Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Guest Blog: Vladislaus and Teresa

I’d like to welcome Teresa L. Jones to the blog. She has a long standing interest in the vampire genre but also in the historic Vlad the Third of Wallachia. Here she explains how that led her to write the book My Vladislaus Dracula.

Teresa lives in Lake Park, Iowa with her husband and her two children. "My Vladislaus Dracula" is Teresa's third novel. Her first novel was "An Escape: A Secret Life" followed by her second novel "Prelude to a Christmas Carol: The Ghosts of Christmas".

The reason I wrote the book “My Vladislaus Dracula” is not easy to explain. But, I can try to sum it up in a couple of paragraphs.

When I was thirteen, I was very fascinated with vampire movies. My reason for liking these movies was not what one might think. I watched these movies for that connection they had, the way the character Dracula finds someone he wants, risks everything to get that someone, and then fights off everyone to keep that someone. But, the connection that is there between these two people is closer than any connection anyone could have with another person, alive or in this case, dead. They share their blood to form that bond, but it was that bond that they have that makes them risk everything to stay together. That connection to that individual is so powerful. In real life, we call it true love. As a teenager, I thought of it as the most romantic thing ever. Maybe that’s why a lot of teens like the twilight movies.

Anyways, in about the same year, I was reading a magazine and saw a woodcut of a man dining in front of impaled bodies. A henchman was in front of him cutting up a body into pieces, and surrounding him were many bodies impaled on stakes. Under the woodcut, I read “Famous portrait of Dracula dining on Timpa Hill outside of Brasov in his ‘forest of impaled’ victims totaling over 30,000”. Dracula? This was Dracula? I didn’t understand why they used his name. Then, I looked up the name ‘Dracula’ and read about a real life fifteenth century Romanian Prince, called Vlad Dracula. This shocked me that this man was actually real. I became more interested in this real man than the mythical vampire one. Did that make the novel ‘Dracula’ real? It was fun to think so, but of course the answer is absolutely not.

At the time I believed what I read under the woodcut to be true. But as I read more about the real man, and about why this picture was created, I had too many other questions. This is where I began my research. I looked everywhere to find out everything I could about this woodcut and Vlad Dracula. This is where I found out this woodcut, was just a made up lie.

First of all, there were three separate pieces of information that were used and mixed up to make this sentence under the woodcut.

The first information is of course the woodcut itself, which was created by Vlad’s Enemies, the German Saxons. There is so much information behind this, so I will try to keep the answers brief. The German merchants did not have a good relationship with Vlad Dracula. They cheated Vlad’s people. They did not abide by the custom points Vlad had set up. They harbored Vlad’s enemies, and they mocked Dracula as Prince of Wallachia, by crowning Vlad’s cousin Dan III at a church called St. Nicholas in Brasov as the Prince of Wallachia. As the real Prince of Wallachia, Dracula of course didn’t like this, but would take care of Dan III later. The Hungarian king, who ruled over Brasov at the time, wrote to the citizens of Brasov, stating if they continued this behavior towards Dracula, they deserved Vlad Dracula’s wrath. Because their own King, did not back them up after Dracula‘s raid, the Saxons decided to get back at Dracula any way they could. They created pamphlets, woodcuts and wrote nasty things about him. They even forged documents (the three Rothel letters) to try and get Vlad killed for treasonous acts. These forged documents, of course did not get Vlad killed, but they did get him arrested and imprisoned. This famous woodcut was a made up adaptation of what happened when Vlad Dracula raided Brasov. The truth was, Vlad Dracula’s attack was a quick, lighting strike. Vlad Dracula had no time to sit and dine! Brasov had a mercenary force that would have come after him. Vlad came in quick and left even quicker, before their mercenary force could be gathered to come after him. (Just a bit of information, German Saxons used to impale their own people when they committed a crime. Dracula used their own punishment for the crimes they committed against him). I went to Romania and in the city museum of Brasov, it states Vlad Dracula did raid the city, but impaled around 40 German Merchants. But, that is why the biggest reason this woodcut was a gross exaggeration, is that during the fifteenth century Brasov’s total population (even the Romanian side and surrounding villages) did not go over 13,000 people. So how did this article get 30,000? That is the next place the article took their information from.

It was from a poem by a German storyteller named Michal Beheim. This man told stories for his food and shelter. Where did Michal Beheim get his information for his poem? He got it from a couple of sources. One source was from a monk, who had been kicked out of his own monastery in Yugoslavia. He and two other monks fled to Dracula’s capital city of Targoviste. There in Dracula’s capital city, just blocks from Vlad’s palace, these three monks: Brother Hans the porter, Jacob and Michael decided to start up a new Catholic monastery. They needed money to build this monastery, so they started asking people for donations. Funny thing was, Vlad was Roman Orthodox. When Dracula found out, he asked them to come to his courts to speak with him. You need to understand at this time Roman Orthodox was seen as blasphemy by the Catholic church. So what did these monks think they were going to do? At this time in 1461, Vlad was also about to go to war with the Ottoman Empire. Spies were coming into Wallachia trying to overtake smaller villages. These monks, who were kicked out of their monastery and had come to his capital wanting to build a church that isn’t even his religion right around the corner from his palace, was questionable! Needless to say an incident happened, and Hans the Porter was killed by Dracula’s own hands. The other two monks, Michael and Jacob were allowed to leave.

What really happened? Many have their stories and at another time, if you are interested, I will tell you what I think happened. But for this articles purpose, back to the woodcut. Beheim was supposed to have talked with Brother Jacob. After talking with this monk, Beheim began writing his poem. This is where the exaggerated number of 30,000 impaled people comes in. There are more manifestations in this mans poem, especially the one that says “he dipped his bread in the blood of his victims and slurped it down“. This came from McNally and Florescu’s interpretation of this poem but was not correctly translated by them. The only reason they said this, was to make a connection to the vampire myth. But, when the poem is translated from German to English, it means “he dipped his hands in the blood of his enemies, because it was custom to do so”. Beheim’s poem has always been one of the most used documents in regards to Vlad Dracula and has always been poorly translated. I couldn’t see how anyone could use his poem as any evidence of his character. Yet, many still use Beheim’s poem as some sort of historical document.

The last piece of information used for the sentence under the woodcut, is from a Greek historian named Laonicus Chalcondyles. The ‘forest of impaled’ was what the Greek described as the scene outside of Targoviste when the Sultan’s army invaded Wallachia, not Brasov.

So, here we are as to why I wrote my book. Just trying to find information about that woodcut, led me to lies, treachery, deceit, death and to a man who has always been misunderstood. This was better than any movie about vampires. After reading everything I could get my hands on about the man called ‘Dracula‘, even going so far as flying over to Romania and Hungary, visiting monasteries, castles, and museums, I found many answers others have always wanted to know about Vlad Dracula, including the way he signed his name. But, with all I have found, it was so astonishing and it amazed me that no one has come forward to tell all the lies that were written about this man for their own personal gain. There is so, so, soooo much more to tell, but I thought I would stick to why I wrote the book and not get too much off that subject.

As I was researching, it struck me, if Bram Stoker could write a fictitious story and use ‘Dracula’s’ name to create a mythical creature so believable, in what has become the most popular mythical creature of all time, then what could I do to change that? I did not want to change Bram Stoker’s story at all. I enjoy vampire movies. But the man called Vlad Dracula was not a vampire, and to his people he was a hero. I decided I needed to tell these answers to those people who look at that woodcut and believe it as truth. People need to see that Dracula was not the monster he has been made out to be, but in fact, a courageous, intelligent, true hero to his people. To change centuries of spreading lies and deceit about him will take a long time. But I am up for the challenge, so let it begin with “My Vladislaus Dracula”.


Lori said...

Sounds like a lot of research went into this book. So much dedication to the historical truth is really laudable. The book looks impressive. Thanks for letting us know about. I was looking for an actual blog or website of the author, but this is the best I could find. Thanks again.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

cheers Lori, I am sure that Teresa will appreciate your comment and now you've stumbled upon my little corner of cyberspace I invite you to stay awhile and have a little explore.

neannalina said...

Thanks so much Lori, and Taliesin. For more information about my book you can go to http://www.myspace.com/499376423 I love blogging about my favorite subject and thanks again for the opportunity.