Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Abraham Van Helsing
Professor Abraham Van Helsing is a fictional character in the novel Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker. He is a Dutch doctor, of advanced age and 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., etc.", but is best known as a vampire hunter .
In the novel, Van Helsing is called in by his former student, Dr Seward, to assist with the mysterious illness of Lucy Westenra. It is Van Helsing who first realises that Lucy is the victim of a vampire, and Van Helsing who guides Dr Seward and his friends in their efforts first to save Lucy and then to end the vampire's threat once and for all.
Adaptations of the novel have tended to play up Van Helsing's role as the vampire expert, sometimes to the extent that this is depicted as his major occupation. In the novel, however, Dr Seward is unaware of this side of his old friend (and furthermore, has no suspicion that vampires really exist, let alone that one is involved in the case), 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".
Van Helsing is described by 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. [Dracula, ch.9]
Notable actors to have played Van Helsing in various screen versions include Edward Van Sloan in Universal Studios' Dracula series; Peter Cushing in Hammer Films' Dracula series; Laurence Olivier in the 1979 Dracula; Anthony Hopkins in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992); and Mel Brooks in the parody Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995). Hugh Jackman played Gabriel Van Helsing, the eponymous hero of Van Helsing (2004). Note: While the title character in "Van Helsing" may have fought Dracula, the time period is actually set about ten years before the events in the book.
In addition, there have been numerous works of the descendents of Van Helsing carrying on the family calling of opposing vampires. Examples include the comic book series, The Tomb of Dracula which featured Rachel Van Helsing was a major member of the principle hunters. There is also the anime television series, Hellsing in which Integra Hellsing leads a British government strike force (including a vampire named Alucard who might be Dracula himself) against supernatural menaces.
- A short portrait of Van Helsing – by Elizabeth Miller, Professor of English (ret), President of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula (Canadian Chapter)
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