Throughout time, Romanian folklore has inspired a number of stories and fairy tales with fabulous characters and imaginary worlds, charged with significations and teachings. The people’s imagination and the events taking place on the alleys of the villages and at the helm of the state have given birth to tales which combine reality and the fantastic, with good triumphing over evil each time. Brave lads, emperors’ sons, Prince Charmings, common people, Ileana Cosânzeana-like fairies, witches, and seven headed dragons, all of these magical creatures lead a continuous, adventurous fight,
insatiably savored by the reader.Some stories contain more historical truth than the others, and being told so many times has turned them into genuine legends of the Romanian people. They evoke real facts, which in time have been distorted or confused with other events, so the listener has to solve the mysteries and untangle the complicated threads of these events. This is also the case of Dracula’s legend around which an aura of mysticism has been created due to the numerous writings and movies which depict Dracula as a merciless, bloodthirsty vampire. In reality, the story of Count Vlad is entirely different than that described by Bram Stocker in his novel, 'Dracula'.
Vlad Tepes was born in a noble family, his predecessors being one by one princes of Wallachia, a region situated at the south of the Carpathians. Vlad Tepes father was held in high regards by the king of Hungary, Sigismund of Luxemburg, who named him Knight of the Order of the Dragon, a group of European noblemen of the highest rank who wanted to protect Christianity from the Ottoman threat. The symbol of this order was a golden medallion representing a curling dragon. In Latin, 'draco' means 'dragon', but in Romanian, the Latin word resembles ‘devil’. As the membership to his order was passed from father to son, Vlad Tepes got the name 'Vlad Dracul' or 'Dracula', which means both 'the dragon bearer' and ' the son of the devil'.From a frail age, Vlad was caught in the whirl of fights over power in this region between the Hungarian and Ottoman Empire. At the age of eleven, he and his brother, Radu, were taken hostage to the sultan’s court as guarantee for their father’s remaining on the throne. As a hostage, Vlad nurtured an immense hatred against the Turks, while Radu became close to the sultan.In 1448, after his father’s death, Vlad becomes Prince of Wallachia, a title which he has to defend against his rivals. It took the brave ruler eight years to gain control over the Targoviste citadel. Finally, there he was on the throne, with a brave desire to save Christianity from the Turkish yoke. Before starting an ample attack against the sultan, Vlad wanted his country to be well governed, rich, with a well organized army and allies ready to jump in and help in case of danger. First, he impaled the great boyars whom he suspected of plotting against him.
Impaling was the most appalling method of torture used to get confession from someone or to end human life, similar to the practice of burning people at stakes. The stake was a big pole, taller than the height of a man, with a sharp end; was used to pierce a man's back through his neck or mouth. Then it was locked in the ground, and the arms and the head of the suffering were hung. The purpose of the punishment was to cause a painful physical pain and delay the death of the victim. The convicted people either died of hunger, thirst, or they were attacked by ravens. The image was so frightening to viewers that no one wanted to break the law of the landlocked country.Gradually, Vlad escaped the boyars, beggars and thieves; he fortified the fortresses, strengthened the army and brought new weapons. Another measure of the ruler was directed against Saxon traders in Transylvania who sold retail goods in the country, depriving Romanian merchants of their share of gain. It is assumed that the Saxon merchants who did not obey Vlad's measures were scattered. During the six years of the reign, the chasters punished the inhabitants of Brasov and Sibiu for the support of another person at the throne. In 1462 Vlad was betrayed by his brother and closed for 12 years by King of Hungary, Matthias Corvinus. Stephen became the last ruler of Wallachia, but died shortly after a Turkish invasion (1476). Some legends say he was defeated by his enemies in battle, some say he was killed by the Wallachian boyars or was confused by his soldiers as a Turkish commander. The head of the prince was sent to Constantinople to remove any doubt about his death, and his body was supposedly buried in the Snagov monastery, although it was never found.