Thursday, August 29, 2013

Not-So-Bad Vlad

Yeah, I miss him.  Oh, that's Vlad the Impaler in the illustration, and there's a lot of confusion about him, what with him being conflated with the Bela Lugosi-type vampire, partly due to Bram Stoker using the name "Dracula."  Vlad's patronymic was "Dracula," which means "dragon." You can read all about him HERE, but a good summary is that he was a champion of Christianity against the Ottoman Muslims, and he got his reputation as an impaler by doing just that, to heaps of Turks. When you fight Turks, you kinda have to be mean and cruel, or you'll lose, and really, really wish you hadn't. So maybe Vlad's not so bad after all. Today's European politicians don't impale Muslims.  On the contrary, they invite them to move in and impale us. Is that better or worse? Anyhow, now there's a book out about him that looks worth a read.  Review starts thus:

Kate Paulk’s “Impaler” — A Must-Read, Superlative, Tour de Force

Kate Paulk’s IMPALER  is a seriously different way to look at Vlad the Impaler.  Historically, Prince (later King) Vlad has always been drawn as a madman and berserker, with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.  However, as Paulk has ably shown here, no one would’ve followed Vlad Draculea (Paulk’s transliteration, to avoid any possible confusion with Bram Stoker’s DRACULA) if he didn’t have good qualities — and in this version of Vlad’s story, Vlad shows many outstanding qualities including love, loyalty, friendship, sacrifice, and much more.  While this is a historical with some fantasy — and a bit of an alternate history at that, which I’ll get to in a bit — the bones of this novel rest squarely on Paulk’s strong historicity and excellent understanding of what we’d now call realpolitik.
The time is 1476.  Vlad Draculea has started to re-take Wallachia for the third time (first was as a child, second under the sponsorship of Prince Matthias Corvinus of Hungary) and has two hundred men given to him by one of his best friends, Prince Stephen of Moldavia.  With luck as well as skill, Vlad re-takes possession of Wallachia and promises to do better than the first time he’d ruled it as an adult (approximately 1456 to 1462) when he’d murdered many of his sitting boyars (noblemen, equivalent to earls, counts and dukes, dependent on how much territory any given boyar had) and had ruled by the force of his will along with what he’d then felt was the quickest and easiest weapon: terror.
Note that Vlad’s nickname of “Tepes” was given after his death, though the Turks often called him “the Impaler Prince” due to his method of execution.  Vlad hated the Turks, who were Muslim, and often used stakes to impale his enemies, living or dead.  (To insult the Muslims, who, in historical context, Paulk accurately calls “Mohammedans,” Vlad would have the stakes coated in pig fat as the Muslims believed that touching anything to do with pork would defile them, soiling them to the point they could not go to Heaven.)  Vlad was a devout Christian to his death and his faith, along with his torturous path to anything approaching what he believed was redemption, is described exceptionally well here by Paulk.   (That Vlad impaled his enemies is unquestioned, but why he did so has really never been explained except by sheer cruelty, which Paulk shows may well not be the most accurate motivation.  The fact that everyone tended to do this at this time in war against whomever whatever side felt were infidels tends to go by the boards.)
(Read the rest HERE.)


  1. I know what he did and why he did it and he's been a semi-hero of mine for years.

  2. Vlad was a hard man living in hard times dealing with hard enemies who only respected the baddest son of a bitch in the valley. His reputation was was wrecked posthumously by German merchants who had tried to cheat his folk and were not happy about how Vlad protected his charges.

    The Sultan looked at the forest of impaled bodies and asked "how can you deal with such a man?" How many lives did Vlad save that day?

    A friend from Romania!

  4. Dr. Yeagley liked him as well:

  5. Also books you should look into: Dracula, Prince of Many Faces and In Search of Dracula. Both are by Raymond McNally and Radu Florescu. Florescu died recently, but he was one of the original scholars to delve into the legend of Prince Vlad, as he was also a descendent. I have been a Dracula scholar since High School. I respect Prince Vlad to this day. The D on my back is in honor of him.

  6. I wrote a song about Vlad called 'Vlad the Impaler' which is based on the music of 'Killing in the Name of' by Rage Against the Machine:

  7. It is important to remember that the tactic of impalement was taught to Vlad by the turks in his younger years when he was a held as a political prisoner to keep his father under muslim control. Prince Vlad merely reappropriated their own tactic for use against them with great success. I understand it sent mehmet running back to Istanbul. He was one of the reasons that all of Europe didnt fall under muslim rule. Thanks to him and men like him we were all spared that horror. Prince Vlad, Kaziklu bey, Tepes was a great ruler and defender of his lands, people and faith. Look up the feast of the transfiguration, a Catholic holiday that is directly connected to Vlads routing of the turks. Personally, I would have followed the man loyally.