The last stop on our world tour brings us back to Europe for what is not the largest, but surely the most famous dragon statue of all. This is Smok Wawelski, the Dragon of Wawel Hill. Amazingly, there’s a limestone cave right under the former Polish capital, Krakow. Smocza Jama (Polish for dragon’s den) lies inside Wawel Hill, a site rich in legend.
As the story goes, during the reign of King Krakus, a fearsome dragon inhabited Smocza Jama. Each day it rampaged through the countryside, destroying homes and killing the people and their livestock. The people somehow discovered that the dragon liked to eat virgin girls better than anything, so once a month they left a poor girl out for the dragon. Over time, the supply of virgins ran short, so that King Krakus faced the prospect of offering his beloved daughter, Princess Wanda, to fend off the dragon for another month.
King Krakus issued a proclamation that whoever killed the dragon should have his daughter’s hand in marriage. Knights and warriors came from far and wide, but none prevailed… until a humble cobbler’s apprentice stepped forward. Skuba wasn’t noble or famous, but he was a clever lad. Instead of fighting the dragon directly, he used subterfuge.
Skuba stuffed the carcass of a sheep with sulphur and left it between Smocza Jama and the nearby Vistula River. When the dragon next emerged, he devoured this tasty snack at once, but the sulphur gave the dragon an overwhelming thirst. Rushing to the river, he drank and drank but couldn’t be satisfied. Eventually the dragon swallowed so much water that he burst! Skuba married Princess Wanda, and peace returned to the land.
To commemorate this legend, a bronze statue was erected in front of Smocza Jama in 1972. The design, by Bronislaw Chromy, presents a seven-headed monster which stands 18 feet tall including its base on a limestone boulder. What makes the Wawel Dragon statue so amazing is that it is fitted with a natural gas works that causes it to belch fire, much to the delight of onlookers. This used to happen every 5 minutes, but after a recent upgrade, visitors can send text messages to make the dragon breathe flame.
That’s pretty cool! Or should I say hot?
Well, if you could travel to see one of the four, which would it be? The Dragons of London, the Welsh Dragon monolith, the serene dragons of Heaven Gate, or the Polish fire-breather?