Dracula in Translation.

Alison Kroulek provides six facts about Dracula around the world that you might not have heard before; my favorites:

Dracula’s origins are lost in translation.
“[T]he mistranslation of a 15th-century poem dramatically changed the poet’s intent and poet’s intent and let to a misleading interpretation of Bram’s intentions. In describing the cruel actions of Vlad Dracula III against Saxon traders in Transylvania, Michael Beheim . . . wrote that Vlad washed his hands in the blood of his enemies. A portion of the poem was translated incorrectly, telling of Vlad dipping his bread into a bowl and drinking the blood of his dead enemies, thus labeling him as a vampire.”

An Icelandic translation of Dracula from 1901 is actually a different story.
The original Icelandic translation of Dracula is actually a different novel, with a different title and an altered plot. The Icelandic version is called Makt Myrkranna, or Powers of Darkness. Makt Myrkranna condenses the second part of the book, which takes place after the Count arrives in England. According to Dracula expert Hans Corneel de Roos, the result is a novel “more exciting and elegant than Dracula itself.” Translator Valdimar Ásmundsson also made the original novel’s sexual undertones more explicit.

Other fun facts: the first language Dracula was translated into was Hungarian, and most Romanians had no idea what Stoker’s novel was about until after the fall of communism. Thanks, Trevor!


  1. David Eddyshaw says

    Most cultures have some sort of indigenous vampire mythology.

    Now that I think of it, the Kusaal word soenn [sɔ̃j], usually rendered “witch” (and similarly in the neighbouring languages and cultures) really is more akin to “vampire” in some ways. They drain a person’s siig “life force” by night gradually until they ultimately die, and being a witch is not always either voluntary or deliberate. Certain trees can be “witches” too …

    Bloomfield’s classic Tagalog texts/grammar/dictionary work has a vampire story.

  2. As you say, the linked-to article mentions the lack of a Romanian translation of Stoker’s Dracula before 1990, so Romanians had little idea of what Western tourists were after when they went looking for Dracula sites in pre-fall-of-communism Transylvania. Accordingly, there was very little information and no tourist tat associated with him.

    In 2007 I went to Sighisoara, where Casa Vlad Dracul is purportedly the birthplace of “Dracula” (Vlad Ţepeş the Impaler), and there were still very few overt references to and images of Dracula spoiling the fabulous mediaeval look of the place. Possibly it has changed in the subsequent ten years, but one can only shudder and imagine what other towns in other countries might have done to turn the whole town into a Dracula theme experience.

  3. I recently read a story in a book of Inner Mongolian ghost (ᠴᠢᠳᠭᠦᠷ чөтгөр ‘ghost, demon’) stories (a heterogeneous collection of varying ages and provenances) which was a vampire story.

    Seven men transporting goods found themselves without a place to stay the night. They came upon two dilapidated buildings, one of which had a kang (bed). The kang could fit only six people, so one man was forced to sleep across the bed at the feet of his fellows. He had trouble sleeping because of their snoring and smelly feet when at midnight he heard the sound of a coffin opening. Something came in an leaned over each man in turn and kissed him, after which the snoring stopped. The seventh man heard the thing muttering that there were supposed to be seven; one must have gone out.

    He lay there stiff as a board scared out of his wits and waited until sunrise, reasoning that ghosts were afraid of the sun. The moment the sun rose he raced outside. The door of the coffin opened and a stout ghost with white hair appeared, cursing that the other one had been inside all the time. With a whish the ghost disappeared and the building turned into blood.

  4. That’s a great story, even in summary form!

  5. I thought I had found a way of circumventing the ban on Cyrillic by writing the post in English and then editing it to add Cyrillic, but I was wrong. I was told I could no longer edit my comment, and the comment disappeared.

  6. Scary modern ghost story from the Gobi desert:

    There was a case. All Mongols know about it. Whoever you ask, they will tell you, even our teacher. A few years ago they shot a film in the Gobi. There were many people, many famous actors. Once the shooting crew was returning from the filming and they saw a yurt on the way. Which seemingly did not exist before. And very strange yurt it was – just one yurt and that’s all. Usually there is cattle around, pens and the like, but here was just one yurt and nothing else. They went into the yurt. An old woman was sitting, brewing tea. They greeted her, began to question her. She paid no attention to them, as if there was none, kept silence and did not respond. She stirred tea, it boiled, there was lots of steam. She poured tea into cups and gave them. They drunk… but the tea was completely cold. Even though they saw it boiling and boiling! They were surprised. But drunk the tea. Only one person did not – the driver. He was a local, perhaps, he understood that something was not right here. So they drank the tea, then went away.
    When they drove off a little, turned around – but the yurt was no more… Afterwards, very soon everyone who drank that tea, died one after another, the whole crew, except the driver who did not drink that tea.


  7. Bathrobe: Is the word “coffin” right here? Could it be a tomb in the shape of a little house, with a door, just outside of the main house?

  8. “Poet’s intent and poet’s intent?”

  9. The story used the word avs (ᠠᠪᠰᠠ авс), which appears to normally refer to a coffin (a box in which corpses are placed for burial). I omitted to mention that there were two buildings, in one of which a coffin was placed on the floor. The other had a kang where they chose to sleep.

  10. Thank you, it makes sense now.

  11. “Most cultures have some sort of indigenous vampire mythology.”

    Barbara Holt noticed this and concluded that it reflects a folkloric description of narcissistic personalities. You don’t have to accept that analysis to still find her book a very useful guide to the various types of relationships narcissists initiate and exploit.


    She noted that the emphasis in the West is on male vampires but in the Sinosphere on female vampires.

  12. Zeleny Drak says

    As a Romanian I can confirm that Dracula was not really known before 1989. Additionally, for a long time after the reaction to any mention of the book would have been quite negative. Vlad Țepeș (the Impaler) is quite a popular ruler as he has a very “law and order” type of image. Many people felt that there are already enough bad stereotypes about Romanians, so having even one of the most important (in the national myth) medieval ruler depicted as a monster was deemed quite insulting. In the end, money did talk so there are enough companies offering “Dracula” related tours and products. Sighișoara is actually not the main center for this, but Bran Castle is, although there almost no connection with the medieval ruler. The castle just looks close enough to the movie image so the area kind of become a small theme park, full of plastic fangs and other similar cheap stuff. Outside of this and a couple other tourist places, you will still not encounter a lot of interest about Dracula

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