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Friday, April 29, 2005

Dracula before bed


I am going to Romania in a few weeks time and was looking up some language to learn before going. I am totally amazed at its similarity to Portuguese and to Italian, at least when it's written. Apparently it is "low" Latin - I confess to never having realised that.

Then I made the mistake of reading up about Dracula before going to bed. I know that Count Dracula comes from Transylvania in Romania and thought I would check out the origins of the story. It turns out that Dracula was probably based on a high member of the Romanian court - Vlad Dracula - who was worse than Dracula himself.

Dracula ("son of the dragon") was a Christian Crusador who fought to keep the Muslim Ottoman Turks out of Romania. But he killed anyone (not only Ottomans) who he thought was a potential traitor or a nuisance by impalling them between their legs and up to their chest. He often boiled or skinned people alive.

Among other truly horrible stories about him, he invited all the poor people and beggars to his court for a party and lots of food. After they had eaten he asked them if they were happy, to which they replied that they were. Do you want to stay happy, he asked. And when they said yes, he locked all the doors and burned them all up saying that everyone would be much happier if there were fewer poor people on the streets.

All night in my dreams I struggled to escape from Vlad Dracula in Baghdad. In the meantime, none of the poor people in Paris could hear me warning them to get off the streets. I woke up this morning wondering about today's more and less sanitised equivalents of Vlad Dracula.

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