Werewolf Fact of the Day

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What character is credited with establishing the werewolf's relative, the vampire, in popular culture?

  • The beliefs behind his legend intertwine with those of werewolves.
  • His image was defined by actor Bela Lugosi.
  • He was first written by Bram Stoker.
  • There is no parallel to his fame in werewolf culture.


Dracula

Bram Stoker's description of Count Dracula in his famous novel of the same name sounds as much like a member of the decadent aristocracy as a bloodthirsty member of the undead.

His face was a strong--a very strong--aquiline, with a high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils; with lofty domed forehead and hair growing scantily round the temples but profusely elsewhere. His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion. The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy mustache was fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly sharp white teeth; these protruded over the lips, whose remarkable ruddiness showed astonishing vitality in a man of his years.

With such an accurate and detailed description of the immortal Count provided by Stoker, it is strange that no cinematic portrayal has yet to cast an actor that really looked like the Dracula that originally lurked in the dark side of an author's imagination. It seems particularly strange that the "heavy mustache" has been almost completely ignored. Of all the screen Draculas--and some of the portrayals have been creepily masterful--only John Carradine and Lon Chaney Jr. wore mustaches, though neither upper lip adornment was at all a "heavy" one.

Bela Lugosi should be placed in a special category of achievement for his unique, aristocratic, formally attired Count Dracula. In a very real sense, in the collective unconscious of horror buffs, Lugosi's visage and demeanor will always be the archetypal image of the vampire. Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) with Gary Oldman may be the Count as the most accurate presentation of Stoker's original concepts--and for his depicting Dracula as a true shape-shifter, assuming the form of bat, wolf, demon, and varying stages and ages of his human-self--including one characterization with a mustache!

"Historically, the werewolf is entwined with vampire beliefs," David J. Skal writes in The Monster Show. "Bram Stoker's Dracula, for instance, was unabashedly a werewolf as well as a blood-drinker. The werewolf theme was largely eliminated from Dracula stage adaptations, due to the difficulties of convincingly presenting such a total physical transformation in the theatre. The vampire and the werewolf became discrete in the public mind."

Numerous books have been written in recent years demonstrating various proofs that the fifteenth-century Romanian ruler Vlad the Impaler, though not a vampire, served as the historical antecedent for Dracula. Many believe, however, that the impetus for the creation of the eternal count lies in the genius of Bram Stoker's imagination. Dracula is the quintessential vampire, the dark embodiment of hundreds of ancient fears and dreads compacted in one compelling and sinister figure. Werewolfdom has no such quintessential figure. There is no "Dracula" that comes instantly to mind as the essence of all werewolves.

Perhaps there is no "Dracula" in werewolfdom because the werewolf can never attain the romantic and openly sexual fantasies associated with the vampire. Dracula doesn't whimper and complain over his dominion over the night. The sophisticated, elegant count does not search for a cure for his vampirism. The vampire of popular culture is in control of his fate, not its victim.

From The Werewolf Book: The Encyclopedia of Shape-Shifting Beings, Second Edition by Brad Steiger, (c) 2012 Visible Ink Press(R) Steiger's homage to the beast within provides meaty facts for the lycanthropic in all of us.

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