Who was Frankenstein and Where Did He Come From?

When I lived in Romania, someone knocked on my door one day, and when I opened the door, the man standing there looked just like Frankenstein’s monster or Lurch from the long running TV show, “The Adams Family.”  I was so shocked!  I knew he wasn’t actually a monster, but just a person. He was tall with black hair combed back, a strange, almost green complexion, and very noticeable big black circles around his eyes.  All I could think was, no wonder people thought Frankenstein also came from Transylvania like they thought Dracula did. However, just as the real Dracula came from Wallachia, the name Frankenstein came from Germany, but when I had seen an old movie, they made Frankenstein from Transylvania, one of the three Romanian states.



The Frankenstein Castle in Germany


Perhaps the confusion also came about because there were Germans living in Transylvania when Mary Shelly wrote the original novel about Frankenstein.  Mary Shelly was an English woman who lived in the late 1700 and into the 1800’s.  During her lifetime, Transylvania was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  There were Germanic people living in Transylvania just as there were when we were there. They went there as a type of over lords of the Romanian people.  Mary Shelly visited Germany, but she never visited Romania.  If you read her book about Frankenstein’s monster, most of it takes place in Switzerland, although there is a real Frankenstein castle in Germany where people tour through.

The factories were new during the industrial revolution.


The original movie character of Frankenstein

During the time that Mary Shelly, the author of “Frankenstein’s Monster,” was writing, it was the Industrial Revolution, a time when people were inventing things right and left like they never had before.  It was the beginning of all things automated.  Life was bustling and everything was new.  Germans have always been known for their Science.  During this time, there was a Scientist in Germany experimenting trying to bring dead bodies back to life.  They had seen the advent of the car, the advent of the steam ships, the advent of all kinds of new things. Everyone was experimenting and inventing.  It makes sense that when this guy began trying to bring dead bodies back to life, it bothered people. In fact, it bothered a young girl in England so much when she heard about it that she had a nightmare.  Her nightmare gave birth to her novel “Frankenstein’s Monster.”  The scientist never actually brought the dead bodies back to life, but Mary Shelly became a very successful author because she wrote her nightmare down.

This map shows you where Romania is located in Europe, where Transylvania is. The Austro-Hungarian Empire came from Germany across Europe and reached into Romania.
This is a modern day map of Romania.  Transylvania is about a third of Romania. It is on the western side of Romania. If you see the Transylvanian Alps, that is where Dracula’s castle is located, and we lived in Sibiu, just north of there.  Bucharest is where the capital is, further south, and that part of Romania was known as Wallachia, and that is actually where the original Dracula was from.  The northern part is Moldova, and there is now also a country called Moldova that used to be part of Romania.  It broke off because under Communism, many Russians and Ukrainians moved into that portion of Romania, and after the revolution, they decided they wanted to be a separate country, but the northern part of Romania is still called Moldova.

Before we went to Transylvania, Romania, we had heard of it.  In fact, when my son went to school and told everyone he was moving to Transylvania, they laughed at him and told him it didn’t really exist. What I had heard was that it was a mythical place where monsters came from like Dracula and Frankenstein.  I had had trouble trying to figure out why a German scientist would be in Transylvania, but there was a possibility for it to happen since there were Germans living in Transylvania. Romania had been cut off from the rest of the world because of Communism until lately. No news went in, and no news came out.  There is no wonder people began making us stories about it. People heard of it, but no one though it was a real place. They thought it was just as mythical as Dracula and Frankenstein.  However, Transylvania is real.  Dracula was real, but not a vampire. The one that was not real was Frankenstein’s monster, and he was supposed to be in Switzerland, not Germany, and not Transylvania.  However, there was still a basis for the character, a German scientist who was actually trying to bring dead bodies back to life.

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