Abraham Van Helsing
Professor Abraham Van Helsing is a character from Bram Stoker's 1897 Gothic horror novel Dracula. Van Helsing is a Dutch doctor with a wide range of interests and accomplishments, partly attested by the string of letters that follows his name: "M.D., D.Ph., D.Litt., etc." The character is best known as a vampire hunter, monster hunter, and the archenemy of Count Dracula.
In the novel, 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 describes him as:
|“||a man of medium height, 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" (My God). 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.
Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror was the first film version of Dracula. Although it followed the same basic plot as the novel, names were changed: Van Helsing is Professor Bulwer and appears only in a few scenes. Unlike the book, he is a friend of Thomas Hutter (the film's version of Jonathan Harker) before he meets Count Orlok (a renamed Count Dracula) and never meets the vampire face to face.
Peter Cushing's character in the Hammer movies may not have had the first name "Abraham" as his case reads J. Van Helsing, as seen in The Brides of Dracula. In the series of Hammer Dracula films set in the 1970s, the character of Van Helsing is named Lawrence Van Helsing and is seen in the prologue (set in 1872) of Dracula AD 1972. These movies had Dracula being resurrected in the 1970s only to meet Lawrence's grandson, Lorrimar Van Helsing, a different vampire hunter also played by Cushing. In The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires Cushing plays the original Van Helsing from the Hammer series.
Christopher Plummer portrayed Professor Abraham Van Helsing in Dracula 2000 (he had previously appeared as a vampire hunter, Professor Paris Catalano, in Vampire in Venice). After defeating Count Dracula (Gerard Butler), Van Helsing finds that the vampire lord cannot die in the conventional means of destroying a vampire and he only succeeded in paralysing him in a deathlike state. Knowing that Dracula would inevitably rise again, Van Helsing imprisoned the vampire beneath his Carfax Abbey estate, using leeches to dilute Dracula's blood and transfuse it into himself as a means of preserving his own life until he can find a means of destroying Dracula. This has the unintentional side-effect of creating a link between Dracula and Van Helsing's daughter. When Dracula escapes after his coffin is stolen, Van Helsing's daughter and his assistant are able to use this connection to deduce Dracula's true identity and defeat him after the elder Van Helsing's death.
Hugh Jackman played Gabriel Van Helsing, the eponymous hero of Van Helsing (2004), loosely based on Bram Stoker's character. Gabriel hunts monsters for a secret organization made up of the world's religions (known as the Knights of the Holy Order) to rid the world of evil "that the rest of mankind has no idea exists", although he is the most wanted man in Europe for his conspicuous actions. In the movie he is sent to Transylvania to kill Count Dracula. When he arrives, Dracula tells Gabriel that they have already met and have quite a history together. It is implied that Gabriel is actually the angel Gabriel, with vague references referring to Dracula's murderer as the "Left Hand of God".
Notable actors to have portrayed Van Helsing in film adaptations of Dracula include:
- John Gottowt (as Professor Bulwer) in Nosferatu (1922)
- Edward Van Sloan in Dracula (1931) and Dracula's Daughter (1936)
- Eduardo Arozamena in Dracula (1931, Spanish version)
- Peter Cushing in the Hammer Films Dracula series (1958–1974)
- Herbert Lom in Count Dracula (1970)
- Ota Sklencka in Hrabe Drakula (1971)
- Nigel Davenport in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1973)
- Frank Finlay in the BBC adaptation Count Dracula (1977)
- Laurence Olivier in Dracula (1979)
- Walter Ladengast in Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)
- Jack Gwillim in The Monster Squad (1987)
- Anthony Hopkins in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)
- Peter Fonda in Nadja (1994)
- Mel Brooks in the parody Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)
- Christopher Plummer in Dracula 2000 (2000)
- Giancarlo Giannini (as Enrico Valenzi) in Dracula (2002)
- David Moroni in Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary (2002)
- Hugh Jackman (as Gabriel Van Helsing) in Van Helsing (2004) and Van Helsing: The London Assignment (2004)
- Casper Van Dien in Dracula 3000 (2004)
- David Suchet in Dracula (2006)
- David Carradine in The Last Sect (2006)
- Wallace Shawn in Vamps (2012)
- Rutger Hauer in Dracula 3D (2012)
- Thomas Kretschmann in Dracula (TV series) (2013)
- Dominic Cooper in Dracula Untold (2014)
Appearances in other media
In the 2009 Dacre Stoker novel Dracula the Un-dead, Van Helsing is now a 75 year old man with heart problems, having apparently been disgraced in the medical profession for deaths caused by improper blood transfusions; he was also briefly a suspect in the Jack the Ripper murders due to his knowledge of anatomy and reputation for mutilating corpses for unspecified reasons. He later becomes a vampire himself after a battle with Dracula.
In Kim Newman's series Anno Dracula, Van Helsing has failed to kill Dracula. As a result, the vampire lord has conquered the United Kingdom after marrying Queen Victoria and becoming her Prince Consort. Van Helsing, meanwhile, was killed at the hands of Dracula, and his head is displayed at Buckingham Palace.
Abraham Van Helsing was also portrayed in the The Tomb of Dracula Marvel Comics series, which was based on the characters of Bram Stoker's novel.
In the Marvel Comics miniseries X-Men: Apocalypse vs. Dracula, Van Helsing joins forces with the immortal mutant Apocalypse and his worshipers, Clan Akkaba, in order to destroy Dracula, their common enemy. It is noted that Van Helsing had encountered Apocalypse before and previously believed him a vampire.
In Fangland by John Marks, the re-imagined Van Helsing is split into two separate characters, namely Clementine Spence and Austen Trotta.
In Italian comic book Martin Mystère, Van Helsing's name is Richard. He became a vampire after being bitten by one, and after destroying Dracula he came to London to solve the case of Jack the Ripper.
Media involving descendants of Van Helsing
There have been numerous works of fiction depicting descendants of Van Helsing carrying on the family tradition.
- Hammer Films' Dracula series features a whole dynasty of Van Helsings: "J." (equivalent to Abraham); Lawrence, older than J., relationship unspecified; J.'s son Leyland, Lawrence's grandson Lorrimar, and Lorrimar's granddaughter Jessica. Peter Cushing played J. in Horror of Dracula (1958), The Brides of Dracula (1960). Lawrence in a brief opening segment of Dracula AD 1972 (1972), and Lorrimar in Dracula AD 1972, The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1974) and Lawrence, again, in The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974); Robin Stewart played Leyland in The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires; and Jessica was played first by Stephanie Beacham in Dracula AD 1972, then by Joanna Lumley in The Satanic Rites of Dracula.
- In the 1979 feature film Love at First Bite, is a comedic parody in which Dracula falls in love, and Jeffrey Rosenberg, grandson of Fritz Van Helsing, tries to kill him.
- In 1995 film "Dracula: Dead and Loving it" is a 1995 satirical comedy horror film directed by Mel Brooks and starring Leslie Nielsen. It is a parody of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, and of some of the films it inspired.
- In the 2000 film Dracula 2000, there are related characters.
- In the 2000 Disney channel movie Mom's Got a Date with a Vampire, Malachi Van Helsing is hunting the vampire Dimitri, who is preying on the mother of the main characters.
- The 2004 feature film Van Helsing starred Hugh Jackman as Gabriel Van Helsing.
- The 2004 direct-to-video film Dracula 3000 features Captain Abraham Van Helsing (played by Casper Van Dien), a descendent of the original Van Helsing and the captain of a spacefaring salvage ship.
- The 2004 direct-to-video film The Adventures of Young Van Helsing depicts Abraham Van Helsing's great grand son Michael saving the world from Simon Magus.
- The 2006 film Bram Stoker's Dracula's Curse features a character named Jacob Van Helsing, who is inferred to be a descendant of the original Van Helsing, although this is never actually stated outright.
- The 2009 film Stan Helsing is a comedic film revolving around satirizing the Van Helsing descendant of the 2004 feature film.
- In the 2012 TV film, Scooby-Doo! Music of the Vampire, a book writer named Vincent Van Helsing is the great great grandson of Abraham Van Helsing.
- On May 4, 2012 it was revealed that actor Tom Cruise would star as Helsing in a new remake of the 2004 Hugh Jackman film, set to be released in 2016.
- The British children's TV series, Young Dracula, featured Mr. Eric Van Helsing — presumably the descendant of his more famous predecessor, though with none of his competence — trying to exterminate Count Dracula and his children, who had been chased out of Transylvania by an angry mob and were now living in rural Wales. Eric lives in a travel trailer with his son Jonathan. There are also references made to previous Van Helsing vampire slayers.
- The 1990 series Dracula: The Series had Bernard Behrens as Gustav Helsing. He was looking after his two nephews, Christopher Townsend and Max Townsend. They fought Dracula, who in the contemporary world, had taken on the name of Alexander Lucard. In this version Gustav Helsing's son, Klaus Helsing (Geraint Wyn Davies), had been turned into a vampire by Alexander Lucard (Dracula).
- The 2009 ITV series Demons follows a modern-day teenage descendant of Van Helsing.
- In Tales of the Slayer story "House of the Vampire", part of an unofficial series of short stories based on the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Peter Van Helsing (cousin to Abraham) is a Watcher (an advisor and trainer of vampire slayers.) Within the Buffy canon, Dracula is a real vampire but a charlatan and Van Helsing is unmentioned.
- The 1995 TV series Sliders featured an episode in Season 3 titled "Stoker" in which character Van Elsinger (played by Tommy Chong) hunts vampires that compose the band "Stoker" a reference to Bram Stoker and Abraham Van Helsing.
- In the British web series "I Am Tim", Van Helsing's descendant Timothy Ronald Helsing is told of his ancestry and has to hunt monsters in the city of York, along with his girlfriend, Anna and werewolf sidekick, Poncho.
- The comic book series The Tomb of Dracula featured Rachel van Helsing, granddaughter of Abraham, as a major member of the principal hunters. Minor characters were Abraham's wife Elizabeth and his brother Boris.
- In the manga and anime, Hellsing, modern day descendant Integra Hellsing leads a British government strike force against supernatural menaces. The story also includes her father, Arthur and uncle Richard. It later turns out that the protagonist Alucard is in fact Dracula, and became a servant to the Helsing family after being defeated by Integra's grandfather, Abraham Van Helsing.
- The DC comic Night Force features Abraham's granddaughter Vanessa Van Helsing.
- Sword of Dracula is a comic book with Veronica "Ronnie" Van Helsing.
- Helsing is a Caliber Comics title about a Samantha Helsing and a John Van Helsing.
- The Vampirella comic books feature father-son vampire hunters Conrad and Adam van Helsing.
- The 2013 game, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing, focuses on the trials of young Van Helsing, son of the legendary vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing.
- Bram Stoker. Dracula, chapter 9.