Of myth and history

castle

 

A night of ghosts and witches … A night of warlocks and zombies … A night of everyone dressing up like someone else and flooding the streets in search for treats … A night of celebrations and superstitions.

“It is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1st as a time to honor all saints and martyrs. The ‘All Saints’ Day’ holiday, incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve, later known as Halloween.” (history.com)

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Back in Romania, Halloween and trick-or-treating was not introduced until the late 1990s and it was mostly celebrated with costumes and games.

My first real trick-or-treating experience was the first year I was in Canada. I was dressed as a witch and went around with my siblings (Miss Princess and Mr Dalmatian) and had a tremendous time. I believe I did that for a couple more years and then it was my turn to stay home and hand out the candy 🙂

In school I was popular around Halloween because I was born in a country that had a great “vampire” in its history. Count Dracula had become famous in Bram Stoker’s novel and he lived in a castle in Transylvania, Romania. And we all have an idea of who or what the count is. However, on the other hand, Vlad Tepes (Dracula), the historical figure mentioned in the novel, is definitely less well-known. Vlad Tepes was born in December 1431 in the fortress of Sighisoara, Romania.

And since the novel, tales of the supernatural had been circulating in Romanian folklore for centuries. Count Dracula, a fictional character in the Dracula novel, was inspired by one of the best-known figures of Romanian history, Vlad Dracula, nicknamed Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler), who was the ruler of Walachia at various times from 1456-1462.

Vlad is greatly admired and respected as a folk hero in Romania and Bulgaria for his protection of the Romanians and Bulgarians both north and south of the Danube River. As the nickname “The Impaler” suggests, his practice of impaling his enemies is part of his historical reputation. During Vlad’s lifetime, his reputation for excessive cruelty spread across Europe. The name of the vampire Count Dracula in Bram Stroker’s 1897 novel Dracula was inspired by Vlad’s patronymic surname and reputation.

Bram Stoker never visited Romania. He depicted the imaginary Dracula’s castle based upon a description of Bran Castle that was available to him in turn-of-the-century Britain. The description of Dracula’s Castle from the novel is strikingly similar to Bran Castle and no other in all of Romania.

Today, Bran Castle, situated near Bran and in the immediate vicinity of Braşov, is a national monument and landmark in Romania. The fortress is situated on the border between Transylvania and Wallachia. It has been made a museum and every year thousands of people go through its doors and share stories of the past.

 

Visitors of Bran Castle should make the distinction between the historic reality of Bran and the character of the Count in Bram Stoker’s novel. Dracula exists only in imagination.

 

But I am sure proud to say “Yes, I was born in the country of Dracula” 🙂

 

 

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