THE TALE OF DRACULA
From a Russian manuscript circa 1490 English translation
Translated by Jana Howlett
In the land of Muntania there was a Christian prince of the Greek faith, by the name of Dracula in Wallachian, and the Devil in ours. His way of life was as evil as his name.
On one occasion there came to him ambassadors sent by the Turkish ruler. Entering and bowing according to their custom, they did not take their hats off their heads. So he asked them: ‘Why do you behave thus, you have come to a great ruler and yet you show me such dishonour?’ And they replied: ‘That is our custom, Sire, and it is observed in our land’. And he said to them: ‘I want to confirm your custom, so that you keep to it resolutely’. And he ordered that their hats should be nailed to their heads with small iron nails. Then he let them go, saying: ‘Go and tell your ruler that he may be used to such dishonour from you, but we are not used to it, so he should not spread such a custom among other kings, who do not want to observe it. Instead let him keep to it at home’.
And the Emperor was made very angry by this and rose with his armies against Dracula, and he came to his land with many men. And Dracula, collecting what armies he had, attacked the Turks at night and killed many of them. But he was unable to win against such great army with such a small number of men, so he turned back.
And he inspected those soldiers who came back with him from the battle. Those who were wounded from the front received great honour and were made knights, but those who had had been wounded from the back were impaled on a stake through their back passage with Dracula saying thus: ‘you are not a man but a woman’. And whenever he went against the Turks he spoke to his armies thus: ‘He who wants to think of death should not come with me, but remain here’. And when the Emperor heard this he went away with great dishonour, having destroyed numerous armies but fearing to go against Dracula.
And the Emperor sent an Ambassador to Dracula asking for tribute. Dracula received him with great honour and showed him all his wealth and said: ‘Not only do I want to give tribute to the Emperor, but I want to go into his service with all my armies and my treasury, and I will serve him, obeying all his orders. Tell your Tsar that when I come to him he should order everyone throughout his land not to harm me or my people; I will want to enter into your Tsar’s service soon, and will myself bring the tribute and come to him.’. And when the Tsar heard from his Ambassador that Dracula wants to enter his service he honoured his ambassador and gave him many gifts. And he was very pleased for he was then at war with Easterners. And he sent out throughout his cities and his lands that when Dracula should come no one should do any evil to Dracula and should give him honour. And Dracula went gathering all his armies and members of the imperial guard accompanied him and gave him much honour. And he spent 5 days travelling in the land and suddenly went back and started to assault cities and villages and he captured and killed many men and other Turks he impaled and others he cut in half and burnt, even including suckling babes. And he didn’t leave anyone. He laid waste the whole land and those who were Christians he brought to his land and settled them there and he took much booty and having returned he honoured the imperial guard and let them go saying: ‘Go and tell your Tsar what you saw. I served him as well as I could and should he want my service again I will want to serve him in the same way to the best of my abilities.’ And the Tsar could do nothing but was conquered with dishonour.
And he so hated evil in his land, that whenever someone did evil, a crime or robbery, or lied, or was guilty of an injustice, then he was not allowed to live. Neither great boiars or priests or monks or ordinary people or those owning great wealth could save themselves from death with money, and that is how fearful he was. He had a water source and a well in a certain place and many travellers from many countries came to this well because the water there was cold and sweet. And he placed a great and wondrous golden cup in an empty place by the well so that anyone who wanted to drink the water could drink it with that cup and put it back again. And however much time passed no-one dared to steal the cup.
Once he gave an order throughout the land that anyone old, or incapable, or disabled, or a beggar, should come to see him. And a numberless number of beggars and wanderers gathered expecting great charity from him. And he ordered that they should all be gathered in a large single building built specially for the purpose and he ordered that they should be given enough to eat and drink. And they ate and were happy. And he came to see them himself and said ‘What else do you wish for?’ and they all answered ‘Only God and your Majesty know, oh ruler, so do whatever God suggests to you.’ And he said to them, ‘Do you want me to rid you of sorrow on this earth, so that you will need for nothing?’ And they were expecting something great from him and all said ‘Yes, we do, oh ruler.’, so he ordered the building to be locked up and set alight and all inside it burnt to death. And he said to his boyars ‘You should know why I did this. First of all I did this so that they shouldn’t complain to people, and so that there should be no-one who is a beggar in my land. Instead everyone will be rich. Secondly by my action I freed them from suffering on this earth, and from poverty and from sickness.’
Two Latin monks once came to him from Hungary asking for alms. And he ordered that they each should come to him separately. He called one of them and showed him the numberless number of people impaled on stakes and broken on wheels in the courtyard, and he asked the monk: ‘Have I done well, and who are the people who are on the stakes?’ And the monk replied, ‘No, ruler, you do evil by punishing without mercy, for a ruler should be merciful, and those who are on the stakes are martyrs.’ And Dracula called the other monk and asked him the same thing, and the monk replied ‘You, ruler, have been appointed by God to punish those who do evil and to favour those who do good, and these people did evil and have received their just reward.’ So Dracula called the first monk and said to him: ‘Why do you wander from your monastery and your cell, from ruler to ruler, without knowing anything. You have just said that these are martyrs and I want to make you a martyr too, so that you shall be a martyr with them.’ And he ordered that the monk should be impaled on the stake from behind and ordered that the other monk should be given 50 ducats of gold, saying ‘You are a wise man’, and he ordered that the monk should be driven with honour in a carriage to the Hungarian land.
One day a certain foreign merchant came from Hungary to his city and as the law required he left his cart on the street in front of a house and all his goods were in the cart, and he himself slept in the house. And someone came and stole 160 ducats of gold from the cart and the merchant came to Dracula and told him about the disappearance of the gold, and Dracula said to him: ‘Go back and you will find the gold tonight.’ And he ordered that the thief should be sought throughout the city, saying: ‘If the thief is not found, then I will destroy the whole city’ and he ordered that his own gold should be placed on the carriage at night with one gold ducat added. When the merchant got up and found the gold and counted it once and twice and found an extra gold ducat he went to Dracula saying ‘Sire, I found the gold, but this gold ducat is not mine, it is an extra one.’ And then they brought the thief with the gold and Dracula said to the merchant ‘Go with peace. If you hadn’t told me that you had the gold, I would have been ready to impale you together with this thief.’
And if any woman committed adultery away from her husband, he ordered that her private parts should be cut out, and her skin should be stripped off her body. And than she would be tied naked and her skin hung on a pillar in the middle of the city and the market. And virgins who did not keep their virginity and widows guilty of the same sometimes had their breasts cut off, and sometimes they had the skin skinned from their private parts, and a heated iron poker would be plunged into the womаn’s private parts until it came out of her mouth, and thus she would stand, naked, tied to a pillar until her flesh and bones fell apart or were eaten by birds.
One day Dracula was travelling on a journey and he saw a certain poor man in a worn and torn shirt. And he asked him: ‘Do you have a wife?’ and the man replied ‘I have, Sire’, so then he responded, ‘Bring me to your house so that I can see her’, and he saw that the wife was young and healthy and he asked her husband ‘Have you not sowed any flax?’ and he responded, ‘Sire, I have much flax’, and he showed him much flax. And then Dracula told the wife, ‘So why are you lazy and do not care for your husband? He must sow and plough and look after you, so you must make your husband clothes which are light and nice – and you do not even want to make him a shirt, though you are healthy in your body. You are guilty, not your husband. If your husband had not sown flax then he would have been guilty.’ So he ordered that her hands be cut off and her body be impaled.
Once he lunched under the bodies of dead people put on stakes and there were many of them around his table, but he ate among them and enjoyed his meal. His servant who put the food before him could not stand the smell and held his nose and inclined his head, and Dracula asked him ‘Why are you doing that?’ and the servant responded, ‘Sire, I cannot bear the smell’. So Dracula ordered him to be impaled too, saying: ‘The smell will not reach you now that you are impaled on a high stake.’
Once the Hungarian King Matthias sent an ambassador to him of high rank, born in Poland. He ordered the ambassador to sit with him at lunch among the bodies, and before him there was a very fine, tall and gold-covered stake. And Dracula asked the ambassador ‘Why did I make this stake, tell me?’ and the ambassador was much afeared and said ‘Sire, it seems to me that some great man is guilty before you and you want to give him an honoured death greater than that for others’ and Dracula said: ‘You are right. You are the great envoy of a great ruler, so I made this stake for you.’ And the asmbassador responded ‘Sire, if I have done something which deserves death, do as you wish, for you are a just judge. You are not guilty of my death, but I am.’ And Dracula laughed and said, ‘If you had not responded thus, you would definitely have been on this stake’ and he honoured him greatly and gave him gifts and let him go, saying ‘You should go on embassies from great rulers to other rulers, for you have been taught how to speak with great rulers. Envoys should not dare to do anything without having first been taught to speak to great rulers.’
Such was Dracula’s custom. When an ambassador from an Emperor or a King came to him who wasn’t refined and could not respond to his tricky speeches then he would be impaled with the words ‘Not I am guilty of your death, but either your ruler or you yourself, so you can’t say anything evil against me. If your ruler, being intelligent, sent you to me knowing that you were of little brain and not well-taught, then your ruler killed you. If you yourself dared to go on an embassy without having learnt all that is necessary, then you yourself have killed yourself.’ And that is why he had a high stake erected and gilded for ambassadors, and on these he impaled them and then he sent back the words of the ambassador’s master, adding that the king should not have sent someone of little brain and little learning in ambassadorial matters to a ruler of great intelligence.
His craftsmen made him iron barrels which he filled with gold and put them in the river, and he ordered that the masters should be executed so that no-one should know what he did, only the devil who shared his name could know.
Once the Hungarian King Matthias went against him in war. And he went against him and met him and they both clashed and Dracula was seized alive having been betrayed by his own men. And he was brought to the King and it was ordered that he should thrown into prison. And he was imprisoned in Viszegrad on the Danube above Buda for twelve years. And another ruler was appointed to rule the Muntanian land.
And when that ruler died the King sent to Dracula in prison asking whether he wanted to be the ruler of the Muntainian land as before, and if he does he must convert to the Latin faith. And if he does not convert to the Latin faith than he will die in prison.
And Dracula fell for the sweetness of the temporal world instead of the infinite and eternal world and he fell away from orthodoxy and departed from truth and he left light for an adopted darkness. Alas, he couldn’t bear the temporary troubles of the prison and instead prepared himself for eternal punishment by leaving our orthodox faith and adopting the Latin falsehood. And the King not only made him ruler of Muntania but also gave him his own sister as wife and Dracula had two sons from her. And he lived a little over ten years and died in heresy.
They say that when he was in prison he didn’t forget his evil habits, but he caught mice and bought birds in the market and then he executed them, some by impaling them on stakes, others by beheading, and from some others he took the feathers off before letting them go. And he learnt how to sew and thus he kept himself alive in the prison.
When the King took him from the prison, he brought him to Buda and gave him a house in Pecs opposite Buda. But even before he had gone to the King a certain evildoer came to his house and hid and those who were looking for him came and started to look for him and found him. And Dracula rose and took up his sword, jumped off his bed and cut of the head of the guard who held the evildoer and let the evildoer go. And the others ran away and they came to the chief and told him what happened and the chief with his officials went to the King complaining about Dracula. And the King sent to him asking: ‘Why did you do this evil?’ and he responded thus: ‘I didn’t do any evil, he killed himself. Anyone who attacks in a house of a great ruler will die thus. If you had come to me and found the evildoer in my house I would have either given him to you or would have asked for him to be reprieved.’ When the King was told this he started to laugh and was amazed at Dracula’s heart.
And this was Dracula’s end. He lived in the Muntanian land and Turks came to his land and started to seize it and he attacked them and the Turks fled and the armies of Dracula started to kill them without mercy and chased them out. And Dracula was so happy he rushed to the top of the hill to see how the Turks were being punished, and he got separated from his army and those who were near him thought that he was a Turk and one of them hit him with a spear. When he saw that he was being killed by his own people, he killed five of his killers with his sword and was killed with many spears and thus he died.
And the King took his sister and the two sons to the Hungarian land to Buda and one of the sons lives with the King’s son and the other was with the Bishop of Varad and died while we were there, and I saw the third son, the oldest, called Mikhail, there in Buda, he had fled from the Turkish Emperor to the King. And even before he had married, Dracula had put him to live with a certain female. And Stephen of Moldavia at the King’s request appointed in the Muntanian land a certain ruler’s son by the name of Vlad and this Vlad was a monk in his youth and then a priest and then an abbot in a monastery and then he took off the tonsure and became a ruler and married, and he took as his wife the wife of the ruler who succeeded Dracula and who shortly after was attacked and killed by Stephen of Wallachia. And now Vlad is the voevoda in Muntania, the Vlad who was the monk and an abbot.
In the year 6994, February 13th this was written earlier and then again in the year 6998 January 28th it was rewritten a second time by me, sinful Efrosin.