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Notes on Powers of Darkness: The Lost Version of Dracula

powers_of_darkness_dracula_bookI’ve just read this fascinating artefact – the Icelandic version of Dracula, long thought to be a straight translation of the novel but now revealed as an entirely different book.  Powers of Darkness adds all sorts of oddities – including gorilla men, a possible Elisabeth Bathory character, Hammer-style Satanic rites under Castle Dracula and a political angle that brings out elements of Stoker stressed in my Anno Dracula series.  This Count – who uses the pseudonym Baron Szekely) has high-placed followers set to take advantage of his revolution, and explicitly talks up his vision of a society ruled by ‘the strong’).  … as an early adaptation of Stoker, Powers does many major (and some trivial) things to Dracula later coincidentally followed by Murnau (changing Jonathan’s name to Thomas), Deane/Balderston/Browning (introducing the Count into drawing rooms, changing the name Westenra to Western), Jimmy Sangster/Hammer (giving Dracula only one bride but making her an important character) and WD Richter (the women find Dracula on the beach at Whitby).  Editor Hans Corneel de Roos is more persuaded than I am that adaptor-translater Valdimar Asmundsson had access to Stoker’s first notes for Dracula, but some elements from them show up in this version.  My guess is that Stoker just let the translator get on with it and didn’t even know how much the text was changed in turning his novel into what was initially a newspaper serial running for over a year – at which point, with the story only just out of Castle Dracula, things get wrapped up incredibly quickly probably because everyone was getting tired of the bite-sized chunks of serial-style adventure.  Like Varney the Vampyre, Powers of Darkness feels as if it were being written by someone who didn’t have easy access to all the previously-published episodes and therefore contradicts or changes things already established, even on big questions like who lives and who dies (Powers has a much bigger body count than Dracula).

Here’s an Amazon link.

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