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A Study of The Story of Vlad Tepes

  • Subject: Literature
  • Category: Books
  • Essay Topic: Dracula
  • Pages: 4
  • Words: 1791
  • Published: 03 January 2019
  • Downloads: 17
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The Historian Sheds Only A Drop Of Blood

“The very worst impulses of humankind can survive generations, centuries, even millennia. And the best of our individual efforts can die with us at the end of a single lifetime” (Kostova 136). That line is featured in one of Rossi’s personal letters talking about Vlad the Impaler, and his desire to find him. The legend of Vlad Tepes has continued to mystify people for centuries. Many feared him, literary works have portrayed him as a ravenous, blood-sucking villain, which is exactly what he was. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, is mostly an accurate representation of displaying the life and works of Vlad the Impaler, or the one they call Dracula.

The Historian is a novel told by an unnamed young woman in 1972 Amsterdam. It starts when she finds an old book on her father’s book shelf. The narrator’s father, Paul, starts orally recounting what had happened after he acquired that book when he was younger, confronting his professor. But, when she finds letters by her father’s old professor addressed to “My Dear And Unfortunate Successor,” she’s linked to her father’s past, her late mother’s past, and encounters what seems to be one of the world’s darkest, best kept secrets, of Vlad the Impaler. Her father tells her how his professor, Rossi, mysteriously disappeared in the 1950s, after giving Paul his notes and informs him that he believes that Dracula is still alive. After Rossi’s mysterious disappearance, Paul decides to do some research on Vlad Dracula, only to meet the unknown daughter of Rossi, named Helen, at the library reading Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” Upon hearing her father’s story from Paul, Helen becomes interested in the subject and starts to travel with Paul to uncover the secret that has been hidden since the fifteenth century. The narrator becomes interested in her father’s story, and starts to research Dracula herself on a trip across Europe in the 1970s. Not wanting her to get into any trouble, her father decides to send her home, she doesn’t remain there. A letter from her father states that he’s after to look for her mother, previously thought to be dead. The letters that Paul sent reveal the rest of his story, and it starts to become clear to her, that Helen is her mother. Through the letters, Paul writes that he and Helen travel to Istanbul, to discover that another professor has discovered the same book that he and Rossi had found. From there, he and Helen travel to Hungary to try to find Dracula’s tomb, and meet with Helen’s mother only to discover her mother’s past, and find out that her mom, Helen, and the narrator are descendants of Vlad Tepes, Dracula himself. As her journey continues to Hungary, they stop abruptly when she finds her father, and realizes that the legend is true, and Dracula is indeed still alive.

In The Historian, it talks a lot about the country of Wallachia, commonly known as Romania. It was founded by a man named Radu Negru. Wallachia was dominated by Hungary until its independence in 1330. The first ruler of the infant country ruled under the name of Prince Basarab the Great. Vlad Tepes III was born in the winter of 1431. Although not much is known of his childhood, it is known that he had an older and younger brother. Vlad Tepes III was educated by his mother, a young, Transylvanian woman. As he grew older, his life became a struggle. He was imprisoned by the Ottomans, and there he first experienced and watched impalement. His father was thrown out of the country and had the crown taken away, and killed in the swamps near Balteni, Wallachia, in 1447. Vlad’s older brother, Mircea, was brutally tortured, blinded, and then burned alive. It is unsure if these events triggered Vlad “Dracula” to turn into a ruthless killer. What is known, is that once he was released from Ottoman captivity after the death of that’s when his reign of terror began. In 1453, when Constantinople fell to the Ottomans, Vlad took his troops to defend Wallachia from being invaded. His battle was victorious in 1456, where he beheaded his opponent, Vladislav II. To honor his victory, but to punish those against him, he invited hundreds of guests for a banquet, only to have each one of them stabbed and then impaled (Vlad). When Vlad Tepes impaled his victims, a large, rounded pole is forced through the rectum and would extend up inside the body, exiting near the shoulders or mouth. A blunt pole would be used to miss damaging internal organs, thus making the death a more extended, excruciating process (About). It would seem that Vlad Dracula had absolutely no empathy, but that’s challenged when he wrote to an ally saying, “I have killed peasants, men and women, old and young, who lived at Oblucitza and Novoselo, where the Danube flows into the sea … We killed 23,884 Turks, without counting those whom we burned in homes or the Turks whose heads were cut by our soldiers …Thus, your highness, you must know that I have broken the peace” (Cooper). It is known that Vlad Tepes has killed over 80,000 people, nearly 20,000 being impaled and displayed outside the city of Targoviste, so that the people travelling, mostly from Constantinople, would see the decaying bodies being picked at by the crows, so they would leave. What makes the situation more eerie, is that it is said that Vlad Dracula would dip his bread in the blood of his victims, thus creating the legend of vampirism. Vlad Tepes died in battle, being beheaded himself. He was buried without his head, it being displayed in Constantinople, and buried in a torture chamber (Miller).

While Paul talks to his daughter, the unnamed narrator tells us about a battle between the Wallachians and the Turks, “His (Dracula) daring was such that in 1462 he crossed the Danube and carried out a night raid on horseback… In this raid he killed thousands of Turkish soldiers, and the Sultan barely escaped with his life” (Kostova 54). That event is true, and it’s infamously called ‘The Night Raid.’ Vlad Tepes and his army attacked the Sultan and the Turks outside of Wallachia. They slaughtered thousands of Turks by slitting their throats. But, the Wallachian army only had about 50,000 soldiers, they knew they couldn’t take on the rest Turks’ large army, so they resorted to a sharp, but bloody, scorched-earth tactic. The Turkish army entered Wallachia, but they faced a very hot summer, and with little food and water, thousands of Turks dropped due to disease alone marching into the heart of Wallachia, thus, having the little Wallachians win the battle (Sparks).

In various points in the book it shows small snippets of random facts about Vlad Tepes, reciting special events that may or may not have impacted the way of life, like in a series of Rossi’s letters, it explains, “…Dracula was chased by the Turks, and he did not return to the place when he reigned Wallachia again in 1476, just before he was killed” (Kostova 391). It is indeed proven that Vlad Tepes, Dracula, was chased out of his country of Wallachia by the Turks, but then he returned. Only then, in December of 1476, he was killed (Historical). Vlad the Impaler was really as morbid as many films portray him, enjoying watching the bloodshed of his enemies. On page 80, the narrator says “…Sultan Mehmed II had once sent two ambassadors to Dracula. When the ambassadors came before him, they did not remove their turbans. Dracula demanded to know why they were dishonoring him in this way, and they replied that they were simply acting in accordance with their customs. ‘Then I shall help you to strengthen your customs,’ replied the prince, and they had their turbans nailed to their heads” (Kostova). This has actually happened. When the Turks arrived at Prince Vlad Tepes’ castle, he asked why they didn’t take off their hats, as a sign of respect. The Turks said that they were following their customs. Vlad made sure their turbans stayed on their heads by nailing them to their skulls (About).

Many of the people who knew Vlad’s sadistic ways often questioned, and then strongly believed, that he was associated with and/or a vampire himself. “…The sultans feared him (Vlad Tepes) as a vampire” (Kostova 198). This is true, the Turkish sultan feared that, with his brutal, bloody tortures, Vlad Tepes was a vampire. Many were afraid of him, and some actually sought out to prove that Vlad was indeed a monster, though they failed to complete their research (Miller).

Although the events Dracula was described as doing were mostly correct, there was a piece of information that was historically inaccurate. In one of Paul’s letters to the narrator, it says, “When Dracula came into power he had his brother’s coffin doog (dug) up and found that the pooor (poor) man had been buried alive” (Kostova 385). Dracula actually knew that his brother had been killed, and his brother was actually burned alive, not buried (Cooper). This part is important to the plotline, because these series of events that unravel may have forced Vlad Tepes to become this cold-hearted killer. He knew that his brother had been killed and burned alive, and that it says that Vlad found his brother buried alive, that doesn’t seem like it would faze someone as much as watching somebody be burned. The rest of his family was killed as well, except his younger brother (Cooper).

The Historian does a very well job on portraying the events that occurred during the reign of Vlad Tepes. He was a cruel person, and whoever has heard of his story won’t forget it. Elizabeth Kostova does a fantastic job on displaying the incidents that transpired during the era of Vlad the Impaler. Although the tale of Vlad the Impaler seems a bit extreme, all accounts are documented and Elizabeth Kostova does an amazing job accurately citing the events. Perhaps some people wonder exactly how the story of Dracula came to be, and it might be valuable information to have. Although this extremity may not happen in this time period, it’s still important to reflect on the circumstances of the past. As the characters become more aware of the danger that lies in the words on the page, it becomes clear that they don’t care about themselves as much as they care about their families. It becomes obvious that, even though Vlad Tepes isn’t alive anymore, his story and renditions still inspire and fascinate the youth of today and all generations to come.

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A Study of the Story of Vlad Tepes. (2019, January 03). GradesFixer. Retrieved August 16, 2022, from
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