If you ever get a chance to visit Wawel Castle in Krakow, Poland, be sure to make a trip to Dragon Street, or Ulica Smocza in Polish, and visit Smok Wawelski, the Dragon of Wawel Hill. On Dragon Street, at the foot of Wawel Castle, near the bank of the Vistula River, you will find a small cave and at the entrance to that cave you will find a cast-iron, fire-breathing statue of the dragon created by Bronislaw Chromy, a famous Polish sculptor. Every few minutes, the statue belches flames, just as a real dragon would (an if you're impatient for the dragon to breathe fire, you can text him and he'll do it immediately). But why a statue of a dragon?
|The Lair of Smok Wawelski|
During the reign of Prince Krak, the legendary founder of Krakow, the dragon stalked the town gobbling up the village’s maidens. To appease the dragon, the townsfolk were forced to leave a virginal maiden at the entrance of the dragon’s lair once every month. Finally, however, there was only one maiden left, the Prince’s daughter, Wanda (on the outskirts of Krakow, a massive, ancient mound has been erected in her honor). The desperate Prince decided to offer his daughter’s hand in marriage to anyone who could slay the dragon. Many brave young men tried and failed, but one enterprising youth named Skuba and the son of a poor shoemaker devised a brilliant plan: he lured the dragon from its lair and fed him a lamb stuffed with sulfur. With a severe case of heartburn the dragon rushed to the Vistula and drank from its banks in an effort to douse the burning sulfur in his stomach. He drank and drank until finally he had drank so much water that he literally burst at the seams. A man of integrity, the Prince kept his word, and Skuba was married to Wanda. And the town lived happily ever after.
Perhaps even more interesting than the Legend of Skuba and Smok Wawelski is the fact that it has an ancient parallel in the Apocryphal “Bel and the Dragon (or Snake in some translations).” The Apocrypha are books of the Bible that are only included in the Catholic Bible, and not the Protestant one. Some of the writings are merely chapters that are left out of the Protestant Bible, such as Daniel Chapter 13 and 14. In Daniel is a book of prophecy in the Old Testament of the Protestant Bible that has twelve chapters. In the Apocrypha, however, Daniel has fourteen chapters and includes the “Legend of Bel and the Dragon.” In this story, Daniel, a man of God and favorite of the Persian King Cyrus the Great, appears. In this story, there is a dragon that is worshipped and revered by the Babylonians. Daniel, however, being a faithful servant of God, refuses to worship it even though Cyrus says, “Look! You cannot deny that it is a living god, so worship it!” But Daniel answers, “I adore Lord, my God, for He is the living God.” He then asks the king for permission to slay the dragon, “without sword or club,” which the king, perhaps bemusingly, grants. Daniel then baked several cakes made of pitch (flammable, tar, really), fat, and hair, and fed them to the dragon. When the dragon ate them, “He burst asunder.” The king was amazed and Daniel said, “This…is what you worshipped.” Of course, the king was amazed...
|Cyrus the Great and the Dragon|
Could it be that the “Legend of Smok Wawelski” has its roots in the ancient “Legend of Daniel and the Dragon?” Are there other stories of clever, crafty men who earn the esteem of their kings and princes? If anyone knows of similar stories of dragons bursting at the seams, I would welcome their telling.