Okay, as a Romanian I grew pretty sick of how our poor prince of Walachia is treated. Its not all the bad movies really, its more that I've seen some serious, malicious attempts at "adjusting" history from sources I once thought "professional", like History Channel.
Poor Vlad ended up being presented as a slaughterer of children, women and old men and in that documentary they told he used to impale whole villages to put the fear into invading turks.
I say - REALLY?! What second hand historian did his research reading "Vlad the Impaler - the comic books"?
Okay, so, to try and spread a bit of knowledge around, I'll rant away my heart on the subject.
Many of you have become accustomed with Dracula through Bram Stoker's novel or through one of the movies circulating for decades. You also think that Vlad the Impaler was the source the writer used to build up his character.
Actually, Bram Stoker used both Vlad the impaler and his father, Vlad Dracul as sources.
Just to get started, lets take the name "Dracula" and talk about its source - this source being Vlad the Impaler's father who was also called Vlad. He was a christian knight (as the novel implies about Dracula) who fought in the crusades (also in the novel) and, for his bravery in battle, was awarded the title of Dragon - a high honor awarded to a few in those times.
Returned home, he displayed the medal of the order, which looked like a coiled dragon:
Amongst the Romanian peasants, a dragon was called "Drac" - thus the popular name stuck and the prince was called Vlad Dracul - which literally means Vlad the Dragon.
Now, about his son...
Vlad the Impaler grew at the Turkish Court as, pretty much, a prisoner. It was the custom of the time that, in order to ensure peace and obedience between a conqueror and the defeated kingdom, one (or more) of the princes should be kept and educated by the conqueror. Once he grew and returned to his country as a leader, he used all his knowledge about turks to defeat them in what are, to this day, acts of military genius and bravery.
Vlad got his knick name (Impaler) from the fact that he made Impaling the only punishment for all crimes. In a very short time, his method proved so efficient, that there was virtually no criminality left in Walachia. Peasants praised his name and were living in security. There are stories of wells where you could drink water from cups of gold nobody took and merchants who lost their gold on the way, returned to the place and found their pouch of gold untouched in the middle of the road.
For the boyars who robbed their people, he had special, taller spikes.
He was no more cruel or sadistic than any of the rulers of his time. And he still has the renown of being the most just an fair ruler (at least in my country).
Now, curious about where Vlad got his bad wrap?
Well, as any good ruler, he wanted a good economy for his country. Thus, he created an accord with the saxon merchants in Transylvania to allow the Walachian merchants to sell their wears in their markets. In exchange, he promised them a safe route to the shore of Black Sea so they can buy spices and make exchanges.
Not long after this agreement, the saxon merchants broke their word. They confiscated the wears of the walachian traders and banished them empty handed. For this, Vlad denied them passage to the Black Sea and thus put a really bad cramp in their business.
To get revenge for this "affront", the saxon merchants started printing booklets and pamphlets about Vlad throughout the courts of Europe, exaggerating his acts of cruelty, telling he drinks blood and finally, falsifying a letter to the turks that got Vlad dethroned and imprisoned for years.
Kind of relates to the bankers today, isn't it?
As for his impaling habit, he used that not only as a mean of justice but also as a method of psychological warfare. After the attempts of the turks to send a pretender to the throne, Dan, to dethrone him, with his army never returning, the Sultan decided to go himself, with his entire army to do that. After long trip through a burned and poisoned country side, with many nightly guerilla attacks (one in which Vlad himself, disguised as a turk, tried to assassinate the sultan) Mehmed and his army faced a forest of 20, 000 impaled turks, the former army sent to dethrone Vlad.
This image alone made Mehmed turn back and at once.
It was through treachery and betrayal that Vlad was dethrone at first but he returned in power. His second rule was shorter and he ended up betrayed and killed by his own boyars.
So, despite his bad wrap, he's actually one of the good guys. He loved his country and his people, was a just ruler and a brave soldier, not to mention a brilliant tactician.