June 26 2020 update: this piece has really done the numbers! I’m thrilled to see people curious about Radu cel Frumos and Romanian history in general. But I cannot stress enough that I am NOT A HISTORIAN and that although there is a historical segment to this article that is a fair starting point for the curious, it is not an academic-quality research project. The history as presented is there to provide context for a fiction and pop culture analysis. If you’re curious, I implore you to look into the works of real actual professional historians, especially Romanian historians if you have the means. Please support them.
All that said…
Imagine being this guy: his brother is Dracula. And that’s generally where the commentary stops.
Alternatively, imagine being this guy: he and Sultan Mehmed II were lovers. And that’s generally where the commentary stops.
‘Cel Frumos’ translates to ‘the beautiful.’ It was applied to the younger brother of Vlad III Dracula, best known for… well, being Dracula. Radu cel Frumos, Voivode of Wallachia for a little bit, at least, though in those days it was a title that traded blood-splattered hands quite often.
To me, it’s worth noting that the Romanian version of Prince Charming is Făt-Frumos, ‘Beautiful Infant/Son.’ I just think that’s a little funny. Dracula’s brother is practically named Prince Charming. What a character he must have been, and could be in modern works.
Shame, then, that I never see him.
The fact that I have yet to see one Dracula movie where Radu was a major character, or even mentioned, is a crying shame. It could certainly be the source of much drama: when Vlad proved he would not stop being a serious nuisance (a rather gentle way to describe a policy of scorched-earth marches and impaling people), the Sultan sent Radu to rout him.
Imagine being this guy: your older brother, the one you’ve been with since birth, the one you were sent away from your mother and siblings with, stands opposite you. All around, there are dead and dying men sliding down stakes, a forest of death in which the only clearing is the field of battle.
Imagine being this guy: your older brother is Dracula, and across the now-insurmountable gulf between you, his eyes seethe with loathing and revulsion. When he catches you, he will kill you, and he will make it a death unlike any you, your men, or even his men have ever seen, because you? You’re worse than an invader or a pretender. You’re a traitor. You were his little brother and you betrayed everything he stood for. You betrayed your country, your people, your very religion, everything. When your older brother catches you, you will be wishing you were dead for a very long time.
Imagine being this guy: you’re known for being gentle. You’re known for being pretty. You’re known for having a good personality and a winning disposition. Your brother is known for butchering anyone who gets in his way. Your brother is the most brutal warlord in an age of extravagant brutality as a matter of course. Your brother is Dracula.
Imagine being this guy: and then you beat Dracula. You are a major contributor to his downfall. You don’t execute him or defeat him on the field of battle, but because of your efforts–half on the battlefield, and half in diplomacy with rival princes–he is forced to flee. When he flees, he is betrayed and arrested. When next the world must suffer him, he is the leashed dog of the man who betrayed him.
Imagine being this guy: you are relegated to a footnote, a historic anecdote. Vlad will be a romantic hero and you will be a joke, when people remember you at all. Radu the Beautiful, Dracula’s gay, traitor brother.
Radu cel Frumos led a pretty tumultuous life, which was just the price any Romanian noble had to pay for the opportunity to not farm turnips forever. When he was just a child, his father, Vlad II Dracul went to swear loyalty to the Ottoman Empire. Some immensely shady dealings made it seem like he was letting rebel warlord John Hunyadi run rampant through his territory or even supporting him against the Ottoman Empire.
Possibly he was, or possibly his attempts at balancing between the two powers failed and the Ottomans were just the first to snap at him. Either way, Vlad II was made to pay heavy fines and promise not to aid enemies of the Ottomans. I’m assuming they made him say ‘…and this time I mean it!’ considering he’d made that same oath after taking the throne.
The biggest blow, though, was being forced to leave his two young sons, Vlad and Radu, in the fortress of Edirne as hostages. For some reason, he brought them along, then had the audacity to seem shocked that the Ottomans wanted them. He would later lament to Hungarian allies-turned-enemies that he had left his “little children to be butchered for Christian peace so that [he] and [his] country [could] be subjects” of Hungary, clearly believing that they were murdered.
Possibly the fact that he promptly went and supported a Crusade against the Ottomans after leaving the boys in the Sultan’s court fed this belief.
Why, when they were raised in identical circumstances, did Vlad turn out to be… well, Dracula, while Radu was by all accounts a good-natured sort? Radu was likely much, much younger than Vlad, making it much easier for him to adapt. Vlad had a horrible temper (shockingly enough) and was constantly being punished for lashing out at his captors, while Radu got along fine, doing well in his studies and not causing a lot of trouble.
As a brief aside: I imagine that Vlad viewed his brother much like the kid from Narnia. You know the one. The one who allied with the Witch in exchange for Turkish delights.
Well, I said not causing a lot of trouble, but the truth is, there was a famous incident involving the young Sultan and his passionate attraction to Radu. He’d been trying to woo him for some time and finally got him into his private rooms. There, he attempted to force himself on Radu, who responded to this assault by resignedly opening his legs–wait, wait, no, actually what happened is he pulled out a knife and stabbed the most powerful man in the world in the leg. Then he climbed a tree and, according to some tellings, wouldn’t come down until Mehmed himself limped over and promised he wasn’t in any trouble.
Whatever apology Mehmed gave for this attempted rape must have been real damn good, because it wasn’t long after that he and Radu were intimate friends. Maybe Radu swallowed his violation and went with the politically intelligent relationship, or perhaps after the serious stabbing, they called it even and fist-bumped on it. Maybe it was a combination of both. Whatever the case, Radu became Mehmed’s favorite and a major figure in his court, and the two spent much time, both day and night, in each other’s company.
Radu was given support in his campaign for the throne of Wallachia. He also rode alongside Sultan Mehmed, who had decided he had to personally lead the assault against Vlad III, who would not stop being overwhelmingly terrible.
As he was wont, Vlad III responded to this by being even more overwhelmingly terrible. Radu was among the forces who were met with the horrific sight of 20,000 of Ottomans impaled outside of Târgoviște.
Like most number associated with Dracula, this total is almost certainly exaggerated. Does that really matter, though? One impaled person is one too many, and Vlad III was nothing if not numerically ambitious. However many the exact figure was, it was a huge amount of dead or dying human beings, writhing in their torture or being pecked apart by carrion crows or, Hell, since this is a dip into the true depths of human inhumanity, probably both in a lot of cases. The Ottomans turned back to rejoin their main force, completely horrified by the sight.
They could have won: Mehmed’s personal Janissary guard numbered higher than Vlad III’s entire army. Both Mehmed and Radu were studied tacticians and excellent horsemen. But at the sight, they turned tail and fled. That’s the power of psychological warfare.
As it transpired, Vlad III continued being impossible to keep down for long, and the Ottomans continued trying to stop him from completely uprooting their political system until his death.
There’s a lot to be said about Vlad III’s campaigns against the boyars, who had responded to a great crisis with petty in-fighting, and wrang the peasantry dry to continue leading luxurious lives under Ottoman rule. There’s a lot to be said about the unfair favoritism of the Transylvanian Saxons that allowed them to lord over and oppress the native Vlach, due to a centuries-old mandate by King Geza II of Hungary.
There’s a lot to be said about how Radu’s solution to the problems facing his country was to give the boyars all their power back and give the Transylvanian Saxons all their unfair tax exemptions back to appease them.
Whatever there is to be said, it all ends the same: Vlad III died fighting and Radu was most likely executed by his son-in-law. His daughter, Maria, was the fourth wife of great Moldavian leader Stephen II, against whom Radu had struggled before. How his lovely daughter felt about her husband killing her him, history does not record, but considering how powerful and well-liked Stephen II was and is, I’m going to err on the side of ‘she got over it.’
It’s a pretty underwhelming end, isn’t it? His brother is Dracula, his lover is the most powerful man in the world… and in the end, he falls to mundane noble treachery.
There’s a great tragedy to the story of Vlad and Radu. People are all about reinventing the character of Dracula to be more romantic or whatever, and time and again they return to the life of Vlad III for ideas.
Or, rather, they say they’re going to the life of Vlad III then pull some shit right out of their asses.
There’s plenty of pathos to be had in the man’s real life, though, and Radu could be at the center of it. Certainly, it could have implications and effects on Dracula’s character that are just as interesting as the ones for Generic Movie Wives. (Side note: the problem of the Generic Movie Wife could be solved if people would give these women some goddamn personality and have them do something besides look pretty and die, but that’s a whole other fridge of dead women.) There could be themes of betrayal, themes of seduction as Dracula sees his brother get seduced then moves on to become The Ultimate Seducer.
Or, and this is much better…
Why can’t we make a Dracula movie about Radu?
This may be quite niche, but I think a movie about a pretty queer man trying to slay his much cooler older brother because he’s turned into a demon is a damn cool concept. I mean, historically speaking, this was probably pretty close to how it went down, at leat from the perception of the involved parties.
Think of it like this:
Radu knows his older brother is better than he is and always has been. Vlad is stronger than him, manlier, more vicious, more brutal. These are the traits by which power is earned and held in their homeland, and have been for centuries. It’s well that Vlad is going back to be the Voivode of Wallachia and Radu is staying here at his lover’s side. The last time they left, they had to come running right back and it was all very embarrassing for everyone involved.
They often argue nowadays over their views on what’s best for Wallachia and Transylvanian, the land they were born in due to their father’s exile. One thing they agree on, though, is that their goals are the same: they both value their homeland and want what’s best for it. Vlad thinks independence from the Ottoman Empire is best, but Radu believes the Ottoman Empire helps keep them safe from the constant invasion and instability that has tormented the region since time immemorial.
Vlad leaves, assuring through some small gesture or Laconic statement that Radu will always be his beloved younger brother. This is specifically so that when Vlad later declares his undying hatred, it hurts people’s feelings. Radu enjoys life at court, where he is well-liked by most and adored by the Sultan, his lover, who isn’t eager to give him up despite his political usefulness in Wallachia. This is a good place to put in the sumptuous luxury pans. You know, like in Game of Thrones where it just lingers on the architecture and food and stuff?
And then it becomes obvious that something is super wrong with Vlad, and Radu goes to confront him. The various atrocities of the Ottoman Empire are discussed as reasons they have to go, and it’s taken for granted (remember, a conspiracy of boyars murdered Radu’s brother and father) that the Boyars are no good. But no matter what good points Vlad brings up, it’s obvious that whatever he is now just wants to kill and will use any justification it can. As the demon that was once Vlad rampages, killing his own peasants and delighting in tortures, Radu realizes the only thing he can do is kill his beloved older brother, or die trying.
Probably Radu loses. After all, Vlad has always been better than him. Maybe he eats him on the spot, reduced to a ravenous fiend by the vampiric condition, motivated by hunger and hatred. Maybe he throws Radu’s mutilated body at the Turkish camp as one of his famous ‘mess with me and this will happen to you’ messages.
Or maybe Radu thinks he’s been killed, then wakes up the next night, perfectly fine but no longer breathing. The ultimate act of revenge by Dracula… and the perfect bait for a sequel.
I just really think Radu is a fascinating character to add to the Dracula mythos. His perceived betrayal would have extremely long-lasting ramifications for Dracula’s character. He could be a longstanding foe who has sworn to destroy his vampire brother… or a distant memory that Vlad carries with him, an old hurt yet to scar over. A tragic character in that once, he and Vlad were brothers who were close… or a villain (I GUESS) who turned on everything he stood for and betrayed him for some choice Ottoman dick; that, of course, has a lot of really, REALLY ugly implications about queer people that I’m sick and fucking tired of having shoved in my face.
Isn’t a sense of history important to the Dracula character? Another attachment to the world could only do good and interesting things for Dracula. After all, a reminder that one was once human makes their inhumanity all the more striking.
Besides, ‘Dracula’s pretty queer brother’ is a concept so electrifyingly vampire I’m shocked it hasn’t been done before. How Goth is that? He’s pretty and he regularly had sex with a Sultan. Lestat, eat your heart out.
However he’s used, however the Ottoman Empire is cast in the story, the younger brother provides a great contrast to the elder. It’s a great way to inform the audience about your characters without falling to exposition. It’s a great way to add depth to Dracula’s motivations, to explain why he treats his lovers and minions the way the does.
And, again, more than anything, it reminds you that Vlad III, for all the stories, for all the nightmares he inspired or continues to inspire in whatever media, was a human being. He had a family. He had siblings. He was very real. And that’s the scariest part of all, isn’t it? As spooky as Dracula may, he hasn’t got anything on Vlad III, because Vlad was super real and Dracula is a Victorian-era sex metaphor.
Radu cel Frumos was related to him, and he still said, ‘yeah, I’m going to put an end to your shit.’ That’s some real shit right there.
Move over, Van Hellsing: Radu has it under control.
Had you ever heard of Radu? What do you think of him now that you’ve read this? Isn’t Andreja Pejic just the most handsome person ever? Leave a comment to tell me how you feel!
65 thoughts on “The Queer Brother Nobody Cares Dracula Had”
I do think Radu never wanted to rule his country. He stayed back for that very reason, so his brother takes the throne, as he was the oldest and not get in his way. I don’t see why is it wrong for him to stay behind and enjoy his life. After all, it did not last long and he was forced to depart with his lover and experience cruelties beyond any imagination. He is separated and left alone to rule and ‘clean the mess of his brother’. Wallachia stood no chance against Ottomans and Radu understood that the best. Why wage war and bring death and poverty over your people? How can he be a traitor when he protected in his own way his people? Radu is a different hero, the one who lived always in other’s shodow and had to submit to others for the greater good.
Great essay here, thank you! I guess Ill have to read it over again to fully grab it. I have no readings on the psychologies of mediaeval people, or mediaeval warfare. Once I was interested in the Hostage subject, but I let it pass 😝
Oh, and sorry if I post this out of place. I just couldnt find the Reply button for the latest thread. Feel free to rearrange this.
Anyway, something I read once came to my mind about the discussion on wether Radu felt betrayed by the father as a child. I may be going naïve, or wishful, but I deem it quite a “material proof”.
There are some official documents, Radu’s documents. In those, besides the usual formula “So and So, Voivode of Wallachia” that opens these documents, we can see that he adds the name of his father.
“IW Radu, voivode of the Land of Wallachia, son of Vlad the great voivode”. This happens in many instances. And this does not happen in other voivode’s docs, like Vlad Dracula’s or Stephen’s, or any other later on. That was apparently one exclusive addition by Radu’s.
My point is that Radu wasn’t expected to add nothing to the usual openning formulae for bureaucratic documents. Formulae exist for those who do not want to go off the beaten track. It seems that Radu was doing exactly the opposite with the memory of his father.
It gives some humanity to this character, even when time & space place him so distant from us.
There is a sense of deep respect and acknowledgement re. his father, and I feel this should not be lessened. I do not believe that he felt betrayed, because it was just what he was expected to do (to be sent as garantee of armistice) because the polities of the situation thus required. I think he loved and respected his father, and knew his father was betrayed. And we know that the famous older brother did know that too. So much so that we have the beggining of the impalements during Vlad’s quest for revenge. Loyalty is hellish sometimes.
If there’s a way to rearrange this, I’m afraid I don’t know it; but don’t feel bad about replying in the wrong place or anything like that! Comment sections are always by their nature a little messy.
I didn’t know that about the text of his document openers, and you’re absolutely right that there was a exact formula used in most medieval missives. That’s a super interesting detail! A cynical reading could be that he was trying to shore up legitimacy via his father’s name, something Vlad III and Stephen wouldn’t feel the need to do. However, that’s a very, VERY cynical reading, and one I think can be disproven by the idea that, should Radu have felt the need to artificially bolster his legitimacy, he’d have relied on the name of the Ottomans; they were still alive and just brimming with soldiers, and, further, that would have cemented the Ottomans as the final authority in the region, which would have been politically convenient for Radu, and beneficial to the Ottomans themselves. It may have actually been politically harmful to mention his father, who had been suspected of betrayal by the Ottomans, and then betrayed and murdered by the local power structure with which Radu would have expected to work. And yet he did!
Narratively speaking, the idea of both brothers loving their father and being loyal to his name is a super interesting potential character conflict. Sort of a “if you REALLY loved our father you’d be out here putting people on stakes or at the very least cheering me on about it” vs “you have completely lost your mind and not only am *I* horrified at you, our father would be too” dynamic. Where they both feel like they’re the loyal son and the other is in the wrong. Not helped by the fact that, if this is a narrative it is a Dracula-themed horror story, that Vlad is out in the battlefields of Wallachia drinking blood.
Hi there. I’m not sure Why, but I thought of you when I came to this comic strip. Unfortunately it is written in Russian 😛
But if you read the comments, you will get the idea behind that.
FYI, “strigoi mort” is a folk character in Romania, the possible origin of vampires’ stories.
Isabela – this is lovely! Thank you for the link. I’ve done my best to put it together through the comments. Radu being the specter, the haunting dead, rather than Vlad is a fascinating idea. I like the idea of Radu being a critical figure in the Dracula character’s memory, something that he rejects as a traitor, but may also be self-doubt taking the form of someone he can dismiss–and something that means he never has to realize he’s suffering self-doubt. Once you go far enough, the fastest way to defeat isn’t an enemy’s weapon, but a lull in one’s self-confidence. Thanks again for sending this comic, it’s super cool!
Oh, but there is one tiny information I thought was on the comments, but isn’t! My bad lol
The undead Radu comes to Stephen’s chamber and asks: “Who killed me?”.
This is the part where if it was a movie I’d be standing up hooting. Who indeed? Questions that everyone knows the answer to but are said out loud anyway, the ultimate form of undead not-even-passive aggression.
Just read a book featuring Radu on Kindle :
Prince of Midnight. First in a series called Draculas Bloodline. Dracula is in there but not that much. I think the 3rd book is about Dracula. Check it out. AND I am not commenting on or about the historical factual lives of the men who did live. The book is purely for entertainment. And that is how I am sharing this, Not religious or PRO or anti ANYTHING.
Thanks for the hint to that book. I’ll check it out immediately! Because I’m recently more interested to Radu, because about Vlad III there is more than enough to read, to Listen to and to watch on TV or on streaming portals!
And to all they reply on Radu as a traitor.
Yes, actually he was, but…..imagine you’re a boy at about 5 years and your father take you and your older brother away from home for maybe forever, you never know, you’ll probably never see your mother or your hometown, your childhoods place.
The you learn that those foreign people aren’t bad people at all and the won’t harm you. They give you best educations in languages like latin and arabia, in Quran and much more, you might never get at your father’s court.
And on the other hand, your father….you remember, he did not protect you, he gave away both his two youngest sons as hostages!!!
They treated you better than your own father! Maybe I’m wrong about that, but unter such circumstances, I’d also decide like Radu!
Yes, was he did was betrayel!
But wasn’t it also betrayel, Back then, when ny father get me away…..?
No, Radu was not betrayed by his father in the way we would understand it today. It’d be a mistake to think so. Although the idea of handing one’s sons over to an enemy State as hostages looks terrible to us, these things were formalities, as much as today it is a formality to send diplomatic missions to arrange for negotiations. See the recent meeting between presidents Vladimir Putin & Joe Biden in Switzerland. It is an effort for peace. But many things have happened between 1445 and 2021. Right?
But —- wars and disputes are hell any time! Check it. It is happening right now everywhere in the Earth.
And it seems it is not going to halt anytime soon.
Radu was not a traitor because it would take us to say that X is bad, and Z is good. And, for lovers of World History, those who read seriously about our footprints in Earth since ages, we know that there are no ‘good guys’ X ‘bad guys’. There are, indeed, decent war negotiations and foul war-like attitudes.
Wallachia, to be blunt, would be a vassal Principality either for Hungary (as it had been before the Ottomans) or for Turkey. It was one or other. So — why was Radu a traitor if he decided to accept that Ottomans snapped Wallachia in the fair game of war? Or wars are only fair when our personal good guys win the frey? It is not fair, is it? Or is it fair to take sides? And, if taking sides is fair, then Radu taking side is fair 😉
One thing about him that anyone interested in him can be sure of: he took his side (Ottomans won Wallachia fairly in Battlefield, yes?) and there he remained from 1463 until 1475, when he is done for But he died in Loyalty. Differently from Saint Stephen the unholy, who played 5th column all the time according to his personal & petty needs.
We are no saints, you know. We will never be.
There’s an interesting dynamic here to consider between what Radu as an in-training nobleman of a historically wartorn region would think, and what Radu as a child might think. Indeed, exchange of hostages, with full understanding that those hostages might be murdered if the vassal failed to uphold their end of any oath, has been the standard for far further than it hasn’t, in most regions of the planet. Radu would have expected this. Even if he weren’t sent to Ottoman Turkey, it was likely he might be sent to the Hungarian court as Isabela pointed out, or the court of a nobleman his father hoped to get on his side. He’s not the heir to his father’s holdings, and that means he gets to be a political pawn. Yay feudalism!
But, Radek does bring up a valid point, in my opinion, that even as he was nobility, Radu was a child, so there might have been a sense of personal betrayal that informed his feelings, even though it would have been viewed as unseemly and inappropriate for his station. It’s very much not how nobility were taught to feel. But it’s pretty much impossible for any person to fully separate their emotions from their rationality, even if they believe they are.
Both methods of historical analysis have merit. It’s vital to understand the viewpoints of the players in a historical situation, but I also think our modern understanding of the macro-situation and what’s harmful to the human psyche is important. We can accept the ugliness and hateful injustices of war (let’s take a step away from the nobility for a second and consider the mountains of dead peasants and conscripted soldiers), while understanding that the people involved would find these ideas mostly foreign. Some of the spookiest medieval literature I’ve ever read was from people of Radu’s station, albeit in what is today France, talking about how great war is… but people have always been people, with the same emotions. The justifications and philosophies we have are different, but the emotions have always been there, no matter how hard we try to train them out, and to what ends we attempt to train them. People have always wanted their parents to love them and protect them. At the same time, people in power have always found justifications to create war to consolidate and expand that power.
This is a bit of an aside, so I put it in a separate comment, but I think the sociology of oaths in the context of warlike medieval polities is super interesting and can inform a lot of the players’ viewpoints here. The balance between “a promise was sworn that the participants believe to be empowered and enforceable by God” and the realities of conflict, war, and force of arms being dominant social forces. Which oaths supersede other oaths, and when one has the right to say “the other party has violated our oath to the point I am released from this.” Is an oath valid if it is secured at the point of a sword? And, truly, in a region that knows endless war, is there any oath not extracted at swordpoint? Vlad II may have believed he had oaths he had to keep at the expense of his children… so to, then, would Radu see oaths that must be kept at the expense of his blood family. That’s before you even BEGIN to consider his personal feelings about the people, rather than the polities to which he swore those oaths.
Your attempt to spin history is absolutely baffling. I am Romanian and the story was completely different. To begin with, the Otoman Empire was constantly attacking our region and our people destroying everything they could. Furthermore, if you would bother just to take a look at an Eastern-Christian Orthodox calendar you would see an endless list of martyrs killed because they refused to convert to Islam (for example, take a look at the story of Constantin Brancoveanu, a Romanian leader that had his whole family slaughtered in front of him because he refused to renounce Christianity). I always laugh at people complaining about “islamophobia” in Eastern Europe. Yeah sure, experience first 500 years of being constantly bullied and attacked by people of that religion and then tell me how would you react. For the record, I have no problem with anyone from any religious background as long as we respect each other’s rights to practice our beliefs.
To continue about Radu and Vlad. Vlad was actually a good and respected Romanian leader that was harsh on criminals and invaders of his country. Thus, when the Otomans attacked, he made sure that the inhabitants would safely leave and burn the cities on the way so that the Otoman army was starved and demoralised. Furthermore, he had to deal with armies tens if not hundreds-fold larger than his and he managed to get them to leave our lands. So, in that regard he was actually a very good tactician.
Radu, on the other hand, was a complete traitor on his people and he wanted to subdue our country to the Otomans. Romanians do not like him, not because “homophobia” or “islamophobia”, this is BS. We dislike him because he was a traitor. Stop trying to make him a hero in this story, he isn’t. I am so tired of Westerners washing our history and moulding it in what they want it to be.
Hi, Maria, I’m not sure you’ll read this or return here considering your dislike for the article. Even so I’d like to thank you for commenting. I am an outsider looking in so I do value, and in the paragraph at the beginning of the article, entreat people to seek your perspective as a Romanian.
I am going to defend myself though. I don’t think you’re being fair with this text and I think you are misrepresenting what I’m saying.
First of all: I am not complaining about islamophobia in Eastern Europe, a topic on which I am woefully unequipped to speak. I am talking about islamophobia in western media based on “Dracula.”
I’m a Christian. I’m very well aware of the martyrs killed for refusing to convert to Islam. I know what a religious war and conquest entail. Please don’t assume I don’t.
Vlad can be a good and respected leader who defended his country against an outside interloper whose brutality was still beyond the pale. These two facts are not mutually exclusive. His brutality informed his leadership. Someone can think “the Ottomans needed to be expelled” and “torturing people to death is not good” at the same time.
I can’t speak for the discourse about Radu in Romania and what, if any, effect the implications of homosexuality have on it. But I can say that in the west, the fact that there is even the slightest implication of it means people avoid even mentioning him. Homophobia has a huge impact on how history is presented in America.
I make it VERY clear that I am talking about fiction, and have presented the history as context for that fiction. I have also made it clear I am not a historian and this is not meant to be an academic work. There is a warning on the top of the article about this.
Romanians have many reasons to dislike Radu, and I would be foolish to suggest they should suddenly, after all these years, after all he did, after all Vlad did, hold him up as a historical hero. That’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to say that he would be an interesting character in the Dracula mythos.
I am not trying to change the way people see history. I’m trying to talk about things I think would be cool in fiction.
I am deeply sorry this article upset you. It’s clear that this means a lot to you, or you wouldn’t have bothered commenting. You are right that westerners have no right to tell Romanians how to feel about their history, and that your perspectives on that history are inherently more valuable.
But I’m talking about vampire fiction. What history I presented, and admitted is not academically rigorous, serves as context for that fiction.
(note for transparency: this is edited because I noticed some extremely glaring grammatical errors and a paragraph where I just repeated myself that was unnecessary.)
Hi, great reply.
Romanians live on their wishful thinking. They canonize the greedy, the thoughtless untruthful friends and kidnappers (like Stephen cel Mare), and raise statues to psychos who knew they were so (Vlad). Let them.
Romanians are allowed and entitled to feel however they like about their history. It’s theirs, and at the end of the day, they are the keepers of it. Someone like me who is concerned with fiction is only borrowing it, and can only ever offer a version distorted by their own bias. That’s just how this sort of thing works.
But I’m talking about vampires and I put a paragraph up top to dispel any notions I am a professional. If someone is using the personal website of a HORROR PORN AUTHOR as their only source for Romanian history, the problem is that they don’t care about it, not that I wrote something on the topic.
Her comment concerns other prior comments, not your original post. The “islamophobia” issue actually.
Ah, I see. I had implied it without naming it in my article so I thought perhaps that was what was being spoken of.
Isabela, after thought I have removed your comment responding to Maria. This discussion is already heated and I am trying to preclude any further arguments. Your historical perspective has been invaluable to me and I appreciate all the time you have taken, but I get multiple alerts for every comment that passes thru this site and I will not moderate nor play host to an argument, which I fear this risks devolving into.
Hi there, no problem! I was angry 😛
Dion Overtoun’s account/’interpretation’ of Prince Radu’s (the handsome) life, activities and ‘sexual preferences’. . is just that . . .and interpretation drawn from circumstantial evidence, hearsay, snippets of information and nothing more than that. As he readily admits at the very beginning– ‘it is NOT a historical document . . but a very personal interpretation largely based on historical record’.
It is at the very least, as ‘legitimate as Bram Stoker’s 1897 Gothic horror novel that introduced the character of Count Dracula and established many conventions of subsequent vampire fantasy. The barbarity of Ottoman 500 year long occupation of the Balkans, that kept the entire region in the Dark Ages much longer than the rest of Western Europe, is well documented.
Vlad’s love and dedication to keeping Wallachia free of Ottoman occupation as well as his bravery in the battlefield, are also a matter of historical record and not in dispute.
Romanians are fully justified in their dislike and rejection of Radu for the very reason that you are citing i.e. being a traitor to his country and people.
I do not believe that Dion is in any way trying to ‘glorify’ Radu or ‘as a westerner’ moulding Romanian history to his liking.
I need help I rented I believe a VHS movie from the library about 2 Turkish Prince says it talked about when they were really little and took in from Romania and beaten starved and forced to learn how to fight in the ottoman army , and it talked a lot about radu when he was younger , how he was favored because he was the much better looking brother .I’m search the Internet and I cannot find anything on this movie they were not famous people in it it looked to be 1970s 1980-ish I’m trying to remember what the name exactly was does anybody know ?
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I don’t have anything that might help, but please, anyone who has any ideas to help C, feel free to comment. And if I discover something separately I’ll comment as well. Good luck.
I agree with your assessment. Radu’s Prince Charming counter to Vlad’s Prince of Darkness is an angle I didn’t really think about before. I am a horror hound and a history buff. When I was a youngster and I read about the real life Dracula, I could not believe that I had never heard of Radu. His story is so compelling on it’s own, but it compliments Vlad’s story so perfectly. I often find myself wondering why in Earth no one talks about Radu. I hope it’s not just because of homophobia.
You never heard about Radu while reading about Vlad — yea, that happens! I thought it had to do with “homophobia” before as well, but after some readings and much reflection, my personal opinion is that homophobia does not play a relevant role here. It is another phobia-related psichosis — islamophobia.
And the Christian West has always been so annoyed at Islam. Still is, right? They have never got through it.
Radu III was loyal to Mehmed II. Full stop here. Twelve years ruling Wallachia, and loyalty was never put aside. Check it out.
His only — and BIGGEST — mistake was to think he could vanquish that genius Stephen Cel Mare by himself (I mean, himself and the wallachian army) without the help of the Ottoman Army. That was his last big mistake. He payed with the ‘heart of Wallachia’ (his young daughter) and with his own life later.
You see: after reading stuff and talking to some Romanian people online, I found out that Radu is named “coward” and “traitor”, whilst Vlad and Stephen (the latter being a petty ruffian, false friend & a scoundrel, and the former… well, you know) are respectively eulogised, and canonized. People do not use reason to Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and Radu, who ruled Wallachia bountifully for 12 years, is demonized because he never rebelled against the Ottoman Empire — rather, he created a peaceful ambience for the Turks doing commerce, and the taxes due to Mehmed being payed as was due to a vassal reign.
And so — Radu is rarely mentioned with due historical perspective without biased views, even by the generally considered serious historians (when mentioned at all!). He is seen as an abomination — and here you can add the homophobia thing, as much as we know from Chalcocondyles’s anecdote concearning the love affair between Mehmed and Radu back in 1451. And, speaking of it, it lasted for at least 12 years. Much more than 12 years, if we consider the last poem attributed to Mehmed, one he might have written as a ‘marthiya’ (‘elegy’) for Radu.
Thank you so much for the thoughtful comment. I know here in America, homophobia plays a HUGE role in the way history is interpreted and shown. However, we would be utterly remiss to discount the impact of Islamophobia in Radu’s situation. He really is a perfect storm of “things people don’t like to talk about.” Queer men and Europeans who are comfortable with and supportive of Muslims, possibly Muslim themselves (though Radu professed Christianity in his correspondences.)
The whys have different justification based on where the justifier is. I know the Romanian perspective is different from the American perspective by virtue of it being their own history. There’s a distance here in America that Americans must be conscious of when working with this subject for fiction. However, I think the underlying motivation is the same; Radu is extremely inconvenient to the comfort of the story. He introduced an aspect of nuance by virtue of existing as an element in Vlad’s life. Dracula was not a lone figure in the political landscape. But we like to think of him as a man sitting alone on his bloody throne, surrounded by his forest of corpses, the only man with agency on his side of the battlefield.
Also, thank you for all this contextual information about Stephen cel Mare, another figure of the time who receives no attention in American pop history discussions about this time period (I didn’t know him until I read into Radu’s history); and also for the information about Radu and Mehmed’s relationship, which I don’t think I gave its due weight in the article. Well, the article was about Radu as he relates to the Dracula fictional character, but still.
Narratively speaking, the brothers are excellent foils to one another. I think, in America at least, that there’s a desire to streamline the story a bit, and also a fear of having a core emotional pathos not linked to a man’s children or wife/true love. And homophobia prevents people from wanting to include Radu, who by nature brings the attention to the fact queer men exist. But see Isabel’s wonderful comment also for another vital perspective.
çok teşekkür! Thank you very much for considering my comments!
People do believe Radu was a convert. But converts changed names in the Ottoman scheme of things. There is no indication of his changing name while in Edirne/Istanbul. Tursun Beg call him “Radu Beg” only. He was a Christian!
Vlad was what he was after 1458 (?) — i.e., when it is said that he stopped going to Mehmed II for paying taxes — because of Radu. So, as I see it, the dangerous and ruthless Vlad was born because of his brother’s siding with Mehmed no matter what. Here, of course, one can even discuss “betrayal”. But we do not know why the brothers got apart. We may never, but the logical thing is related to Radu’s attachment to Mehmed. Just imagine: two brothers taken as hostages to Ottoman court, staying together within a culturally different life, the older supporting the younger one…. (Radu was 6/7, Vlad was 12/13 when they were taken to Edirne). And then —- that arrow issued from the bow of that “Nomadic Cupid from the Steppes of Central Asia” comes between the Dacian brothers — what a heck of a life!! Mehmed, in opinion, is important to the whole story because, if it was not for him, Radu would have been sent away to Wallachia, and perhaps one of Vlad’s sons, or Radu’s, would have been send forth as a hostage, who knows….. But Radu, you see, would not leave Mehmed for siding with Vlad. And, for me, Radu only goes to Wallachia because he was the next in line of succession. That was his noble duty: the documents he issued (now in the Romanian Archives) mostly begin with a respectful notice of his father Vlad II. He was the rightful heir, after Vlad.
There is little doubt of what Radu stood for and is known in the history annals – an outright traitor to his country and people – no two way about it ! Homophobia and/or Islamophobia have absolutely nothing to do with it – he was just a very-very bad apple.
Michael – people manifest homophobia in ways besides outright slurs, and a refusal to acknowledge someone existed at all can be part of it. Though I’ve gotten more than one comment that was just slurs and insults so I think disgust does play a role in more than a few people’s minds here.
That said, if we run with the narrative idea of Radu as the bad apple, I still think that’s a very good source of drama. As a ruler, the Dracula character drawing pathos from someone who represents a corruption of his father’s dynasty and of Romanian nobility, as Dracula himself represents a corruption of righteous violence and Christianity, could be interesting. It’s not an interpretation of the character I would necessarily enjoy, but I definitely see how it has value and would bring the Dracula character closer to something Romanians for whom Vlad III is a beloved hero might enjoy more.
I’m legit writing a book right now that pulls the vampire story with Radu as the main character lol love this!!!!
Hell yeah, Jacky! I’m glad you enjoy this, and good luck with your book!
iiiiiiiiii looooooove thissss soooooooo muuuuuuuch
I second the recommendation for Kiersten White’s And I Darken trilogy! It basically has all the wrenching drama you describe, the complex familial dynamics and well-rooted history, just with the twist of Vlad being a woman. And it’s beautifully written to boot!
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I’m very excited by all the glowing recommendations ‘And I Darken’ is getting. The idea of Vlad being a woman is surprisingly fitting in my mind. What better way to solidify one’s power in a world where one’s sex renders them powerless than overwhelming brutality? Vlad’s own fixation with impalement, once again, takes on an unsavory Freudian tint, making violent and murderous the act of penetration which is denied to her, the rightful and terrifying voivode… nasty stuff, but exactly the kind of psychological horror show I love reading about.
I hope I will be able to link a lithography I found in Pinterest. It says “Vlad Vode”, but I think it could have been a mistake due to antiquity, and this fellow is actually Radu. Which, well, looks Handsome enough for bearing the title.
And, anyway, if it is Vlad, I just imagine how his brother looked like 😉
Thanks so much! Whoever he may be, I like how he looks vaguely uncomfortable but still sumptuous. Voivodes sure knew how to wear a mustache… also, loving the hat. In any of the media I’ve done in the time period, I have a running joke about the quality of hats being a show-off, status thing. People get described by the quality of the hat, how nice it is, how much fur, the feathers, etc. The hats of that period are just so cool!
Aye, lovely moustache! And, for me, there is a shadow there. Just look at his eyes. So I have this idea that it is Radu rather than Vlad. So quiet and tame. I’d expect Vlad to look more wild and tough, I don’t know, I guess it’s wishful thinking… ;P
There is one more movie, a Rumanian one, Vlad Ţepeş (1979). Radul is also there, and as long as I remember, he is not shown as an apostate. A wee bit of a traitor of his brother tho 😦
I like this one because Vlad is portrayed as a ruthless ruler, not the “son of darkness”, and as long as I understood the plot, the massacres that entered History as a madman’s rage, in the production are ‘retold’ as political moves (the “fear leads to respect” kind of thing). It is, of course, a Rumanian production. But I like to think Vlad was acting in the best interest of his reign and Christendom.
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Y’all are super on it with these movies today! Thank you for another recomendation, Isabela.
It makes sense that Romania produces more in-depth movies. It’s the well-known history of their country, not just an addendum to a monster movie like it is for a lot of people here in the United States where I am.
As glowingly as I speak of Radu, facts are that he WAS a traitor to his brother. Maybe not his country as far as he understood things, but definitely to the person of his brother. Such is politics… so it’s not entirely unexpected to see that reflected. I don’t think I’d like a story, no matter how fanciful it got or how loose it played with source material, that wasn’t frank with the fact that Radu actively acted against Vlad. That’s where the drama is! Brother against brother on a battlefield of bloody war and bloodier politics! The screams of the dying and of the broken-hearted! Ottomans and their propensity for flashy, ornate aesthetics! The austere and awe-inspiring Carpathian mountains!
I don’t know if it ultimately was in the best interests of his reign and Christendom (though it certainly did make the Ottomans think twice). However, I can say with near absolute certainty that he believed he was doing what was best for those things. So, for those of us that have come after and are looking back on him as something greater than the sum of his parts, that will have to be enought to satisfy us. That’s not so bad, I think. At least it’s pretty clear what his intentions were, if not the exact contents of his character. That’s more than we can say for even some modern figures!
Thank you for your recommendation and the reasons behind it! I will definitely try to find time to watch it if I can get a version that has English subtitles.
I agree with you that Radu closed his eyes to his brother. And who knows what happened in the Sultan’s boudoir, that Radu willingly decided to remain by his side, even politically? Oh, Am I so damn romantic in that I think R and M matched well enough, so that it was definite for Radu to stay by his side? You know how some people give up things they hold dear (like family and so on) to live their lives the way they see is the best way? In Tarot cards, it is the “9 of pentacles” kind of people: they are fine – the world is fine (or at least *looks* fine). Selfish when it comes to a delicate decision.
Because, you know, if you spend night and day talking and talking (and whetever) with someone, and it is chronicled back in the XVth century, well, I think there was something more than just a rape attempt and a surrendering to the Turkish flamboyancy (or a brain-wash, like a friend of mine suggested). If, for example, it was a decision I’d have to make, I understand Radu, because I’d never surrender love.
On the other hand, Vlad, who wasn’t the easiest person (lol), could have just GONE! But, no, he wanted to spun some good ol’ hell for the man who was “brainwashing” his darling brother. And I was wondering about the sort of preferred killing method he chose, impalment — food for thought (well, NOT really, but I wonder sometimes).
I have always thought the impaling was a liiiiiiiittle bit Fruedian, considering the possibility of assault in Ottoman custody and the reality of having your brother be the lover of your greatest enemy. Juuuuust a little bit Fruedian. This is hardly something one can bring up at dinners with the family, though.
I personally hold that evidence suggests that the two of them (Radu and Mehmed) had genuine feelings for one another, though Mehmed certainly had other lovers and Radu had his wife and the duty to propogate his line she represented. Radu was, by all accounts, well-read, intelligent, and good-natured, and also capable of horseback riding and other masculine pusuirs a woman of status was forbidden from. And Mehmet was Literally The Sultan and regarded as quite intelligent and charismatic as well. A recipe for a relationship that tears apart dynasties. Matters of romance are always tangled, and when you get into the weird social mores of four hundred year old aristocracy, it gets even more messy. And then you add Western Orthodox attitudes toward homosexuality and it becomes, in laymen’s terms, an absolute DISASTER. A compelling one, though!
I’m with you, surrendering love is unfathomable to me. The decision for Radu was probably made easier by all the impalings and battles. But probably still incredibly painful.
Isabela, thanks for your long comments, they mean a lot to me!
Radu was depicted in the 2000 movie Dark Prince: The True Story Of Dracula. The whole movie is on youtube.
Howdy Joseph! I appreciate you telling me about this! I’m gonna see if I can figure out where to get it legally, though thank you a lot for the Youtube link in case I can’t (and for anyone else who wants to just give it a watch). And once I do that, I’m gonna try to find time to watch it! Thanks again.
Great well researched article. I landed here looking for more info than Wikipedia has. (They gave a lot considering how little info there is on Radu though.)
I second Isabela that Hollywood won’t touch Radu as a character with a 40 foot dredge pole, not only for their bottom line but also because of the PR firestorm whatever depiction they chose would cause in whatever groups and people they pissed off with it. There is no way they could accurately portray him in-depth and not piss someone off in a very public way in this climate. Even as a bit part, some media outlet would do a little digging and try to make some kind of shit storm out of his orientation just to get more clicks. That all equals a no-go in a very risk adverse business climate.
I have some ideas WAY on the back burner for a Dracula game where I wanted to show his childhood with Radu and how that shaped him into who he became. (And who he becomes in the game. Like any fanfiction writer, I just MUST change the source material to fit my own ends.) IF I ever get to that project, after reading this, I think I’ll expand Radu’s role. You asked some very intreguing questions that I think would add to the story if I can handle something so sensitive well.
Not to be maudlin but every time I hear I’ve inspired someone in even the littlest of ways I get super excited! And I agree, there’s no real way to make EVERYONE happy. I was shaky on using the word ‘queer’ because a lot of baby gays in this climate, at least in the circles I’m in, seem to dislike it, but ended up going with it because 1) it’s been the umbrella term for all sorts of identities since forever, 2) applying modern terms to historical figures is a mess of the necessity of labelling queer figures and queer versus the lack of compatibility between modern ideas of sexuality and historical attitudes. Did Radu have relations with his wife because he knew he absolutely had to and he just laid back and thought of Wallachia (or whatever), or was he bisexual? We just don’t know!!!
When you take into account the morass of terminology on the queer side, the knee-jerk rage of many conservative figures at gay anything, and the fact that these are extremely important figures in their home countries that many people have extreme feelings on, it’s just a powder keg waiting to blow. I know I get nervous that I’ll have upset someone every time I see a hit from Romania or Turkey, though frankly that’s the anxiety speaking. And so my dear Radu will stay in the shadows, at least as far as Hollywood is concerned…
Please please work on your game!!! I think that’s awesome!
Hey, why don’t You do some good justice and start a story with Radu?
BTW, Happy New Year.
You mentioned weird Roman social mores, I wonder what those would be? Hadrian never sounds as if he had had a Caligula-like life. Actually he does sound a quiet, centered man…
I still am a wee bit stranged with this sex-change thing, but ahoy! if one feels like doing it for a better life.
I apologize for the delay! I, uh, not to be unprofessional or anything, but I got a little bit hammered on New Year and spent the first day of 2018 recovering from the last day of 2017. But I should be okay now! A happy New Year to you as well, Isabela, I’m super glad we got to talk through the end of one year and the beginning of another! It really does mean a lot.
Hadrian himself wasn’t too weird. Like you said, very quiet, very centered, especially when compared to some (cough cough Nero) of his peers. However, a lot of the external conflict, to use writer jargon, in his and Antinous’s relationship came from the fact that many citizens found it objectionable that their Emperor continued a relationship with his youth lover once that youth started growing a beard and broad shoulders. Antinous also began to have wants more in line with being a grown man and less in line with being a youth lover, and Hadrian was put in a situation where choosing to honor the mos maiorum would be unkind to the person he loved. And then, of course, Antinous’s mysterious death devastated him and he started doing things some modern audiences might find strange. Like declaring him a god and making people worship him. Grief makes madmen of us all…
Might could be that something with Radu is on my project list! The interest in him is definitely encouraging.
I should tell you that I know and admire and oggle at Hadrian since 1994! And everything gets so much more exciting when I know he was an Aquarius born two days after me (I’m a January 22nd). I So understand his not giving a damn about his keeping Antinous and forget about that stupid Greek idea (although he’d loved all Greek things…). But I really never gave any thoughts on what the Roman citizens thought re. his relationship with a grown up youth… Must have been quite a shock, now that you mentioned.
Well, Aquarians are rebel souls. If we can do it differently from most people, yes, we will ardorously do it! Hah! And many scandalized people in the process! Fun!
Incidently, I have a poem here somewhere on Hadrian crying over Antinous. Very sad! 😉
You could make your Radu Project a screenplay, so the thing will come up as a movie! Yes!
Oh, you have had fun on a New York below zero New Year’s Day Party! Good!
It’s also quite recently that I heard about Radu, when a friend of mine said I was going just like “Radu the Handsome” — she meant ‘brainwashed’ as per my tendency to defend the Islamic religion in some points.
Apart from that, the story got me really interested, and I must thank her for telling me about him 😀
As for your very nice text — I have had some good laugh reading it! And one thing I feel for sure: Radu is never added because of the sexual implications. And a movie with Vlad/Dracula (and Radu) would be a movie aiming for comercial success, and alas the usual public won’t really enjoy the queer addings. See what happens when it comes to be a movie on Alexander the Great? They just don’t know what to do with Hephaestion.
Maybe Radu could show up in a “film d’ art”?
I have watched the Turkish series ‘Fatih’, and I liked the way Radu is presented, and I just loved the way Andrej is placed as Radu —— jesusmaryjoseph he *is* hot! But, weell, I never expected meaningful glances between Mehmet and Radu in a Turkish soup opera 😀
So we are told to be contented with a brotherly backslapping. That’s ok!
But — a question lingers: why did the Turkish production choose Andrej (a known boy/girl model) as Radu? Anyone? 😀
I’m glad you enjoyed it!
Jesus Christ @ your friend’s comment. Sometimes the people we love say the damndest stuff. It would be pretty boring if everyone was the same, though!
I agree with your point that the wider public generally doesn’t accept very nuanced portrayals of queers, when they accept portrayals at all. Thus robbing me of some of my very favorite historical romances…. Hadrian and Antinous when, Hollywood! When?!
As for why Faith picked Andreja (she recently transisitioned officially! Yay!), I think it’s because even pre-transition, she was incredibly pretty and very obviously Eastern European. That’s my hot take at least.
Aha, you like Hadrian and Antinous story, and so do I! There was once a John Boorman promise, you remember? He was into the Hadrian’s Memoirs project, but gave up on the grounds of “expensive”… Turkish production could manipulate Fatih and Radu, but nothing could have been done with H and A… As you say, such a waste of greatly dramatic stories, yes?
Bingo for Andreja!!
But, you know, I still like the androginous-looking people without having to resort to transitions, as you put it. Androginous is cooler, I think.
There is literally no way to portray Hadrian and Antinous without getting not only into how gay they were, but also into some really weird Roman social mores that would probably make even relatively progressive viewers uncomfortable… so I’ve resigned myself to never seeing it… unless in an art film, like you said with Radu.
In America’s case, I think being an androgynous model was her way to express her gender without risking her career, but once her international identity was secured, she felt safe with making her transition. Although I idolize and love androgynous looks (it’s what I aspire to, in fact), her getting to be true to who she is makes me so happy. I’ve admired her for such a long time and I just want her to be happy, y’know?
Your point of vue is very interesting and yes, Radu Cel Frumos was also the son of Dracul = Dracul a. He is a very strange guy, I founded many stranges things about him, his live and death, and used it to wright a novel (6 novels exactly). You can find it here (sorry, you must use google trad because it’s french language) : https://sites.google.com/site/philip63lemaire/romans-nouvelles-art-books/c-radu-dracula-tome-1
I sincerely apologize for the delay in responding, I was on vacation with my family that I rarely get to see.
I’m so happy that someone else was so inspired by Radu! I’ll be sure to check your works out, Philippe, and thank you for telling me about it.
I love this article. I just recently found out about Radu and was very surprised to hear he had almost no depiction in stories related to Vlad III. I hope something like that gets done soon, I think it’d pretty damn cool.
Hey Catkin, I’m super glad you enjoyed it! Yeah, it’s weird that Radu isn’t ever included because that’s super easy drama. I’ve noticed a lot more people finding out about Radu, though, so hopefully we’ll see him more often and soon!
I love this so much! One quick note though on why I’m here in the first place: ‘And I Darken’ by Kiersten White. I didn’t even know Radu existed till that book (surprisingly accurate but with a few history errs – that’s acceptable though, in her case) was brought to my attention. Plus – VLAD THE IMPALER IS A WOMAN!
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Hey Carissa, I’m really glad you liked it! And thanks for the boom recc, I’m definitely gonna check it out.
Vlad the Impaler as a woman? Bullshit! All these books suck compared to REAL history.
My friend. Historically speaking, Vlad was a 5’0” Wallachian nobleman who loved murder and never brushed his teeth. So long as it’s understood to be fictional, there’s nothing wrong with making changes for the sake of whatever story you’re interested in telling. Please, there is no reason to be upset.
HHHH I absolutely love that series so much