Dracula is everywhere in Romania, perhaps, the biggest tourist draw. Romanians would be proud of him, you would think. But they’re not.
Oh, they’ll exploit his image and soak the tourists. The image of Dracula that you know from Hollywood movies and Bram Stoker’s novel is everywhere. But Vlad Dracul, 15th century ruler of the area, bears little resemblance to Stoker’s Dracula. Stoker never visited Romania; he just borrowed it as a location for his most famous novel. The Romanians I talked with last summer weren’t that pleased that their country is best k known for a fictional character,
I can see their point, it is kind of insulting in a way. Thinking about Dracula though got me to thinking about the blurring of the lines between fiction and reality and how fiction manages to worm its way into history.
I wrote earlier about our visit to what is generally referred to as Dracula’s castle, a site created more to appease the tourists than having anything to do with Vlad Dracul. But we did see Dracula’s real castle, or a tiny portion of it: it is part of an archeological dig in downtown Bucharest. Not at all impressive, most tourists wouldn’t pay to see this one.
History though, is not about impressing the tourists. History is just stuff that has happened. Most of it is pretty dull, because most of life is pretty dull to those who aren’t living it (and sometimes even to those who are). The impressive stuff may be more a nice story than the real thing. Americans grow up with a story about George Washington, their first president, and a certain cherry tree. Historically the event didn’t happen, but it has become part of the American myth. It says something about who Americans want to be. That it is fiction can lead to other conclusions – I’ll let you draw those yourself.
Looking at the bust of Vlad Dracul in front of the remains of his Bucharest palace, I wonder about his place in history. He was a uniter with a reputation for ruthlessness. History portrays him as rather brutal, though I suspect no more brutal than other rulers of his day – just more successful. The truth of events so long ago, when record-keeping was not as meticulous as today, is somewhat clouded. It is difficult to separate the fact from the myth.
That really wasn’t a problem when Vlad Dracul was only a figure from Romania’s past, pretty much unknown outside the country. Then Bram Stoker borrowed his name, the story got distorted and the rest is history.