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Abraham Van Helsing

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Abraham Van Helsing
Vanhelsing

Real Name

Abraham Van Helsing

First Appearance

Dracula (1897)

Original Publisher

Archibald Constable and Company (UK)

Created by

Bram Stoker

Origin

In the novel Dracula, Van Helsing is called in by his former student, Dr. John Seward, to assist with the mysterious illness of Lucy Westenra. Van Helsing's friendship with Seward is based in part upon an unknown prior event in which Van Helsing suffered a grievous wound and Seward saved his life by sucking out the gangrene. It is Van Helsing who first realizes that Lucy is the victim of a vampire and he guides Dr. Seward and his friends in their efforts to save Lucy.

In the novel, from the annotations of Leonard Wolf, it is mentioned that Van Helsing had a son who died. Van Helsing says that his son, had he lived, would have had a similar appearance to another character, Arthur Holmwood. Consequently, Van Helsing developed a particular fondness of Holmwood. Van Helsing's wife went insane after their son's death, but as a devout Catholic, he refuses to divorce her. ("with my poor wife dead to me, but alive by Church's law, though no wits, all gone, even I, who am faithful husband to this now-no-wife ...")

Van Helsing is one of the few characters in the novel who is fully physically described in one place. In chapter 14, Mina Murray describes him as:

"a man of medium weight, strongly built, with his shoulders set back over a broad, deep chest and a neck well balanced on the trunk as the head is on the neck. The poise of the head strikes me at once as indicative of thought and power. The head is noble, well-sized, broad, and large behind the ears. The face, clean-shaven, shows a hard, square chin, a large resolute, mobile mouth, a good-sized nose, rather straight, but with quick, sensitive nostrils, that seem to broaden as the big bushy brows come down and the mouth tightens. The forehead is broad and fine, rising at first almost straight and then sloping back above two bumps or ridges wide apart, such a forehead that the reddish hair cannot possibly tumble over it, but falls naturally back and to the sides. Big, dark blue eyes are set widely apart, and are quick and tender or stern with the man's moods.”

Van Helsing's personality is described by John Seward, his former student, thus:

“He is a seemingly arbitrary man, this is because he knows what he is talking about better than any one else. He is a philosopher and a metaphysician, and one of the most advanced scientists of his day, and he has, I believe, an absolutely open mind. This, with an iron nerve, a temper of the ice-brook, and indomitable resolution, self-command, and toleration exalted from virtues to blessings, and the kindliest and truest heart that beats, these form his equipment for the noble work that he is doing for mankind, work both in theory and practice, for his views are as wide as his all-embracing sympathy.”

In the novel, Van Helsing is described with what is apparently a thick German accent, in that his English is broken, and he uses various German phrases like "Mein Gott". Though his name is Dutch and he receives the telegram in Amsterdam there is no given explanation for the German accent, as a result many films depict the character as being German instead of Dutch, despite the Dutch name and having received the telegram in Amsterdam.

Adaptations of the novel have tended to play up Van Helsing's role as the vampire professional-expert, sometimes to the extent that it is depicted as his major occupation. In the novel, however, Dr. Seward is unaware of this side of his old friend and requests Van Helsing's assistance simply because Lucy's affliction has him baffled and Van Helsing "knows as much about obscure diseases as any one in the world." Indeed, Van Helsing takes too much time (weeks and months) to recognise Lucy's illness, and seems to have no practical knowledge about vampires. Until her funeral, he tells no one his theory of Lucy's death.

Count Dracula, having acquired ownership of England’s Carfax estate through solicitor Jonathan Harker, moved to the estate and began menacing England. His victims included Lucy Westenra, who lived in Whitby. The aristocratic girl has suitors such as John Seward, Arthur Holmwood, and Quincey Morris, and has a best friend in Mina Murray, Jonathan Harker’s fiancée. Seward, who worked as a doctor in an insane asylum — where one of the patients, the incurably mad Renfield, secretly serves Dracula — contacts Van Helsing about Lucy Westenra’s peculiar loss of blood. Van Helsing, recognizing the mark of the vampire, tries to save Lucy, but she dies and returns as a vampire. Eventually, Van Helsing and a heartbroken Arthur destroy the vampiric Lucy.

Van Helsing and his band of vampire hunters pursue Dracula back to Transylvania. There, they chase him down the Borgo Pass and corner him. Armed with knives, Jonathan Harker and Quincey Morris slit Dracula's throat and impale his heart. Dracula's body then crumbles to dust.

Later, Van Helsing takes a grandfatherly role in regard to the young Quincey Harker, Jonathan and Mina's son.

Public Domain Comic Appearances

  • Eerie #12

Notes

  • In the unauthorized film adaption of Dracula, Nosferatu, Abraham Van Helsing was replaced by the character Professor Bulwer.

See Also

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