The Legend of the Wawel's Dragon

On the top of the Wawel hill in Krakow there is a grandiose castle - a residence of Polish kings since the Middle Ages. The Wawel Royal Castle is probably the most prominent tourist attraction not only in Krakow, but in Poland. The legend of the Wawel Dragon makes Krakow even more attractive.

At the foot of the hill there is a cave which was once a medieval inn and brothel. Nowadays it is a tourist attraction from the beginning of May until the end of October, but it is closed during the winter time due to danger of slipping on icy stairs inside. Near the entrance to the cave we can admire a stone dragon statue "exhaling" fire every two minutes! The statue was designed by a famous regional sculptor Bronis³aw Chromy in 1972. According to the legend, this cave was inhabited once by a dragon (Polish: smok).

The statue of fire-breathing dragon in front of Wawel Castle Hill - click inside the image to see it magnified

Here is what the legend says:

Once upon a time, many centuries ago, in a cave near the Vistula River lived a giant fire-breathing dragon. He was a veritable nuisance to the local inhabitants because he not only loved to devour their cattle but what is worse… human virgins.

The news of the dragon`s nasty habits spread all over the country. Many knights came in an attempt to slay the beast, however, none was successful since it burnt valiant fighters before they could draw out their swords. King Krak, who ruled in the city at the time, became desperate… especially since he had one beautiful and lovely daughter who could be the dragon's next victim. He promised to reward the dragon slayer with his daughter`s hand and half of the kingdom. Many tried, nobody prevailed, until the one day when a poor shoemaker Skuba appeared before the king and volunteered to kill the horrible creature. Skuba knew that he did not have any chances in a one-on-one battle. Instead he came up with an idea to poison the beast. He decided to prepare a special dish for the dragon - a sheep stuffed with tar and sulfur. At dawn Skuba placed prepared sheep at the cave's entrance.

The dragon greedily devoured the sheep for his breakfast. Soon he felt like his stomach was on fire. The fiery feeling was so intense that the dragon stood on the bank of the river and started to drink water. Nothing seemed to help— the dragon kept on drinking more and more. His belly grew bigger and bigger since he kept drinking until he blew up in a powerful explosion.
Residents of Krakow rejoiced seeing the happy end of their troubles. The brave and smart shoemaker married the beautiful princess and after King Krak's death became a ruler of Krakow.

The Wawel dragon is the most famous dragon in Poland. It is rooted in Krakow`s tradition and culture and is well known to every Polish child, see the photographs from the children play about the dragon in the article Wawel Dragon in Children Plays and Street Bazaars. The dragon is present in the streets, schools, offices, radio and TV stations, literature and theatre, advertisements and commercials.

text and photographs by Jerzy. There is more information about Krakow's dragon in Jerzy's website

The following article shows beautiful photographs from dragon parade in Krakow - please, check it out!

Here is a selection of articles about Krakow and read selection of Polish legends.

I recommend

Lonely Planet Krakow (Lonely Planet Krakow)
by Krzysztof Dydynski

Read also
Old Polish Legends
written by F. C. Anstruther, J. Sekalski, F. C. Anstrother (Editor), entitled:

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