Bram Stoker never visited România. He depicted the imaginary Dracula’s castle based upon a description of Bran Castle
that was available to him in turn-of-the-century Britain. Indeed, the imaginary depiction of Dracula’s Castle from the etching
in the first edition of “Dracula” is strikingly similar to Bran Castle and no other in all of România. Stoker is widely purported
to have used the illustration of Bran Castle in Charles Boner’s book, "Transylvania: Its Product and Its People", (London: Longmans, 1865)
to describe his imaginary Dracula's Castle.
Dracula – as he is perceived today – is a fictitious character whose name derives from the appellation given to Vlad Țepeș,
the ruler of
Wallachia from 1456-1462 and 1476, and who, for largely political reasons, was depicted by some historians of that time
as a blood-thirsty ruthless despot.
Stoker’s character, Count Dracula, first appeared in the novel “Dracula”, published in England in 1897, by the Irish
writer Bram Stoker. But the name “Dracula”, far from being a frightening term, derives from the Crusader Order of the Dragon
with which Order both Vlad Țepeș and his father had been associated. The rest of the Dracula myth derives from the legends and
popular beliefs in ghosts and vampires prevalent throughout Transylvania.
Stoker’s Count Dracula is a centuries-old vampire, sorcerer, and Transylvanian nobleman, who claims to be a Székely descended
from Attila the Hun. He inhabits a decaying castle in the Carpathian Mountains. In his conversations with the character Jonathan
Harker, Dracula reveals himself as intensely proud of his boyar culture with a yearning for memories of his past.
Count Dracula appears to have studied the black arts at the Academy of Scholomance in the Carpathian Mountains,
near the town of Sibiu (then known as Hermannstadt). While Stoker named his Transylvanian Count “Dracula”, he was
careful not to suggest an actual link to the historical character of Vlad Țepeș. While Stoker’s character Van Helsing
muses as to whether Count Dracula might be the Voivode Dracula, he obviously is not since Count Dracula of Transylvania
is plainly not Prince Vlad Țepeș of Wallachia and Stoker was disinclined at all to make his character a real person of
In the villages near Bran, there is a belief in the existence of evil spirits called ghosts or “steregoi”
(a variant of “strigoi”). Until half a century ago, it was believed that there existed certain living people
– “strigoi” – who were leading a normal life during the day but at night, during their sleep, their souls left
their bodies and haunted the village tormenting people in their sleep. These evil spirits haunt their prey from
midnight until the first cockcrow, when their power to harm people faded. “The undead [i.e., ghosts, vampires]
suffer from the curse of immortality,” writes Stoker, “they pass from one period to another, multiplying their
victims, augmenting the evil in the world…” The Dracula character derives from these local myths.
As for Vlad Țepeș, the ruler of Walachia, he does, indeed, has an association with Bran Castle. Vlad was involved
in several campaigns to punish the German merchants of Brașov who failed to abide by his commands as regards their
trade in his Walachian markets. Passage to Wallachia was through Bran, the closest gorge to Brașov, which connects
with Târgoviște, Vlad Țepeș’ capital. The original customs houses at which taxes were collected from merchants
entering Transylvania are still at the base of Bran Castle. The relationships with the Bran lords were not very
cordial, as they were representatives of the Citadel of Brașov, which were hostile to Vlad the Impaler.
It is not known if Vlad Țepeș captured Bran Castle. Written documents do not describe it.
The documents that do exist in archives with regard to Bran Castle, are mainly administrative and refer to the
income and expenditure of the domain of the Bran Fortress, with little mention of political and military events.
However, in the fall of 1462, after the army of the Hungarian king, Matei Corvin, captured Vlad Țepeș
nearby the fortress of Podul Dâmboviței, near Rucăr, it appears that Vlad was taken to Bran Castle and locked
up there for two months. This is affirmed in the recent volume Vlad The Impaler – Dracula, published by the
Mirador Printing House, Arad, 2002, authored by Gheorghe Lazea Postelnicu. From here, Vlad was taken and
imprisoned in the Vișegrad Fortress.
Visitors to Bran Castle should make the distinction between the historic reality of Bran and the character
of the Count in Bram Stoker’s novel.
Dracula exists in the imagination.