As far as legends go, the legend of the Wawel Dragon, is perhaps the most historically important legend outside England and the tale of Sir Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
The legend speaks of a dragon that once dwelled deep inside a suspiciously large hill that hugged the Vistula River. This dragon, “Smok Wawelski” or the “Wawel Dragon”, for centuries terrorized the countryside and ate all the farmer’s livestock. Soon enough, the farmers had no choice but stop their sheeps and cattle from grazing the fertile grasslands near the river. The King, upon hearing the farmer’s pleas, decided that something must be done in order to stop this beast.
He challenged all of the bravest knights in Poland to a quest to slay this menacing dragon once and for all. As a reward for completing this daunting challenge, the knight to slay the dragon would win the King’s remarkably beautiful daughter’s hand in marriage.
As word of his daughter’s beauty and subsequent challenge spread amongst Europe, the bravest and most reknown knights showed up at the base of Wawel hill in hopes of defeating the dragon and winning the princesses hand in marriage. Knight after knight charged at the dragon, but to no avail. The dragon was just too quick and always well-aware of his surrondings. As soon as a knight entered the dragon’s lair, the dragon would instantly turn the knight into a pile of ash with just one breath of its fiery blaze.
Seemingly defeated, the King had all but given up hope when he was approached by the most surprising challenger. His shoemaker’s apprentice, Krak. Krak confidently approached the King and stated that he was ready to try and take down the dragon by himself. The King laughed and questioned Krak, “Why would you even try to slay a dragon without any weapons, armor, or training?”. Krok replied, “One must always try in order to succeed”.
Intrigued by the apprentices courage, the King allowed Krak to enter the challenge.
Armed with only his wits and his trusty shoemaker’s tools, Krak marched off to attempt the slay the dragon that hundreds of knights could not.
Krak was quick to realize what he must do. He first traded with the matchmaker for some sulfur powder and then bought a large sheep from the local butcher. With great precision, he carved the sheep with his finely worn shoe-making knife. As soon as he finished, he filled the animal with the lot of sulfur that he had received. Using his steady hand, he sewed the sheep back up so that there was no trace of a single thread anywhere.
Proud of his stitching efforts, Krak carried the sheep and placed it front of the dragon’s lair and quickly hid behind a large rock to watch for the dragon. Krak noticed that the stories of the dragon were indeed true, the dragon was incredibly quick to pick up the scent of the prey waiting on his frontsteps. He hastily left his liar to see what tasty treat was waiting for him this time. As he arrived outside his cave, the dragon carefully looked around and presumably happy to see no signs of danger, promptly started to devour his supper.
But as soon as the matchmaker’s sulfur inside the sheep touched the dragon’s tongue, the dragon was instantaneously engulfed with flames from inside and out. Before Krak could even notice, the dragon was running towards the river to quench the flames. The dragon drank so much water in order to extinguish the fire, that his stomach became bloated and expanded like a huge balloon.
Saddled down the enormous weight of the water within his belly, the dragon was stuck on the bed of the river. Sensing his chance, Krak quickly dashed from behind the rock with a slew of stones in his grasp. He began chucking the stones with pin point accuracy at the dragon’s belly in order to burst it. The dragon swiftly drew in a large breath of air in order to vanquish this new threat. However, the water inside his belly choked the flames so only steam would arise from the dragon’s mouth.
Unsure what to do, the dragon kept on trying to breath in more air in order to create flames once more. But with each breath that the dragon drew, the more bloated the dragon’s stomach became with steam. With one last and slowly drawn breath, the dragon, in one instant, exploded in a magnificent explosion.
The sound was so great, that the entire countryside immediately knew that the dragon had finally be slain.
Upon returning the castle, Krak was welcomed in as hero of Poland. He was married to the beautiful princess and had many children and future victories. After some time, the old King passed away. We no apparent heirs and Krak’s impressive history, Krak was appointed to be the new King of Poland. On his coronation day, Krak proclaimed that a thriving city and a magnificent castle would be built on top of the Wawel Hill in order to commemorate the late King’s reign and his own victory over the dragon that terrorized the country.
To this day, the same massive castle stands on top of Wawel Hill in the city of Krak…or better known today as Krakow, Poland.
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