“I love the shade and the shadow, and would be alone with my thoughts when I may.”
Today is an important day in my cemetery. On May 26, 1897, my favorite book was published for the first time. Bram Stoker’s Dracula, although not a big hit upon its inception, has grown into one of the most widely known and vastly interpreted works of literature ever to exist. There are currently more than 200 film adaptations, and that number will only continue to rise. Sadly, as of this blog entry, none of those films truly depict the work as it was written. Not even my beloved Bela Lugosi version does that. In fact, that version is one of the more further removed versions as far as the plot and characterizations are concerned. (In all honesty, it is a terribly made film, full of mistakes and bad edits…yet, somehow, it remains forever my favorite.) It is undeniable, however, that the Bela Lugosi character creation has become the absolute template for the famous vamp within modern pop culture. It is rare to see a depiction of Dracula these days that does not include the cape, the widow’s peak hairline, or that intriguing accent. If one does try to portray the count sans these iconic traits, the portrayal often feels “off” or “incorrect” in some way.
You all know I could go on about Dracula for hours. No, literally. HOURS. I fancy myself a bit of an amateur scholar on the subject. (I say amateur because there are folks who have written dissertations on this; have traveled Romania in search of facts; have spent untold sums to procure even the tiniest piece of Stoker memorabilia. I have read the novel and several books about the novel, have watched many of the films, and have an inexplicable love for this character. I am truly an amateur in my knowledge and admiration.) Still, I thought I would celebrate this day by sharing with you some of the fun facts about Dracula. I can’t give sources for you, because these are all coming from my own head and I have no idea from which original source they came. Enjoy!
- The original book cover was not in the least bit dark or scary. It was yellow.
- In order to protect the dramatic rights to his upcoming novel, on May 18, 1897 Bram Stoker held a public reading at the Lyceum Theater, at which he was the manager for most of his adult life. However, instead of reading an excerpt or two, the audience received a dramatic reading of the entire novel. The performance consisted of a whopping 47 scenes and reportedly lasted between 4 and 6 hours.
- Although the character of Renfield has become widely known as the one who traveled out to meet the Count in Transylvania, this is merely a Hollywood edit. In the novel, it is Jonathan Harker who first encounters Dracula during the acquisition of Carfax Abbey. Renfield does appear in the novel, but he is a patient at Dr. Seward’s asylum and, perhaps due to his already fragile mental state, becomes easily entranced by Dracula to do his bidding.
- Due to content standards in the 1930s, Bela Lugosi’s Dracula never reveals any fangs. It wasn’t until the 1953 Turkish film Drakula İstanbul’da that audiences first saw those pointy canines on the big screen.
- The 1922 film Nosferatu was an unauthorized adaptation that blatantly ripped off Stoker’s entire novel and merely changed some names and locations. Upon being made aware of its existence, Stoker’s widow sued to stop the distribution of the film and all copies were ordered destroyed. However, a rogue copy remained and made its way over to the US, which is the only reason we still have the film available to view today.
- Count Dracula was almost called Count Wampyr, but a last minute decision by Stoker forever changed the iconic vamp’s name to Dracula. Stoker had discovered the term “Dracul” during his research of Romanian lore. The word actually referred to “son of the dragon,” but mistranslations defined it as “son of the devil.” Perhaps this erroneous tie to darkness made the name Dracula stick out in Stoker’s mind? Regardless, I think we are all a little relieved that he chose Dracula over Wampyr.
- If you saw Dracula today as described in the novel, you most likely would not recognize him! That handsome face? That exotic accent? All fabrications of Hollywood. He is described early in the novel as thin, with a long white moustache, pointed ears and sharp teeth. It is also noted later in the novel that he has a hooked nose and a pointed beard streaked with white.
Ok, my lovelies, enough facts for now. I could honestly go on for a while, and I am sure you all have better things to do. So, enjoy your Friday, raise a glass to the legendary Count, and perhaps stream a film or two in his honor? Happy World Dracula Day!
Until next time…