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My newest novel, Lilith’s Love: The Children of Arthur, Book Four, is the most Gothic-influenced of my novels. While the series builds on the Arthurian legends, it also draws on many other legends, including those of Charlemagne, the Fairy Melusine, Prester John, Dracula, and the Wandering Jew. Here is the prologue to Lilith’s Love, which introduces the Wandering Jew, who is frequently known to appear at key historical moments, as if he is in some way manipulating them, and such is the case in this opening scene:

Prologue

Constantinople, May 29, 1453, Just after Midnight

“The city will be both founded and lost by an emperor Constantine whose mother was called Helen.”

— Ancient Byzantine Prophecy

For fifty-three days, the siege had held. He had never thought he would be able to hold off the Turks for as long as he had. Had Pope Nicholas V and the rest of Europe come to his aid, it might have been different; even so, his people had been remarkable in their determination not to surrender to the enemy. But any day now, even any hour, it was bound to end.

Largely a sequel to Dracula, Lilith's Love begins with the Fall of Constantinople, tells of Dracula's involvement with the ancient sorceress Lilith, and records what happened to Quincey Harker, son to Jonathan and Mina Harker.

Lilith’s Love brings together the legends of King Arthur, Dracula, and the Bible to create a stunning new look at human history.

And he would be the last, he, Constantine XI, the last Emperor of the Romans. For fifteen centuries, there had been an empire, and for more than eleven centuries, the capital had been here in Constantinople, but now all that would come to an end. He had done everything he could, trying to negotiate peace with the Turks, striving to get the Orthodox Church to concede to the Pope’s demands that they become Catholic, imploring the rulers of France, England, Hungary, Venice, whoever would listen, to come to his aid, but it had all been to no avail. The Turks far outnumbered those in the city.

And the city was not even worth taking; Constantine knew that. Its wealth had diminished to almost nothing in the last two centuries, ever since the Latins had used a crusade to the Holy Land as an excuse to sack the city and then rule as its emperors for most of the thirteenth century. Although the Romans had regained the city and the throne in time, the empire had continued to shrink and weaken; continually, Constantine and his imperial predecessors had sought to keep the Turks at bay, the emperors wedding their daughters to the Ottoman sultans and doing anything necessary to ensure the empire’s survival.

And as the last emperor, Constantine knew the blame would lie upon his head, without regard to how little chance he had to stop his enemy or how all of Christendom had abandoned him and his people to their fate. What would they call him? His first namesake was Constantine the Great. Would he be called Constantine the Defeated, Constantine the Failure, Constantine the Unworthy? Perhaps the best he could hope for was to be killed in battle so he would be remembered as Constantine the Martyr.

He stood alone now on the battlements, his soldiers knowing he wished to be alone with his thoughts. He looked out at the vast hordes of Turks encamped around the city. Even now they were battering at the walls, hoping to topple any one of them, not even seeking sleep as the night moved toward dawn.

How had it come to this? To some extent, Constantine could understand the reluctance and ignorance of his fellow rulers to come to his aid. Even the Pope, the supposed leader of the Christian world, he could forgive for his stubbornness when he considered that they were all men, full of weaknesses, but how could God Himself turn His back on them? How could the Holy Virgin to whom the city had been dedicated, desert them?

Constantine XI, who like King Arthur, is said will one day return.

Constantine XI, who like King Arthur, is said will one day return.

And there was no doubt they had been forsaken. The Holy Virgin had shown she would no longer protect them. The city had been dedicated to the Virgin since its ancient days. In desperation, the people had cried out to her ever since the siege had begun, and just three days ago, her most holy relic, the Hodegetria—an icon of her, believed to have been painted by St. Luke the Evangelist himself, which had saved the city on numerous occasions—was brought forth from Saint Sophia and carried in a procession through the streets. It had been mounted on a wooden pallet and lifted onto the shoulders of several strong men from the icon’s confraternity. The people followed as the Hodegetria traveled through the city, while the priests offered up incense, and the men, women, and children walked barefoot to show their penance. Hymns were sung, prayers said, and the people repeatedly cried out to the Virgin, beseeching her protection: “Do thou save thy city, as thou knowest and willest. We put thee forward as our arms, our rampart, our shield, our general: do thou fight for thy people.”

Then, before anyone realized it was happening, the Hodegetria slipped from the hands of its bearers. They struggled to grasp it, but it was too late. The people ran forward to pick it up, but it was as if it were weighted with lead, refusing to be raised. Eventually, when it was raised again, the procession had barely restarted before thunder burst through the clouds and lightning split the sky. Then the heavens poured down rain, soaking the procession and all the penitents. The downpour became torrential so that the procession had to halt; water, inches deep, filled the streets, making them slippery, and the flood soon threatened to wash away the children in the procession. Struggling, the icon’s bearers eventually managed to return the Hodegetria to Saint Sophia as gloom settled over the city, less from the weather than the omens that clearly stated the Virgin had refused their prayers and penance.

Worse, the next day, God’s grace had left the city. Since its construction by Emperor Justinian in the sixth century, Saint Sophia had held within it the Holy Light as its protector. But that night, a great glow was seen in the sky. First, the sentries on the walls and then people in the streets had cried out in fear that the city had caught on fire. All the sky lit up, but the flame was located only on the roof of Saint Sophia. The flame shot forth from the window and circled the entire dome several times before gathering itself into one great and indescribable flash of blinding light that shot up into the heavens. Clearly, the Holy Light had returned from whence it had come, no longer offering God’s protection to the city. The sight had been so overwhelming to Constantine that now, two days later, it still made him sick to think of it. Had he himself lost favor with God? At that fatal moment, such a thought had caused him to go numb throughout his body and collapse to the ground in a faint, remaining unconscious for hours.

Hagia Sophia, where it is said the priests disappeared into a wall during the Fall of Constantinople.

Hagia Sophia, where it is said the priests disappeared into a wall during the Fall of Constantinople.

When Constantine finally woke, the people had begged him to flee the city before it was too late, but he had insisted he would not do so. To leave his people solely to save his own life would be to heap immortal ridicule upon his name. And even if he did leave, what life would remain for him, without a throne, marked as a coward for not standing by his supporters in their hour of greatest need? Better he stay to fight, and if need be, die with his people.

He had seen both these catastrophes with his own eyes, but the most shocking event he alone had experienced. Early the next morning, when he had gone out walking in the palace gardens, he had come face-to-face with an old man with a flowing white beard in a tattered black robe. Constantine had never seen the man before, and he could not understand how the man had entered his private gardens. But before he could accost the man, the stranger looked him square in the eyes, his own eyes piercingly gray, and without showing fear or deference for Constantine’s station, he said, “Greetings, Constantine, last of the Romans.”

Constantine had frozen, feeling himself unable to speak or move. His mind went blank for what seemed the longest time as the question “Who are you?” struggled to rise to his lips. His first fear was that the man might be an assassin, sent by the Turks—who but an assassin would dare to enter his private garden at dawn? But then, slowly, the answer came to his lips in a whisper.

“The Wandering Jew.”

Before the words fully escaped Constantine’s mouth, the man turned and disappeared behind a clump of trees. Constantine ran after him, so stunned that he pursued him into the bushes, scratching himself on their branches but unable to see anyone. After a couple of minutes, he calmed himself and returned to the walkway, fearing his people had seen his frantic behavior. Had he dreamt it, or had he truly seen the man? But he could remember those words clearly; they yet rung in his ears: “Greetings, Constantine, last of the Romans.”

Gustave Dore's depiction of The Wandering Jew, said to have been cursed by Christ to wander the earth until the Second Coming.

Gustave Dore’s depiction of The Wandering Jew, said to have been cursed by Christ to wander the earth until the Second Coming.

He knew such a meeting forebode great ill. The Wandering Jew—he whom Christ had cursed to wander the earth until His return—had long been rumored to appear at pivotal moments in history. Stories claimed he had been seen in the city once before, back in 1204 when the Latin Crusaders had sacked Constantinople. He had also been seen at the surrender of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187, amid the mob during the Peasants Revolt in England in 1381, and most recently in the crowd when the Maid of Orleans had been burned at the stake in Rouen, France in 1431. Constantine had heard rumors in recent days that the Wandering Jew had been sighted in Constantinople’s streets, but he had dismissed such rumors as folk tales. Now, he could not imagine who else this man could be who dared to address him as “last of the Romans”—an ominous reference, indeed.

The next day, Constantine knew his death was certain when twelve Venetian ships arrived to aid the city, bringing with them the news that no larger fleet nor other enforcements would come. Twelve ships would be of little help against the incredible Ottoman navy and the hordes of Turkish soldiers preparing for the final assault they all knew was coming. No one could accurately tell the numbers, but a city of just over fifty thousand souls—a city that in its glorious past had been home to a million residents—was being protected by an army of less than twenty thousand against some one hundred thousand Turks, plus their allies. Surely, the situation was hopeless.

Constantine had little doubt that tonight was the last time the sun would set on the city before it was taken, and pillaged, and perhaps even destroyed. The walls could well be broken through before dawn. The Turkish cannons had already damaged them beyond repair. The conquest would happen as soon as Sultan Mehmet II led the next charge.

Nothing was left to do but offer prayers, though prayers now seemed of little help. Nevertheless, Constantine had spent the last day at service in Saint Sophia, on his knees before his people and God, begging forgiveness for their transgressions. Afterwards, he had spent time here on the ramparts with his longtime friend and advisor Sphrantzes. And then he had sought some time alone, time to prepare himself for what he did not doubt was his imminent death. He would do so nobly, as Emperor of the Romans, and in a manner to make his ancestors proud, but he would be dead nonetheless, and he had his doubts that God would have mercy upon his soul after the signs he had already seen.

“Your majesty.” He turned to hear himself addressed and found the captain of the guard speaking. “The Turks are about to break through the wall. You must return to the palace. You must look to your own safety.”

“You know better,” Constantine replied, already in his armor. “Come; we will fight together, and may God have mercy on our souls.”

The Turks were firing their cannons. It was almost half-past one in the morning. Just as the emperor joined his army before the St. Romanus Gate, a cannonball came ripping through the wall, sending stone and men flying, and by the time Constantine and his men recovered from the shock, three hundred Turks had poured through, their voices roaring as they entered the city. In panic, some of the Romans fled into the streets, desperate to see to their own and their families’ safety, but most stood fighting beside their emperor and the officers.

The Romans fought violently, but they were far outnumbered, and while the battle raged at the great crumbling opening in the wall for several minutes, eventually, the Romans were cut down as the Turks began to spread and pillage throughout Constantinople.

Constantine found himself covered in blood as his sword continued to slice at the Turks before him, but within a few minutes, he was surrounded by his enemies. He had taken care not to wear anything to make the enemy suspect he was the emperor, for he knew if they discovered his identity, his life would be spared, but only because the sultan would want to hold him as a prisoner. No, he would much rather die here with his people than be forced to go down on bended knee before Mehmet II, or worse, be paraded through the streets by his captors.

Suddenly, Constantine felt a great pain in his back. He immediately became dizzy; for a moment, he felt his knees buckle and he thought he would collapse, but then he experienced a great lifting feeling, as if he were floating into the air. He could only think that his soul was leaving his body. Had he been slain? Was he now dead? Was he being taken to Heaven—could death be this quick?

Looking up, bending his head all the way back, he saw he was in the arms of a great winged man, a beautiful gorgeous man, a man a good couple of feet taller than him—no, not a man but an angel.

And then all went black.

*

When he opened his eyes, Constantine found himself lying on a cot inside a barren room all built of stone. He could see the sky, but nothing else from the window, making him assume he was quite high up. All he heard were birds chirping and a breeze rustling through the trees. No screams of his people. No cannons booming. And most surprisingly, he felt no fear.

Was he dead? But, surely, Heaven did not look like the barren room of a castle.

For a moment, he relished the quiet, but his curiosity overcame him. He sat up and continued to look out the window. From his sitting position, he could see what appeared to be a marsh, and beyond that a river, and then just a green row of trees and a lush countryside. He appeared to be in the middle of nowhere. Certainly, he was far from Constantinople.

“Where am I?” he muttered, about to put his feet on the floor when the door opened. In walked a man whom Constantine had only seen once before.

“You!” Constantine gasped.

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For Immediate Release

New Novel Merges King Arthur, Lilith, and Dracula Legends

Marquette, MI, November 18, 2016—Since the dawn of time, Lilith, Adam’s first wife whom he spurned in Eden, has held a grudge against Adam and Eve’s descendants, and since the time of King Arthur, the descendants of Britain’s greatest king have sought to stop her from wreaking havoc upon the human race. But never could they have envisioned Dracula joining Lilith’s forces.

Lilith's Love brings together the legends of King Arthur, Dracula, and the Bible to create a stunning new look at human history.

Lilith’s Love brings together the legends of King Arthur, Dracula, and the Bible to create a stunning new look at human history.

Lilith’s Love is the fourth of five volumes in Tyler R. Tichelaar’s The Children of Arthur series. The series began with Arthur’s Legacy in which Lilith, in her incarnation as Gwenhwyvach, Guinevere’s half-sister, sought to destroy Camelot. The series continued through Melusine’s Gift and Ogier’s Prayer as Arthur’s modern day descendants, Adam and Anne Delaney, discovered the truth about their heritage and, with the aid of Merlin, tried to stop Lilith from destroying all that is good in the world.

Now things come to a head when Adam and Anne meet Quincey Harker, the child born to Jonathan and Mina Harker at the conclusion of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Quincey’s mother, Mina, had been forced by Dracula to drink his blood, and as a result, Quincey was born with superhuman powers and a tendency toward evil. Ultimately, Quincey is forced to choose between good and evil, and what he learns on his journey could ultimately make the difference in finally defeating Lilith, but nothing, everyone quickly realizes, is quite what it seems.

Lilith’s Love, like its predecessors, blends together myth and history to create a new imagining of mankind’s past and the possibilities for its future. Part Arthurian legend, part sequel to Dracula, the novel stars a legendary cast of characters, including Merlin, Emperor Constantine XI, the Wandering Jew, Dracula, Captain Vanderdecker of the Flying Dutchman, and Lilith herself. Readers will take a magic carpet ride from the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 to the beginnings of a New World Order in the twenty-first century, rewriting a past we all thought we knew to create a future far more fabulous than we ever dreamed.

Arthurian authors and fans have been delighted with each volume of Tyler R. Tichelaar’s The Children of Arthur series. Sophie Masson, editor of The Road to Camelot, praises the first book, Arthur’s Legacy, as “an intriguing blend of action-packed time-slip fantasy adventure, moving love story, multi-layered mystery, and unusual spiritual exploration.” Nicole Evelina, author of the Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy, states of Lilith’s Love, “Tichelaar deftly weaves together history, myth, and legend into a tale that takes the reader on an epic journey through time, connecting characters and events you’d never expect….” And Rowena Portch, award-winning author of the Spirian Saga series, proclaims that the Children of Arthur is for those who “love the mystical magic of Camelot but thrive on the excitement and tribulations of Game of Thrones.”

Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of numerous historical fiction novels, including The Marquette Trilogy, The Best Place, and the award-winning Narrow Lives, as well as the scholarly books The Gothic Wanderer and King Arthur’s Children, the latter of which served as research and inspiration for The Devon Players’ upcoming independent film Mordred. Tichelaar is currently writing the final book of the Children of Arthur series, Arthur’s Bosom, to be released in late 2017.

Lilith’s Love: The Children of Arthur, Book Four (ISBN 9780996240024, Marquette Fiction, 2017) can be purchased in paperback and ebook editions through local and online bookstores. For more information, visit www.ChildrenofArthur.com. Review copies available upon request.

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Despite the old adage, people always do judge a book by its cover, and so, in publishing The Children of Arthur series, I wanted the books’ covers to reflect the themes and atmosphere of their contents. Many fine graphic artists are out there, but I opted instead to use nineteenth century depictions of legendary figures that fit the individual book titles and which placed me within the literary and Romantic tradition I was modeling. I strongly believe I am trying to capture a somewhat more modern and progressive version of the Arthurian legend akin to what Pre-Raphaelite painters did in their art and nineteenth century authors like Alfred, Lord Tennyson and William Morris captured in their Arthurian poetry. Below is a description of each cover—and how it relates to the series overall.

Cover-ArthursLegacyArthur’s Legacy: The Children of Arthur, Book One

Cover Image: The Death of King Arthur (1860) by James Archer (1822-1904)

For me, no painting is more quintessentially Arthurian than this one, which captures the pivotal moment that transforms Arthur from a king into a legend. This may well be my favorite painting of all time. For me, it captures the great moment of reconciliation in the novel when Arthur has been wounded at Camlann and is about to be carried off to Avalon. Both Morgana and Guinevere come and make their peace with him, and Elaine also comes and makes her peace with Bedwyr, Guinevere’s lover. Of course, as we all know, despite the grief in this scene, Arthur is carried to Avalon to be healed of his wound, and there he resides until the day he will be called upon to return. This moment reminds us that he will return, and hence, his legacy is one of hope and immortality, much like that of Christ, who also plays a role in the novel.

Cover-MelusinesGiftMelusine’s Gift: The Children of Arthur, Book Two

Cover Image: The Fair Melusine (1844) by Julius Hübner (1806-1882)

Many images of Melusine have been painted over the years, but most, being medieval in look, fail to capture the Romantic style, depicting her in unflattering ways largely as a flying serpent. This painting is by a nineteenth century German artist and contemporary of the British Pre-Raphaelites, whose images fill the covers of all the other novels except this one and that of Ogier’s Prayer. To me, this painting was far more beautiful and positive than any other depictions of Melusine. It depicts the magic of Melusine as a mermaid. Some people told me it was too risqué for the cover, so I asked my cover designer to make one small change and move up Melusine’s arm to cover her nipple. Others thought it was creepy that a man is spying on Melusine—he is actually her husband, Raimond. By putting him on the back cover and wrapping the image around the book, I hoped to eliminate the creepiness and only provide the wonder as the first sensation the viewer experiences, and then upon flipping over the book, Raimond can be seen, which adds to the dimension and wonder of the story. This moment is pivotal because Raimond promised Melusine that if she married him, she could hide herself away in private every Saturday and he would not disturb her. When Raimond breaks his promise, Melusine is forced to leave him, but in Melusine’s Gift, I have made that moment not one of shame and curses, but one of wonder and expansion of knowledge. It is only then that Raimond learns what Melusine’s gift truly is.

Cover-OgiersPrayerOgier’s Prayer: The Children of Arthur, Book Three

Cover Image: The Flying Carpet (1880) by Viktor Vasnetsov (1848-1926)

In Ogier’s Prayer, Ogier the Dane, one of Charlemagne’s great knights, is carried on a magic carpet from the fabled land of Prester John to the court of the Caliph Haroun al-Rashid in Baghdad—and you can imagine the reactions of the people of Baghdad when they see him making his entrance in truly grand Arabian Nights style. This painting actually depicts the Russian folklore hero Ivan Tsarevich. However, I felt the scene of Ogier the Dane on a flying carpet was the most visual scene in Ogier’s Prayer so I sought for a flying carpet painting, and when I found this one, I thought it breathtaking. Yes, Ogier would be blonde, not dark-haired, but I imagine his years in the hot Middle East helped to darken his hair and complexion. In the painting, Ivan is carrying a magical firebird with him on the carpet, but if I hadn’t read about the painting, I would have just thought it a lantern, so I thought it close enough for the cover art I desired, and it gave the same feel and matched the Pre-Raphaelite and Romantic style of the other covers.

Cover-LilithsLoveLilith’s Love: The Children of Arthur, Book Four

Cover Image: La Belle Dame Sans Merci (1902) by Sir Francis Dicksee (1853-1928)

These last two covers are both by Sir Francis Dicksee, one of the best known of the Pre-Raphaelite artists. This first one depicts La Belle Dame Sans Merci, a popular theme of the Pre-Raphaelites. I know of at least two other depictions of her from this period, but this is the most fabulous one. Her name means in French, “The Beautiful Woman Without Mercy,” and she is based upon John Keats’ famous poem of the same name in which a supernatural woman takes a young man for her lover one night, and when he wakes in the morning, he finds that he has spent decades with her and is now an old man. The image was perfect for this book’s cover because Lilith is the primary antagonist of The Children of Arthur series and highly sexual, taking lovers so she can control them. In Jewish tradition, Lilith was the first wife of Adam; she was cast from Eden, and consequently, in The Children of Arthur series, she wants her revenge upon Adam and Eve’s descendants. But she also has a gift to give the world if the world would only quit fighting her—that of love. And so the novel’s title is a play both on the gift of her love and the man she loves. I thought the painting appropriate for the cover because the stunned looking man captures perfectly how the man she takes for her lover in the end must feel—and yes, he turns out to be a true and chivalrous knight.

Cover-ArthursBosomArthur’s Bosom: The Children of Arthur, Book Five

Cover Image: The Two Crowns (1900) by Sir Francis Dicksee (1853-1928)

I had the most difficulty in finding an image for this final book in the series, largely because I had only started to draft the novel at the time so I didn’t have a full idea of what it would be about yet. Then one day I stumbled upon this painting and knew it was perfect. This final novel depicts the return of King Arthur, and so what better to have on the cover than a king? It wasn’t until I saw the painting’s name that I even spotted there were two crowns in it—yes, the second is Christ with his crown of thorns. As with the cover for Melusine’s Gift, I decided to wrap the image so the back would surprise readers. In doing so, I had to have the image reversed since, originally, Christ was on the right side, and I wanted him on the back of the book. Only when you turn the book over then do you see that the king is looking at Christ and, therefore, is meditating upon what a true king is and what it means to wear a crown. It felt like it was destiny that I would find this painting, for at the same time, I first heard the theories of how Christ’s cross was brought back to Britain by the Empress Helena, and so that story and this painting with its depiction of Christ on the cross really inspired the writing of the novel. In the novel, my main character goes upon a quest to find the True Cross and by doing so, he helps to bring about King Arthur’s return. As for the book’s title, it refers to a line in Shakespeare, a play on the biblical phrase of “Abraham’s Bosom,” which is a reference to heaven. In the novel, the main character finds himself in what might be termed a type of Arthurian heaven.

I hope my choice of cover images inspires my readers and complements the primary theme of the Children of Arthur series, which is:

Imagination is the Salvation of Mankind.

May these books and their covers lead you on your own fabulously imaginative and world-changing journey!

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If you’re curious about my new novel, Ogier’s Prayer, the third book in my series about King Arthur and his descendants, here’s a peek at the prologue:

Prologue

803 A.D.

Year 187 by the Muslim Calendar

 

Haroun al-Rashid—sovereign over half the known world as ruler of the Abbasid Caliphate, which stretched from Arabia’s southern deserts to the great Caspian Sea, and from the Mediterranean’s easternmost reaches to the borders of India, so that all the world knew his fame and feared him, yet marveled at his magnificence and admired his wisdom and prowess—was terribly bored.

Tyler Tichelaar's newest Arthurian novel takes readers on a magic carpet ride from Charlemagne's France to Avalon, Jerusalem, and the fabled land of Prester John as King Arthur's descendants embark on a quest to fight an ancient evil.

Tyler Tichelaar’s newest Arthurian novel takes readers on a magic carpet ride from Charlemagne’s France to Avalon, Jerusalem, and the fabled land of Prester John as King Arthur’s descendants embark on a quest to fight an ancient evil.

The mighty caliph sat in his sumptuous palace in his glorious capital city of Baghdad and wondered whether there was anything at all left in the world that could possibly give him a few hours’ amusement. He had engaged in all manner of sport, warfare, and love during his youth. He was honored and esteemed above all in his domains and over all princes and heads of state outside the borders of his empire. Not even Charlemagne of the Franks himself could rival the caliph in any way. And now as the great caliph approached his fortieth year, he felt that everything there was to see and do, had been seen and done, and so being a great ruler was a sorry position to hold in life, for all manner of amusement had always been readily available to him, all his desires quickly and easily fulfilled, and only great boredom had resulted from all his prosperity and success.

Today, this mighty potentate was in a miserable, listless mood that not even wine nor song nor women nor games could dispel. Such was his mood when Giafar, the grand vizier and Haroun al-Rashid’s old and tried friend, entered his chamber. Bowing low, Giafar waited, as was his duty, till his master spoke, but Haroun al-Rashid merely turned his head and looked at his friend, and then he sank back into his former weary posture of being slumped in his chair. After a moment, he sighed in a manner that asked Giafar, without the actual use of words, “What is it this time?”

Now, Giafar had something of importance to say to the caliph, and he had no intention of being put off by mere silence, so taking Haroun al-Rashid’s sigh for permission, he made another low bow in front of the throne and began to speak.

“Commander of the Faithful,” said Giafar, “I have come to remind your eminence of how you have undertaken to observe, secretly and for yourself, the manner in which justice is done and order is kept throughout your great capital city. For that very reason, you came to Baghdad from your palace in Ar-Raqqah. And today is the day you have set apart to devote to this purpose, and perhaps in fulfilling this duty, you may find some distraction from the melancholy that I perceive is so strongly overpowering you.”

“Giafar, you are right!” exclaimed the caliph, suddenly stirred with a renewed interest in life. “Thank goodness you reminded me. I always find my people amusing, and at times, I have been able to right a wrong, punish an evildoer, and even gain some wisdom from the common folk. But what are you waiting for? Go, find our disguises, and we will walk among the common people as if we were one—or rather two—of them.”

Giafar bowed and quickly obeyed. Five minutes later, he returned with two disguises, and after assisting his master, within a few moments, they were both dressed as foreign merchants.

And in another minute, the caliph and grand vizier had passed through a secret door in Haroun al-Rashid’s private chamber that took them through a long and twisting tunnel beneath the palace. Soon they emerged outside through a hidden door in a city wall covered by a great shrubbery. Quickly, they merged with the crowds, as if it were an everyday ordinary activity for them to walk the streets of Baghdad, bartering in the bazaar, giving alms to beggars, and stopping to kneel when the call to prayer was sounded.

So disguised, Haroun al-Rashid was able to find some pleasure in this great joke that freed him from the burdens of statecraft. Often, he considered that he might so remain in such a disguise, with the intent to slip away from the palace and Baghdad and his own high position so that he might forget all his cares, for the ruling of an empire was no light matter. But he also knew that his wife, Zubaida, and his children, as well as the many millions of his subjects, depended on him. Should he disappear, his absence would cause all manner of problems for the empire and lead to rumors of his death, suspicions of foul play, and even civil war. No, he had a duty to his people and could not forsake it, but it did not hurt to fulfill that duty now and then by pretending to be one of the people so he could better understand those whom he ruled.

Despite the diversion of pretending to be a foreign merchant, today the great caliph found no amusement in the streets capable of diverting him from his melancholy and boredom. He was pleased to see the peace and good order of the city; his people appeared content, and he could observe that the city was prosperous. Even the blind beggar he passed had a smile on his face.

“Blind one,” he stopped to inquire, “what reason gives you cause to be smiling?”

The beggar’s smile only widened at the question, and looking over the caliph’s shoulder, he pointed up into the sky.

“He is not blind!” exclaimed Giafar. “Blind men do not point at the sky!”

But the blind man continued to point, and his dishonesty was quickly forgotten when Giafar and Haroun al-Rashid both turned to discover what so commanded the beggar’s attention.

Soon everyone in the street was also staring—and pointing, and gasping, and exclaiming, “Is it a genie? An evil sorcerer? It can’t be real! Am I seeing things?”

Haroun al-Rashid had never in his life doubted his own vision, but at that moment, he came very close to it.

“A genuine magical flying carpet!” exclaimed Giafar.

“It is indeed!” Haroun al-Rashid agreed. “The stuff of genie tales.”

The carpet was floating over the city, just perhaps fifty feet above it, slowly growing closer and gently descending. For a good five minutes, everyone in the streets of Baghdad stared up at it, murmuring in astonishment, and children crawled up onto their parents’ shoulders so they might see it better.

In a little while, the carpet descended so that it landed on the flat roof of a house. And when the man, who had previously sat cross-legged upon it and whose appearance had been difficult until now to see clearly, stood up, even more gasps filled the street.

This man was no native of the city, nor even of any city or property in all the great Abbasid Caliphate. This man had a light complexion like no one in Baghdad had ever seen. His hair looked to have been spun from gold, and he was clad in shining silver armor that sparkled in the sun.

“Is it a god?” cried one woman.

“Blasphemy!” a man replied.

“It must be a Christian,” said another man. “For look at his pale skin—and a Christian is the farthest thing from a god that anyone could be!”

The golden-haired man was beautiful, however, and tall and finely formed, and dazzling even without a smile, for he looked uncertain, looking down first upon the crowd, and then at the magic carpet beneath his feet, as if willing it to fly back up into the air.

And then the magic moment was broken as three soldiers stormed into the house, upon the roof of which the golden-haired man stood.

In another minute, the soldiers had arrived on the roof, and the Christian knight, if that is what he was, had drawn his sword, ready to do battle.

“Drop your sword!” cried one soldier. “You are under arrest by order of his great majesty, Caliph Haroun al-Rashid!”

The caliph heard his name invoked, but he made no move, not wishing to reveal his true identity, but even more so, wishing to see how this fight would turn out.

The golden-haired stranger, instead of dropping his sword, charged toward his assailants, and within a minute, the three soldiers found their own weapons struck from their hands and sent flying into the street, the crowd quickly dodging them. One man, in the fight that ensued, stumbled over the roof’s edge and went crashing into the crowd, causing a bystander a broken arm. Another, in fear, jumped onto a neighboring roof, while the third soldier fell to his knees, begging mercy from the golden-haired, godlike warrior who had so mysteriously appeared in their city.

“Now!” exclaimed the stranger, “you may take me to your king, but I go as his guest, and not as a prisoner to any man.”

After recovering from his astonishment, the kneeling soldier regained his feet and did as he was bid, leading the way back down through the house. The stranger stopped a moment to put his sword back into its sheath; then he bent down to gather up the magic carpet, roll it, and tuck it under his arm, before descending through the house.

As the crowd waited in astonishment to see this amazing warrior enter the street, Haroun al-Rashid said to Giafar, “Quickly. We must return.” And elbowing their way through the clamoring crowd of men, women, and children, all seeking to get a glimpse of, or even better, to touch the mysterious stranger, the caliph and his grand vizier made their way back to the secret tunnel that would allow them to return to the palace.

Within half an hour, they were once again in the caliph’s private chamber, and immediately, they heard a rapid, insistent pounding on the door from the servants who repeatedly cried, “My caliph, are you there? Please, a great marvel has happened. Come quickly!”

“I will be there in a moment!” the caliph shouted, perturbed by his servants’ impatience; they should know better than to harangue him.

Then there was silence, for once confirmation was heard of their master’s presence, his servants dared not anger him.

Giafar quickly helped his master change out of the merchant’s clothing and back into robes suitable for a great ruler to receive an esteemed visitor.

Then Haroun al-Rashid stepped toward the door and placed his fingers around the handle to open it, but first he turned back and said to Giafar, “Have that deceitful blind beggar found and thrown into prison for his falsehood.” When the caliph did open the door, dozens of servants, his wife, children, and ministers all bowed before him and created a path so he could pass through. Haroun al-Rashid ignored them all and strode through the palace to his throne room where he intended to receive his illustrious guest.

Once seated, with a wave of his hand, the caliph ordered the guards to open the door. Then in strode the golden-haired man, taller than everyone else in the room, and escorted by six more soldiers, whom no doubt he could have easily divested of their swords if he had so wished, but instead, he had willingly given up his own sword, his air of confidence and bearing declaring he felt no need for it.

The mysterious stranger came to a stop a few feet before Haroun al-Rashid’s throne, and after bowing, he awaited permission to speak.

“Stranger,” said the caliph, “we have seen with our own eyes your amazing entry into our great city. We would know your name and your purpose here.”

“Great Caliph,” said the golden-haired giant of a man, “I am Ogier the Dane, one of the paladins to the great Charles, King of the Franks, and in my own right, Prince of Denmark. I am a stranger here in your domain, it is true, but I come in peace on a mission I can share with your ears alone. I beg a private audience with your majesty.”

By then, the multitude of the royal household had crowded into the throne room. They now all gasped at such a bold demand from a stranger.

Haroun al-Rashid waited a moment as everyone reacted to this unusual request, and then, clapping his hands together, he ordered, “Silence!”

The room became still as Haroun al-Rashid looked deep into Ogier the Dane’s eyes, searching as if to read his very soul. After a moment, he rose from his throne and stepped forward.

The silence was broken when he placed his hand on Ogier’s shoulder, a familiarity he had never shown in public to any man, not even to Giafar.

“Come,” said Haroun al-Rashid. “I have been sorely bored, and you have brought me pleasure in the unexpectedness of your visit. Your words speak truth, for you look to be one of noble breeding, and your eyes bespeak suffering but also wisdom. I will hear your tale, but first, we will have you properly bathed and fed.”

And then leading the way, Haroun al-Rashid personally escorted the stranger to his own private bathing pool where he left him under the care of his servants, saying to Ogier, “Please refresh yourself, and then my servants will bring you to me to dine. Over our meal, I will hear with great pleasure all you have to say.”

And so it was, in an hour’s time, that Ogier the Dane, Prince of Denmark, thousands of miles from the cold northern climes where he had been raised, found himself dining with Haroun al-Rashid, the Caliph of the Abbasid Empire, the most powerful man in the world.

Seated at a table, the caliph ordered wine for his guest and also all manner of sweetmeats and fruits and vegetables, every delicacy known within his great empire, and as they began to eat, the caliph said, “Now, I wish to hear your tale for I have no doubt it is a marvelous one.”

Ogier the Dane nodded in agreement and said, “My lord, I will be most pleased to tell you my story, and perhaps when I have finished, you will be good enough to aid me, though I am but a humble knight of Charles the Great, King of the Franks.”

“We are good friends with King Charles,” replied the caliph, “although he now calls himself an emperor, so I am surprised you do not show him the respect he deserves with that title.”

“Emperor?” muttered Ogier. “Emperor of what?”

“He was crowned as Holy Roman Emperor by the Pope. Did you not know this? It has been two or three years now since it happened.”

“No, I…I—”

“It seems you have been journeying far from home for a long time then, Prince Ogier.”

“I believe so, your majesty,” replied the Dane.

“Come. Tell me all about it. When did you leave King Charles’ court, and how did you come to be in my domains?”

“That is a long, long tale, Great Caliph, and I find it not easy to know where to start. I do not wish to weary you, but I fear we must begin just a few days after my birth.”

“I am prepared for a tale as long as you have to tell,” Haroun al-Rashid replied, “and we have all night for the telling.”

“I suspect it will take at least that long, if not longer,” Ogier began, “but I am happy to obey your command to hear it, and I hope that in my words you will find the entertainment you seek.”

To read more, order the book at www.ChildrenofArthur.com or Amazon.

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D., is the author of the historical fantasy series, The Children of Arthur, the nonfiction books King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition and The Gothic Wanderer, and many more novels and other books. You can learn more about him at www.ChildrenofArthur.com and www.MarquetteFiction.com

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Marquette, MI, December 9, 2015—Three centuries after she carried her brother, King Arthur, to Avalon, Morgan le Fay is still interfering in the lives of mortals. At the court of Charlemagne is the handsome and virile Prince Ogier of Denmark, and Morgan le Fay has surprising plans for him. Now Ogier tells the story of his amazing adventures in award-winning author Tyler R. Tichelaar’s new historical fantasy novel Ogier’s Prayer: The Children of Arthur, Book Three.

Tyler Tichelaar's newest Arthurian novel takes readers on a magic carpet ride from Charlemagne's France to Avalon, Jerusalem, and the fabled land of Prester John as King Arthur's descendants embark on a quest to fight an ancient evil.

Tyler Tichelaar’s newest Arthurian novel takes readers on a magic carpet ride from Charlemagne’s France to Avalon, Jerusalem, and the fabled land of Prester John as King Arthur’s descendants embark on a quest to fight an ancient evil.

Ogier the Dane is the greatest knight since King Arthur. Blessed at birth by Morgan le Fay and her fellow fairies, he has always known a great destiny awaits him. Even when his evil stepmother Gudrun turns his father’s affections against him, leading to his exile at Charlemagne’s court, he does not cease to aspire to greatness. There he befriends the great knight, Roland, and he achieves many valorous deeds, rescuing princesses and surpassing other men at arms.

Then Ogier’s father dies and his evil stepmother secretly marries Roland’s uncle, Geoffrey, son of the mysterious fairy Melusine. When, soon after, Ogier learns that Gudrun has murdered Geoffrey and taken Melusine’s magic ring, he fears Gudrun has sinister and far-reaching plans. Ogier soon pursues her beyond the limits of the known eighth century world. From France to Avalon, and from the fabled land of the legendary Christian king, Prester John, to the court of Haroun al-Rashid, the caliph of Arabian Nights fame, Ogier finds himself caught up in more adventures and mysteries than he ever could have conceived. Most importantly, before his quest is completed, he will discover that the power of prayer can work wonders that no manner of manly prowess could ever accomplish.

Bookending Ogier’s tale is that of Adam and Anne Delaney, a twentieth century couple who have appeared in each volume of the Children of Arthur series. The Delaneys’ children have just been kidnapped, and they fear it is by the latest incarnation of Ogier’s evil sorceress stepmother, who is preparing to unleash havoc upon the human race. In their efforts to protect their children and stop this ancient supernatural woman, they are guided by the great magician Merlin, who reveals to them their own family’s connections to Morgan le Fay and her lover Ogier.

Arthurian authors and fans have been delighted with each volume of the Children of Arthur series. Sophie Masson, editor of The Road to Camelot, praises the first book, Arthur’s Legacy, as “an intriguing blend of action-packed time-slip fantasy adventure, moving love story, multi-layered mystery, and unusual spiritual exploration.” Cheryl Carpinello, author of Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend, proclaims that the second book, Melusine’s Gift, is “reminiscent of those ancient Tales from the Arabian Nights where one story flows into the next…. I can’t recommend this series enough.” And Roslyn McGrath, author of The Third Mary, calls Ogier’s Prayer an “inspirational re-visioning of the past…vivid, suspenseful storytelling will leave you craving the next installment of this thought-provoking, delightfully plot-twisting series!”

Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of numerous historical fiction novels, including The Marquette Trilogy, The Best Place, and the award-winning Narrow Lives, as well as the scholarly books The Gothic Wanderer and King Arthur’s Children and the play Willpower.

Ogier’s Prayer: The Children of Arthur, Book Three (ISBN 9780996240017, Marquette Fiction, 2015) can be purchased in paperback and ebook editions through local and online bookstores. For more information, visit www.ChildrenofArthur.com. Review copies available upon request.

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Marquette, MI, January 13, 2015—What made medieval royalty want to claim descent from a shape-shifting fairy? Whether a mermaid or a flying serpent, Melusine of Lusignan was seen as a desirable ancestor by many noble and royal houses of Europe, and she was both reviled and celebrated by medieval audiences. Now she tells her own story in award-winning author Tyler R. Tichelaar’s new historical fantasy novel Melusine’s Gift: The Children of Arthur, Book Two.

Melusine’s Gift tells the story of a fairy connected to King Arthur and the two magic rings she leaves her children.

 

According to legend, Raimond, Count of Lusignan, met the beautiful Melusine at a forest fountain. They fell in love and she agreed to marry him if he promised never to disturb her when she locked herself away every Saturday. Raimond agreed, but fearing his wife was committing adultery, he eventually spied on her and discovered she was a mermaid. Later, when tragedy struck their children, he lashed out at his wife, calling her a serpent. Heartbroken, Melusine sprung wings and flew out the castle window, her serpent tail trailing behind her.

Tichelaar has always been intrigued by Melusine and believes the explanations behind her mystery lie in her being raised in Avalon, home to Morgan le Fay and King Arthur’s final resting place. “I suspect she learned magic in Avalon and simply enjoyed shape-shifting, something humans couldn’t understand,” says Tichelaar. “As for the connections to royalty, the whole premise of my Children of Arthur series is that King Arthur’s descendants live among us today. I believe Melusine played a key role in that lineage.”

In Tichelaar’s first novel in the series, Arthur’s Legacy, twentieth century Adam Delaney, an American-born young man, meets the wizard Merlin, who reveals to Adam that he is a descendant of King Arthur and his family will aid in fulfilling the prophecy of King Arthur’s return. Now in this sequel, Adam and his English wife are on their honeymoon in France where they discover their family’s connection to Melusine. This knowledge will aid them in the future when they must fight forces determined to stop Arthur’s return.

The Children of Arthur series has won praise from readers and Arthurian experts. Jenifer Brady, author of the Abby’s Camp Days series, says, “Readers unfamiliar with Melusine’s place in history will be drawn into her world, while the captivating web of multi-layered stories within stories combine and complement to obliterate the preconceived notions of those who consider themselves experts on her legend.” And John Matthews, author of King Arthur: Dark Age Warrior and Mythic Hero, states, “Works of this kind are hugely important because they keep the legends alive and bring them into the 21st century. Strongly recommended for all who love the old and the new in mythic fiction.”

Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D., is the author of numerous historical fiction novels, including The Best Place and the award-winning Narrow Lives as well as the scholarly books The Gothic Wanderer and King Arthur’s Children.

Melusine’s Gift: The Children of Arthur, Book Two (ISBN 9780979179099, Marquette Fiction, 2015) can be purchased in paperback and ebook editions through local and online bookstores. For more information, visit www.ChildrenofArthur.com. Review copies available upon request.

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This weekend Dracula Untold premiered. Of course, being the Gothic novel and film fan that I am, I had to see it in the theatre. I was highly impressed by the film and would give it 9 out of 10 stars. This film is very much the Dracula movie I have long been waiting for. In my opinion, it is the best Dracula film since Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992).

Luke Evans stars as Vlad Tepes in the new film Dracula Untold.

Luke Evans stars as Vlad Tepes in the new film Dracula Untold.

Why am I so enthusiastic about this film? Because as much as I love the Bram Stoker novel, the story has never adequately been placed in its historical context in a film—at least not with the vampire aspect included. The only other film I have seen that depicts Vlad Tepes’ story in detail (there may be others I haven’t seen) is Dracula: The Dark Prince (2000) starring Christopher Brand, but that was purely about the historical Vlad Tepes. Dracula Untold goes back to the historical roots of the story while cleverly weaving in the legendary and supernatural aspects of the tale. The result is a superb film with a few historical liberties that I’m willing to overlook for the sake of creating a great fictional story.

What is great about the film? First of all, the film is visually a treat for anyone interested in the historical Vlad Tepes. I loved seeing the clothing of the fifteenth century—the colors, the Eastern European and Turkish styles. I loved the castles. I loved not only the monastery but the paintings inside it. I felt like the film was visually very convincing and historical in these respects. The scenery and location were also convincing. I was surprised in the credits to see the film was made in Northern Ireland since it looked like Transylvania to me—I have not been there, but it had the right feel to it.

Historically, I loved that Mehmet II and the Turks were part of the story. The historical Vlad Tepes was kept as a boy at Mehmet II’s father’s court as a prisoner, given over by his own father as a hostage. He grew up with Mehmet II, as did Vlad’s brother Radu the Handsome. In fact, I wish the film had given us a scene or two of those years so we could better understand the relationship between Vlad and Mehmet II. For anyone who wants more information on this aspect of the story, I recommend reading Dracula: Prince of Many Faces by Radu R. Florescue and Raymond T. McNally. Of course, everything depicted in the film is not completely historical, but Vlad Tepes had plenty of reason for animosity against Mehmet II. I felt the film did a good job of showing how tyrannical Mehmet could be in trying to control the people of Eastern Europe at the time. While mention of it was not made in the film, Mehmet II is known historically as “The Conqueror” because he defeated Constantinople in 1453, which sent shockwaves to the rest of Europe with the threat that the Muslims might end up wiping out Christendom.

Best of all, Dracula Untold depicted how Vlad Tepes became Dracula—the whole purpose of the film, and it does so in a convincing way very much in keeping with the Gothic tradition of committing a transgression deeply tied to a hope for redemption. Previous films have brushed over the backstory of Dracula. Two of the best films with minor backstories for Dracula are Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), in which Dracula curses the church because his wife dies while he is fighting the Turks; the curse results in his being punished by being turned into Dracula. Dracula 2000 (2000) depicted Dracula as actually Judas, betrayer of Christ, another fabulous connection that sets up Dracula as an equivalent almost of Satan or as an Antichrist.

Dracula Untold owes a bit of a debt to Bram Stoker’s Dracula because of its similar death for Dracula’s wife, which is pivotal to Vlad becoming Dracula, though the events leading to his becoming Dracula, the vampire, occur earlier in the film. When Mehmet II wants 1,000 boys from Vlad’s people to serve in his army, Vlad refuses and goes to a mountain where he understands there is a Master Vampire whose help he seeks to defeat the Turks. This Master Vampire himself has been cursed to be a vampire and reside in a cave in the mountain. He can only be freed if another takes his place. He warns Dracula that if he makes this choice, he will have three days of supernatural powers and then be restored to his regular human form, but if during those three days, he gives into his thirst for blood, he will remain a vampire for all eternity. Dracula, believing he can resist the thirst and wanting to save his people, agrees to this Satanic pact and drinks the Master Vampire’s blood.

These Satanic or Faustian pacts in the Gothic are nothing new. The Gothic Wanderer frequently transgresses to obtain forbidden knowledge—as does Dr. Faustus. In this case, though, Dracula does it for a higher cause—he is not seeking the philosopher’s stone to give him fabulous wealth; he is not seeking power for its own sake. He is seeking to be his people’s savior, which makes him a sort of superhero and a Christ figure, an inversion of one who sides with evil to bring about good—a sort of “happy fault” in keeping with Milton’s idea that Adam and Eve’s sin paved the way to bring about Christ’s redemption of mankind to show God’s great love. Dracula becomes a hero because he is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to save his people. Let us not forget here that most of our modern day superheroes—Batman and Superman among them—have their origins largely in the great supernatural Gothic figures of the nineteenth century, Dracula included. (For more on superheroes’ origins in the Gothic, see my book The Gothic Wanderer.) As the Master Vampire tells Vlad, sometimes it is not a hero but a monster who is needed by people. (And this filmgoer wants more monsters and less superheroes on the big screen.) It is a grand sacrifice Vlad makes, and he has the viewer’s sympathy in making this choice, especially since it is clear in the film that his own people are largely too weak and cowardly to fight the Turks. I completely enjoyed the consequences of Vlad’s decision and watching how and why he ultimately does give into the thirst for blood despite his efforts.

What faults does the film have? If we see it solely as a complete film in itself, very few, but if we look at it in relation to the larger historical background as well as the great canon of Dracula literature, we can find a few things that might have been done better or differently. I am willing to overlook the historical flaws for the most part. For example, in reality, Vlad never had a son named Inegras as in the film. Nor did he have a wife named Mirena. Both are fictional characters. Mirena is clearly a play on Mina Harker from Bram Stoker’s novel and adapted from the wife who falls to her death in Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, although the cause of her falling to her death is slightly different in this film. For information on the historical Vlad Tepes’ marriages and children, again I refer you to Dracula: Prince of Many Faces.

The biggest historical inaccuracy is that Vlad kills Mehmet II. Of course, Mehmet II is the film’s villain so viewers want to see him killed by the film’s hero in the end. In truth, Vlad died in 1476 or 1477 while Mehmet II died in 1481, probably of poisoning. Vlad’s actual death is obscure, but he was killed probably in battle by the Turks. His decapitated body was discovered by the monks of Snagov Monastery near the shore and buried at the monastery. Later, his grave was found open and his body was gone, giving rise to the legend that he resurrected as a vampire. I was a bit disappointed also that the mystery of his death and missing body at Snagov were not brought into the film; instead, another monastery is named in the film, but only as a fortress retreat.

My disappointments in the film really aren’t so much disappointments but rather commentary on how I would have made the film differently—I am in the process of finishing my own novel that retells Vlad Tepes’ story, linking it to the Arthurian legend, for my upcoming novel Lilith’s Love: The Children of Arthur, Book Four, intended to be published in 2017. For more information on my novel series, visit my website www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

One complaint by the critics is that the film is to be the first in a series of Monster films—a reboot of the classic Universal Monsters films from the 1930s and 1940s that starred Bela Lugosi as Dracula, Boris Karloff as Frankenstein, and Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolfman—films I have grown to love by watching reruns of them on Svengooli on Saturday nights. Critics are complaining that Universal is trying to capitalize on Marvel’s superhero film franchise. I say let them! There isn’t a Marvel superhero out there who doesn’t pale in comparison to the great Gothic figures.

A hint of this upcoming movie series to which Dracula is apparently the prologue is seen in the film when the Master Vampire tells Dracula that some day he will come for him when he needs him. The film ends in the modern day when Dracula meets Mina (clearly Mina Harker from the novel) who resembles his deceased wife Mirena. As they walk off together, the Master Vampire is shown following them and saying “Let the games begin.” I admit I was a bit disappointed here by the modern-day setting and how they meet—it looks like Bram Stoker’s novel will not be recreated for a future film with all its Victorian Gothic grandeur, but skipped over for a modern day story.

Dracula Untold leaves us wondering just who is this Master Vampire. The film is very obscure about his origins, but when I looked online at the cast lists, I found references to Caligula, and at one site, http://collider.com/dracula-untold-set-visit/ this information:

“In the movie, Vlad willingly becomes a vampire by drinking blood from a chalice in Caligula’s cave. Yes, Caligula. Caligula was a Roman emperor who ruled from 37 AD to 41 AD. Sazama and Sharpless decided to play with the mystery surrounding Caligula’s death and where he was buried. Because Caligula would have made his way into what Bram Stoker dubbed the Transylvania territory at some point during his exploits, they wondered, what if he’s still there and what if there’s a reason he’s still alive?”

I don’t think the film was at all clear that the Master Vampire was Caligula—unless I didn’t catch the reference. But I find it fascinating that they will tie in this historical person to the series. I am skeptical about Caligula’s mysterious death, however. I always thought, as most historical sources confirm, that he was slain in Italy by his own guardsmen, and it’s believed he was cremated, so I don’t know where this idea comes from. That said, Caligula is certainly one of the most monstrous humans in history and he works perfectly as a sort of Wandering Jew, a cursed figure who could live for centuries. I’ll be interested in seeing how he is depicted in future films in the series.

Go see Dracula Untold. I can’t imagine why anyone would be disappointed. I have read some of the more negative reviews of the film and can tell you those critics know next to nothing about the Gothic tradition. Dracula Untold is not a horror film and it is not an adventure film—it has those elements, but first and foremost, it is a superb and classic Gothic film, and it’s about time a Gothic story is told as it should be with a true transgressive Gothic Wanderer. And better yet, I welcome this recreating of our monsters to be more complex beings. A true Gothic Wanderer is never wholly a villain, but has his sympathetic attributes that allow us to resonate and understand and even cheer him on. Dracula Untold creates such a character superbly.

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption, and The Children of Arthur novel series. Visit Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com and www.GothicWanderer.com

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