Belfast Telegraph

Dracula 'inspired by ancestor tale'

Dracula author Bram Stoker was inspired by his chieftain ancestor and not the blood-thirsty Vlad the Impaler for the vampire novel, it has been claimed.

Historian Fiona Fitzsimons has studied the Dublin-born author's family tree and found he was a descendant of Manus "the Magnificent" O'Donnell - an Irish clan leader who led a rebellion against Henry VIII in the 16th century.

"Stoker did not use overtly Irish references in Dracula, but his main theme is taken from Irish history - the history, we now learn of his family - recast in the writer's imagination," said Ms Fitzsimons.

Stoker, who was sickly and often bed-ridden as a child, is known to have had his mother tell him tales. Ms Fitzsimons is convinced these included stories of his famous ancestor.

"His family was certainly aware of its connections with Manus O'Donnell," she went on. "His family history was the stories of Ireland and he was hearing about what happened to his direct ancestors."

The O'Donnell family is one of the oldest in Ireland.

The vampire character Dracula has been linked with Transylvania's Vlad the Impaler - a 15th-century Prince of Wallachia renowned for his cruelty and practice of impaling his enemies. His bloody reputation may have seemed more fitting with the blood-sucking Dracula. But Ms Fitzsimons has argued that Manus O'Donnell's heroics in gory battle are just as likely an inspiration, as was the fact he was a feudal leader with great power over much of the country.

The historian, of genealogy website Find My Past, started researching Stoker's family tree back in November - ahead of the centenary of the author's death this Friday. She said she hopes her findings will change the way literary critics have interpreted the 1897 novel.

"We want to rescue Bram Stoker from the critics," Ms Fitzsimons went on. "In the last 100 years, interpretations of Dracula have focused on modern interpretations of homoeroticism and sexual repression.

"We are saying sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and that Stoker's writing is about decayed aristocracy with a great warrior past, bypassed by history, bypassed by time and now living in the shadows."

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