Monday, October 20, 2014

Vlad the Impaler -Hero?

I was minding my own business, surfing the Internet, when I saw a banner ad for 'Dracula Untold'. Instantly I was intrigued and dashed to YouTube to view the trailer as quick as my mouse could take me. Disappointment quickly settled in as I watched Luke Evans leap from a castle wall and dissipate into a cloud of bats*.

Just another vampire flick. Le sigh.
The intriguing promise of 'Dracula Untold' -a title just begging to be the true story behind a myth- sprang to mind the more unfamiliar history of Vlad III, known as Vlad the Impaler.

I was about 15 when I first heard about the controversy surrounding Vlad the Impaler. Being an avid reader, of course I had heard that Bram Stoker's original vampire was based on a historical figure who inherited morbid fame for being said to drink the blood of his enemies. I never thought much of it. Who was I to question the existence of such a horrid man in the 1400s?

In a conversation with some old family friends, we steered into the topic of Dracula and vampires, and much to my surprise they jumped to the defense of Vlad III. Jumped. 
These friends are well-traveled, and they quickly explained the Romanian opinion of Vlad III as one of their beloved folk heroes. In Romania, he is considered one of the greatest people of all time and they despair to think he has become such a horrible figure in the eyes of the world (never mind the vampiric aspect).

I hadn't thought much about this until I saw that ad. While I'm disappointed 'Dracula Untold' isn't going to feature a story more along the lines of Romania's folk hero, I'm glad it revived my interest in this quandary.

Myth, legend, and rumor have become mixed with history, thanks to the colorful exaggerations Germany and other parts of Eastern Europe added to the tale of Vlad's exploits. Bad press sells, and considering the original fairy tales of these regions, does that really surprise you?

Maybe it's just the writer in me, but what intrigues me most is the idea that one man's villain is another man's hero. Sure, Vlad impaled thousands of people, but don't forget the small fact that they were invading Turks trying to conquer his country for the Ottoman Empire.

I'd like to read up on this, dissect the truth from the hearsay. Which side is more accurate? How much from either side is fact, how much macabre or romantic myth? Was Vlad III a hero or a villain? 

This is my kind of mystery to solve.

*If you were wondering, yes, 'cloud' is the official group name for bats, along with 'colony'. See what fun things you learn on random blogs?

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