Vlad Dracula Did Not Dip His Bread in Blood

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Overlapping myths. Vlad Dracula (Mark A. Boyd), as a vampire, dips his bread in blood in a scene from a fan-made music video shot for Duran Duran’s “Shadows on Your Side.” Photograph courtesy of Mark A. Boyd/Crazy Characters.

Speaking of Dracula myths, this one dies hard. A quick recap: Vlad Dracula supposedly dipped his bread in blood, while dining amid a forest of the impaled—the inference, of course, is that Dracula was a real-life vampire.

In fact, while waiting for my bus to work yesterday morning, I was dismayed to see the myth jump out at me from a travelogue I’ve been reading. After describing Vlad Dracula’s attack on Brașov, leading to a mass impalement of the “city’s elite,” the author adds:

Like anyone at any job, Vlad naturally needed to grab lunch at his “desk” as work continued around him. Legend also has it that Vlad, who allegedly gained confidence and apparently even a hearty appetite from seeing blood flow, dipped his bread into the blood of his victims as he ate. This incident was possibly absorbed during Bram Stoker’s lengthy research and contributed to Dracula’s evolution into a 19th century-vampire.

It wasn’t, didn’t and can’t have. Stoker began making notes for Dracula in 1890; the finished novel was published in 1897—but the earliest allusion to this “legend” features in Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu’s Vlad Dracula biography, Dracula, Prince of Many Faces (1989). Five years later, they made this allusion explicit:

Among the many new sources which have either amplified or in some cases altered some of our previous conclusions is the work of the poet-laureate Michel Beheim entitled The Story of a Bloodthirsty Madman Called Dracula of Wallachia. Read to the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III during the winter of 1463, the original manuscript, located at the Heidelberg University library, proved that the historical Dracula dipped his bread in the blood of his victim, which technically justified Stoker’s use of the word “vampire.”

Adding:

In one verse Beheim described Dracula as dipping his bread in the blood of his victims, which technically makes him a living vampire — a reference that may have induced Stoker to make use of this term.

But Beheim’s poem, Von ainem wutrich der heis Trakle waida von der Walachei, doesn’t describe that happening. Instead, it refers to Dracula washing his hands in blood, “Das er sein hend darjnnen zwug”; a bewildering error—presuming it wasn’t an outright hoax—perpetrated by two highly influential Dracula scholars.

Notes

  1. Speaking of Dracula myths: Anthony Hogg, “The Rumours of Dracula’s Blooddrinking Goes Back Further Than I Thought,” The Vampirologist (blog), March 8, 2017, accessed March 10, 2017, https://thevampirologist.wordpress.com/2017/03/08/the-rumours-of-vlad-draculas-blooddrinking-goes-back-further-than-i-thought/.
  2. a travelogue I’ve been reading: I began reading it on Monday after finishing a policeman’s autobiography on Friday. The autobiography’s relevance to this blog will become apparent soon enough…
  3. “Like anyone at any job, Vlad naturally needed to grab lunch at his ‘desk'”: Leif Pettersen, Backpacking with Dracula: On the Trail of Vlad “the Impaler” Dracula and the Vampire He Inspired (n.p.: Leif Pettersen, 2016), 107–8. Pettersen was the primary writer of the 4th and 5th editions of Lonely Planet’s Romania guidebook. “Résumé,” Leif Pettersen, n.d., accessed March 11, 2017, http://www.leifpettersen.com/resume.htm. archive.is link: http://archive.is/AaHzD.
  4. Stoker began making notes for Dracula in 1890: Stoker’s working notes for Dracula are held at the Rosenbach Museum & Library, Philadelphia. They have also been published in a book: Bram Stoker’s Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2008), annotated and transcribed by Robert Eighteen-Bisang and Elizabeth Miller. A substantially cheaper paperback version was released in 2012.
  5. the earliest allusion to this “legend”: Hans Corneel de Roos, “Bloody Nonsense: How Two Scholars Pulled Off the Great Dracula Swindle,” Vamped, May 26, 2016, accessed March 10, 2017, http://vamped.org/2016/05/26/great-dracula-swindle/.
  6. “Among the many new sources which have either amplified or in some cases altered some of our previous conclusions”: Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu, In Search of Dracula: The History of Dracula and Vampires, rev. ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1994), x, accessed March 10, 2017, https://books.google.com.au/books?id=P22TnNTonYwC&dq.
  7. “In one verse Beheim described Dracula as dipping his bread in the blood of his victims”: Ibid., 85.
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