Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Real Thing

Dracula, the character played frequently by the late Christopher Lee, was generally referred to as a fiend and evil man.

But he didn't have nothing on his namesake, Vlad Tepes, Prince of Wallachia. Vlad was sometimes called "Vlad Drakulya" (Vlad, Son of the Dragon), which is where the basis of the legend arose to be later used first by Bram Stoker and then by a host of movies.

Vlad was known as "Vlad the Impaler," because his preferred method of execution was the placement of the victim on top of a tall pole inserted into a very painful place, and then gravity was allowed to do its work. The item at Today I Found Out notes that today is the anniversary of the 1462 nighttime attack on the Turkish troops of Sultan Mehmed II, in which the Wallachians routed the invaders but failed to capture or kill the Sultan. The next day the Sultan gathered his much larger army and prepared to attack the Wallachian capital, but found the gates open and the city undefended.

On entering, they discovered a field, about 2/3 of a mile by 1 3/4 of a mile, filled with wooden stakes on which thousands of Turkish men, women and children had been impaled. The Sultan withdrew, saying he could not conquer a man who would do such awful things. The war continued until Vlad's king, the Hungarian ruler Matthias Corvinus, imprisoned him for several years. It then re-started until Vlad's mysterious death sometime in 1476 or 1477; he was thought to have been killed in battle and his head taken by the Turks, but no one knows for certain. The mystery, of course, helped the legend that Stoker and others would later use, although the vilest deeds they dreamt for the bloodthirsty Count Dracula were pretty tame compared with what the real Son of the Dragon did.

Something that someone ought to point out to George R. R. Martin whenever he noises about his Tolkien-rewritten-so-GrĂ­ma-Wormtongue-wins sprawl being much more like the real Middle Ages than the usual setting for medieval fantasy works.

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