Dragons
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A Voivre as pictured by A Book of Creatures

The Vouivre (also known as the vaivre, givre, guivre, or wivre) is a dragon from French folklore. The creature is distinct for having a large gem that "guides it through the air" in the placement of eyes. The gem is noted to bring riches and happiness to whoever possessed it, making it desirable amongst thieves and dragon slayers.

Tales of the vouivre came from Bourgogne, Franche-Comte, Savoie, the Jura Mountains, and neighboring areas, with "possible relatives" coming from Aosta Valley and Switzerland.

Etymology

The word vouivre is derived from the Latin vipera (“viper”). The word is related to the English word wyvern.

Description

The vouivre varies in appearance, being described as a dragon, serpent, or fairy in the form of a reptile, although the form of an "immense winged serpent covered in fire" is seen as its classical interpretation. Regardless of form, it is always female and is associated with fire and water.

Along with the gem in the placement of its eyes, which has been said to either be a ruby or a diamond, they have also at times been depicted with a crown. This crown is said to have been formed of either diamonds or pearls and has similar desirability amongst thieves as its gem.

In some areas of France, the vouivre appears with unique features or as either a different animal or animated object. These depictions include the vouivre being seen as the following:

  • an immense winged serpent that wears a priceless gold necklace in Boege
  • a 4-meter-long winged serpent covered with gems and pearls that occasionally leaves some behind as they land in La Baume
  • a hooded winged serpent in Gemeaux
  • a bird, winged beech marten equipped with a necklace, or winged serpent with a diamond on its tail in Brizon
  • a burning fireball in Chevenoz
  • a single-eyed tongue of fire in Saint-Jean-d'Aulps and Vallarcine
  • a star whose appearance foretells war and strife in Le Biot
  • a winged serpent that appears as a red-hot iron bar while in flight as seen at Orgelet Castle
  • a feathered gold necklace that is capable of flight in Six-Fer-A-Cheval

Folklore

In folklore, the vouivre is a feared monster that lurks in remote, mountainous regions and resides in springs, wells, caves, deep ponds, and ruined castles. According to some interpretations, they guard treasure, these stories tending to mention that once or twice a year, on the eve of Christmas or Easter, the vouivre will leave their treasure and go to a local fountain, river, or pond to bathe and satisfy their thirst. Before they bathe, the vouivre will take their eye off and place it on the bank, making it vulnerable and its belongings susceptible to potential thieves.

Multiple folktales tell of attempts to catch the vouivure, several of these attempts involving a washtub or barrel full of spikes. Ideally, the person would stand behind the object to lure the serpent before jumping under the object as the serpent lunges at them, the serpent being caught in the spikes. Although this sometimes worked, these attempts resulted in failure more times than not.

Like other dragons, the vouivre is vulnerable to saints and other holy people. In one folktale, a vouivre was forced into a cave by Saint Suliac after the dragon killed one of his monks. The location then became known as Trou de la Guivre, the Guivre’s Hole.

Modern Depictions

Modern depictions of the vouivre, such as in Marcel Ayme's La Vouivre, portray it as a seductive female humanoid. This is possibly due to conflation with Melusine, of whom the dragon is believed to be a spiritual descendent of. In video and tabletop games, the vouivre is often a hybrid between a human woman and a dragon.

Trivia

  • The word vouivre has come to be a byword for an unpleasant woman in Thollon-Les-Memises, amongst other areas.
  • In the French translation of the tabletop roleplaying game Pathfinder, the wyvern from the game is translated as vouivre.
  • The brachiosauriod genus Vouivria is named after the vouivre or viper.

Sources

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