Warning: This blogpost is not for the squeamish, or those who think that dragons are cute and cuddly.
This is the (long overdue) second part of a study of 50 different ways to slay a dragon. You can find the first part here.
Dragonslayers with holy connections call on divine assistance to help them slay their beasts.
23. Implore a holy benefactor for a magic gift
In ancient Greek dragon myth, Perseus couldn’t have killed the sea dragon without his winged sandals, a gift from some of Zeus’s nymphs. Heracles would have been a victim of the Troy Dragon if goddess Athene hadn’t built a barricade to protect him.
24. The power of prayer
A number of saints tamed dragons using the power of prayer and other holy items such as a bishop’s stole or holy bread. The aspiring dragonslayer could use the services of a saint and then, once the dragon is docile, kill it with any of the recommended weapons (see Part 1 of this study).
25. The Sign of the Cross
Saint Margaret was swallowed whole by a dragon. Inside the beast’s stomach, the young woman made the sign of the cross which caused the beast to burst open so that she could step out unharmed.
26. Holy headgear
Russian slayer Dobrynya Nikitich, using only a priest’s hat filled with water, managed to cut off a number of heads from the 12-headed she dragon, Gorynych. He would have killed her then and there, if she hadn’t pleaded for mercy, promising never to attack anyone ever again. But the deceitful dragon soon returned to her lethal ways, and Dobrynya was obliged to finish her off with a sword.
A number of dragonslayers forced dragons to swallow combustable things.
27. Burning peat 1
Peat has for millennia been used as a fuel. Scottish John Somerville saw other potential uses. He put burning peat on a wheel which he fixed on the end of his lance. For good measure, John dipped the peat in resin, pitch and brimstone. He ran at the dragon, the wheel turned fanning the flames of the burning peat and rammed it down the Linton dragon’s throat.
28. Burning peat 2
If your dragon is exceptionally large, as was the case with the Mester Stoorworm in Scotland, you might have to deliver the burning peat to a vulnerable organ as hero Assipattle did. He sailed his boat down the monstrous sea dragon’s throat so that he could use it to set fire to its liver. He was then carried out to safety on a stream of vomit.
29. Pitch cakes
Biblical dragonslayer, Daniel, vowed to prove to King Cyrus that the dragon he worshipped was not a deity. He claimed he would achieve this “without sword or staff”. He prepared a mixture of pitch, lard and hair, formed it into cakes which he fed to the tame dragon. The dragon promptly exploded.
30. Boiling lead
A devout Zoroastrian, Iranian hero Ardashir was offended by the worship of the dragon known as the Worm of Kujaran. He melted ingots of lead in a cauldron and offered it to the dragon. Used to being hand fed, the dragon meekly swallowed it. Needless to say, it was soon an ex-dragon.
A wide range of other digestive dragonslaying options have been successful.
31. Animal skin bait 1
Iranian villagers were forced to feed a dragon daily to stop it eating them. Macedonian hero and world conqueror, Alexander the Great, came to their aid, telling them to let the beast go hungry. Alexander made a bait from a buffalo hide stuffed with a mixture of pitch, sulphur and poison and with iron hooks attached to it. The ravenous beast ate the bait. The hooks prevented regurgitation. The poison did its work.
32. Animal skin bait 2
Centuries later a butcher in Slovenia, possibly inspired by Alexander, sewed slaked lime inside an ox hide. He used this as a bait for a dragon that lived near the Czech city of Brno. The lime gave the dragon a raging thrust and it drank so much it burst.
33. Cornbread surprise
Spanish people troubled by the dragon known as el Cuelebre, knew that the creature loved cornbread. They baked loaves with pins inside, so that when the dragon ate them, it died a slow death from internal haemorrhage.
Parkin, a sort of sticky gingerbread popular in Yorkshire, brought about the demise of the Filey dragon. When the dragon ate the parkin, it was so sticky it glued his teeth closed. While rinsing his teeth in the sea, he fell in. Locals beat him on the nose. With his teeth still stuck, and his nose bruised, he couldn’t breath and he drowned.
Knuckers are freshwater dragons that live in pools in certain parts of England. They can have quite delicate digestive systems. Jim Puttock didn’t need fancy weapons to kill the Lyminster Knucker. He cooked up an enormous pudding which was as hard as a rock. He offered it to the knucker and when it was writhing in agony from indigestion, he killed it with his axe.
One way to ensure personal safety when killing a dragon is to hurl something at it from a distance. Few dragonslayers have found this technique successful.
36. An apple
One exception was Sean Ruadh, slayer of an urfeist, a sea dragon found in the waters around Ireland. Hacking the beast in half proved useless, as the dragon just rejoined the halves. A housekeeper gave Sean a brown apple and told him to throw it into the urfeist’s mouth. He took her advice. His aim was good. When the dragon swallowed the apple, he dissolved into a pile of jelly.
In Armenia, twins known as the Daredevils of Sassoun killed a dragon by hurling millstones from an olive press at it. Needless to say, the twins were aided by their supernatural strength.
38. Dragon hurling
Armenian god of thunder, Vahagn, had a different take on the missile technique. He turned the dragons themselves into missiles. He hurled the dragons that lived in Lake Van into the sun where they burned and fell back to earth as large rocks. Again supernatural strength is a requirement.
Fire can be fatal to dragons.
When a Scottish farmer from Ben Vair discovered a nest of baby dragons in his haystack. Wanting to get rid of these future raiders of his stock, he had no qualms about setting it alight and burning the babies alive.
Heracles had some trouble slaying the Hydra of Lerna. Whenever he lopped off one of its nine heads, another two grew in its place. He got his charioteer, Iolaus, to stand by with a burning torch and quickly seal the severed necks, so that they couldn’t grow back.
Cruel but fair
Some less gallant methods may be required.
A strange metallic dragon called Tharagavverug was invulnerable except for its nose which was made of lead. Hero Leonthric defeated the dragon using just a stick. He bashed the creature’s nose for three days until it starved to death. How Leothric avoided starvation himself is not explained.
Englishman John Aller, as we have seen, had the stomach to kill a full-grown dragon, but when he discovered the dragon’s three babies in a cave, he couldn’t bring himself to spear them. Instead he got his farm hands to roll a large stone to block the mouth of the cave, suffocating the little dragons.
A large rock can also be used to choke a dragon. This technique was used by an unnamed man from Kingston St Mary in Somerset. He hid behind a large rock at the top of a steep hill above the dragon’s lair and yelled out taunts. When the dragon opened its mouth to belch fire at him, the man rolled the rock down the hill and down the dragon’s throat, choking it to death.
Animals have been used to aid dragonslayers.
44. One dog
When confronting a dragon with the ability to rejoin severed limbs etc. it is useful to have a dog trained to run off with the severed pieces as soon as they are lopped off. This method was used by Peter Lochy who slew the Nunnington dragon. (Sadly the dog died too, poisoned by the dragon’s venom. So did Peter as the dog had licked him, transferring the venom to his master.)
45. Two Dogs
A French knight called Dieudonné de Gozon was determined to kill a dragon on the Island of Rhodes. He trained his dogs to attack a dragon by making a canvas dragon. He filled the fake dragon’s stomach with raw meat. The dogs ripped open the dragon’s canvas stomach to get at it. When he faced a real dragon, Dieudonné threatened the beast until it reared up. Then he called his dogs and they tore open the dragon’s belly.
46. A horse
Before Dobrynya Nikitich could dispatch the dragon Gorynych, he first had to get rid of the multitude of dragonlings that swarmed around the mouth of her cave. He did this by ordering his horse to trample them to death.
47. An elephant
Pliny the Elder, first-century Roman natural historian, tells us that the elephant is the enemy of the dragon. A method could be devised, where an elephant is left as bait. The dragon will attack the elephant, sucking its blood, but more often than not, as the elephant collapses, the bloated dragon is too slow to move out of the way and is crushed to death.
Dragon versus dragon
Dragons are territorial and their natural antipathy to each other can be put to use.
48. Dragon Duel
When two dragons were freed from their underground prison on Dinas Emrys in Wales, they immediately set upon each other until one was killed. If you are faced with more than one dragon, they could be set against each other. The method has an obvious disadvantage—the victorious dragon will still have to be dealt with.
49. Mirror image
A young man successfully used the natural antipathy of dragons on the island of Anglesey. He polished a brass pan until it shone and placed it in a hole. When the dragon looked into the hole it saw its own reflection, but thought it was another dragon. The beast exhausted itself trying to kill its rival. The lad was then able to despatch the weary dragon in the conventional manner.
A last resort
If all the above methods fail you could try kissing the dragon. There are instances of dragons that are actually enchanted humans. In these cases, a kiss usually breaks the spell. Childe Wynd plucked up the courage, kissed the dragon known as the Laidly Worm of Spindleston Heugh three times and discovered it was his sister. If you find yourself about to be devoured by a dragon, you may as well give it a try.
St. Margaret of Antioch: from the Joffroy d’Aspremont’s Psalter, Bodleian Library MS Douce 118, http://medieval.tumblr.com/post/1207771183/rukkilill-image-of-st-margaret-of-antioch-from
Gorynych: by Ivan Bilibin, http://www.wikiart.org/en/ivan-bilibin/zmey-gorynych-1912
Lyminster Knucker: Stained glass window by Caroline Beyton. Church of St Mary Magdelene, Lyminster, Littlehampton, West Sussex. Photo by Roger Whitehead, http://www.ipernity.com/doc/rogergw/34163979
Le chevalier Dieudonne De Gozon combattant le dragon de Rhodes: by Victor Adam (1801-1886) http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dieudonné_de_Gozon#mediaviewer/File:Dragon_de_Rhodes.jpg
Dragon and elephant: Aberdeen Bestiary Folio 65v, http://www.abdn.ac.uk/bestiary/comment/65velep.hti