How Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ was inspired by traditional Irish folk tales

Posted on: 26 October 2017

The significance of Celtic folklore and Halloween in the creation of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ will be the focus of a free public lecture delivered by renowned author and horror scholar David J. Skal on Halloween night, Tuesday, October 31, 2017 at 7pm in the Thomas Davis Theatre, Arts Building, Trinity College Dublin.

Author of the acclaimed new Bram Stoker biography ‘Something in the Blood’, David J. Skal, returns to Trinity to discuss the importance of Celtic folklore and All Hallows Eve in the creation of Ireland's greatest gothic novel, ‘Dracula’. It's the perfect way to spend the spookiest night of the year and costumes are strongly encouraged with a copy of Skal’s latest book going to the person in the best costume on the night. 

Bram Stoker, a Trinity graduate, was strongly influenced by Celtic folk stories in particular the changeling myths, malevolent fairy folk and hidden universes so common in Irish folk tales, according to Skal: “A mysteriously bedridden child, Bram Stoker was fascinated by the Celtic folk stories and classic fairy tales told and read to him by his mother. In the traditional Irish tales, fairies could be quite malevolent, stealing children from their beds and leaving sickly changelings in their place.”

“The fairies were part of a hidden universe also inhabited by the dead, and at certain times of the year, like November Eve or Halloween, the veil between the realms of life and death was pulled away. Stoker’s invention of the “undead” in ‘Dracula’ can be traced back to his early exposure to such beliefs, just as the figure of Dracula himself had its essential origin in the Demon King character of the Christmas pantomimes, which by his own account had a profound effect on his youthful imagination.”

David J. Skal is a leading cultural historian and classic film scholars. He is a world-renowned expert on ‘Dracula’, Bram Stoker, and depictions of the vampire in fiction and popular culture. Skal researched part of his new Stoker biography, ‘Something in the Blood’, in Trinity while on a visiting research fellowship in Trinity Long Room Hub. During this time he also taught a module on the M.Phil in Popular Literature in the School of English.

About David J Skal

Like Bram Stoker, David Skal’s interest in Dracula derives from his own childhood interest in the modern folklore of movie monsters. Originally a novelist and story writer, his first nonfiction book about Dracula, Hollywood Gothic was published in 1990 and in the ensuing years he has become one of the world’s leading experts on Bram Stoker and his undying creation, as well as monsters in general. As a filmmaker, he has produced, written and directed a dozen DVD and Blu-Ray documentaries about Universal Studios’ classic horror and science fiction movies, as well as a behind the scenes chronicle of the Academy Award-winning film Gods and Monsters. As a Long Room Hub visiting research fellow in 2010, he began work on Something in the Blood and also taught a TCD graduate seminar based on his best-known book, The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror in Trinity College Dublin.


About Bram Stoker & Trinity

Abraham "Bram" Stoker (1847-1912) was an Irish author best known today for his 1897 Gothic novel Dracula. During his lifetime, he was better known as the manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London, which was owned by actor Henry Irving.

Stoker entered Trinity in 1864 aged only sixteen years old and received a Bachelor in Arts in 1870.  Having overcome significant childhood frailty and illness he became an immensely successful athlete being named ‘Athletic Champion of Dublin’ while an undergraduate at Trinity. In Trinity he excelled in rugby, walking races, gymnasium, sling shot, high jump, trapeze, and rowing.

He was a notable figure in this college’s history in that he was the only person to be both Auditor of the Historical Society and President of the Philosophical Society, and was very active in both positions.  It was before the Phil members that Bram read his first presentation on Gothic Literature: "Sensationalism in Fiction and Society" on 7 May 1868.

 Read more about Bram Stoker here:


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