Did you know that Bram Stoker’s Dracula published in 1897 is mostly influenced by Irish culture? Many people believe the Americanised notion that Dracula transcended from Transylvania’s Vlad The Impaler . Vlad III was a 15th century Prince of Wallachia in Romania. He was born in Transylvania in 1431 to Vlad II. In the midst of the 15th century The Ottoman Empire, who was strictly Muslim, made every effort to stamp out Christianity throughout Eastern Europe. Vlad became known as The Impaler due to his maliciousness and practise of impaling his enemies. Prince Vlad did not drink the blood of victims but instead revelled in slaughtering. He was a sadist.
Bram Stoker was born in Clontarf in 1847 around the time of The Great Famine in Ireland. The Great Famine began in 1845 and lasted until 1852. The inhabitants of Ireland were extremely superstitious and Irish folklore may very well be what inspired Dracula. Disease and starvation caused the disfiguration of many Irish men and women. Appearances became frail and sickly. The Famine in its own right is a horror story. For the first 7 years of his life Bram was bedridden with an unknown illness. He was unable to walk for those 7 years. He grew up with an over active imagination and folklore told to him as stories by his mother.
One such story was about the fever dead in the West of Ireland. Bram’s mother recalled how people were buried alive during a fever epidemic in 1832. Growing up, Bram also played in the Clontarf graveyard. This graveyard was home to a plot for suicide victims. The folklore at the time was suicide victims would rise from the dead as they were not allowed to be buried on consecrated ground. The Irish term D’un Dreach-Fhoula (pronounced droc’ola) was supposedly a fortress guarding a lonely pass in The Magillycuddy Reeks in Kerry. Droc’ola means “bad” or “tainted blood” and was home to blood-drinking shape-shifting fairies. Could this be where the name of Dracula came from?
Dennis McIntyre has been studying the life of Bram Stoker for many years. He runs talks weekly through The Stoker Dracula Organisation situated in Clontarf. The most fascinating parts of Dennis’s talks are the links which he identifies between the iconography of Dracula and Irish mythology, folklore and beliefs in 19th century Ireland, and why the character can be viewed as an Irish creation.
Dennis McIntyre is director of The Stoker Dracula Organisation. The organisation conducts Clontarf historical walks and presents shows and films at The Stoker Dracula Visitor Centre in The Bram Stoker Hotel. It is also in charge of giving Stoker Dracula and historical talks to clubs, schools and societies. Dennis, along with the Stoker Dracula Organisation, argues that Bram Stokers real inspiration for Dracula derives from his Dublin and Irish background. They emphasise the “Irishness” of Bram Stoker and Dracula on record.
Stoker never actually ventured to Eastern Europe. Most of his life was spent in Ireland and eventually in England. The fictional novel of Dracula may be set in England and Transylvania but facts strongly point to influences from Irish folklore. Is Bram Stoker’s Dracula really primarily based on Vlad The Impaler?