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This article is about the novel. For the character, see Count Dracula.

Dracula is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. It introduced the character of Count Dracula and established many conventions of subsequent vampire fantasy. The novel tells the story of Dracula's attempt to move from Transylvania to England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and of the battle between Dracula and a small group of people led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing.

Dracula has been assigned to many literary genres including vampire literature, horror fiction, gothic fiction, and invasion literature. The novel has spawned numerous theatrical, film, and television interpretations.

Plot

The story is told in an epistolary format, as a series of letters, diary entries, newspaper articles, and ships' log entries, whose narrators are the novel's protagonists, and occasionally supplemented with newspaper clippings relating events not directly witnessed. The events portrayed in the novel take place chronologically and largely in England and Transylvania within the same year between 3 May and 6 November. A short note at the end of the final chapter is written 7 years after the events outlined in the novel.

The tale begins with Jonathan Harker, a newly qualified English solicitor, visiting Count Dracula at his castle in the Carpathian Mountains on the border of Transylvania, Bukovina, and Moldavia, to provide legal support for a real estate transaction overseen by Harker's employer, Mr Peter Hawkins of Exeter. Initially impressed by Dracula's gracious manners, Harker soon realises that he is Dracula's prisoner. Wandering the Count's castle against Dracula's admonition, Harker encounters three vampire sisters, from whom he is rescued by Dracula. Harker soon realises that Dracula himself is also a vampire. After the preparations are made, Dracula leaves Transylvania and abandons Harker to the sisters. Harker barely escapes from the castle with his life.

Dracula boards a Russian ship, the Demeter, taking with him boxes of Transylvanian soil, which he requires in order to regain his strength. The ship weighs anchor at Varna and eventually runs aground on the shores of Whitby in north-east England. The captain's log narrates the gradual disappearance of the entire crew, until the captain alone remained, himself bound to the helm to maintain course. An animal resembling "a large dog" is seen leaping ashore. It is later learned that Dracula successfully purchased multiple estates under the alias 'Count De Ville' throughout London and devised to distribute the boxes to each of them utilising transportation services as well as moving them himself. He does this to secure for himself lairs and the boxes of earth would be used as his graves which would grant safety and rest during times of feeding and replenishing his strength.

Harker's fiancée, Mina Murray, is staying with her friend Lucy Westenra, who is holidaying in Whitby. Lucy receives three marriage proposals from Dr. John Seward, Quincey Morris, and Arthur Holmwood (the son of Lord Godalming who later succeeds to the title himself). Lucy accepts Holmwood's proposal while turning down Seward and Morris, but all remain friends. Dracula communicates with Seward's patient, Renfield, an insane man who wishes to consume insects, spiders, birds, and rats to absorb their life force. Renfield is able to detect Dracula's presence and supplies clues accordingly.

Soon Dracula is indirectly shown to be stalking Lucy. As time passes she begins to suffer from episodes of sleepwalking and dementia, as witnessed by Mina. When Lucy begins to waste away suspiciously, Seward invites his old teacher, Abraham Van Helsing, who immediately determines the true cause of Lucy's condition. He refuses to disclose it but diagnoses her with acute blood-loss. Van Helsing prescribes numerous blood transfusions to which he, Seward, Quincey, and Arthur all contribute over time. Van Helsing also prescribes garlic flowers to be placed throughout her room and weaves a necklace of withered garlic blossoms for her to wear. However she continues to waste away – appearing to lose blood every night.

Van Helsing attempts to protect Lucy with garlic but fate thwarts him each night, whether Lucy's mother removes the garlic from her room, or Lucy herself does so in her restless sleep. While both doctors are absent, Lucy and her mother are attacked by a wolf and Mrs Westenra, who has a heart condition, dies of fright. The doctors find two small puncture marks about Lucy's neck, which Dr Seward is at a loss to understand. After Lucy also dies, Van Helsing places a golden crucifix over her mouth, ostensibly to delay or prevent Lucy's vampiric conversion. Fate conspires against him again when Van Helsing finds the crucifix in the possession of one of the servants who stole it off Lucy's corpse.

Following Lucy's death and burial, the newspapers report children being stalked in the night by a "bloofer lady" (i.e., "beautiful lady"). Van Helsing, knowing Lucy has become a vampire, confides in Arthur, Seward, and Morris. The suitors and Van Helsing track her down and, after a confrontation with her, stake her heart, behead her, and fill her mouth with garlic. Around the same time, Jonathan Harker arrives from Budapest, where Mina marries him after his escape, and he and Mina join the campaign against Dracula.

The vampire hunters stay at Dr. Seward's residence, holding nightly meetings and providing reports based on each of their various tasks. Mina discovers that each of their journals and letters collectively contain clues through which they can track Dracula down. She tasks herself with collecting them, researching newspaper clippings, fitting the most relevant entries into chronological order and typing out copies to distribute to each of the party which they are to study. Jonathan Harker tracks down the shipments of boxed graves and the estates which Dracula has purchased in order to store them.

Van Helsing conducts research along with Dr. Seward to analyse the behaviour of their patient Renfield who they learn is directly influenced by Dracula. They also research historical events, folklore, and superstitions from various cultures to understand Dracula's powers and weaknesses. Van Helsing also establishes a criminal profile on Dracula in order to better understand his actions and predict his movements. Arthur Holmwood's fortune assists in funding the entire operation.

As they discover the various properties Dracula had purchased, the male protagonists team up to raid each property and are several times confronted by Dracula. Locating each of the boxed graves scattered throughout London, they pry them open to place and seal wafers of sacramental bread within. This act renders the boxes of earth completely useless to Dracula as he is unable to open, enter or further transport them.

After Dracula learns of the group's plot against him, he attacks Mina on three occasions, and feeds Mina his own blood to control her. This curses Mina with vampirism and changes her but does not completely turn her into a vampire. Van Helsing attempts to bless Mina through prayer and by placing a wafer of sacrament against her forehead, but it burns her upon contact leaving a wretched scar. Under this curse, Mina oscillates from consciousness to a semi-trance during which she perceives Dracula's surroundings and actions. Van Helsing is able to use hypnotism twice a day, at dawn and at sunset, to put her into this trance to further track Dracula's movements. Mina, afraid of Dracula's link with her, urges the team not to tell her their plans out of fear that Dracula will be listening. After the protagonists discover and sterilize 49 boxes found throughout his lairs in London, they learn that Dracula has fled with the missing 50th box back to his castle in Transylvania. They pursue him under the guidance of Mina.

They split up into teams once they reach Europe; Van Helsing and Mina go to Dracula's castle, while the others attempt to ambush the boat Dracula is using to reach his home. Van Helsing raids the castle and destroys the vampire sisters. Upon discovering Dracula being transported by Gypsies, the three teams converge and attack the caravan carrying Dracula in the 50th box of earth. After dispatching many Gypsies who were sworn to protect the Count, Harker shears Dracula through the throat with a kukri knife, while the mortally wounded Quincey stabs the Count in the heart with a Bowie knife. Dracula crumbles to dust, and Mina is freed from her curse of vampirism, as the scar on her forehead disappears. Soon after, Quincey dies from his wounds.

The book closes with a note left by Jonathan Harker seven years after the events of the novel, detailing his married life with Mina and the birth of their son, whom they name after all four members of the party, but address as Quincey. Young Quincey is depicted sitting on the knee of Van Helsing as they recount their adventure. Seward and Arthur have each gotten married.

Deleted ending

A small section was removed from a draft of the final chapter, in which Dracula's castle falls apart as he dies, hiding the fact that vampires were ever there.

As we looked there came a terrible convulsion of the earth so that we seemed to rock to and fro and fell to our knees. At the same moment with a roar which seemed to shake the very heavens the whole castle and the rock and even the hill on which it stood seemed to rise into the air and scatter in fragments while a mighty cloud of black and yellow smoke volume on volume in rolling grandeur was shot upwards with inconceivable rapidity.

Then there was a stillness in nature as the echoes of that thunderous report seemed to come as with the hollow boom of a thunder-clap – the long reverberating roll which seems as though the floors of heaven shook. Then down in a mighty ruin falling whence they rose came the fragments that had been tossed skywards in the cataclysm.

From where we stood it seemed as though the one fierce volcano burst had satisfied the need of nature and that the castle and the structure of the hill had sunk again into the void. We were so appalled with the suddenness and the grandeur that we forgot to think of ourselves.

–Deleted excerpt from the original Dracula manuscript

Characters

  • Count Dracula: A Transylvanian noble who has purchased a house in London.
  • Jonathan Harker: A solicitor sent to do business with Count Dracula; Mina's fiancé and prisoner in Dracula's castle.
  • Wilhelmina "Mina" Harker (née Murray): A schoolteacher and Jonathan Harker's fiancée (later his wife).
  • Arthur Holmwood: Lucy's suitor and later fiancé. He inherits the title of Lord Godalming upon his father's death.
  • Quincey Morris: An American cowboy and explorer; and one of Lucy's suitors.
  • Renfield: A patient at Seward's insane asylum who has come under the influence of Dracula.
  • John Seward: A doctor; one of Lucy's suitors and a former student of Van Helsing.
  • Abraham Van Helsing: A Dutch doctor, lawyer and professor; John Seward's teacher.
  • Lucy Westenra: A 19-year-old aristocrat; Mina's best friend; Arthur's fiancée and Dracula's first victim.
  • Three siren-like vampire women who serve Dracula. In some of the later adaptations to stage and screen, they are referred to as the Brides of Dracula.

Background

Between 1879 and 1898, Stoker was a business manager for the Lyceum Theatre in London, where he supplemented his income by writing many sensational novels, his most successful being the vampire tale Dracula published on 26 May 1897. Parts of it are set around the town of Whitby, where he spent summer holidays.

Throughout the 1880s and 1890s, authors such as H. Rider Haggard, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, and H. G. Wells wrote many tales in which fantastic creatures threatened the British Empire. Invasion literature was at a peak, and Stoker's formula was very familiar by 1897 to readers of fantastic adventure stories, of an invasion of England by continental European influences. Victorian readers enjoyed Dracula as a good adventure story like many others, but it did not reach its legendary status until later in the 20th century when film versions began to appear.

Before writing Dracula, Stoker spent seven years researching European folklore and stories of vampires, being most influenced by Emily Gerard's 1885 essay "Transylvania Superstitions" which includes content about a vampire myth. The reputation for cruelty of the Romanian ruler of Wallachia Vlad III Dracula, which Stoker first learned about in 1881, inspired the name of the count Dracula. However, Dracula's scholar Elizabeth Miller has remarked that aside from the name and some mention of Romanian history, the background of Stoker's Count bears no resemblance to that of Vlad III Dracula. From 1890 to 1897 Stoker was a member of the London Library, where markings in Sabine Baring-Gould's "Book of Were-Wolves", Thomas Browne's "Pseudodoxica Epidemica", AF Crosse's "Round About the Carpathians" and Charles Boner's "Transylvania" are attributed to Stoker's research for Dracula. Also some 1896 New York World clippings about Mercy Brown were found amongst Stoker's papers, but it is unsure how much the case could have influenced the novel.

Later he also claimed that he had a nightmare, caused by eating too much crab meat, about a "vampire king" rising from his grave.

Although it is a widely known vampire novel, Dracula was not the first. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published The Bride of Corinth in 1797. ("From my grave to wander I am forc'd Still to seek The God's long-sever'd link, Still to love the bridegroom I have lost, And the life-blood of his heart to drink;) Later Sheridan Le Fanu's 1871 Carmilla, about a lesbian vampire could have inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula, or Varney the Vampire, a lengthy penny dreadful serial from the mid-Victorian period by James Malcolm Rymer. John Polidori created the image of a vampire portrayed as an aristocratic man, like the character of Dracula, in his tale "The Vampyre" (1819), based on Lord Byron's unfinished vampire story.

The Lyceum Theatre where Stoker worked between 1878 and 1898 was headed by actor-manager Henry Irving, who was Stoker's real-life inspiration for Dracula's mannerisms and who Stoker hoped would play Dracula in a stage version. Irving never did agree to do a stage version, but Dracula's dramatic sweeping gestures and gentlemanly mannerisms drew their living embodiment from Irving.

The Dead Un-Dead was one of Stoker's original titles for Dracula, and the manuscript was entitled simply The Un-Dead up until a few weeks before publication. Stoker's notes for Dracula show that the name of the count was originally "Count Wampyr", but Stoker became intrigued by the name "Dracula" while doing research, after reading William Wilkinson's book An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia with Political Observations Relative to Them (London 1820), which he found in the Whitby Library and consulted a number of times during visits to Whitby in the 1890s. The name Dracula was the patronym (Drăculea) of the descendants of Vlad II of Wallachia, who took the name "Dracul" after being invested in the Order of the Dragon in 1431. In the Old Romanian language, the word dracul (Romanian drac "dragon" + -ul "the") meant "the dragon" and Dracula meant "son of the dragon". In the present day however, dracul means "the devil".

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