It always amuses me terribly, how, most of the times when modern Western literature and cinema requires some sort of quasi-mythological creature with savage, superhuman abilities – they tend to originate from Romania. Starting with fin de siècle novels, then Hollywood movies, and even contemporary television shows, narrative art has had no shortage of vampires, werewolves, hags, witches, dragons, cultists and zombies. More often than not, these come from Romania. Dracula being the most obvious example (played in the films by a series of charming Hollywood leading actors). Benicio del Toro’s “Wolfman” being another example. Not to mention J.K. Rowling’s penchant for sending a few of her secondary characters from “Harry Potter” to study and/or battle dragons in Romania. FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder has also struggled with his share of Romanian-speaking weirdos in more than one X-Files episode. And so on, and so forth.
All of this probably started when Bram Stoker visited Romania near the end of the 19th Century, had a glass of quality white wine near Medias, found out about a rather cruel medieval Wallachian ruler named Vlad the Impaler (who was apparently so ruthless, that he would literally skewer his political opponents through rather sharp wooden spears). A few bottles of wine in, and he probably came up with the basic concept for his novel. And, because in the present day, my father and I make quality white wine near Medias, I can attest to the fact that a couple of glasses of this potion will cause any aspiring author/artist to imagine whatever superhuman beast most tickles their particular fancy!
During my time abroad, I have actually been asked (no joke!) to my face: “Are there really vampires in Romania?”. And, although the first few times this has happened, my natural reaction was to laugh – gradually I came to realize that this is, ironically, not very far from the truth. One fleeting glance at the political ruling class of contemporary Romania, and you’ll find there all the beasts and creatures we’ve just been talking about. All manner of claws, protruding fangs, unshaven fur – intimidation, exsanguination, manipulation. Every beast-like attribute in God’s green Earth. All done with a charming smile on their faces!