Thursday, October 29, 2020

Nosferatu VII

In previous editions of Nosferatu, I have written about things that drain one's life force in some way, such as Vampires, Chupacabra, Lampreys, Bank of America, and College tuition and fees. Last Halloween season, I read the classic Dracula, by Bram Stoker, for the first time. It turns out, book Dracula is a way cooler villain than the traditional "Bwa bwa, I vant to suck your blood" Dracula we see every Halloween. So, for this year's Nosferatu, I've decided to separate book Dracula from the familiar Halloween Dracula.

Beginning with his appearance, Dracula is already a lot different from the familiar Count Chokula Dracula we're used to. Even the 1992 Bram Stoker's Dracula with the eccentric hair cut, portrayed by Gary Oldman, and parodied by Mr. Burns in a Simpson's Treehouse of Horror episode, differed from the book description. In the book, Dracula de-ages, giving him three appearances. In the first scene, the "Dracula's Castle" scene, he is described as a pale old man with white hair and a long white mustache. At the end of the castle scene, Jonathan Harker sees Dracula laying immobile in his coffin, after having just engorged himself with blood. He is now younger, with fuller gray hair, and is not so withered. In London, Dracula is described as having dark hair, and a pointed beard with silver streaks. Essentially, the classic "evil magician" look.

As far as dress, there is absolutely no rhyme or reason for Dracula to wear a tuxedo with a shiny red and black cape. Actually, the reason for this attire, is that it was used for Dracula in 1920s theatrical performances, where it was common to wear flashy and flowy attire for stage performances, where the actors on stage appear small to the audience. This attire was carried by Bela Lagosi from the stage to the screen in his iconic 1931 film appearance. From there, the look sort of stuck as the iconic look.

In the book, Dracula's clothing description was vague. In both his young and old appearances, he is described as wearing all black. Dracula was a Romanian nobleman, so I looked up what his attire would look like. It would basically be a gown with a high mandarin type collar. The book didn't specify a change of clothes for young Dracula. However, in the beginning of the book, Dracula mentioned to Jonathan his intention to fit in with the London crowd. So I figured he would have changed his clothes to 1890s London attire, think Charles Dickens, as the Romanian noble attire would have stood out.

Who is Dracula? Traditional tellings don't really give you a backstory for Dracula. You know he's a vampire from Transylvania who comes to England and haunts the Harkers, but you don't know anything beyond that. The 1992 film, the more recent "Dracula Untold", as well as "Blade 3" fabricate backstories for the Count, but they all differ from the backstory given in the actual novel.

First of all, it's become popular to refer to Dracula as "Vlad" for his first name, referring to the historical figure "Vlad the Impaler". The 1992 film did it, "Dracula Untold" did it, and I've even seen a children's book about a skateboarding vampire named "Vlad the Rad". I'm sure most of us have read or heard something or other about the fictitious Count Dracula being based on Vlad the Impaler. This is a bit of a stretched truth. Bram Stoker did not base Dracula on Vlad the Impaler, nor was the name "Vlad" mentioned anywhere in the book. The name "Dracula", however, may have been inspired by Vlad's nickname "Dracul" (Dragon), and some of Dracula's mortal heritage, as a nobleman warrior from Wachovia, is similar to Vlad's. However, the Dracula character was originally conceived as a character named "Count Wampyr" with no correlation to Vlad. While some elements do seem to have taken inspiration from Vlad, the two characters are far from synonymous.

In the 1992 film, Dracula was a warrior who found out that his fiance committed suicide. After a priest told him that she was now damned to Hell forever, Dracula cursed God, and in doing so, was transformed into a vampire. God is a real a-hole in that version. In "Dracula Untold" He was a warrior who gained powers from a pre-existing vampire in order to help him fell an enemy. In "Blade 3" he's some sort of ancient alien, or something.

In the novel, Dracula was a member of an old Romanian noble class, called a Boyar, something he seems to be proud of, and mentions his status as a Boyar multiple times. He was a warrior, and mentions that the Draculas had a love of war and bloodshed. He was initiated as a student into a satanic school of sorcery. But the catch-22, every 10th student initiated is claimed by the devil. Guess who turned out to be a 10th student. And that's how Dracula became a Vampire.

So, what is a Vampire in the Dracula novel? Every vampire franchise has a slightly different idea of what a vampire is. In the Blade and Underworld series, vampirism is a virus that mutates people. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, somebody who gets bitten by a vampire dies, and their body becomes possessed by a demon. In the Anne Rice novels, vampires are people who have had their blood fused with some ancient spirit thing, by being fed the blood of a pre-existing vampire. I don't know what they are in Twilight, and I don't want to know. In Dracula, when a person gets bitten, they get really sick and die. The soul, however, becomes bound to the body, unable to move on, and every night, the dead person is reanimated and hunts for blood.

Vampire weaknesses differ a bit from what we're used to. In just about every vampire franchise, the one surefire way to kill a vampire, is sunlight. Exposure causes them to burst into flames, and turn to ash. Then, there's those ones who get sparkly, but lets not go there. In the Dracula novel, however, vampires are perfectly fine with sunlight. Typically, vampires are in a coma during the day and alive at night, but when they do find themselves in the daylight, they are perfectly fine.

A stake through the heart plus beheading will do in a vampire. This generally has to be done while they are in a coma in their coffin, due to their exceptional strength. Also, garlic will ward off vampires, only in the novel, they use garlic blossoms, not garlic bulbs.

Crucifixes also have an effect, however it doesn't seem to harm the vampire or cause them to hiss and cower. In the book, a crucifix quells the vampires blood lust. It's also noted that symbols from other religions work, too, which is surprising, considering the highly Christian dogma of the book.

Vampire abilities can be a bit sketchy. Considering that Dracula was a sorcerer, it can be difficult to sort out what abilities are part of his sorcery and what comes with being a vampire. Dracula himself can transform into a bat, or a big dog, can communicate with wolves, and can crawl up and down walls, or turn a living person into a slave by making them drink his blood. These may or may not be common vampire abilities. Things we see other vampires do is squeeze out of tight spaces, such as closed coffins and closed doors, despite being solid matter, and transforming into mist.

And for a final bit of trivia: Van Helsing. Van Helsing was not an action hero monster hunter, nor was he a vampire expert. He was an old doctor who had been called in to assist in the case of a girl who was sick and dying for unknown reasons. When he had exhausted all possible medical explanations for Lucy's sickness, open-minded Van Helsing turned to the occult. In his research, he discovered a match between Lucy's symptoms, and the symptoms of a vampire victim. From there, he studied further on vampirism, to attempt to help Lucy, and later, thwart Dracula.

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