Portrait of Vlad III the Impaler, or Dracula (1431-1476) who was inspired Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, written in 1897. Anonymous painting of the 16th century. Ambras Castle, Austria. (Photo by Stefano Bianchetti/Corbis via Getty Images).
Everybody knows about the character Dracula, but not too many know about the man (or woman: Elizabeth Bathory was also a gruesome inspiration) behind the legend. The story about the vampire living in the foothills of Transylvania is inspired by the real-life tale of Vlad III, otherwise known as Vlad the Impaler. And the moniker was suiting.
Childhood and early life
While the story of Dracula places him at the Transylvanian castle, it is believed that Vlad the Impaler did not actually live in historical palace. Born in central Transylvania, it is likely that he lived in Sighisoara, Transylvania, just like his ancestors. Historians believe that he did not even spend one day in the castle that is so often associated with him.
There are no solid, verified accounts of his childhood. We aren’t even sure what what his mother’s real name was. Some claim that his mother is the unknown first wife of Vlad II. Others say that she is the kinswoman of Alexander I of Moldavia.
He and his brother Radu became political prisoners of Sultan Murad II after the boys and their father attended a diplomatic meeting that turns out to be a trap. The Sultant wanted to guarantee that Vlad II remained loyal to the Ottomans during the war.
Vlad III may have been a prisoner, but he was treated well. He was even militarily trained. He was also educated in swordsmanship and horsemanship.
Despite his cordial treatment, Vlad grew very resentful of his captivity — a resentment that turned into a blind, vindictive rage.
Legend has it that he would invite numerous boyars to a banquet, but the banquet, like his childhood experience with the Sultan, were a trap. Projection much? Once the guests arrived, Vlad III ordered his guards to stab them in the back and impale their bodies on spikes. Rumor has it that he would watch the gruesome sight while enjoying the banquet himself
Some of his other gruesome acts allegedly involved nailing the turban on the Ottoman envoys’ heads after they refused to take it off. There was a contemporary poem that suggested that he would soak his bread in the blood of his victims while dining, possible the basis of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
If you ask us, Dracula doesn’t seem like such a bad guy compared the the real-life monster he was based on.