Krak's Dragon


Krak's dragon, also known as Smok or the Wawel Dragon, is a famous European dragon of Polish legend. The site of Wawel Hill supposedly is where the monster lived and was slain.

First record of the Story

The oldest known telling of the story comes from the 13th century work of Bishop of Kraków and historian of Poland, Wincenty Kadłubek. According to the bishop's chronicles, the frightening monster appeared during the reign of King Krakus (lat. Gracchus). The dragon required weekly offerings of cattle, for if not appeased, the humans would have been devoured instead. In the hope of killing the dragon, Krakus called on his two sons, Lech and Krakus II. They could not, however, defeat the creature by hand, so they came up with a cunning plan. They fed the beast a calf skin stuffed with smoldering sulfur causing his fiery death. Then the brothers argued about who deserved the honor for slaying the dragon. The older brother killed the younger brother Grakch (Krakus) to recieve the glory all for himself, and told his father that the dragon killed him. When he became king, his secret was revealed, and he was expelled from the country. The city was renamed Krakow named in recognition of the brave and innocent Krakus.

Second record of the Story

The second version, by Marcin Bielski from the 15th century, tells the story about a shoemaker named Skuba defeating the dragon. This, most popular, fairytale version of the Wawel Dragon tale, takes place in Kraków during the reign of King Krakus, the city's legendary founder. Each day the dragon would beat a path of destruction across the countryside, killing the civilians, pillaging their homes and devouring their livestock. In many versions of the story, the dragon especially enjoyed eating young maidens, and could only be appeased if the townsfolk left a young girl in front of its cave once a month. The King tried many times to put a stop to the dragon, but his bravest knights fell to its fiery breath and deadly talons and jaws. In the versions involving the sacrifice of young girls, every girl in the city was eventually sacrificed except one, the King's daughter, Wanda. In desperation, the King promised his beautiful daughter's hand in marriage to anyone who could defeat the dragon. Great warriors from near and far fought for the prize and failed. One day, a poor cobbler's apprentice named Skuba accepted the challenge for the princess' hand. He stuffed a lamb with sulphur and set it outside the dragon's cave. The dragon ate it and soon became incredibly thirsty, the sulfer causing its stomach to burn in agony. He turned to the Vistula River for relief and drank. But no amount of water could quench his aching stomach, and after swelling up from drinking half the Vistula river, the beast exploded. Skuba married the King's daughter as promised, and they lived happily thereafter. The inspiration for the name of Skuba was probably a church of St. Jacob (pol. Kuba), which was situated near the Wawel Castle. In one of the hagiographic stories about St. Jacob, it is he who defeats the fire-breathing dragon as opposed to Skuba or Krakus both.

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