Bram Stoker and Dracula

The character of the most famous of vampires, Count Dracula, was born in the novel ‚Dracula‘ by Bram Stoker:

And at last we saw before us the Pass opening out on the eastern side. There were dark, rolling clouds overhead, and in the air the heavy, oppressive sense of thunder. It seemed as though the mountain range had separated two atmospheres, and that now we had got into the thunderous one. I was now myself looking out for the conveyance which was to take me to the Count. Each moment I expected to see the glare of lamps through the blackness, but all was dark. The only light was the flickering rays of our own lamps, in which the steam from our hard-driven horses rose in a white cloud. We could see now the sandy road lying white before us, but there was on it no sign of a vehicle. The passengers drew back with a sigh of gladness, which seemed to mock my own disappointment. I was already thinking what I had best do, when the driver, looking at his watch, said to the others something which I could hardly hear, it was spoken so quietly and in so low a tone, I thought it was „An hour less than the time.“ Then turning to me, he spoke in German worse than my own.

„There is no carriage here. The Herr is not expected after all. He will now come on to Bukovina, and return tomorrow or the next day, better the next day.“ Whilst he was speaking the horses began to neigh and snort and plunge wildly, so that the driver had to hold them up. Then, amongst a chorus of screams from the peasants and a universal crossing of themselves, a caleche, with four horses, drove up behind us, overtook us, and drew up beside the coach.
I could see from the flash of our lamps as the rays fell on them, that the horses were coal-black and splendid animals. They were driven by a tall man, with a long brown beard and a great black hat, which seemed to hide his face from us. I could only see the gleam of a pair of very bright eyes, which seemed red in the lamplight, as he turned to us.

He said to the driver, „You are early tonight, my friend.“

The man stammered in reply, „The English Herr was in a hurry.“

To which the stranger replied, „That is why, I suppose, you wished him to go on to Bukovina. You cannot deceive me, my friend. I know too much, and my horses are swift.“

As he spoke he smiled,and the lamplight fell on a hard-looking mouth, with very red lips and sharp-looking teeth, as white as ivory. One of my companions whispered to another the line from Burger’s „Lenore“.

„Denn die Todten reiten schnell.“ („For the dead travel fast.“)

This excerpt of the diary of Jonathan Harker, telling of his journey to Count Dracula’s castle, gives an impression of the evil forebodings of what is to come. Although ‚Dracula‘ was by no means Bram Stokers only novel, it is the one that is most well known and the one he is famous for. His creation of the powerful vampire Count Dracula became so famous as to be a mainstay in popular culture and the myths and legends around vampires. It forms the basis for a lot of stories, movies and legends about vampires in general and Dracula in particular, and through its popularity, most of the characters have acquired a literary life of their own – Van Helsing, most notably.

One of the reasons that this novel has proved so successful and still maintains its popularity, is the style in which it has been written: diary excerpts, letters, newspaper clippings, log-books, all written by a group of different people, that all sound, even while being completely fictional, quite realistic. While this gives the story depth and credibility, the fact that the reader knows more than the narrators throughout most of the book, makes it full of a suspense that has the reader sitting on edge.

When, for example, Mina Harker writes in her journal of uneasy dreams, of feeling languid and tired, of a strange wound on her throat, yet is reluctant to tell her husband and the other men who are tracking Dracula throughout London, it is hard to sit still and read on, knowing all the while that the vampire has her in his thrall, while the men out to hunt him do not know of the danger.

Bram Stoker, who published the novel in 1987, spent several years researching European folklore and the myths and legends around vampires. His experience as a newspaper journalist taught him his detailed, realistic style of writing, while his work as the manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London gave him the experience for the drama and flair of the story. Before Dracula, he’d already published four novels, all in the then popular style of a romantizised and gothic horror story.

Dracula can be read online, for example on the Project Gutenberg, and anyone interested in the person of Dracula or the legends of vampires is well-advised to read this novel of horror and suspense and become acquainted with the its characters and myths.

a movie still from Bram Stoker's Dracula

Gary Oldman as Dracula, Winona Ryder as Mina Harker in the 1992 movie ‚Bram Stoker’s Dracula‘