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The Wawel Dragon (Smok Wawelski)

According to legend the Wawel Dragon or Smok Wawelski resided beside the River Vistula in a cave under Wawel Hill, upon which can now be found the Royal Wawel Castle and Wawel Cathedral in the city of Kraków.

The city of Kraków dates from the 7th century and according to legend was founded by Prince or King Krak (Krakus or Grakch) of the Lechites who were probably the first people to settle on Wawel Hill. The story of the Smok Wawelski takes place during the reign of King Krak and the dragon terrorised his lands, destroying homes and crops as well as eating livestock and killing his subjects.

After the King’s nights failed to stop the destruction it was discovered that the dragon had a taste for young maidens and the townsfolk found they could appease Smok Wawelski by offering a young girl to him each day, tied in front of his cave’s mouth. Therefore the dragon would eat the girl and the surrounding countryside would be spared for a day.

In some versions of the story all the young women of the Krakow had been fed to the dragon except for Wanda, the daughter of King Krak. The King was reluctant to feed Wanda to the creature, so he made a proclamation offering his daughters hand in marriage to anyone who would slay the beast. Warriors came to take up the challenge and failed one by one. Just as the situation was looking desperate, Skuba (or Szewczyk Dratewka depending upon th eversion), a cobblers apprentice stepped forward with a cunning plan.

He stuffed a sheepskin (or a lambs body) with sulphur and left it as an offering outside the dragons cave and of course it was eaten. The sulphur eventually had the effect that Skuba planned and Smok Wawelski became extremely thirsty. He came down to bank of the River Vistula and began to drink from its waters, but it could not quench his thirst, so drank and drank and drank.

His stomach swelled to bursting point with the water he drank but still his thirst tormented him and he continued to gulp down as much of the river as he could. Eventually his stomach could take no more and he exploded. King Krak fulfilled his end of the bargain and Skuba married Princess Wanda and to commerate the victory Wawel Castle was built above Smok Wawelski old lair.

Smok Wawelski's cave still exists and is a popular tourist attraction (though not in winter) and at the cave mouth is a fire breathing statue of the dragon by Bronisław Chromy

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