Abraham Van Helsing

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"van Helsing" redirects here. For other uses, see van Helsing (disambiguation).
Abraham van Helsing
Dracula character
Created by Bram Stoker
Information
Aliases van Helsing
Professor van Helsing
Dr. van Helsing
Gender Male
Occupation Professor, doctor, lawyer, vampire hunter
Religion Roman Catholic
Nationality Dutch

Professor Abraham van Helsing is a character from the 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 and monster hunter, and the archenemy of Count Dracula.

Dracula[edit]

Main article: 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.

According to Leonard Wolf's annotations to the novel, 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 for Holmwood. Van Helsing's wife went insane after their son's death, but as a 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:

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

In the novel van Helsing is described with what is apparently a thick foreign accent, in that his English is broken, and he uses German phrases like, "Mein Gott" (My God).

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. The novel, however, gives no support for such interpretations. Dr. Seward 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 is on holiday 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, has a psychic connection to 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.

Film adaptations[edit]

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 does not have 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, Dracula battles Lorrimar van Helsing, a grandson of the original vampire hunter, who appears as Lawrence van Helsing in the prologue to Dracula AD 1972. In The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires Cushing plays the original van Helsing from the Hammer series.

Anthony Hopkins portrays van Helsing in Bram Stoker's Dracula in 1992. Already implied to be an experienced vampire hunter. He often comes across as insane, casually discussing how to kill the un-dead despite the brutal methods involved, as well as his ruthless methods when dispatching Dracula's brides, but he nevertheless leads the group to victory over Dracula's forces.

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. Having been found on the steps of a church seven years ago with total amnesia, 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, with Dracula revealing over the course of the film that van Helsing was the one who originally murdered him, as well as claiming ownership of a distinctive ring that van Helsing has worn as long as he can remember. It is implied that Gabriel is actually the angel Gabriel, with vague references to Dracula's murderer as the "Left Hand of God".

Notable actors to have portrayed van Helsing in film adaptations of Dracula include:

Appearances in other media[edit]

Novels[edit]

  • 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 (Although he defends his reputation by arguing that nobody knew about blood types until much later); 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.
  • P. N. Elrod's novel Quincey Morris, Vampire takes up the story almost immediateley after the conclusion of Bram Stoker's Dracula, but in this story (which shows vampires in a more sympathetic light) van Helsing is unyielding and unwavering in his beliefs and hatred of vampires to the point where he eventually alienates his former friends and allies.
  • The comic novel Dracula's Diary by Michael Geare and Michael Corby (ISBN 978-0825301438) completely re-tells the Stoker novel, with the young Count Dracula (who has been learning to act like a true British gentleman) becoming a secret agent for Her Majesty's government and van Helsing an enemy agent for a foreign power who is continually thwarted by Dracula.
  • In The Dracula Tape (1975) by Fred Saberhagen, a psychotic, fanatical, bumbling van Helsing opposes the urbane, if ruthless, Dracula.
  • In Fangland by John Marks, the re-imagined van Helsing is split into two separate characters, namely Clementine Spence and Austen Trotta.
  • He also appears in the Department 19 series by Will Hill.
  • In the 2009 novel The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, an elderly Holocaust-survivor named Abraham Setrakian plays a role much similar to van Helsing's, as an experienced vampire hunter whose duty is to educate and train the younger, more skeptical protagonists of the novel. In the television adaptation, he is portrayed by David Bradley.

Comics[edit]

Dracula and Rachel van Helsing: The Tomb of Dracula #40 (Jan. 1976). Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer.

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 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[edit]

There have been numerous works of fiction depicting descendants of van Helsing carrying on the family tradition.

Films[edit]

Television[edit]

  • 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 2006 CBBC 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 2009 ITV series Demons follows Abraham's great grandson Luke Rutherford (Christian Cooke).
  • In the 2014 Showtime series Penny Dreadful, Van Helsing is a hematologist consulted by Victor Frankenstein. He eventually admits he has known about vampires for some time and offers to give Frankenstein some much-needed instruction in the area.

Books and stories[edit]

Comics[edit]

  • 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.

Games[edit]

Trivia[edit]

In 2003 film League of Extraordinary Gentlemen the chemist Mina Harker, quotes in the script A. van Helsing while explaining her transformation into a vampire :

"My husband was Jonathan Harker. With a professor named van Helsing, we fought a dangerous evil. It had a name, Dracula. He was Transylvanian." .

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bram Stoker. Dracula, chapter 9.

External links[edit]