Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lessons in life...from Dracula

I'm afraid I may have to suspend postings for a while. Since I'm having car trouble I won't be able to get to my wi-fi hotspot, and I just can't do all I want to with this blog with the internet issues here.

Anyway, since Halloween is coming up, I thought I'd give a little tribute to Vlad Dracula, the midieval  prince who provided the name for Bram Stoker's vampire. Vlad Dracula ruled the province of Wallachia (but he owned property in next-door Transylvania) in the 15th century. Historians prefer to call him "Vlad Tsepes" or "Vlad the Impaler", yet Vlad himself prefered the "Dracula" title, as evidenced by his signed documents. "Dracula", Slavic for "Son of the Dragon", referred to the title of his father, Vlad Dracul "The Dragon", who obtained said title by joining the Order of the Dragon, a knightly fraturnity of select European rulers (another member was King Alfonso of Spain, the villain of the Spanish epic "El Cid"). The "Dracula" title actually wasn't read as anything sinister until after Vlad Dracula's death, at which point his detractors published pamplets detailing his horrific deeds and making the most of dragons being associated with the devil. Even before Stoker, the subject of Dracula was a best-seller.

Of course, Dracula didn't earn the nickname of "Impaler" for nothing. His favorite method of execution was to impale his victims on a stake driven into the ground, and leave them there to rot. Some were impaled through the chest, others up from the buttocks out through the mouth (why did Vlad's executioner hate his job? His boss was always telling him where to stick it). But Dracula did believe in variety. Some lawbreakers he beheaded, and others he boiled or skinned alive.

Despite all this, Vlad Dracula would probably be offended at being portrayed as the spawn of Satan today. He fancied himself a Christian man, defending the faith against the Turks, and the Orthodox Church against the Catholics (until he converted over to regain his kingdom). He gave his victims Christian burials (when he got around to burying them) and he funded and built Orthodox monasteries.

Since Dracula considered himself one of high moral fiber, let us consider these tales of how Dracula did business in the good ol' days, and what we can learn from them.

Honesty is the best policy.
Once an important merchant stopped by Dracula's capitol, and asked the prince for guards to protect his cart of money. Dracula insisted that he needed no guards, and insisted the merchant stay at his place. The next morning, the merchant found that all his "ducats" (the currency denomination) had been stolen. Dracula put word out that the thief must be found, or he would burn down the town. Dracula then had the merchant's money reimbursed. The merchant counted the money in his cart, and found one extra ducat. He reported this extra unit to the prince, just as the thief was brought in, and sentenced to be impaled. When the merchant showed what he found, Dracula said, "Go in peace, if you had not admitted the extra ducat, you would have been impaled with the thief."

Good relationships are built on trust.
To show how low crime was in Wallachia, Dracula had a golden goblet placed at a prime watersource in his kingdom. It was never taken until the end of his reign.

When in Rome...
Once some dignitaries from Italy paid Dracula a visit. When they entered into his presence, they took their hats off, but not the skullcaps beneath. When asked why, they replied that they never took their skullcaps off for anyone, not even the highest emporer. Dracula told them he wished to "strengthen their customs", for which they were grateful. They were probably less grateful when he did so by nailing their caps to their heads.

A little hard work never killed anyone
From time to time, Dracula liked to go out among the commoners to see how they were doing. Once he met a man who was very shabbily dressed. He asked the man if he was married. The man said he was, and Dracula decided that since the man himself was hard-working, his lazy wife must be responsible for his state of dress. So Dracula executed the wife, then married the man to a new woman, who supposedly worked much harder.

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy
One of Vlad's first act as prince was to invite most of the local boyars (nobles) to a banquet, when he asked them how many princes they had known (served under). Each gave a number from three to seven. Dracula pointed out that the reason they had so many princes, was due to their own "shameful intrigues" (this was true, a prince in Wallachia was always hard-pressed to keep the boyars in line). Dracula then had them all arrested, and forced them to work on his new castle. Many died on the job, many others worked until their clothes fell off, and those that survived were impaled.

Always be considerate of others
Once after a great battle, Dracula took a meal in the midst of all the impaled prisoners of war. He noticed one the survivors holding his nose, and had the man impaled on an especially high stake, so he would be above the stench.
A man's home is his castle
When a certain scandal put Dracula under house arrest by the emporer of Hungary, there was the time when a local constable chased a thief into the manor the emporer had given Dracula. When Dracula discovered what was up, he took up his sword, went out, and beheaded...the constable. When the emporer demanded an explanation, Dracula's response was that if the constable had merely told him the situation, he would have turned the thief over to him, but since the constable intruded, he essentially committed suicide.

Judge not, lest ye be judged
Once Dracula asked two monks whether or not he would go to heaven. The first monk told Dracula he was a "slayer of evildoers", and pronounce his soul clean, which of course Dracula was satisfied with. The second monk pointed out Dracula's numerous crimes against humanity, even his habit of executing the children of his enemies, and told him his soul was damned. Three guesses what happened to the second monk (the monk's donkey got it too).

Practice makes perfect
When Dracula was actually in jail at one point in his life, he got into the habit of catching rodents and small birds and impaling them on sticks.

The info for this post comes from "Dracula, Prince of Many Faces: His Life and Times". I bought it awhile ago when it was on sale at Barnes and Noble, and found it quite detailed, and quite fascinating. Not a paid endorsement, just citing the source material (and it is a cool book).

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