Saturday, August 15, 2009

It’s a Secret to Everybody, Part Eight: Name Origins for Castlevania

(This is a reposting of just one section of my rather lengthy “It’s a Secret to Everybody” post on video game etymologies. Click the link to see the whole shebang. Links to other sections are at the bottom of this post.)

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Translation issues have consistently made the long-running Castlevania series more interesting. I can recall a few instances in which the name of the Belmonts — the central family that gets stuck with the unenviable task of killing Dracula every hundred years or so — was rendered as Belmondo or Beaumont, neither of which are all that far off from the proper name. In fact, as commenter Josef points out, the family name has always been Belmondo in Japan. Most recently, materials for Castlevania: Judgment, which acted like a sort of retrospective for the series, stated the name of the original Castlevania protagonist Simon Belmont as Shimon Belmondo.

shimon_belmondo
is “shimon” pouting because his name was screwed up?

Less fortunate is the name of another clan that tends to pop up often: the Belnades family, whose women often help out the Belmont men in their quest to stake bloodsuckers. However, do to a massively different interpretation of the name, it might not be apparent to casual players that the characters known as Sypha Belnades and Yoko Belnades are supposed to be directly related to those called Carrie Fernandez and Camilla Fernandez. It’s hard to catch; in addition to an “R”/“L” switch, there’s also “B”/“F” switch, which I feel is rare, even though “B,” “F,” “P,” and “V” tend to get swapped around quite a bit when translating between one language and the next. In certain Castlevania: Judgment materials, Sypha’s name is also incorrectly rendered as Sypha Velnandes.

sypha_velnandez
magic powers can’t protect the spelling of her name

The series spans hundreds and hundreds of years, meaning that the heroes themselves rarely appear more than a few times. The vampire villains, however, are longer-lived, with three in particular rising again and again to cause trouble: Dracula, Alucard and Camilla. The game’s version of Dracula happens to also be a version of Vlad Tepes, also known as Vlad the Impaler and the real-life prince of Wallachia known for his propensity for bloodletting. Ol’ Vlad was also likely a major inspiration for Bram Stoker in writing the novel Dracula, so the amalgamation of the bloodsucker and the impaler is nothing new.

dracula_castlevania
the castlevania big bad, shown above in non-bat forms

In or out of the context of Castlevania, the name Dracula comes from Vlad’s surname, Drăculea, “son of the dragon,” which in turn arose the fact that his father was known as Vlad II Dracul. The word dracul means “devil” in modern Romanian but formerly meant just dragon. Ţepeş, literally “impaler,” became attached to Vlad after his death and was never part of his actual name, though it’s treated as Dracula’s last name in Castlevania and is shared by Dracula’s son, Alucard.

alucard_castlevania
alucard, the stereotypical son who declined to inherit the family business

Apparently having originated in the 1943 film Son of Dracula, the name Alucard is Dracula spelled backwards, which makes sense in the games in that Alucard frequently fights on the side of the good guys despite his batty tendencies. In Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, the heroes encounter an enigmatic man named Genya Arikado, who, of course, turns out to be Alucard himself, his name barely disguised through its representation in Japanese. Some games offer Alucard’s real, full name as Adrian Fahrenheit Tepes, but I have no idea where these originated.

camilla_carmilla_castlevania
even bad girls can appreciate the value of multiple wardrobe changes

In true vampire fashion, Camilla, whose in-game name is sometimes offered as Carmilla over the course of the series, rose from minor character status to close enough to big bad status that she was a playable character in Castlevania: Judgment. Her name apparently is taken from Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1872 novel Carmilla, a vampire story that predates Dracula by twenty-five years. In the book, Carmilla attempts to seduce the protagonist, Laura. The connection between Le Fanu’s Carmilla and Castlevania’s Camilla seems to be supported by the existence of a minor enemy named Laura who appears alongside Camilla in Castlevania: Rondo of Blood and Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin. Furthermore, the novel has Carmilla hunting prey at masquerade balls, while the games associate Camilla with mask imagery.

The whole “It’s a Secret to Everybody” series:

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