The Icelandic version of Bram Stoker’s famed novel Dracula was published only a couple of years after the original English version, however it was not until 2014 that it was discovered that it was not, in fact, the same book.
Makt Myrkranna, directly translating to Powers of Darkness, was translated very soon after the original English version was published in 1897. However, over 100 years later, it was discovered that Valdimar Ásmundsson’s ‘translation’ was rather different from Stoker’s.
Dutch author and historian Hans Corneel de Roos, who himself translated the text back into English, wrote for Lithub that “literary researcher Richard Dalby reported on the 1901 Icelandic edition and on its preface, apparently written specifically for it by Stoker himself.” This sparked interest in Powers of Darkness. While Dracula scholars had known about the Icelandic version since 1986, no one had translated it back into English, and, though Dalby’s report sparked interest, it was still assumed the text was merely an abridged version of Stoker’s original.
Smithsonian reports that:
As de Roos worked on the translation, patterns emerged: many of the characters had different names, the text was shorter and had a different structure, and it was markedly sexier than the English version, he writes.
De Roos notes that actually, Powers of Darkness is better than the original.
Although Dracula received positive reviews in most newspapers of the day…the original novel can be tedious and meandering….Powers of Darkness, by contrast, is written in a concise, punchy style; each scene adds to the progress of the plot.
It seems insane that these drastic changes lay undiscovered in the Icelandic version until so recently, but upon publication of the English translation of Makt Myrkranna, a Swedish scholar revealed that there was actually an 1899 Swedish version of Makt Myrkranna, which had been serialized in the Swedish newspapers Dagen and Aftonbladet. However, as with the Icelandic version, no English speaking Dracula scholars had paid any attention to it, and therefore their extreme similarities were overlooked. Scholar Rickard Berghorn realized that this older Swedish version had an identical title Mörkrets Makter, and on further inspection, it was discovered that the Swedish text contained scenes that weren’t in Dracula or Makt Myrkranna. This is a lot for a Tuesday and is making my brain hurt.
Featured Image Via Channel 4