I am going to admit something that a lot of people will do a double-take at: I hate the subject of history. I do not mean hate as in the passionate kind of hate that makes me want to get all Țepeș-ian on history’s little bottom. But when people try to shove the subject of history into my face without regard for the fact that I am only interested in it as it relates to my writing and things I write about, I want to get very Țepeș-ian indeed on the people doing the pushing.
The name Țepeș, from what I have been reading (including one answer given in Yahoo! Answers by an individual who states that Romanian is their native language) is pronounced “Tseh-pesh”, or “sep-esh” as I would put it in my own simplified pronunciation guides. When a man has a name with a sound that brings a blade going through flesh at an exceptionally fast pace (or a loud pair of scissors) to mind, you know he is going to be awesome in at least one way.
Vlad Țepeș (the Vlad being pronounced with the a sounding like the a in father) has/had a reputation both among historians and the people of his time. Whilst I do not like to compare one lot of atrocities to another, the general view is that even when one combines every tyrant of the twentieth century with Țepeș, the combination of them all comes up wanting. He is considered to be one of the cruellest and most vile men who ever lived.
Rather than attempt to tell you dry facts and regurgitations of other peoples’ studies, I am instead going to simply talk about the things that I find fascinating about the man as recorded in history, along with some reflections on the manner that people have tried to portray him in fiction.
Now, a point that needs to be cleared up right away is that there is a very common misconception that classical Irish author Bram Stoker based his best-known character, the titular character from Dracula, entirely (or even to a great degree, depending on who you talk to) upon Vlad Țepeș. Whilst the text of the novel does mention Voivodes and Turks being defeated on their own ground and such, the Dracula of Bram Stoker‘s novel was a complete pussy compared to Vlad Țepeș. In fact, a far more likely source of inspiration for the whole immortal who must drink blood in order to live is the Hungarian Countess named Erzsébet Báthory. Báthory was accused, after the death of her husband Ferenc Nádasdy, of torturing and killing hundreds of girls. One witness puts the number at over 650. The total amount that Báthory and her four collaborators were convicted for was eighty. Regardless of which figure you believe, this makes Báthory the single most prolific female serial killer in Human history. And her purpose in killing all of these women, according to later writings, is in order to bathe in the blood of virgins, which she believed would prolong her life.
But enough about her. You see, the problem I have with people blindly chaining Vlad Țepeș to Dracula is that it creates an image of Țepeș as a poncy, prim, proper, even gay, man. In a time when this simply would not be tolerated, even amongst Royalty (between November of 1431 and January of 1477, going by the widest margin of possible dates). In fact, this is as good a place as any to start talking about one of the legends of Vlad Țepeș‘ cruelty that has been widely circulated during his lifetime. It is not my favourite, but knowing the times and knowing the other legends, I have few doubts as to its veracity. You see, during a time when Vlad Țepeș was in a low, unhappy mood due to the many cares pressing upon him, his girlfriend at the time tried to cheer him up by telling him that she was pregnant. She was not, and that proved to be a big mistake. You see, Țepeș had his medics (such as they were in those days) examine her to determine the veracity of her announcement. When they determined that she was about as pregnant as I will ever be (for those who do not get it or have made this the first entry in my journal that they are reading, I am a thirty-odd year old male), Țepeș‘ response was to disembowel her.
As Krumah Steward once wrote when Eightball magazine was a site of its own, there ain’t nothing gay about that shit.
Worth noting at this point that historical records from the 1400s need to be taken with somewhat of a grain of salt. If you need to understand why, then consider that obituaries from as recently as the early to late-mid twentith century are frequently found to be in error. Even today, when a recent event is written down and held to be fact by some sources, you will get others pointing at it and screaming bullshit. This is why, before granting the possibility of fact, historians try to find at least three separate documents testifying to a fact. Vlad Țepeș‘ birth can be taken as fact because a historical record of it exists, and several documents from a similar period back this up. But a lot of these legends only exist in documents written by enemies such as the Ottomans. So take them as you will.
The few who have read my stories about how Rundin Stonehelm goes from gentle, relatively innocent boy to vicious, bloodthirsty Prince will know that a lot of the character is inspired by Vlad Țepeș. There are two specific legends of Țepeș that I have incorporated into stories of Rundin Stonehelm so far. It is said that in the year 1462, Mehmed II, the “conqueror of Constantinople”, who had his own legendary reputation in the field of psychological warfare, returned to Constantinople, shaking and sickened by the sight of no less than twenty thousand corpses impaled Târgoviște, the city in which Vlad made his capital. Stop and think about that for a second. A man uses twenty thousand men shish-ka-bobbed outside of his own city to make the leader of his enemies go away.
Nor is the legend specific about whose twenty thousand men Vlad Țepeș is alleged to have made a “forest of corpses” (Mehmed II‘s words, according to some accounts) out of. It could have been other idiots trying to invade Wallachia. It could have been criminals within his own empire. For all we know to the contrary, it could just have been twenty thousand unfortunate Wallachians that Țepeș decided on that day he was sick of the sight of. We will never really know for sure.
There are two other stories I made a composite of and incorporate into Rundin Stonehelm, thus making it one as far as I am concerned. During one of his mass-impalment festivals (Vlad Țepeș really liked to make shishkabobs out of people), a subject, diplomat, or visiting envoy kept his nose and mouth covered, trying his damnedest not to retch at the smell of the corpses that were all around him within at least fifteen minutes’ walk. Vlad, a bit curious, asked him why he was keeping his face covered. The response supposedly was that the poor diplomat could not stand the smell around him. So Vlad asked, quite politely, how this individual would like to be in a place where none of corpses’ odour would ever reach him. When the answer came in the affirmative, Vlad had this rather foolish sod impaled on a spike at least a couple of lengths higher than all of the others. The other half of this legend is somewhat easier to tell concisely. Apparently, when seated at a table amidst a forest of Human shishkabobs, Vlad Țepeș would gather bowls of blood from the victims and eat a meal amongst them, using the blood in a similar manner to gravy or tomato sauce (the specific word is he would dunk this bread in the blood).
I personally think that the autism civil rights movement could learn a thing or two from Vlad Țepeș. He was truly the Powell type of his day. No, I am not kidding. He would arrange his corpse forests in geometric patterns, staggered patterns of height, patterns of height according to previously-held rank in society or invading armies, you name it.
In fact, this is a good demonstration of the difference between a Powell type in battle, and a normie in battle. Let us look at an example of the latter that is more analogous to recent times. Adolf Hitler loved to kill the people he perceived as his enemies in great numbers. But he did a lot of delegating. As was said during the Nuremberg trials, there is no conceivable fashion in which Hitler could have killed so many without the cooperation and active assistance of the people that were on trial at the time. Beyond telling these people to kill every Jew, Gypsy, mental patient, or other “unwanted” they could find, Hitler‘s approach was distinctly hands-off.
Not Țepeș‘. He took great delight in seeing people that he perceived as his enemy, or just not well-behaved enough to be his friend, suffer. And as I am sure you have gathered from the legends I have so far shared, he did not simply order men to carry out these acts, then go and play with the children. No. He would be right there with his loyal soldiers (the ones who feared him more than they hated him, anyway). How much he helped in nailing the often still-living people up is a matter of debate, but much has been written to the effect that he even researched into better, crueller ways to impale a person. The stake, for instance, had to be just right. Not too sharp, but not too blunt, either, as either extreme would bring about death too quickly. Often, the stake was oiled up in order to make it pass more smoothly through the anus, and often out of the mouth. And yes, women who were impaled were often impaled in manners with attention to their most womanly features. That part I am not so on-board with. But please do not tell me you can read about such an obsessive level of attention to killing an enemy and making them suffer, and not think of either a certain build-type of brain, or an extreme obsessive compulsive disorder. Given how much we really know about Vlad Țepeș, either possibility is equally likely.
Another legend that I read and laughed at for some time after was about a group of envoys visiting Vlad Țepeș‘ palace. The stories vary in the details, but the basic thrust is the same. During a visit to Țepeș‘ place, a number of foreigners would not remove their headwear. Țepeș asked them why they would not do this, as wearing your helm or hat inside a person’s house was considered a bit rude in Wallachia. So these people told Vlad simply that it was part of either their culture or religion that they never removed their headwear. Regardless of reason. Very well, Țepeș told these people, and with the aid of several of the elites among his army, nailed their hats to their heads.
Another story that I originally read on Eightball magazine has it that during a visit to Wallachia, a merchant was dismayed to find that locals had stolen all of the money (gold coins in those days) that he had traded for during the course of the day. Knowing that Țepeș had a reputation for being very concerned with law and order in his realm, the merchant went to him and reported his grievance. Țepeș told the merchant to leave the matter with him, and soon it would be resolved.
So the next day, the merchant finds all of the gold coins that he reported as stolen put out for him in his lodgings. Only there was an additional coin amongst the lot. Puzzled, this merchant went to Țepeș, asking why the extra coin. Țepeș stated, simply, that the perpetrators of the theft had been caught, and had been impaled in a location of the city of Târgoviște. What happened to the additional gold coin, whether it was returned to Țepeș or allowed to remain with the merchant as a gesture of apology for the inconvenience, is unknown. But it is said that Țepeș told the merchant it was just as well that he had reported the presence of an extra coin. Or he would have been impaled, too.
I get the idea that this was the merchant’s last visit to Wallachia, at least during Vlad Țepeș‘ reign(s).
Vlad Țepeș‘ life is completely surround in mystery, and most of the legends are hard to completely verify. It was known that even during his lifetime, he was famous as a tyrant who took pleasure in torturing and killing people of all kinds. But all that is known for sure of his death is that it can be confirmed as happening prior to January 10 of 1477, and he was assassinated. In those times, assassinated could mean anything from being poisoned to being snuck up on and beheaded. But his “preserved” head was taken to Constantinople, and his body buried by a rival named Basarab Laiota at a monastery that Vlad founded in Comana during 1461.
A more fitting end would have been for him to be impaled, but fate is rarely just. Nonetheless, it should hardly surprise anyone that I consider Vlad Țepeș and his Dragon-adorned banners a far more suitable emblem for the autistic than has so far been offered. Or rather, thrust upon us.