The final act of the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf is about the hero Beowulf's fight with a dragon, the third monster he encounters in the epic. On his return from Heorot, where he killed Grendel and Grendel's mother, Beowulf becomes king of the Geats and rules peacefully for fifty years until a slave awakens and angers a dragon by stealing a jewelled cup from its lair. When the dragon mercilessly burns the Geats' homes and lands, Beowulf decides to kill the monster personally. He and his thanes climb to the dragon's lair where, upon seeing the beast, the thanes flee in terror, leaving only Wiglaf to battle at Beowulf's side. When the dragon wounds Beowulf fatally, Wiglaf slays it.
This depiction indicates the growing importance and stabilization of the modern concept of the dragon within European mythology.Beowulf is the first piece of English literature to present a dragonslayer. Although many motifs common to the Beowulf dragon existed in the Scandinavian and Germanic literature, the Beowulf poet was the first to combine features and present a distinctive fire-breathing dragon. The Beowulf dragon was later copied in literature with similar motifs and themes such as in J. R. R. Tolkien'sThe Hobbit, one of the forerunners of modern high fantasy.
The dragon fight, occurring at the end of the poem, is foreshadowed in earlier scenes. The dragon fight symbolizes Beowulf's stand against evil and destruction, and, as the hero, he knows that failure will bring destruction to his people after many years of peace. The scene is structured in thirds, ending with the deaths of the dragon and Beowulf.
After his battles against Grendel and his mother, Beowulf returns to his homeland and becomes king of the Geats. Fifty years pass with Beowulf leading as a wise king, when a rampaging dragon (called a "wyrm" in the Old English) is angered when a slave enters his lair and takes a cup from its treasure, and attacks the neighboring towns in revenge. Beowulf and a troop of his men leave to find the dragon's lair. The men run away, leaving only Beowulf and his young companion, Wiglaf, to slay the dragon. Beowulf receives a fatal wound from the dragon, but Wiglaf impales the dragon's belly to reduce the flames, and Beowulf deals the fatal blow. In his death-speech, Beowulf nominates Wiglaf as his heir, and that of the treasure.
Beowulf is the oldest extant heroic poem in English literature and the first to present a dragonslayer. The legend of the dragonslayer already existed in Norse sagas such as the tale of Sigurd and Fafnir, and the Beowulf poet incorporates motifs and themes common to dragon-lore in the poem. Beowulf is the earliest surviving piece of Anglo-Saxon literature to feature a dragon, and the poet would have had access to similar stories from Scandinavian oral tradition; however, the original sources have been lost, which obscures the genesis of the Beowulf dragon. Secular Germanic literature and the literature of Christian hagiography featured dragons and dragon fights.Although the dragons of hagiography were less fierce than the dragon in Beowulf, similarities exist in the stories such as presenting the journey to the dragon's lair, cowering spectators, and the sending of messages relaying the outcome of the fight.
The dragon with his hoard is a common motif in early Germanic literature with the story existing to varying extents in the Norse sagas, but it is most notable in the Volsunga Saga and in Beowulf. Beowulf preserves existing medieval dragon-lore, most notably in the extended digression recounting the Sigurd/Fafnir tale. Nonetheless, comparative contemporary narratives did not have the complexity and distinctive elements written into Beowulf's dragon scene. Beowulf is a hero who previously killed two monsters. The scene includes extended flashbacks to the Geatish-Swedish wars, a detailed description of the dragon and the dragon-hoard, and ends with intricate funerary imagery.[
Beowulf scholar J.R.R. Tolkien considered the dragon in Beowulf to be one of only two real dragons in northern European literature, writing of it, "dragons, real dragons, essential both to the machinery and the ideas of a poem or tale, are actually rare. In northern literature there are only two that are significant ... we have but the dragon of the Völsungs, Fáfnir, and Beowulf's bane. " Furthermore, Tolkien believes the Beowulf poet emphasizes the monsters Beowulf fights in the poem and claims the dragon is as much of a plot deviceas anything. Tolkien expands on Beowulf's dragon in his own fiction, which indicates the lasting impact of the Beowulf poem. Within the plot structure, however, the dragon functions differently in Beowulf than in Tolkien's fiction. The dragon fight ends Beowulf, while Tolkien uses the dragon motif (and the dragon's love for treasure) to trigger a chain of events in The Hobbit.
The Beowulf dragon is the earliest example in literature of the typical European dragon and first incidence of a fire-breathing dragon. The Beowulf dragon is described with Old English terms such as draca (dragon), and wyrm (worm, or serpent), and as a creature with a venomous bite. Also, the Beowulf poet created a dragon with specific traits: anocturnal, treasure-hoarding, inquisitive, vengeful, fire-breathing creature.
The fire is likely symbolic of the hellfire of the Devil, reminiscent of the monster in the Book of Job. In the Septuagint Bible, Job's monster is characterized as a draco, and identified with the Devil. Job's dragon would have been accessible to the author of Beowulf, as a Christian symbol of evil, the "great monstrous adversary of God, man and beast alike."
A study of German and Norse texts reveals three typical narratives for the dragonslayer: a fight for the treasure, a battle to save the slayer's people, or a fight to free a woman. The characteristics of Beowulf's dragon appear to be specific to the poem, and the poet may have melded together dragon motifs to create a dragon with specific traits that weave together the complicated plot of the narrative.
The third act of the poem differs from the first two. In Beowulf's two earlier battles, Grendel and Grendel's mother are characterised as descendants of Cain: "[Grendel] had long lived in the land of monsters / since the creator cast them out / as the kindred of Cain" and seem to be humanoid: in the poet's rendition they can be seen as giants, trolls, or monsters. The dragon, therefore, is a stark contrast to the other two antagonists. Moreover, the dragon is more overtly destructive. He burns vast amounts of territory and the homes of the Geats: "the dragon began to belch out flames / and burn bright homesteads".
Beowulf's fight with the dragon has been described variously as an act of either altruism or recklessness. In contrast with the previous battles, the fight with the dragon occurs in Beowulf's kingdom and ends in defeat, whereas Beowulf fought the other monsters victoriously in a land distant from his home. The dragon fight is foreshadowed with earlier events: Scyld Shefing's funeral and Sigmund's death by dragon, as recounted by a bard in Hrothgar's hall.Beowulf scholar Alexander writes that the dragon fight likely signifies Beowulf's (and by extension, society's) battle against evil. The people's fate depend on the outcome of the fight between the hero and the dragon, and, as a hero, Beowulf must knowingly face death.
Beowulf's eventual death from the dragon presages "warfare, death, and darkness" for his Geats. The dragon's hoard symbolizes the vestige of an older society, now lost to wars and famine, left behind by a survivor of that period. His imagined elegy foreshadows Beowulf's death and elegy to come. Before he faces the dragon, Beowulf thinks of his past: his childhood and wars the Geats endured during that period, foreshadowing the future. At his death, peace in his lands will end, and his people will again suffer a period of war and hardship. An embattled society without "social cohesion" is represented by the avarice of the "dragon jealously guarding its gold hoard", and the elegy for Beowulf becomes an elegy for the entire culture. The dragon's hoard is representative of a people lost and antique, which is juxtaposed against the Geatish people, whose history is new and fleeting. As king of his people, Beowulf defends them against the dragon, and when his thanes desert him, the poem shows the disintegration of a "heroic society" which "depends upon the honouring of mutual obligations between lord and thane".
Wiglaf remains loyal to his king and stays to confront the dragon. The parallel in the story lies with the similarity to Beowulf's hero Sigemund and his companion: Wiglaf is a younger companion to Beowulf and, in his courage, shows himself to be Beowulf's successor. The presence of a companion is seen as a motif in other dragon stories, but the Beowulf poet breaks hagiographic tradition with the hero's suffering (hacking, burning, stabbing) and subsequent death. Moreover, the dragon is vanquished through Wiglaf's actions: although Beowulf dies fighting the dragon, the dragon dies at the hand of the companion.
The dragon battle is structured in thirds: the preparation for the battle, the events prior to the battle, and the battle itself. Wiglaf kills the dragon halfway through the scene, Beowulf's death occurs "after two-thirds" of the scene, and the dragon attacks Beowulf three times. Ultimately, as Tolkien writes, the death by dragon "is the right end for Beowulf," for he claims, "a man can but die upon his death-day".
J.R.R. Tolkien used the dragon story of Beowulf as a template for Smaug of The Hobbit: In each case, the dragon awakens upon the hoard being disturbed by one stealing a chalice and goes into a wrathful rampage until slain by another person.
After only a century of brooding and growing in the dark pits ofAngband, Glaurung first emerged in FA 260 in a fiery wrath, burst from the gates and startled the races of Middle-earth. Though Glaurung was not of the winged race that would later arise, he was the greatest terror of his time. He burned and ravaged Ard-galen, the land of the Elves in Hithlum and Dorthonion. However, he was not yet at his full strength, so was driven back by Fingon, the prince of Hithlum at that time, and his archers. Morgoth was displeased with Glaurung for revealing himself before he had grown to full strength, as Morgoth had planned to allow the Dragon to grow to full power before unleashing him.
To Glaurung, this attack was but an adolescent adventure, a youthful testing of strength. Terrible as he was to the Elves, his strength was barely developed, his scale armor still vulnerable to the attack of weapons; this was just a taste of his power.
Glaurung, the black wyrm, by Vaejoun
Glaurung was contained inAngband for another two centuries before he was again loosed. This was the beginning of the Fourth Battle of theBattles of Beleriand. It became known as the Dagor Bragollach when Glaurung in full power led Melkor's forces against the High Elves of Beleriand. His vast bulk and scorching fire cleared a path into the enemy armies, and with the Balrogs at his side, Glaurung led the Orcs to an astounding victory and broke the siege of Angband.
In the fifth battle, the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, Glaurung caused even more destruction, as he had fathered a brood of lesser Dragons to follow him into battle. So a great army ofElves and Men fell before the onslaught, for none could withstand the Dragonfire save the Dwarves ofBelegost, who had come to battle a common foe.
Morgoth used Glaurung as well to hold the territories he gained; but force in battle was not the only power the monster knew. He brought many under his sway with the binding power of his serpent eye and hypnotic Dragon Spell.
Túrin and Glaurung, by Woutart
After Glaurung aided Morgoth during the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, he was given the assignment to complete the Sack of Nargothrond, one of the Elven fortresses in Beleriand. Glaurung came upon Nargothrondwith great force, and sacked the kingdom easily. He facedTúrin, son of Húrin, at the gate and so he froze Túrin with his eyes. Túrin heard the screams of Finduilas, daughter ofOrodreth, as he stood there. When the captives had been taken away, Glaurung unfroze Túrin and gave him two choices: the first to follow Finduilas, and the second to aid his mother and sister, who were suffering in Dor-lómin. Túrin chose the latter, and in this way he was deceived by the dragon, for his mother and sister were living well in Doriath. Glaurung then gathered up all the treasures of Felagund and hoarded them deep within Nargothrond's underground halls, he then sat atop his hoard, guarding it jealously, and so he rested.
Glaurung meeting Nienor.
Glaurung received knowledge of Morwen and Nienor's departure to seek their family members. In the forest where they were travelling, Glaurung found Nienor and caused her to lose her mind. This caused her to run through the forest "like a deer". Soon after this,Túrin found her crying on Finduilas's grave. Not knowing that she was his sister, Túrin named her Níniel (Tear maiden) and took her to his home with the folk of Brandir. There they lived for the next three years.
Turin aiming for Glaurung, byFrancesc Camos
After those years, Glaurung attacked the area around their home. Túrinresolved to kill the dragon. Two men went with him. One became afraid and fled, and the other was crushed by rocks. However, Túrin was able to kill Glaurung by thrusting his sword, Gurthang, into Glaurung's belly. Glaurung felt his death wound and screamed. When the dragon's blood touched Túrin, he fell into a swoon. Glaurung screamed until his strength was gone. Nienor found him there, with Túrin beside him. With his last breath, Glaurung gave Nienor her memory back, and died. Shortly thereafter, Nienor jumped into the river below, and Túrin awoke and threw himself on his sword.
In the Book of Lost Tales 2, Glorund was the future name of Glaurung.
Glaurung functions as the Silmarillion's tertiary antagonist, appearing more often than either Sauron or Gothmog and functions as the main antagonist of The Children of Hurin.
The Wawel Dragon (Polish: Smok Wawelski), also known as the Dragon of Wawel Hill, is a famousdragon in Polish folklore. His lair was in a cave at the foot of Wawel Hill on the bank of the Vistula River. Wawel Hill is in Kraków, which was then the capital of Poland. In some stories the dragon lived before the founding of the city, when the area was inhabited by farmers.
Wawel Cathedral and Kraków's Wawel Castle stand on Wawel Hill. The cathedral features a statue of the Wawel dragon and a plaque commemorating his defeat by Krakus, a Polish prince who, according to the plaque, founded the city and his palace over the slain dragon's lair. The dragon's cave below the castle is now a popular tourist stop.
The oldest known account of the story comes from 12th century, in the work by Wincenty Kadłubek.
A popular version of the Wawel Dragon tale takes place in Kraków during the reign of King Krakus, the city's legendary founder. Each day the evil 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 certainly wanted to put a stop to the dragon, but his bravest knights fell to its fiery breath. 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. He stuffed a lamb with sulphur and set it outside the dragon's cave. The dragon ate it and soon became incredibly thirsty. He turned to the Vistula River for relief and drank and drank. But no amount of water could quench his aching stomach, and after swelling up from drinking half the Vistula river, he exploded. Skuba married the King's daughter as promised, and they lived happily ever after.
Yamata no Orochi legends are originally recorded in two ancient texts aboutJapanese mythology and history. The ca. 680 AD Kojiki transcribes this dragon name as 八岐遠呂智 and ca. 720 AD Nihongi writes it as 八岐大蛇. In both versions of the Orochi myth, Susanoo or Susa-no-Ō is expelled from Heaven for tricking his sister Amaterasuthe sun-goddess.
After expulsion from Heaven, Susanoo encounters two "Earthly Deities" (國神, kunitsukami) near the head of the Hi River (簸川), now called the Hii River (ja:斐伊川), in Izumo Province. They are weeping because they were forced to give the Orochi one of their daughters every year for seven years, and now they must sacrifice their eighth, Kushi-inada-hime (櫛名田比売 "comb/wondrous rice-field princess", who Susanoo transforms into a kushi 櫛 "comb" for safekeeping). The Kojiki tells the following version.
So, having been expelled, [His-Swift-impetuous-Male-Augustness] descended to a place [called] Tori-kami (鳥髪, now 鳥上) at the head-waters of the River Hi in the Land of Idzumo. At this time some chopsticks came floating down the stream. So His-Swift-Impetuous-Male-Augustness, thinking that there must be people at the head-waters of the river, went up it in quest of them, when he came upon an old man and an old woman, --two of them,--who had a young girl between them, and were weeping. Then he deigned to ask: "Who are ye?" So the old man replied, saying: "I am an Earthly Deity, child of the Deity Great-Mountain-Possessor. I am called by the name of Foot-Stroking-Elder, my wife is called by the name of Hand-Stroking Elder, and my daughter is called by the name of Wondrous-Inada-Princess." Again he asked: What is the cause of your crying?" [The old man answered] saying: "I had originally eight young girls as daughters. But the eight-forked serpent of Koshi has come every year and devoured [one], and it is now its time to come, wherefore we weep." Then he asked him: "What is its form like?" [The old man] answered, saying: "Its eyes are like akahagachi, it has one body with eight heads and eight tails. Moreover on its body grows moss, and also chamaecyparis and cryptomerias. Its length extends over eight valleys and eight hills, and if one look at its belly, it is all constantly bloody and inflamed." (What is called here akahagachiis the modern hohodzuki [winter-cherry]) Then His-Swift-Impetuous-Male-Augustness said to the old man: "If this be thy daughter, wilt thou offer her to me?" He replied, saying: "With reverence, but I know not thine august name." Then he replied, saying: "I am elder brother to the Heaven-Shining-Great-August-Deity. So I have now descended from Heaven." Then the Deities Foot-Stroker-Elder and Hand-Stroking-Elder said: "If that be so, with reverence will we offer [her to thee]." So His-Swift-Impetuous-Male-Augustness, at once taking and changing the young girl into a multitudinous and close-toothed comb which he stuck into his august hair-bunch, said to the Deities Foot-Stroking-Elder and Hand-Stroking-Elder: "Do you distill some eight-fold refined liquor. Also make a fence round about, in that fence make eight gates, at each gate tie [together] eight platforms, on each platform put a liquor-vat, and into each vat pour the eight-fold refined liquor, and wait." So as they waited after having thus prepared everything in accordance with his bidding, the eight-forked serpent came truly as [the old man] had said, and immediately dipped a head into each vat, and drank the liquor. Thereupon it was intoxicated with drinking, and all [the heads] lay down and slept. Then His-Swift-Impetuous-Male-Augustness drew the ten-grasp sabre, that was augustly girded on him, and cut the serpent in pieces, so that the River Hi flowed on changed into a river of blood. So when he cut the middle tail, the edge of his august sword broke. Then, thinking it strange, he thrust into and split [the flesh] with the point of his august sword and looked, and there was a great sword [within]. So he took this great sword, and, thinking it a strange thing, he respectfully informed the Heaven-Shining-Great-August-Deity. This is the Herb-Quelling Great Sword. (tr. Chamberlain 1919:71-3)
Compare the Nihongi description of Yamata no Orochi (tr. Aston 1896:1:52-53). "It had an eight-forked head and an eight-forked tail; its eyes were red, like the winter-cherry; and on its back firs and cypresses were growing. As it crawled it extended over a space of eight hills and eight valleys." These botanical names used to describe this Orochi are akahagachi or hoozuki ("winter cherry or Japanese lantern, Physalis alkekengi"), hikage ("club moss, Lycopodiopsida), hinoki("Japanese cypress, Chamaecyparis obtusa), and sugi ("Japanese cedar, Cryptomeria").
The legendary sword Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi ,which came from the tail of Yamata no Orochi, along with the Yata no Kagami mirror and Yasakani no Magatama jewel or orb, are the three sacred Imperial Regalia of Japan.
The Japanese name orochi 大蛇 derives from Old Japanese woröti (with a regular o- from wo-shift, Miller 1971:25-7), but its etymology is enigmatic. Besides this ancient orochi reading, the kanji 大蛇 are commonly pronounced daija "big snake; large serpent".
Carr (1990:169) notes that Japanese scholars have proposed "more than a dozen" orochi <woröti etymologies, while Western linguists have suggested loanwords from Austronesian,Tungusic, and Indo-European languages. The most feasible native etymological proposals are Japanese o- from o 尾 "tail" (which is where Susanoo discovered the sacred sword), ō 大 "big; great", or oro 峰 "peak; summit"; and -chi meaning "god; spirit", cognate with the mizuchi river-dragon. Benedict (1985:167) originally proposed woröti "large snake" was suffixed from Proto-Austro-Japanese *(w)oröt-i acquired from Austronesian *[q]uḷəj "snake; worm"; which he later (1990:243) modified to *(u-)orot-i from *[q,ʔ]oḷəj. Miller (1987:647) criticized Benedict for overlooking Old Japanese "worö 'tail' + suffix -ti — as well as an obvious Tungus etymology, [Proto-Tungus] *xürgü-či 'the tailed one'", and notes "this apparently well-traveled orochi has now turned up in the speculation of the [Indo-European] folklorists (Littleton 1981)." Littleton's hypothesis involves the 3-headed monster Trisiras or Viśvarūpa, which has a mythological parallel because Indra killed it after giving it soma, wine, and food, but lacks a phonological connection.
Polycephalic or multi-headed animals are rare in biology but common in mythology and heraldry. Multi-headed dragons, like the 8-headed Orochi and 3-headed Trisiras above, are a common motif in comparative mythology. For instance, multi-headed dragons in Greek mythology include the wind-god Typhon who had several polycephalic offspring, including the 9-headed Lernaean Hydra and the 100-headed Ladon, both slain by Hercules.
Two other Japanese examples derive from Buddhist importations of Indian dragon myths.Benzaiten, the Japanese name of Saraswati, supposedly killed a 5-headed dragon at Enoshimain 552 AD. Kuzuryū 九頭龍 "9-headed dragon", deriving from the Nagaraja snake-kings Vasukiand Shesha, is worshipped at Togakushi Shrine in Nagano Prefecture. (Compare the Jiutouniao九頭鳥 "nine-headed bird" in Chinese mythology.)
Comparing folklore about polycephalic dragons and serpents, 8-headed creatures are less common than 7- or 9-headed ones. Among Japanese numerals, ya or hachi 八 can mean "many; varied" (e.g., yaoya 八百屋 [lit. "800 store"] "greengrocer; jack-of-all-trades"). De Visser (1913:150) says the number 8 is "stereotypical" in legends about kings or gods riding dragons or having their carriages drawn by them. The slaying of the dragon is said to be similar to the legends of Cambodia, India, Persia, Western Asia, East Africa, and the Mediterranean area." Smith (1919:215) identifies the mythic 7- or 8-headed dragons with the 7-spiked Pteria spider shell or 8-tentacled octopus. Ultimately the Dragon symbol originated in China and it spread into parts of Europe like Russia and Ukraine where we find Turkish, Chinese, and Mongolianinfluence on 'Slavic dragons.' From Ukraine Scythians brought the Chinese dragon to Britain.
The myth of a Storm God fighting a Sea Serpent is itself a popular mythic trope potentially originating with the Proto-Indo-European religion and later transmitted into the religions of the Ancient Near East most likely initially through interaction with Hittite speaking peoples into Syriaand the Fertile Crescent. This motif, known as chaoskampf (German for "struggle against chaos") represents the clash between order and chaos. Often as these myths evolve from their original source, the role of the storm god (himself often the head of a pantheon) is adopted by culture heroes or a personage symbolizing royalty.
The Hungarian Horntail is a dragon native to Hungary and is considered to be the most dangerous dragon breed
A Hungarian Horntail was to be faced during the First Task of the 1994 Triwizard Tournament, in an effort to retrieve a Golden egg. Harry Potter had to face it after selecting, at random, a tiny model depicting the Horntail from a bag. He Summonedhis Firebolt broomstick to him and used it to maneuver around the dragon to retrieve the egg. It is stated that Ron Weasley's brother Charlie helped transport the dragon from Romania.
Description and traits
It has black scales, and is lizard-like in appearance. It also has yellow eyes, bronze horns and similarly coloured spikes that protrude from its long tail. The dragon's roar is a yowling, screeching scream, and its flame can reach to about fifty feet. While having a very far reaching flame the Horntail's breath can reach extremely high temperatures as it made a stone turn red hot in seconds. Its eggs are cement-coloured and particularly hard-shelled. The Horntail's foods of choice include cattle, sheep, goats, and whenever possible, humans.
Horntails are also known for being one of the most vicious breeds of dragon; even Rubeus Hagrid commented on their ferocity. Along with their viciousness, Horntails are shown being extremely fast in flight while able to keep up with a Firebolt broomstick, a broom capable of going from 0 to 150 miles per hour in 10 seconds. Horntails are also seen able to keep up with Harry Potter's flying skills; a very impressive feat considering Harry's talent as a seeker.
In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the Horntail broke free of its chain and chased Harry around the castle grounds, almost causing Harry to fall to his death at one point when he was trying to reach his Firebolt, but when the chase continued, Harry flew through the Viaduct, which the Horntail crashed into causing it to fall into the chasm below, presumably to its death.