Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Year in: Vampires

Part III

About the time I started listening to the Vampire Weekend album I noticed a red and white mug in my office kitchen. It featured a picture of Vlad Tepes, the fifteenth century Romanian prince who sometimes called himself "Dracula." Next to the picture were the words "Dra-Cula" in a red-and-white design meant to imitate the Coca-Cola logo. On the bottom of the mug was a circular stamp with the words "Marca Inregistrata in Transylvania" encircling a bat. While this mug didn't make any specific reference to vampires, it perfectly illustrated the frequent conflation of Vlad Tepes with the fictional character of Dracula which I had run into again and again in the research for my article on vampires and tourism. Vlad Tepes (whose name means "Vlad the Impaler" but who had nothing to do with vampires) was born in the Transylvania region of Romania. Bram Stoker used his nickname - "Dracula" - for the name of the Transylvanian vampire count in his Victorian novel. Ever since then, westerners have mixed up the historical Vlad Tepes with the fictional Count Dracula. And over the past few decades Romanians have figured it out and started to capitalize on it. Selling red and white Vlad Tepes mugs is just one example.

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