The Dragon of Wawel

Informant: A nasty dragon lived at the bottom of Wawel Hill. He ate sheep, children, anything. Nobody could kill him, though many tried. The king invited any knight or nobleman to try his luck so to win the hand of the princess and become king. He didn’t invite anyone else to try because, obviously, you had to be good with a horse and a sword to take on a dragon. One day a poor (but impossibly handsome) shoemaker’s apprentice named Krak asked to try, but nobody thought he had a chance without a sword or horse. But Krak substituted his brains and his shoe-making skills – he stuffed a sheep carcass with sulfur and sewed it up. The dragon ate it and started to burn inside, so he drank so much water that he exploded. Krak married the princess and became King. He built a castle on the top of Wawel Hill and the town became known as Krakow.

Collector: When were you told this story?

Informant: This is one of the most important stories from Poland, and everybody knows it. I heard it from my grandmother when I was very young and from my dad when I was older, and started to be interested in my heritage.

Collector: Why did you like this story?

Informant: Because it’s funny. And you can imagine how the story can be told with all sorts of great details-like imagine the dragon as he swells up, the look of surprise on his face- You’ve got the archetypical good vs evil going on, but also it’s just a good story.

Collector: What do you think it says of Poland?

Informant: I think it says a lot about the national character of the Poles. For one, they really love their country and themselves, I mean who they are as a people. Poles are at the same time practical and whimsical. They love the underdog who is smart and creative and most of all, courageous.

By telling this story, adults were able to teach national pride to children in an interesting way that would appeal to their imagination. Children have notoriously small attention spans. With this story, national pride and geographic basics are combined with supernatural drama and heroics that children take to.

For another version, see Legend of the Wawel Dragon (Legenda o Smoku Wawelskim) by Katarzyna Malkomska