Before Twilight’s Edward Cullen or “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, we had the original tale of fearful blood-sucking creatures and the perilous journeys of vampire hunters. In 1897, writer Bram Stoker published Dracula, a Gothic horror novel that contributed to one of the most iconic horror figures and monsters of pop culture history. Not only is the novel one of the leading examples of horror, Stoker’s creature, Dracula himself, is essentially the original, quintessential vampire of pop culture, inspiring film, books, television, and essentially every existing form of media.
What is “Dracula” About?
Bram Stoker’s Dracula tells the story of Jonathan Harker on a trip to Transylvania, where he stays with the mysterious noble– Count Dracula. Eventually, Harker realizes that Dracula, along with his sisters in the castle, are vampires. Horrified, Harker escapes and the audience discovers that Count Dracula later moved to England and terrorizes the residents of the town, Whitby. We are introduced to other familiar names, such as Abraham Van Helsing (yes, the vampire hunter) to catch and kill these Dracula and his bloodsucking family members.
The novel does not follow the traditional narrative form, and instead takes uses excerpts of fictional news articles, diary pages, and letters in order to convey its story. Critics discuss major themes throughout the story of Dracula, including gender and race in the portrayal of vampirism.
Historical Influences and Inspiration
Although many consider Dracula as the original pop culture bloodsucker, vampires have always existed through folklore, legend, and cultures around the world. Not only that, but Dracula wasn’t even one of the first Gothic representations of vampires, since the novel Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fans told the story of a female vampire, Carmilla, in 1872. Stoker researched folklore and legends from Transylvanian culture to create his characters and narrative. Additionally, major historical nobles and royal figures, including Vlad the Impaler and Elizabeth Bathory- notable bloodsuckers and serial killers in European history, are suggested as historical influences for Stoker’s novel.
Written during the Victorian era, many historians and scholars of literature speculate that the creature of Dracula is a representation of fears in the Victorian era at the time, including disease and immigration. We see these played through the novel’s events of Dracula’s “blood-sucking” hunger and his migration into the English town, respectively.
Legacy For Modern Vampires in Media
We talked a little bit about some modern portrayals of vampires today, such as Edward Cullen, but there are plenty of pop culture adaptations of Dracula, in both children and adult media. We have the Hotel Transylvania films, for example, with Count Dracula as our main character and a variety of other notable horror monsters in pop culture. There’s the classic “Nosferatu” and and the 2004 “Van Helsing” movie. The name “Dracula” itself is now synonymous with vampires and blood-sucking beings.
Also, characters such as Abraham Van Helsing also became archetypes of “vampire” and modern monster hunters in fiction and media. Plenty of modern media refers to Van Helsing by creating fictional characters to be his “descendants” in the modern search for monster and vampire-hunting.