Pilgrims in an Unholy Land

Count Dracula’s mortal purpose maintaining the Christian dominance in Wallachia, and by extension the whole of Europe, has narrative successors in Van Helsing’s band. Additionally, Dracula studied alchemy, science, and all things occult or arcane during his prodigious natural life (321). Although his noble works in life are corrupted in death, the polymathic Van Helsing becomes a worthy replacement as “a most wonderful man” dedicated to what he perceives to be a God-given task (322).

Dracula and Van Helsing are alike in their shared sentiments of executing God’s will and their repeated uses of crusade imagery in conversation. In addition to defending his native Romania, Dracula travelled eastward to combat the Ottoman Empire in “Turkey-land” and Hungary (36). The location of Hungary – which is immediately adjacent to Romania – is of historic relevance as the medieval ‘Bulwark of Christianity’ on the frontier between the Christian and Ottoman nations controlling entry into mainland Europe. In the 19th century, Dracula’s Transylvanian stronghold exists on a similar frontier separating the peoples of the Occident and the ‘Orient’ with the British Isles replacing continental Europe as the practical capital of Christianity. Van Helsing sees his mission to destroy the nosferatu not as a personal obsession or a debt to Mina, but as a divine quest to protect European Christian ideals from a sinister, godless Eastern influence. These motives are surprisingly similar to those used by crusaders (including Dracula) to justify bloody military conquest in the name of self-preservation and divine right. Although the word “crusade” is never used, Van Helsing compares his band’s journey “towards the sunrise” to the “old knights of the cross” and their mission of slaying the undead to the redemption of souls through the death of Christ (341).

Ultimate redemption is interesting not only as a justification for murder, but also as the redemption or reclamation of a place, such as the attempted recapture of Jerusalem by early crusaders. This reclamation occurs through the sterilization of earth by the Host: first, the earth-boxes in London and finally Castle Dracul’s chapel (257). Much like crusaders hoping to reclaim previously Christian Jerusalem, Van Helsing’s band seeks to restore Christianity to Transylvania by destroying evil influence and retaking a symbolic point: a castle chapel in place of a fortress Temple. The fulfillment of this quest is made clear when the Harker family completes a celebratory (almost ritualistic) pilgrimage to Transylvania (402).

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