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DraculasGuest

Front cover of a first edition of Dracula's Guest and Other Weird Stories.

"Dracula's Guest" (also published as "Dracula's Curse", "Dracula's Daughter", "The Dream in the Dead House" and "Walpurgis Night") is a short horror story by the Irish author Bram Stoker. It was first published in 1914, some two years after Stoker's death, as part of the book Dracula's Guest and Other Weird Stories, an anthology of Bram Stoker's short stories selected by his widow Florence Balcombe. In the introduction to Dracula's Guest and Other Weird Stories, Florence Balcombe describes "Dracula's Guest" as, "an hitherto unpublished episode from Dracula. It was originally excised owing to the length of the book." It is widely believed that "Dracula's Guest" was originally intended to be the first chapter of Dracula and was removed from the novel because either Stoker or his publisher believed it to be superfluous to the novel. Analysis of the manuscript of Dracula indicates that a first chapter was removed from it. It is likely, however, that Stoker rewrote that excised first chapter before it was published as "Dracula's Guest".

The story's narrator and protagonist is an unnamed Englishman[1] who is spending some time in Munich, Germany before traveling on to Transylvania as the guest of Count Dracula. Ignoring the warnings of a German coachman, the Englishman decides to go off on his own in the direction of a long-deserted village. The coachman says that the place is "unholy" and that it was abandoned because the dead did not stay truly dead there.

There have been a number of adaptation of "Dracula's Guest" to other media. Those adaptations have, however, often been very loose.

Plot

The story opens on a sunny afternoon in Munich, Germany. An Englishman is leaving his hotel to go on an excursion. Herr Dellbruck, the hotel manager, warns Johann the coachman that a snowstorm is coming. He tells the coachman to come back before nightfall, adding, "for you know what night it is." The Englishman asks Johann what night it is. The coachman replies that it is Walpurgis Night[2] and crosses himself. Johann looks at his watch, making it clear that he does not want to be delayed.

The Englishman notices a road which appears to be little-used that goes into a little winding valley. He thinks that it looks very inviting. He asks Johann to drive down that road. Johann makes several excuses not to go down the road and frequently crosses himself. This only further excites the Englishman's curiosity. He says that he will go down the road with or without Johann and gets out of the coach at a crossroads. Johann jumps down from the coach and begs the Englishman not to go down the road. He appears to be too scared to give a good reason. When the horses suddenly appear to get frightened, Johann points to a cross which marks the grave of someone who committed suicide.[3] A sound is heard. Johann says, "It sounds like a wolf - but yet there are no wolves here now." He adds that a snowstorm is coming and looks at his watch again.

The Englishman asks where the road leads to. Johann says a prayer and crosses himself before answering. He says that there was a village there once but nobody has lived there for hundreds of years. He says that sounds were heard coming from the cemetery. When graves were opened, corpses were found to have rosy faces and blood on their mouths. All of the people fled the village and went to places "where the living lived and the dead were dead".

Johann says once again that it is Walpurgis Night and asks the Englishman to get back into the coach. He answers, "Walpurgis nacht doesn't concern Englishmen". He tells Johann to go back to Munich and says that he will make his way back to the hotel on his own. Johann reluctantly leaves. The Englishman sees a tall thin man approach Johann's coach at the top of a hill. The terrified horses break free from the coach and run off. When the Englishman looks again, the tall thin man has vanished.

The Englishman follows the road for a long time. It gets colder and it gets dark but the Englishman is determined to see the deserted village. It begins to snow. The Englishman takes shelter in a clump of yew and cypress trees. He thinks that he may be able to take shelter in one of the deserted village's ruined houses. He sees a building and sets off towards it. When he reaches the building, he sees that it is a marble tomb. An inscription above the tomb's door reads, "Countess Dolingen of Gratz in Styria. Sought and found death 1801". Carved on the back of the tomb in the Russian alphabet is, "The dead travel fast."[4] An iron spike has been driven through the roof of the tomb.

Hailstones begin to fall instead of snow. The Englishman realizes that the clump of trees would give him no protection from the storm and he is forced to stay in the doorway of the tomb. He looks inside the tomb at the moment of a lightning flash. He sees a "beautiful woman with rounded cheeks and red lips" who looks as if she is asleep. A strong gust of wind blows the Englishman away from the tomb's doorway. Lightning strikes the iron spike in the tomb's roof and the tomb falls apart. The Englishman sees the dead woman rise up and scream before she is engulfed in fire. He loses consciousness.

When the Englishman comes to, he finds that there is a large wolf standing over him and licking his throat. Soldiers on horseback arrive. They fire at the wolf and it runs off. They do not pursue the animal, saying that it was, "A wolf - and yet not a wolf", and that they could not kill it without a sacred bullet.[5] The soldiers notice that there is blood on the marble of the destroyed tomb. Indicating the Englishman, one soldier asks, "And for him - is he safe?" The commanding officer points out that the wolf did not pierce the Englishman's skin. As the soldiers carry him away, the Englishman hears the officer tell the other soldiers that they will say nothing about what happened except that they found the Englishman in the presence of a large dog. A soldier who protests that it was no dog is soon silenced.

Back at the hotel, the Englishman asks why soldiers were sent out in search of him. Herr Dellbruck says that the commander of the regiment in which he served agreed to put volunteers at his disposal. Herr Dellbruck knew that the Englishman was in trouble when Johann returned with the remains of the coach without the horses. Even before Johann returned, however, Herr Dellbruck had received a telegram sent from Bistritz in Transylvania by the Eastern European nobleman who is expecting the Englishman to come and visit him. The telegram opens with the words, "Be careful of my guest - his safety is most precious to me." The writer goes on to say that he will pay Herr Dellbruck handsomely for keeping the Englishman safe and that, "There are often dangers from snow and wolves and night." The telegram is signed Dracula. The Englishman almost faints when he reads the telegram. He is amazed that Dracula, hundreds of miles away in another country, knew exactly what danger he was facing.

Adaptations

Dracula's Daughter - Poster 1936

Poster for the 1936 film Dracula's Daughter.

Movies which are credited as having been inspired by "Dracula's Guest" include Dracula's Daughter (USA 1936), Vampyros Lesbos (Spain, West Germany 1971), Bram Stoker's Dracula's Curse (USA 2006) and Bram Stoker's Dracula's Guest (USA 2008). The plots of all of those films are only very loosely connected to the short story.

"Dracula's Guest" has been adapted as an episode of the American radio series Radio Tales, first broadcast on NPR on October 19, 1999. An abridged version of the story is read in the first episode of the four-part British radio mini-series A Short History of Vampires. The episode first aired on BBC Radio 7 (now known as BBC Radio 4 Extra) on February 13, 2011. Under the title "The Dream of the Dead House", the short story was adapted as the third episode of the five-part British radio mini-series Bram Stoker - Midnight Tales. In the episode, an abridged version of the story is read by Welsh actor Dyfed Thomas. It was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra on April 18, 2012.

Comic book adaptations of "Dracula's Guest" were published by Dynamite Entertainment in 2009 and by Robot Comics in 2010.

See also

Footnotes

  1. It is often assumed that the English character in "Dracula's Guest" is Jonathan Harker, the young English lawyer who travels to Transylvania in the opening chapters of Dracula. The character, however, remains unnamed throughout "Dracula's Guest".
  2. Walpurgis Night (German: Walpurgisnacht) is the evening of April 30, the night before Saint Walpurga's Day. According to Germanic folklore, it is the night when witches gather in preparation for the coming spring. In "Dracula's Guest", Stoker writes that millions of people believed that Walpurgis Night was, "when the devil was abroad - when the graves opened and the dead came forth and walked. When all evil things of earth and air and water held revel."
  3. In medieval Europe, suicide was considered to be a sin because it was believed that only God had the right to decide when someone died. It was also considered a crime, that of self-murder. People who committed suicide could not be buried in consecrated ground. Crossroads were long considered to be places outside the normal boundaries of society. The ancient Greeks dumped their garbage at crossroads. In medieval Europe, it became customary to execute and bury criminals at crossroads. It became customary to bury suicides, who were both criminals and sinners, at crossroads too. This practice continued until the 1820s. The suicide would usually be buried by moonlight and a stake would be driven through his or her heart. It was also believed that suicides would have restless ghosts and that those ghosts could be confused if they found themselves at a place where four roads met.
  4. "The dead travel fast" (Denn die Todten reiten schnell) is a line from the 1774 German poem "Lenore" by Gottfried August Bürger. The line is also quoted in German in the first chapter of Dracula. It is referenced in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, in which Scrooge comments that Marley's Ghost travels fast.
  5. The implication, of course, is that the animal is a werewolf.

External links

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