed within his coffin within Transylvania in order to successfully rest; otherwise, he will be unable to recover his strength. This has forced him to transport many boxes of Transylvanian earth to each of his residences in London. It should be noted however that he is most powerful when he is within his Earth-Home, Coffin-Home, Hell-Home, or any place unhallowed.
Further, if Dracula or any vampire has had their fill in blood upon feeding, they will be caused to rest in this dead state even longer than usual.
While universally feared by the local people of Transylvania and even beyond, Dracula commands the loyalty of gypsies and a band of Slovaks who transport his boxes on their way to London and to serve as an armed convoy bringing his coffin back to his castle. The Slovaks and gypsies appear to know his true nature, for they laugh at Harker when he tries to communicate his plight, and betray Harker's attempt to send a letter through them by giving it to the Count.
Dracula seems to be able to hold influence over people with mental disorders, such as Renfield, who is never bitten but who worships Dracula, referring to him over the course of the novel as "Master" and "Lord". Dracula also afflicts Lucy with chronic sleepwalking, putting her into a trance-like state that allows them not only to submit to his will but also seek him and satisfy his need to feed.
Dracula's powers and weaknesses vary greatly in the many adaptations. Previous and subsequent vampires from different legends have had similar vampire characteristics.
Dracula in popular culture
Dracula is one of the most famous characters in popular culture. He has been portrayed by more actors in more visual media adaptations of the novel than any other horror character. Actors who have played him include Max Schreck (although his incarnation was given a different name and identity due to copyright issues at the time), Béla Lugosi, John Carradine, Christopher Lee, Francis Lederer, Denholm Elliott, Jack Palance, Louis Jourdan, Frank Langella, Klaus Kinski, Gary Oldman, Leslie Nielsen, George Hamilton, Keith-Lee Castle, Gerard Butler, Duncan Regehr, Richard Roxburgh, Marc Warren, Rutger Hauer, Stephen Billington, Thomas Kretschmann, Dominic Purcell, Luke Evans, and Lon Chaney Jr.. In 2003, Count Dracula, as portrayed by Lugosi in the 1931 film, was named as the 33rd greatest movie villain by the AFI. Gary Oldman's characterization of Dracula is notable as being the first version to depict his motives for becoming evil as being the premature death of his wife, which would impact later incarnations of the character, including the Castlevania version, in various ways.
The character is closely associated with the western cultural archetype of the vampire, and remains a popular Halloween costume.
- Count Dracula appears in Mad Monster Party? voiced by Allen Swift. This version is shown to be wearing a monocle. Count Dracula is among the monsters that Baron Boris von Frankenstein invites to the Isle of Evil in order to show off the secret of total destruction and announce his retirement from the Worldwide Organization of Monsters.
- In Sesame Street, there is a character called Count von Count who was based on Béla Lugosi's interpretation of Count Dracula and Jack Davis' design for Dracula from Mad Monster Party?.
- While not a true appearance of Dracula, The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! had its main antagonist, King Koopa, assume the identity of Count Koopula, an obvious reference to Dracula, in the animated episode of the same name. While sucking tomato juice instead of blood, he nonetheless retains the traditional vampire weaknesses of sunlight and garlic, and was also shown to turn Koopas into were-turtles at will. He abducted Princess Toadstool in the episode to vampirize her, although he ultimately was forced to escape by turning into a bat after being exposed to sunlight as well as garlic breath by the Mario Bros.
- Count Dracula appears in Mad Mad Mad Monsters (a "prequel of sorts" to Mad Monster Party?) voiced again by Allen Swift. He and his son are invited by Baron Henry von Frankenstein to attend the wedding of Frankenstein's Monster and its mate at the Transylvania Astoria Hotel.
- Dracula is the primary antagonist of the Castlevania video game series and the main protagonist of the Lords of Shadow reboot series.
- Dracula appears as the lead character of Dracula the Un-dead, a novel by Stoker's great-grand nephew, Dacre, presented as a sequel to the original.
- The Bela Lugosi version of Dracula was briefly referenced by Para-Medic in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater if the player saves after being tortured by Colonel Volgin. Incidentially, this leads to a nightmare being experienced by the main character, Naked Snake (who had previously admitted that he gets nightmares for stuff relating to vampires).
- Count Dracula is the main character of the Hotel Transylvania franchise, voiced by Adam Sandler.
- Dracula, going by an inversion of his name, "Alucard", serves as the main character of the anime and manga series Hellsing and Hellsing Ultimate where he serves Integra Hellsing, Abraham's great-granddaughter, as an anti-vampire warrior devoted to the British Crown.
- Dracula acts as the main antagonist of the DC Comics film The Batman vs. Dracula, where he attempts to turn Gotham City into a city for Vampires by infecting the populace. He also is noticeably demonstrated to be immune to the vaccination due to being the original vampire as well as "evil incarnate." He also tries to resurrect his wife Carmilla via Vicky Vale. Similar to Hellsing, he also uses "Alucard" as an alias. He is ultimately destroyed by being exposed to sunlight.
- Dracula has a similar role in the Elseworlds story Batman & Dracula: Red Rain, although he ultimately succeeds in causing Batman to become a vampire before his death.
- ↑ In 1979, by which time the copyright for Dracula had entered the public domain, Werner Herzog, the director of the film, proceeded with his updated version of the classic German film, which could now include the original character names.
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