What’s in a Vampire Name?

Contrary to popular belief, Bram Stoker’s Dracula was not named after Vlad the Impaler. It is believed that Bram Stoker would have known very little about Vlad, “certainly not enough to have been inspired to base Count Dracula on him.” In fact, Stoker discovered the name Dracula in an old book with a footnote suggesting it came from a Romanian word for “devil”, which was, obviously, appropriate for his main character. Until then, the name he had in mind for his spooky Count was Wampyr. Yes, the best known vampire in history was almost Wampyr the Vampire.

The 1922 German film Nosferatu stole the story of Dracula and hoped to get away with it by changing the characters’ names, including that of the main character to Count Orlok. The Stoker estate successfully sued the production company for copyright infringement, leaving the company bankrupt and proving that a Dracula by any other name was … well, illegal. (Dracula has always been in the public domain in the United States, but in the United Kingdom and other countries the novel was under copyright until April 1962, fifty years after Stoker’s death.)

Dracula lends itself wonderfully to parodies. The Bugs Bunny cartoon Transylvania 6-5000 features Count Blood Count; Count Duckula is “a little bit Dracula, a little bit Daffy Duck”; Count Chocula has his own cereal; Count Floyd hosted SCTV’s Monster Chiller Horror Theater; and toddler favourite Count von Count lives on Sesame Street and helps his audience learn to count. “They call me the Count because I love to count things!  One friend from Sesame Street, plus one friend from Sesame Street, equals two friends from Sesame Street! Ah, ha, ha!”

In early tales, the starring vampires often had titles, including Sir Francis Varney in the 1847 serial Varney the Vampire, and Lord Ruthven in The Vampyre, 1918.

Anne Rice says her inspiration for the character Lestat de Lioncourt, star of the hugely popular Vampire Chronicles, came largely from her husband, poet and artist Stan Rice. The name Lestat is, or is meant to sound like, an old French name.

Angel, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was once one of the nastiest of the nasty.  He terrorized Europe in the 1700s as Angelus before being cursed with a soul, a punishment designed to make him suffer eternally for his past crimes. The name Angelus is obviously ironic, referencing the handsome demeanour hiding the monster within. As Angel entering the 21st century, the vampire with a soul spent all of his time helping others.

In modern times, vampire names have become less formal, allowing them to fit in with today’s society. The vampires in the recent Twilight series were born in the early 1900s and have simple names from that period: Edward, James, Victoria, etc.

And that brings us to the current American television series True Blood, which features a vampire lead character. Through the last couple of hundred years of vampire fiction we’ve gone from Counts to … Bill.

If your horse or other pet has expressed an interest in getting into character for Halloween, search on-line for vampire names for your dog, horse, etc. and a site will come up – no kidding – with suggestions such as Igor (faithful assistant) and Blade (Tomb of Dracula).

To discover your own vampire name, search for vampire name generators and you’ll find several sites. My vampire name is Karula Drifher. I like it.

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