Friday, June 23, 2017

In Search of Vlad

Where the research and exploration took place

A very warm afternoon in late June found J and L landing in Bucharest, Romania.

We were on a quest to discover the true identity of Bram Stoker's infamous villain - Dracula.

Exploration and research was afoot - to borrow a phrase from the greatest detective in all literature, Sherlock Holmes.

The dynamic duo - J and L, not Holmes and Stoker, flew nearly fourteen hours from LAX to Charles de Gaulle  and then on to Otopeni International in search of this legendary badman. Of course, in certain sections of Transylvania, Wallachia and most of Romania itself, Vlad is not cursed. The fourteenth century prince is actually exulted as a hero.

The Hero - Vlad Dracula
Then why paint him as a killer? Why did Stoker pen such a sinister character based on Vlad III of Romania? Could it be because the Ottoman Empire had dubbed him 'Vlad, the Impaler' after the nasty habit he had of impaling all those with whom he disagreed? That would include Turks fighting for the Ottoman Empire, the Boyars (those rich nobility who often looked down their long noses at Vlad's family), the local people, the peasants, and pretty much anyone else who, in his eyes, had committed a crime.

A German woodcut depicting an impaling lunch
Vlad, according to many historians, was a product of his times. The thirteen and fourteen hundreds in Eastern Europe was not for the squeamish. Rulers fought other rulers for the right to rule. Sometimes those wars would last months or years and then start over again. Land was at a premium in Europe and the nobility was not against killing tens of thousands of their own people, soldiers and peasants, for as much land as they could obtain.

So, Vlad Dracul (his father - the suffix 'a' means 'son of'') raised Vlad and his two brothers to fight like champions because they would need the skills to rule. Without warrior talent during those years in Eastern Europe, you could not hold onto any land. It would be taken from you by a mightier warrior.

Vlad Dracula - the son of Vlad Dracul - would take the lessons learned to an entirely new dimension. But once the research started, we discovered that there is much more to the story of this man - this prince.

And this is why J and L found themselves in Eastern Europe in the summer of 2017. To learn more and more about this man of many faces. This Vlad Dracula - Vlad the Impaler - Vlad III - or the voivode (war-lord) of Wallachia.

Who was he? Why did he obtain the reputation he either deserved or did not deserve?

The real Vlad Dracula
There were trails to be hiked, bridges to cross, castles to explore, and libraries to research all through Romania, in search of the answers to such questions.

Many steps to numerous deserted castles
That's why J and L were there. And, J was doing research for a new historical-fiction on Vlad the Last Crusader.

Not just curiosity but a more long lasting purpose - a new book - a new genre than J is used to writing. The research would be done, the exploration complete, and then the challenge of putting all the pieces into a piece of literature would come to light.

But - for now the traveling had just begun.

Let the sleuthing begin!

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