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German Dragons

german_dragons

NOTE from JESS: This in-depth post was compiled and contributed by Zar Antonov, President of the Obscurium Micronation and Head of the Society of Dracology. Thank you greatly!

Check out our interview with Zar to learn more about his dragon knowledge and visit his websites.

NOTE from ZAR: I’m quite satisfied with what I compiled and I hope that others will be as well. I’ve included descriptions of the traditions associated with recalling and recounting some of the legends that took place in these towns and cities. These descriptions are mostly from my own visits to the cities—the rest of the information is from the linked sources or books.


German Dragons

Most German dragon legends are quite generic, in the sense that there’s an evil dragon killing people and livestock and a knight or someone comes along and kills him.

The following tales therefore inevitably contain at least parts of these elements.

I’ve tried to keep it interesting by not only choosing the most famous German dragon legends, but also some with less common elements.

Siegfried and the Lindworm

Embed from Getty Images

Jess touched on Sigurd/ Siegfried in the Norse Dragons section.

In Germany, Siegfried used to be a really big deal, thanks in part to Richard Wagner’s famous opera cycle “The Ring of the Nibelungen.” Wagner did in fact take a lot of inspiration from the Norse version of the story, with the German version, known as the Nibelungenlied, being quite different.

The original German version (though the Norse version is older) is a famous epic poem from the Middle Ages called the Nibelungenlied and the first part of the story is centred around a man named Siegfried, who goes out into the world to become a hero.

He encounters a dragon whom he slays and subsequently bathes in the dragon’s blood, which sticks to his skin and gives him an impregnable second skin. But while he bathes in the blood the leaf of a Linden tree lands upon his shoulder without him noticing which prevents the blood from forming its protective shield at that point. Much later, his adversary Hagen of Tronje discovers the exact location of this weak spot and while Siegfried drinks from a spring, he impales Siegfried through the spot, killing the hero.

Noteworthy is the fact that the unnoticed leaf of the Linden tree was Siegfried’s downfall and that his death actually also took place beneath the branches of a Linden tree.

From slaying the dragon to his death, Siegfried went full circle. I like to think that it might have been the very same tree and place where he slew the dragon. Poetic justice?

The story of Siegfried slaying the dragon has had a profound influence on Germany. Until the Second World War (1939-45) it was very common for boys to be named Siegfried, and there are many places throughout Germany that claim to be the site of the dragon slaying and almost as many that claim to be the site of Siegfried’s death.

The Nibelungenlied became Germany’s national epic and Siegfried Germany’s national hero in a time when Germany was in need of national myths and unity. It also has to be said that while Siegfried’s encounter with the dragon is the most famous part of the Nibelungenlied, it is actually only mentioned once in the original work.

No wonder people in the Middle Ages enjoyed reading what could be called “fan fiction” in “Das Lied vom hürnen Seyfrid,” in which he kills not one, but multiple dragons. Due to the similarities between this text and the newer version of the Nibelungenlied I’ve read, I think that the more detailed accounts of the dragon slaying might originate from this text.

But since a good dragon slaying always captivates people, that’s the part of the story that’s most commonly known.

Lindenfels

Lindenfels museum dragon sign
Lindenfels | Album by Zar Antonov

One of the places where Siefried was supposedly murdered lies close to the town of Lindenfels in Hessen, Germany. In fact, there are actually two sites claiming that title near the town. One is a small fountain down the road and the other is a spring at the bottom of the Sea of Rocks, also close to the town.

Furthermore, the name of the town, Lindenfels (Linden Rock) seems to recall the Linden tree which caused Siegfried’s downfall. Could Lindenfels be the place where Siegfried slew the dragon and then later died himself?

One might think that the presence of the German Dragon Museum in Lindenfels is also due to this mythical history but it is in fact a coincidence, if a fitting one. But it has certainly contributed to Lindenfels now being one of the places with the highest concentration of dragons.

There is also a small dragon festival hosted by the Dragon Museum each first weekend of July.

The Drachenfels

drachenfels dragon wall
Drachenfels | Album by Zar Antonov

The Drachenfels (Dragon Rock) near Königswinter on the Rhine is one of the places where Siegfried allegedly killed his dragon. There are also other dragon legends surrounding this place.

Dragon Blood wine

A dragon used to live here, one who didn’t appreciate the presence of ships in the river Rhine. Thus, whenever ships sailed down the great stream, the dragon would come out of his cave and burn them and devour any humans aboard.

And so this part of the Rhine was feared for a long time until someone had a brilliant idea. They filled a ship with gunpowder and sent it down the river toward Dragon Rock. When the dragon approached the ship and engulfed the vessel with his flames, he ignited the powder and both the ship and the dragon were blown to tiny bits and scattered across the side of the mountain.

Perhaps it is due to the remnants of the dragon being within the local soil that the wine grown there is known as “Dragon Blood.”

The Dragon Lady

Another story tells of a few youngsters climbing the Dragon Rock in search of bird nests when they spotted a beautiful young lady in an old fashioned dress. She approached them and asked if they’d be willing to complete a task for a high reward. Their task was to return the following night and take a golden key from a dragon that would be awaiting them.

Despite the task seeming quite dangerous, she assured them that there was no risk involved at all and so they agreed. But when they returned the following night and found the dragon with the golden key resting in its maw waiting for them, they just couldn’t overcome their fear and didn’t dare to approach the dragon. Even when the dragon came closer and offered them the key they still wouldn’t complete their task and instead turned around and fled.

But behind them, the dragon turned into the lady they had seen the night prior who proclaimed in a mournful voice: “Now I must wait a long time for an oak tree to grow large enough for a cradle to be made out of it. For only a child placed in such a cradle will be able to free me one day.”

Today, there is a funicular train up to the mountain peak, where an old ruin can be found. Just below that is the 19th century Drachenfels Castle and Nibelungenhalle, an homage to Richard Wagner’s operas.

Note from Jess: There’s also a version where the dragon was an elderly Dragon lady.

(From “Das grosse Buch der Drachen” by Iris Rinkenbach)

Corn Dragons

Note from Jess: Feldgeister (“field spirits”) or Korndämonen (“corn demons”) are corn spirits from German folklore. 

Corn Dragons are unusual to say the least. Their entire existence seems to revolve around them slipping into the houses of people, and once a dragon has done so you can take off the wheel of a nearby wagon and put it back on the wrong way. The dragon will then be unable to leave and incinerate the house.

If you’re friends with a Corn Dragon however, he will supply you with money, food and expensive gifts.

Another way to profit from a Corn Dragon is to go and stand beneath a roof, once you have spotted a dragon and then expose your behind. The dragon will then explode and the money, which is always inside of him, will be yours.

If you’re standing on a field while performing the aforementioned act however, the dragon will instead throw stuff at you.

This is not a joke—it literally says so in the book.

(From “Das grosse Buch der Drachen” by Iris Rinkenbach)

The Lindworm of Syrau

In this classic dragon tale from Syrau in Saxony, a Lindworm settled down in the forest surrounding the town. He went on to terrorize the people of Syrau as a dragon does until they made a pact with the dragon. He would be allowed to devour anyone travelling through the forest and leave Syarua alone in return.

But some time and many dead travellers later, people started to stay out of the forest and it didn’t take long for the hungry wyrm to break his contract where he once again started attacking the townsfolk. The people started praying for St. George to come and slay the dragon but when he did not appear they knew that they had to appease the dragon somehow.

An old man willingly sacrificed himself but they knew it wouldn’t keep the Lindworm off their backs for long and so they drew lots to determine who would die next. The lot fell to the beautiful and much beloved daughter of a rich farmer and the whole town wept at this terrible choice. But she had a husband who wouldn’t give up so easily. The next day, when the girl went into the forest, her husband appeared from the trees, carrying a pitchfork and the body of the dead wyrm, whom he had slain while he slept.

The town rejoiced and built a chapel to commemorate the brave deed. And the same bell which rang back then allegedly still rings within the chapel to this day.

(From “Das grosse Buch der Drachen” by Iris Rinkenbach)

Worms

dragon German worms
Worms | Album by Zar Antonov

The city of Worms on the Rhine is well known for its major role as the Burgundian capital in the Niebelungenlied. And it is most likely due to this role that the city has been associated with dragons for many centuries.

The whole city is full of dragon statues and monuments to the Nibelungenlied and a green dragon holds the shield of the city coat of arms. Though it has to be said that the name “Worms” does not derive from the word “Wyrm” or any other term for a dragon as some people claim. The city also used to be home to Siegfried’s supposed tomb, though its location has been lost since the middle ages.

And although the city’s association with dragons most likely stems from the dragon Siegfried slew, there is a legend which also attempts to explain how this came to be.

As in many such stories, a dragon besieged the city of Worms and the inhabitants were only able to keep him at bay by offering regular human sacrifices. But one of the city’s smiths forged a mighty set of armour with which to defeat the wyrm. He approached the dragon but didn’t fight back as the beast swallowed him whole. Shortly after, the dragon started to screech and hiss as the smith cut his way out of the dragon from the inside, protected by his armour. And after slaying the dragon, he was not only made the new king of the city but a key was also inserted into the city coat of arms, to symbolise his profession.

Another explanation for the dragon and key in the city arms is that the dragon represented a certain degree of freedom from the bishop and that the key was in fact a key the hero Siegfried used.

The Dragons of Neubrandenburg

Between the towns of Neubrandenburg and Stavenhagen in northern Germany, there stand three hills.

A long time ago, two Lindworms lived here who liked to lie about in the forest, looking like fallen over trees while doing so. But when a carriage came through the forest, the coachman failed to recognize the younger Lindworm and just rolled over him, thinking that it was merely the branch of a tree. Only when the dying dragon screamed did the coachman realize what had occurred and hurried on out of the area.

The older Lindworm quickly came to the scene and found the young wyrm dead. Furious at this deed, he chased after the coach but the coachman was able to outrun him after ditching the aft coach. To catch up, the dragon bit into his own tail, rolling after the coach like a wheel. But the coachman made it past the city gates of Neubrandenburg just before the dragon and once the gates were closed, the dragon was left standing outside the city walls. The Lindworm laid down there and none of the town’s inhabitants dared to approach him.

And there he remained until a foreign prince named George appeared, cutting off the dragon’s tail and slaying him.

st george dragon altar
St. George and Dragon (in parish hall of Church St. Juergen, Holtrop)

In commemoration of this rescue, the chapel of St. Jürgen was constructed at the site with an altar picture depicting the event.

(From “Das grosse Buch der Drachen” by Iris Rinkenbach)


GUEST BLOGGER BIO:

These research notes were compiled and contributed by Zar Antonov, President of the Obscurium Micronation and Head of the Society of Dracology.

Check out Zar’s QnA to learn more about his interests which include micronations, vexillogy, travel, and dragons.

By Jess

Jess Chua is an award-winning writer and sketch artist. She's been the keeper of Dragonsinn since 1999. She works in the online writing/editing field and enjoys yoga, reading, and design. Join Dragon Mail for printable welcome gifts, giveaways, and a healthy dose of dragon inspiration!