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Dracula's Influence on Pop Culture, Literature & The Modern Vampire

Instructor: Virginia Wilkerson

Virginia has a Master's degree in Curriculum and Development and a Ph.D. in English

Bram Stoker's novel ''Dracula'', first published in 1897, has retained its popularity into the twenty-first century. Stoker's Dracula has become a part of popular culture in the Western world, inspiring many vampire stories and films.

The Vampire Legend

The vampire legend is generally associated with Eastern Europe and the Balkan region, though belief in revenants (dead people returning from the grave) has roots in ancient times. Irish author Bram Stoker took elements from many different legends of the undead to create his widely popular Dracula character.

Stoker took nine years to write his novel, spending time at the British Library in London for research. Ultimately, though, Dracula is a work of fiction. Some of the well-known rituals surrounding vampires first appeared in Stoker's novel, such as the use of garlic to repel a vampire attack, and the classic bite on the neck that feeds the vampire and passes the affliction on to the victim.

The Well-Known Vampire Kiss
vampire bite

Was there a real Count Dracula? Vlad Tepes ruled Wallachia, a region in Romania, from 1456 to 1462. Tepes became known as Vlad the Impaler for his notorious practice of impaling his defeated enemies. His excessive cruelty made him a legend throughout Europe. Stoker named the title character of his iconic novel using Vlad's historic family name: Dracula.

Stoker's Dracula

The vampire Bram Stoker created in his 1897 novel is an Eastern European aristocrat intent on expanding his territory across the continent. He is secretive, mysterious, and unnerving to attorney Jonathan Harker who is sent to assist in his real estate deals. Harker's wife Mina and the young and innocent Lucy Westenra are easy prey for the notorious Count Dracula. Some of the iconic vampire characteristics that emerged from Stoker's novel include: drinking blood, sleeping in a coffin, fearing the sun, and being destroyed by a stake to the heart. The fact that Dracula can change into a bat at will is also featured in Stoker's Dracula.

The Vampire Bat
vampire bat

Further Literary Vampires

In the twentieth century, and continuing today, there are many versions of the vampire legend in fictional tales. In 1976, Anne Rice gave us Interview with the Vampire, the first in a series of novels. Rice evolved the vampire character into a more understandable character with human-seeming thoughts and emotions. Her novels have subsequently been made into popular films.

Another commercially successful vampire series was created by Stephenie Meyer, beginning with the novel Twilight in 2005. The vampires in this series have some different characteristics, including super strength and speed, and skin that glows in the sun. Meyer's novels were also adapted to the movie genre.

Film Adaptations

In 1922, director F. W. Murnau made a silent horror film called Nosferatu, which is an early appropriation of the main premise of Stoker's novel. But it was the 1931 Hollywood film version starring Bela Lugosi that gave popular culture the vision of the vampire as a dark-complexioned and stoic count wearing a cape and sporting fangs and heavy eyebrows. This is the image of Dracula that most people think of to this day.

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