Useful Notes: Vlad the Impaler

The man, the legend. Showing off his Badass Mustache and Crown

Vlad III Dracula (1431-1476) was a medieval ruler of Wallachia, part of modern Romania, who is best remembered today for his bloody deeds and for lending his patronymic name to the archetypal vampire Dracula. Though he wasn't known for biting people's necks and drinking their blood, he was nevertheless well-known for spilling it. A man of extremes in turbulent times, he has been regarded either as a brutal but fair hero, or a completely Axe Crazy sociopath. As Voivode (warlord) of Wallachia, he earned the nickname "Vlad the Impaler", or Vlad Țepeș in Romanian, from his practice of impalement, which was, and still is, one of the most gruesome ways of dying imaginable.note 

Vlad was born in Sighișoara, Transylvania in the winter of 1431 to a noble family, in a time when the Christian states of Eastern Europe, which included Hungary, Translyvania, Wallachia, Moldavia and others, contended for power with each other and the Ottoman Turkish Empire. His father was Vlad II Dracul, future Voivode of Wallachia and son of the celebrated Voivode Mircea the Elder. His mother is believed to be the second wife of Vlad Dracul, Princess Cneajna of Moldavia. He had two older half-brothers, Mircea II and Vlad IV Călugărul (Vlad the Monk), and a younger brother, Radu III the Fair. His family lived in Transylvania, but was of Wallachian descent. In later life he would divide his time between the two regions, both now part of modern Romania.

In the year of his birth Vlad's father and namesake had traveled to Nuremberg, Germany where he had been vested into the Order of the Dragon, a Crusader-style knightly organization sworn to fight the Ottoman Turks. At the age of five, young Vlad was also initiated into the Order. Thus his father became known as Vlad Dracul, "The Dragon", and in turn he was Vlad Dracula, "Son of Dracul" or "Son of the Dragon" (more loosely "Dracul Junior").

In 1436, Vlad Dracul became Voivoide of Wallachia as Vlad II (some say co-ruling with his son Mircea II). He was ousted in 1442 by rival factions in league with Hungary. But he secured Ottoman support for his return, agreeing to pay the Jizya (tax on non-Muslims) to the Sultan and also send his two legitimate sons, Vlad and Radu, to the Ottoman court, to serve as hostages of his royalty.

While Radu became a court favorite and eventually converted to Islam, Vlad was imprisoned and often whipped and beaten because of his verbal abuse towards his trainers and his stubborn behavior. These years presumably had a great influence on Vlad's character and led to Vlad's well-known hatred for the Ottoman Turks, the Janissaries, his brother Radu, and the young Ottoman prince Mehmed II (even after he became sultan). He was also envious of his father's preference for his elder half-brothers, Mircea II and Vlad Călugărul. He also distrusted the Hungarians and his own father for trading him to the Turks and betraying the Order of the Dragon's oath to fight the Ottoman Empire. Vlad was later released under probation and taken to be educated in logic, the Quran and the Turkish and Persian languages and works of literature. He would speak these languages fluently in his later years. He and his brother were also trained in warfare and riding horses.

With Ottoman support, the boys' father Vlad II Dracul took back his throne, but over the years he tried to play both sides. Eventually he and Mircea II were murdered in 1447 by rival factions in league with Hungary (again). The young Vlad was released in 1448 and became Vlad III, Voivode of Wallachia for the first time, ostensibly also with Ottoman backing. But after just a few months he stepped down and went to Moldavia and then Hungary, where he allied himself with the dominant warlord John Hunyadi. With Hunyadi's support, he claimed the throne of Wallachia again in 1456. It was his second reign where he made his name as both a warrior against the Ottomans and as a bloodthirsty ruler. He fought their incursions into his lands and even took the fight to their own territories beyond the Danube River. He continued to be an ally of Hungary, now led by Hunyadi's son King Matthias Corvinus, but also sought to keep his lands independent.

Even during his lifetime, Vlad became famous as a tyrant taking sadistic pleasure in torturing and killing. After Vlad's death, his cruel deeds were reported with macabre gusto in popular pamphlets in Germany, reprinted from the 1480s until the 1560s, and to a lesser extent in Tsarist Russia. Estimates for the number of his victims ranges from 40,000 to 100,000, comparable to the cumulative number of executions over four centuries of European witch hunts. According to the German stories the number of victims he had killed was at least 80,000. In addition to the 80,000 victims mentioned he also had whole villages and fortresses destroyed and burned to the ground. These numbers are most likely exaggerated.

Impalement was Vlad's preferred method of torture and execution. He impaled many of his own country's nobility (the boyar class) because he felt that they had destabilized Wallachia. He also impaled thousands of Turkish soldiers as psychological warfare, all in the name of protecting the Christian kingdoms from the Ottomans. Several of the woodcuts from the German pamphlets of the late 15th and early 16th centuries show Vlad feasting in a forest of stakes and their grisly burdens outside Brașov, while a nearby executioner cuts apart other victims. It was reported that an invading Ottoman army turned back in fright when it encountered a forest of impaled corpses along the Danube River. It has also been said that in 1462 Mehmed II, the conqueror of Constantinople, a man noted for his own psychological warfare tactics, returned to Constantinople after being sickened by the sight of 20,000 impaled corpses outside Vlad's capital of Târgoviște.

But it was also in 1462 that his second reign ended, when an Ottoman army led by his own brother Radu and supported by rebellious boyars captured his castle. He escaped to Hungary but Matthias Corvinus had him imprisoned for political reasons. However, eventually he worked his way back into the king's good graces, even taking the king's sister as his second wife. In 1474 he was released, and went to live in Transylvania. Meanwhile his brother Radu, who the Ottomans had put in his place, had died. In 1476, he returned to Wallachia and became Voivode again for the third and last time.

Vlad was killed shortly into his third reign. There's debate over if Vlad was assassinated or died in battle, but his corpse was decapitated and his head impaled by the Ottomans at Constantinople as a trophy, and his body was buried unceremoniously, possibly at Comana, a monastery founded by Vlad in 1461. The Comana monastery was demolished and rebuilt from scratch in 1589. In 1515, 35 years after his death, Wallachia finally was completely defeated by the Ottomans and became a vassal of the Ottoman Empire.

Allegedly, the reputation of Vlad's cruelty was actively promoted by Matthias Corvinus, who tarnished Vlad’s reputation and credibility for a political reason: as an explanation for why he had not helped Vlad fight the Ottomans in 1462, for which purpose he had received money from most Catholic states in Europe. Matthias employed the charges of Southeastern Transylvania, and produced fake letters implicating him in high treason, written on 7 November 1462, which were used to justify his imprisonment.

Surprisingly, while German, Russian, Hungarian, and Turkish literature and folklore all portray Dracula as a monster, he's considered a hero in Romania for his opposition to both Hungarian and Ottoman conquest, being voted among the 100 Greatest Romanians as recently as 2006 (compare Richard The Lion Heart, Napoleon Bonaparte or George Washington).

He tends to get a Historical Villain Upgrade even when not being made a vampire. Except in Romanian literature, where he always gets a Historical Hero Upgrade, from poetry to historical novels.

Tropes applying to the historical Vlad III:

  • Anti-Hero: About as far as a negative portrayal you're likely to see of him in Romania. Maybe with some Anti-Villain moments thrown in, but definitely nothing vampire-related.
  • Arch-Enemy: The Turkish Empire and his brother Radu the Handsome.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority / Authority Equals Asskicking: Very often led his armies personally and was a very decent warrior to boot. His second reign as Voivode began after he personally killed the current pro-Ottoman one in battle.
  • Awesome Mc Cool Name: Both "Dracula" and "the Impaler".
    • Amusingly subverted amongst his very own people. The Impaler nickname actually came into widespread use about a century and a half later. Wallachians sometimes called him Vlad the Great, but frankly... they mostly called him Vlad. Eventually with a Voda (voievod) attached at the end. Yes, it is a very familiar way of address, and yes, they felt perfectly within their rights to do so: he was theirs.
  • Ax-Crazy: Allegedly, not only did he kill babies, and forced the parents to eat the corpse, but he dunked his bread in the blood of his enemies. In fairness the latter really hasn't been confirmed and is thought to be more rumors than real.
    • It's entirely more probable the other way around. It was common practice for warriors to show-off by doing crazy things like drinking from goblets made out of their enemies' gilded skulls (they usually drank wine, but blood was always an option). Nobody would have blinked over a little bread-and-blood snack. Killing children, however, would have gotten Vlad into trouble with his own people, and it was strategically dumb on top of it: when you're planning a long-term war against the Ottoman Empire, you'll need lots of cannon fodder. Besides, it's historically documented that the main reason for his conflict with the Ottomans (as far as they were concerned, at least) is precisely the fact that Vlad might have been willing to pay the tribute in gold and merchandises, but he drew the line at giving them children for the Janissary. As a former child-hostage himself, he had some understandable hang-ups.
  • Badass: Quite possibly the most badass of all Romanian rulers, both before and after him. And he has some serious competition, too.
    • Badass Mustache: His mustache may be a bit goofy to modern viewers, but there's no doubt he's badass.
    • Badass In Charge / Four-Star Badass: He was a three-time Voivode of Wallachia, which essentially translates as "Warlord" but most people view it as "Warrior Prince".
      • Call him "Count Dracula", and you would have been impaled. He was about 3 levels of the European ruling class above that rank.
    • Badass in Distress: When he was held prisoner by the Turks and later Matthias Corvinus.
  • Better to Die Than Be Killed: The story goes that his first wife committed suicide rather than be captured when his castle fell to the Turks.
    • Since his castle never fell to the Turks, she was most likely killed by the boyars — she was pregnant at the time, the child managed to survive. Alternatively, she simply died in childbirth.
  • Black Comedy: A story goes that when a noble complained about the stench of impaled people, Vlad had him impaled higher than usual so he wouldn't smell the rest.
  • Blood Brothers: With Stefan the Great, ruler of Moldavia, early childhood friend, fellow runaway from their murdering relatives and reliable ally against the Ottoman Empire for (almost) all their lives. The blood oath is actually historically documented, and it took place in an actual church, while they were on the run from Petru Aron, Stefan's murderous uncle. Vlad and Stefan were also actually related by blood, via both their mothers, but it was a pretty distant relation, something like second cousins thrice removed.
  • Blood Knight
  • The Butcher: He's called "The Impaler" for a very good reason.
    • The Turks also called him Israfil - the Angel of Death.
  • Cain and Abel: With Radu the Handsome (who was younger, but as an ally of the Turks was "Cain".)
  • Cool Crown
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Impalement, his modus operandi. His brother Mircea II was also buried alive by his enemies. Later Vlad had those people impaled to avenge him.
  • Cultured Badass: Vlad had been educated from a very early age, first by teachers from the Wallachian and Western courts, then by the ones the Turks gave him while he was their captive. All in all, he spoke several languages (Latin and Slavonian, Turkish, Persian, possibly some Arabian dialects, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, very probably some French and German. Oh, and Serbian, somewhat inherited from his paternal grandmother, Mara.)
    • He was also a very, very skilled warrior. His weapon of choice was naturally the sword (apparently he favoured the heavy broadsword, you-need-two-hands-to-even-lift-it type, but he wielded one-handedly. It sounds less improbable when you find out what was his weapon of choice during his training under the Turks: the girid - that's basically a shorter, heavier spear that is thrown from horseback and can pierce through a knight in full armour. It was considered a very difficult weapon to master, necessitating a Training from Hell before you even got to lift the damn thing. Rumor has it that Vlad chose it specifically to show off (Wallachians used spears very skilfully, both in battle and in hunting, which probably gave Vlad a slight advantage).
      • On top of all that, he had a very good knowledge of history, politics, diplomacy, economy, trade, very good organizatorial skills, and most importantly, damn good psychological knowledge of what makes people tick. He could instill both fear and trust with ease. He was also a member of at least two powerful secret societies by the age of five: The Order of the Dragon and The Egyptian Iglessia.
  • Death Glare: Well, we can't actually offer proof, but it seems like a pretty safe bet, judging from the reactions of his contemporaries.
  • Defector from Decadence: Arguably. He spent years under Ottoman tutelage as a noble hostage and became ruler for the first time with their backing, but he quickly abandoned the position only to take it back years later as a declared foe.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • According to legend, Vlad allowed golden cups to stand in the center of city plazas (or in public fountains), as he knew no one would dare steal such a treasure under his rule (and none of the cups were ever stolen). The towns feared that Vlad would destroy the whole city to capture the thief.
    • He also threatened to do this in a story where a foreign merchant had his gold coins stolen. By morning, the coins were returned and the thief had surrendered and was impaled. Vlad also placed an extra gold coin from his own pocket into the returned money bag, but the merchant gave it back after counting his money. Vlad praised his honesty and added that he would have been impaled along with the thief if he hadn't.
    • He is said to have cut his mistress open after she lied about being pregnant with his child.
    • A story goes that he saw a man with a shirt that was too short for him. Upon learning he was married, he had the wife impaled for laziness, arranged for the man to marry again, and threatened the new wife with the same fate if she didn't sew a proper shirt for her husband.
    • A story goes that a thief once climbed the wall into his yard and an officer pursuing him did the same. When Vlad saw the officer, he killed him on the spot for entering without permission as if he wasn't a prince, while the thief escaped.
      • It wasn't just one officer, it was at least a half-dozen men, and the "thief" they were following was most likely one of Vlad's agents, or possibly even one of his close family. Still, he probably would have done it anyway. It was the principle of the thing.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: He actually personally did this with his soldiers against the Ottomans on several occasions. One story of his death says this backfired on him when his own troops accidentally(?) killed him while he was disguised.
  • Enemy Mine: Allied with Hungarian leader John Hunyadi, who was also linked to his father's rivals, who were behind his assassination.
    • Debatable, as Hunyadi would have rather had Vlad's father imprisoned, he was much too good on the battlefield to waste his life. Vlad himself never even tried to avenge him, and was indeed the most loyal captain in Hunyadi's army.
  • Exact Words:
    • The story goes that he invited every beggar in Wallachia to a feast in a great hall. He asked them if they would like to be delivered from the cares of this world. When they said yes, he had the building set on fire... so he could rightly say there are no beggars in my realm.
    • Another story goes that some diplomats refused to take off their caps or turbans in his presence because it was their custom to keep their heads covered. Vlad ordered their headgear to be nailed to their heads. The story changes tone depending on the headgear - if caps, Vlad is committing atrocities against fellow Christians; if turbans, Vlad is defying the Turks. In truth, the most likely reason was the Ottomans had come for the sultan's tribute. Vlad couldn't pay it if he wanted to ally with other anti-Turkish rulers. Thus, he killed them to buy time to gather his mercenary-augmented army, and once he'd staked out his battleplan, he revealed the butchery to the Turks to rile them up.
  • Green Eyes: A fact almost forgotten by modern interpretations of Dracula is that Vlad was famous for his large, very green eyes. Most of the beliefs in his supernatural powers (as opposed to his pragmatic sense of cruelty) came from the reportedly eery intensity of his eye color, some psychological tricks, and at the very least the basic introductory course in practical magic that all secret socities he was part of engaged in on a daily basis.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: In Romania, he's one of their greatest cultural heroes. The rest of the world? A bloodthirsty tyrant with a penchant for shoving spears into people (though the latter part is true).
    • Over the last 20 years or so, this has increasingly become the case outside of Romania; at the very least, Westerners are increasingly divorcing Bram Stoker's Dracula from Vlad.
  • Historical-Domain Character
  • Historical Hero Upgrade and Historical Villain Upgrade: He's got it as bad as Richard The Lion Heart. He has been depicted as everything from a just, if harsh, leader of his people to a bloodthirsty brute deliberately slaughtering innocents. The truth presumably lies somewhere in between. In Romania, people would rather not mention him at all rather than say something truly bad about him. Mostly because, when it's all said and done, the one character trait (beside his almost suicidal bravery) that everyone seems to agree on is his incorruptibility. Which tends to make him stand out quite a bit against other rulers, both modern and ancient.
    • Possibly the best proof of how he was regarded by his subjects while he was still alive is the fact that when he came back to the throne for the third time, after more than a decade of everyone believing he was dead, the army of the current Wallachian ruler (who was an ally of the Turks) wouldn't raise their weapons against Vlad. The catch was, of course, that most of them had fought with Vlad against Mehmed II, and had remained very loyal to him for what they perceived to be the greatest victory in their history. They didn't kill their current leader, knowing full well what Vlad's opinions on betrayal were (namely, sharp and pointed), but they did promptly crossed over to Vlad's side as soon as they recognized him. A similar thing only happened a century later with Michael the Brave, during his attempted Unification of the Principates.
  • Hoist By Their Own Petard: The Turks introduced Vlad to impalement. If one story is to be believed, he died disguised as the enemy.
  • Hold the Line / Stand Your Ground: Vlad was, essentially, the gatekeeper of Europe. He stopped countless invasion attempts of the Ottoman empire for years before his death.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: His favorite form of execution, which posthumously earned him his epithet, Vlad the Impaler (or Vlad Țepeș in Romanian)
  • I'm a Humanitarian: See Ax-Crazy.
    • A story goes that when a Gypsy was caught stealing, Vlad was going to have him killed. When other Gypsies came to beg for his life, Vlad had him cooked and made the others eat him.
  • Irony: The same Turks who beat, tortured and trained Vlad when he was a child fell by his hand when he was an adult.
    • The weapon Vlad become famous for using during his training days with the Turks was called the girid and was basically a smaller, heavier spear, which you threw at speed from horseback to impale your enemy. Now that's Foreshadowing for you.
  • Fall of Constantinople: Lived around this time and in the region, and was famous in his lifetime for successfully fighting against the very same sultan who took the city.
    • He actually was present at the battle,although he was more interested in eliminating some contenders for his throne than anything else.
  • Family Theme Naming: His father and a brother were also named Vlad, necessitating his other name Dracula, which is itself derivative of his father's other name Dracul.
    • Actually, at least two of his brothers were also called Dracula, especially by the Turks, but also by some Western chronicles. Seeing how it was practically a patronimic, it was natural by people who had never seen them to refer to them as 'sons of that bastard we used to fight'.
  • Folk Hero: In Romania as well as other parts of Europe for his protection of the Romanian population both south and north of the Danube.
  • La Résistance: When the Ottomans pushed further and further into his lands, he fought on using guerrilla tactics until his castle itself was captured.
    • His castle was deserted and surrounded by thousands of impaled Turks. If there is one thing we know for sure, is that Mehmed never set foot in the city (it would have been inviting the Plague in, with all those rotting bodies, anyway).
  • Large and In Charge: Zig-Zagged: His actual height is mostly unknown, many depictions peg him at 5'9" while others depict him as 7'1 or taller. In either case, he was indeed taller than most people at the time.
    • Both Nicolo di Modrussa and Romanian folklore describe him as medium height, but strong build, not tall.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The Ottomans probably regretted teaching Vlad all those tactics because of the sheer hell he raised for them.
  • The Magnificent: Both "Dracula" and "the Impaler". They also double as a name to run away from really fast
  • Meaningful Name: Vlad is derived from the Slavic word volod, "rule", and can be a shortened form of Vladislav (which he used on occasion) which means "to rule with glory". Both of those work for him quite well. A similar name is Vladimir, "to rule with greatness".
  • Mentors: The Ottomans themselves as Evil Mentors (from his perspective), and arguably John Hunyadi.
    • Vlad himself was a bit of a Big Brother Mentor to Stefan the Great of Moldavia while they were young.
  • Names To Run Away From Very Fast: Again: The Impaler and Dracula should be a hint.
    • Again subverted for the Romanians. Say "Vlad" to any Romanian (who has at least a vague idea of history), and they'll know who you're talking about, but they won't exactly be quaking in their boots.
  • Noble Fugitive: Happened to him twice after taking and losing the throne.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Or rather, they were somewhat nonexistent in Romanian folklore at the time. While there were several words for describing undead creatures, the vampire was simply not one of them, neither as a term, nor as a creature. It arrived primarily via Slavic and (amusingly enough) Turkish loan-words, after Vlad's rule came to an end. The word "vampire" officially entered Romanian public vocabulary in the late 1800s, thanks to a comic play where it was mispelled and used as a political insult in a modern context where Vlad was never mentioned in any way.
  • Red Baron: Dracula, The Impaler. In Turkish, Kaziklu Bey (Impaler Prince). Also in Turkish, Israfil - the Angel of Death.
  • Religious Bruiser: He was a Christian fighting against the Islamic Ottoman Turks.
    • He didn't do it for religious purposes. Christianity was more like a political identity at the time. He was always at loggerheads with the heads of Churches, and one story says he at least made some, ahem, biting comments about keeping his tallest stake free for when he eventually gets his hands on God...
  • Rightful King Returns: By way of Asskicking Equals Authority. And to much public acclaim, at least from everyone who was not a boyar.
  • The Sociopath: A pretty common assesment of him.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Obviously. Vlad III, in all interpretations, was at least a Badass warrior.
    • He was quite possibly the most hands-on ruler Europe has ever seen. He even did the lesser stuff like interrogating prisoners, scouting, attempted assassination of the Sultan, and even untying his own shoelaces (don't ask why, but some visiting French dignitary was apparently shocked by that last detail more than the gorier ones)
      • It's actually kind of tragic that he is remembered for his cruelty; he was an extremely effective ruler and politician...arguably the most brilliant that Europe produced in the 15th century. Also, the founder of the modern Romanian capital, Bucharest, and a favorite of the Popes.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Even more so now than he was. Just how many of the "stories" about him are true? Those who despise him tend to believe most of them whereas those who view him as a hero (especially in Romania) tend to discount all the stories as "propaganda" (even though they tend to be willing to believe the more positive myths surrounding him).
  • Spell My Name with an "S": He usually signed Romanian documents just as Vlad, but sometimes he signed as Drakulya. In Latin documents he rendered his name as Wladislaus Dragwlya, though his birth name was just "Vlad" instead of "Vladislav" - the names were equated in Latin but not in Romanian. Other variations of "Dracula" include Draculea and Dragolea.
  • The Strategist: He was a great tactician, always taking advantage of the surroundings to full extent, because he was always outnumbered by his enemies (especially the Ottomans, about 7 to 1 on average). He was also cunning and great at deceiving the enemy; and even known for going himself with a small contingent disguised as the enemy, behind their lines and taking them out on several occasions.
  • Succession Crisis: Since the position of Voivode was more based on which noble had the most political and military support rather than bloodlines and primogeniture, the politics tended to be turbulent. Vlad III became Voivode three times - two of his reigns ended with him going into exile and the third ended with his death. His father Vlad II also became Voivode twice, was deposed once and his second reign also ended with his death.
  • Took a Level in Badass: The Fall of Constantinople is what rocketed his badassery very rapidly.
  • Urban Legends: There are so many on Vlad it can get a bit crazy. Most being whether he really was a vampire, where he's buried, and if he will rise from the grave if his remains are disturbed.
  • Values Dissonance: Played with. While some of his methods were common for the day (such as razing villages, killing innocents during war, etc.) many alive even in his own time considered him terrifying and violent. Granted, those same people tended to be on the wrong end of his sword.
  • Villainous Valour: Even his harshest critics have to acknowledge that he was willing to put himself at tremendous personal risk to achieve his goals.
  • Warrior Prince: Literally trained for this since he was in diapers.

Vlad III in fiction (most of the Dracula characters tend to also be him, as such this will only list depictions that are actually supposed to be Vlad III, or explicitly based off of him):

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Alucard from Hellsing is Count Dracula and Vlad III. In the manga backstory, he was portrayed as a Knight Templar, fiercely loyal to God, but was disappointed when He did not descend after all his fighting. Feeling forsaken and knowing he lost it all, he became a vampire by sheer willpower, after sucking the blood of the battlefield before he was executed by the Ottoman Empire. Centuries later, he came to England to seek the woman he desired, Mina Harker, and was defeated by Abraham van Helsing and his group. After this second defeat, he became the faithful servant of Abraham's descendants for generations.
    • In the Gonzo anime, this connection was merely implied with hints in episode 9 and 13, but supplemental material in the Japanese booklets confirm this. Although, his backstory might be different because his characterization was modified. From steadfast Bodyguard Crush-like loyalty on Integra (and a Berserk Button on people betraying her or insulting her) with a deep respect for humanity like in the manga, he becomes more of a rebellious Poisonous Friend with his own agenda who keeps testing her (but he's still angry when she's seriously injured) and without regard for humanity as whole, exhibiting arrogance and superiority for being a vampire. The OVA is more accurate to the manga.
  • Shaman King has Boris Tepes Dracula, a descendant of Vlad the Impaler, the original Dracula. Not actually a vampire, but his family has used shamanic powers granted by Hao to take revenge on humanity, who treated them like vampires since the time of Vlad.

    Comic Books 
  • Requiem Vampire Knight (or Requiem Chevalier Vampire in the original French) has a Dracula who's the ruler of the highest social class, the Vampires, on the world of Resurrection. Interestingly, they make lots of references to the man Dracula was based off and in this universe used to be; Dracula has something of an obsession with impaling and decorates his ship the 'Satanik' with stakes covered with the bodies of those who've suffered the punishment, and an impaling gun has the sound effect of 'Tepes!' whenever it's fired. He also has the mask of the High Priest of the Archaeologists nailed to his face, because the priest hadn't removed it as a sign of respect for the vampire king (and also because Dracula really doesn't like the Archaeologists): this pretty much echoes what Vlad allegedly did to a Turkish messenger who refused to remove his turban. He even looks like the original Vlad, down to the Badass Mustache.
  • In the indie comicbook Dracula Vs King Arthur, Lucifer, wanting to one-up God, sends vampirized Dracula back in time to battle King Arthur in order to destroy his kingdom.
  • DC Comics Victorian Undead II Sherlock Holmes Vs Dracula: In which Sherlock Holmes is transplanted in the middle of the famous novel and helps the novel's protagonists hunt for Dracula.
  • Dracula Lives, a Spin-Off from Marvel Comics' The Tomb of Dracula, tells its own story of how Vlad Dracula became the Lord of Vampires alongside with other tales of villainy and bloodsucking.

    Film 
  • Romania produced a Vlad Tepes movie in 1979. It can be found on YouTube with English subtitles.
  • Bram Stoker's Dracula has a prologue about Vlad Dracula fighting the Turks, his wife's suicide, and Vlad becoming a vampire because of it. His deeds of mass impalement aren't shown, but as a nod he hoists an enemy soldier up in the air with his spear. The film also introduces a key plot element of Reincarnation Romance between Dracula and Mina Harker, who becomes Vlad's wife in a past life.
  • Dracula appears as the main villain in the 2004 film Van Helsing, as part of a Monster Mash with Frankenstein's Monster, The Werewolf, and Igor. He gives his full name as "Vladislaus Dracula", and a famous portrait of the real Vlad (the page image) is recreated with the actor Richard Roxburgh's face.
    • Van Helsing was originally planned as a direct prequel to Bram Stoker's Dracula (with Anthony Hopkins reprising his role as Van Helsing) to set up the doctor's history with the vampire, but it never panned out.
  • Dark Prince: The True Story of Dracula, a 2000 television movie about Vlad's life. While liberties are taken, it's a straight historical story until the end where he dies excommunicated and rises from the grave, implied to have become a vampire.
  • Dracula Untold, a 2014 fantasy movie about Vlad becoming a vampire to fight the Turks.

    Literature 
  • In Bram Stoker's Dracula itself, Count Dracula doesn't claim to be Vlad Dracula but rather a descendant of him, though other characters eventually speculate about them being the same. Though Stoker gets some history wrong, like attributing the wrong family and social class to the Count and Vlad Dracula, he references real details like Vlad fighting his own brother.
  • The New Annotated Dracula isn't, strictly speaking, a totally original work (it's just that, the complete text of the novel annotated) but it does take an interesting angle towards Bram Stoker's novel and its proceedings— taking the statement in the beginning of the novel that the story related is (mostly) factual and being related by a third party and building from there. Places where character names and origins have been changed, edits made in retrospect for later editions by the persons involved to make their behaviour a little more acceptable...
  • Hideyuki Kikuchi, author of the original Vampire Hunter D light novels, also wrote a novel about Dracula in Japan during the Meiji Restoration.
  • In a light novel from Type-Moon, Fate/Apocrypha, Vlad the Impaler is once again a Lancer class Servant. However, this incarnation is a different character than his Fate/Extra counterpart, and is actually rather upset about the whole "Dracula" thing. He's still not a vampire, as within the established rules of Nasuverse vampires, though he has a Noble Phantasm that turns him into the common depiction of Dracula.
  • Night Huntress does introduce Dracula in book 3. He prefers "Vlad".
  • In The Dresden Files, Dracula is said to be the son of Vlad Drakul, a monster of enormous power. Dracula is a member of the classically vampiric Black Court, but according to Ebenezer McCoy joined as an act of youthful rebellion. The book Dracula was commissioned by the White Court to Bram Stoker, to act as a manual to explain to Muggles how to kill Black Court vampires. It was very effective, and nowadays only the most badass Black Court vampires survive. Whether Dracula is among them is unknown; the book might have also been an account of Dracula's death, or might have simply used a powerful Black Court member as an example. Vlad Drakul, on the other hand, is immortal, still in Romania, and a freeholding lord under the Unseelie Accords, meaning he and his underlings are a small supernatural nation unto themselves.
  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is a novel that has the actual Vlad Dracula as a vampire, using books printed with a signature dragon with the word "Drakulya" to entice curious historians into finding his grave and, thereby, himself so that he can make them his minions. In this version, he is essentially an eternally undead Badass Bookworm. However, he's still evil.
  • David Weber's Out of the Dark makes some oblique references to Dracula, with a significant part of the Alien Invasion story taking place in the woods and mountains of Transylvania, and a local resistance fighter seems to take inspiration from Vlad the Impaler by impaling alien invaders on stakes as a terror tactic. He actually is Dracula and finally gets really pissed at the end of the book, leading to a Curbstomp Battle when he takes the fight directly to the invaders.
  • In Lawrence Watt-Evans's short story "The Name of Fear", a Romanian vampire kills Vlad Dracula and later impersonates an undead version of him, in order to bring back the fear of vampires. It works: the peasants, who formerly easily protected themselves from vampires by usual wards, now don't dare to use something like this against the dreaded "Vlad".
  • Vlad: The Last Confession by C.C. Humphreys is a novel about his life and struggle against the Turks, posthumously framed through the recollections of his closest friend, his confessor, and his mistress. It's suggested his cruel deeds including impalement partly had their roots in a Freudian Excuse as he was raped by the Turks as a boy. In the end it's revealed he faked his death to take revenge on his greatest enemy.
  • Count and Countess by Rose Christo is a novel in the form of a series of letters that Vlad and Elizabeth Bathory secretly send to one another despite living one hundred years apart in time.
  • If we were to list here all the Romanian historical novels starring Vlad, we'll be here all night, and possibly still miss a few. Most of them make an honorable effort to be realistic — though how that translates varies a lot. Some are merely finding Freudian excuses (which, frankly, he had in spades anyway), others are going out of their way to show his cruelty. A few are true gems of psychological analysis that, if properly made into movies, would probably shatter the box office.

    Live-Action TV 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Count Strahd von Zarovich (of the legendary Dungeons & Dragons adventure and subsequent game setting Ravenloft) started out as a renamed Count Dracula, drawing upon the movie portrayals more than the book. Similarities between the two persist to this day. To muddle the waters somewhat, though, the actual Count Dracula is used as a villain of the sub-setting Masque Of The Red Death, where attempts are made to portray the character with Vlad III Tepes as a basis. As if to wring the most out of the concept, the accounts of Vlad III's infamy, taken to extremes, had in turn already been a large part of the basis for a non-vampiric villain of the main setting: Vlad Drakov.
    • Interestingly, the character of Count Strahd was first sketched out as a villain in a standalone adventure module written in the early 80's. The release of the Realms of Terror campaign boxed set was the first, though, to detail his history and motivations in depth. As the campaign setting was released in 1990 and the Bram Stoker's Dracula film in 1992, this makes the movie version of the good Count Older Than They Think.
  • The Warhammer Vampire Counts have two bloodlines modeled on versions of Dracula. The Necrarchs resemble the character's portrayal in Nosferatu, but for the closest match, the von Carstein vampires tend to dress exactly like Bela Lugosi, and live in huge haunted castles beyond the forest. The character of Vlad von Carstein is probably the closest match to Dracula; though he is long (permanently) dead in the main storyline, his vampiric offspring (first Konrad and now Mannfred) continue the family tradition. Interestingly, all three take on different aspects of the Dracula archetype. Vlad is an artist, philosopher, and a genuine romantic who reluctantly made his dying wife a vampire so as to not be separated from her, and is Dracula as a charming, seductive noble. Konrad is a bloodthirsty, sadistic butcher, with no sense of subtlety, art, or manipulation, but takes a fierce glee in battle, and so is Dracula as Vlad the Impaler. Mannfred, finally, is a sociopathic Magnificent Bastard (though, as the current one, he has been suffering Villain Decay and is now something of a General Failure) who indirectly caused the defeats of the first two to satisfy his own ambition, and is possibly the closest to Stoker's original portrayal of Dracula. As of this edit, all three of them are 'permanently' dead, but there may be other spawns of Vlad's out there.
  • Interestingly, the Iron Kingdoms setting has a Vlad Tepes Expy that isn't a Dracula: Vladimir Tzepesci, the Dark Prince of Umbrey, complete with a spell called "Impaler."
  • Steve Jackson's Car Wars had a car catalog that included a large American car with a spike on the front... 'Vlad the Impala'.

    Video Games 
  • Castlevania
    • Castlevania: Lament of Innocence serves as a spin on Dracula's Origins Episode in the Castlevania series: instead of Vlad Tepes, Dracula is the fictional Crusader Mathias Cronqvist, former friend of the Belmonts. However, this character is partially named after a real person who spread inflated tales of Vlad III's harsh rule: Matthias Corvinus. The game also never uses the name Dracula directly, and is set centuries before the real Vlad's time.
    • However, the earlier Castlevania: Symphony of the Night had direct allusions to Vlad III. The player character Alucard (Dracula's son) has the surname "Tepes" and in the game manual, Dracula's full name is "Dracula Vlad Tepes". There's also a bomb item called "Power of Sire" (sire being an archaic term for father) which generates an image of Vlad III, based on the portait used as the page image. Since this was never really retconned, just established later that Dracula existed before Vlad, one might suppose Mathias just... changed his name.
    • The even earlier Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse had an oblique reference to Vlad. The game depicts the canonical first defeat and death of Dracula. It's set in 1476, the very year Vlad died in reality.
  • Melty Blood has a vampire called the Night of Wallachia. No, that's not just a fancy title, he's actually a night, as in the period of time between sundown and sunrise. He was an alchemist who was obsessed with stopping the end of the world that he predicted for the distant future. However, he was mortal and didn't have enough time to figure out the solution, so he made a Deal with the Devil and turned himself into both a vampire and a recurring phenomenon (likened to a hurricane, something that just happens whenever the conditions are right) wherein he would materialize local rumors. The first place where his night occurred was Wallachia, giving him the shape and personality of Dracula, which seems to have stuck with him for future occurrences.
    • Well, it's a bit unclear, since the manga adaptation says that his form in the fighting games is how he looked like before becoming a phenomenon. Then again, the Nasuverse has never been consistent to begin with. Incidentally, his appearance is a reference to Castlevania - he's based off the concept art for Dracula in Super Castlevania IV.
    • Interestingly, it's pretty conclusively stated that Vlad Tepes in the Nasuverse was not a vampire; rumors and legends of the vampire Dracula were just that: rumors and legends (although the Night of Wallachia appearing as a physical incarnation of those legends probably bolstered them quite a bit). A bit strange considering the heavy emphasis on vampires that Tsukihime and its spinoffs take.
  • In Fate/EXTRA, Dracula becomes a Lancer class Servant, based on his other name Vlad the Impaler, in which his tendency to executing his enemies by impaling them with spears became the basis of his class selection as Lancer. Incidentally, he doesn't seem to be a vampire, since there's already Night of Wallachia for the Dracula stand-in and Vlad/Dracula's classic vampire attributes don't seem to match the established Nasuverse vampire attributes. Like the Fate/Apocrypha version, he has has some vampire attributes despite not being a vampire, because Servants are shaped by their legend as well as their actual attributes in life.
  • Vlad Tepes, while presumably not possessing any special powers is a member of The Knights Templar in Assassin's Creed I. He's also one of the multiplayer characters in Assassin's Creed: Revelations though he doesn't appear in person, having been killed by the Ottomans a while ago.
  • Remilia Scarlet from Touhou Project is a vampire that claims to be the descendant of Vlad Tepes or the original Dracula. As every character (and fan) knows, this is an obvious lie. Ironically, if Dracula is assumed to have become a vampire at the time the real-life Vlad the Impaler died, Remilia is actually old enough to have plausibly claimed to be his daughter. Apparently she didn't realize this and went with the less impressive claim of merely being "descended" from him.
  • The final few areas in The Secret World are set in Romania, where a army of vampires are trying to Take Over the World. Despite having been dead for centuries, Vlad Dracul is an important character in the backstory. He was a vampire hunter, and his followers are still battling his estranged vampire wife's minions.
  • The Last Resurrection uses Dracula, alongside Hitler, as a servant of the main villain: Jesus.

Alternative Title(s):

Vlad The Impaler