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Here Be Dragons

Note: As discussed earlier, this will be the only public Content Post for this month. The next three posts will be Patron-only - so now is a good time to join this campaign if you have been on the fence!


“There once was a dragon, hallelujah!

It ate all the people, hallelujah!”

- Traditional song from the Zillertal valley in Tyrol for the festival of Margaret the Virgin.

Source: Panzer, F. Bayerische Sagen und Bräuche. Beitrag zur deutschen Mythologie. Erster Band, 1848. p. 9.


Commentary: No, I don’t know either.


The Lindwurm at Murnau

A long time ago, the town of Murnau used to be called Wurmau (“river plain of the Wyrm”) in honor of the lindwurm that used to live here - a beast that killed everything, humans and animals alike, and which no hunter could slay. Instead of defeating it in combat, someone finally had the idea of poisoning a calf and leaving it near the beast. The dragon consumed the bait and perished. In honor of this event, the town of Murnau still has a Lindwurm in its heraldic sign.

Source: Ibid., p. 27.


Commentary: I love this story (short though it is), since it displays a pragmatism rather unlike the usual fairy tales where you would have to wait until a Knight in Shining Armor shows up to take care of the menace. Indeed, “poisoning the monster” is a ploy that has been used innumerable times in fantasy role-playing games since.

“Lindwurms” are generally held to be flightless, serpentine dragons with two or no legs. Reports of Lindwurms spitting fire are rare, and there is no mention of this ability in this story either - though the heraldic sign of the town of Murnau am Staffelsee in Upper Bavaria is depicted as fire-breathing.


The Tale of the Lindwurms

Close to the former country road between Neubrandenburg and Stavenhagen there are three hills near the field marches of Gevezin and Blankenhof: The Blodsberg, the Jabsberg, and the Lindberg[1]. A long time ago lindwurms used to live there. When they were lying stretched-out on the ground they resembled a cut-down fir tree. Once a cart traveled along the road close to the Brandmühle mill and encountered a young lindworm that was lying asleep in the sun right across the road. Thinking that it was a fir branch the driver drove over it, only realizing what it was when he heard the cry of the crushed beast. But the old lindwurm rushed to the site after hearing the wail and found the younger one dead. Enraged, the lindwurm pounced upon a wagon filled with straw that was traveling to Neubrandenburg. The farmhand driving the wagon noticed this and raced ahead at full speed. Fortunately, when he went past the Neuendorf Preserve[2], he lost the connecting pin to his trailer, which left the trailer behind and allowed the farmhand to speed ahead with his cart that much faster. At first, the lindwurm dug through the straw, but since it didn’t find anything it raced after the farmhand. In order to travel faster, it bit into its own tail and rolled after the wagon like a hoop. The farmhand was barely able to reach the Brandenburg Gate[3], which was quickly closed behind him. The lindwurm rested before the gate in the place where the Church of St. Jürgen[4] is located now, and no citizen dared go outside. As it happened, a foreign prince named Georg[5] was in the city who chose to face the lindwurm. In a tough battle he managed to cut off the tail of the lindwurm, in which its strength was contained. This soon allowed him to kill the beast for good. To commemorate this event, the Church of St. Jürgen[6] was built, and the incident is depicted on its altar[7].

Source: Bartsch, K. Sagen, Märchen und Gebräuche aus Mecklenburg, 1879. p. 39f.

[1] I suspect, but cannot prove, that these are the hills just north of Blankenhof where the Bundesstraße (Federal Road) 104 now passes between Stavenhagen and Neubrandenburg.

[2] Neuendorf is now part of Wulkenzin.

[3] Since they rolled in from the West, this was likely the Treptow Gate.

[4] No relation.

[5] This is possibly a reference to St. George - the Dragonslayer.

[6] This is almost certainly the St. Georg Chapel, which has the right location just a bit west of the Treptow Gate. As “Jürgen” and “Georg” have the same name root in German, it all fits.

[7] Sadly, I haven’t found a photo of this. Wikipedia mentions that a part of the altar was recently moved to the St. Johannis Church in the northern part of the Old Town area.


Commentary: I want the chase scene to be made into a short action movie.

I mean, seriously - a high-speed cart chase? With a lindwurm chasing a hapless farmer? This sounds like something from a Jurassic Park movie… until the lindwurm bites its own tail, and you realize you have been in a Transformers movie all along!

What happens to the young lindwurm also shows how survival strategies by animals that served them well for countless millennia fail to protect them from humanity and its advancing technologies - in this case, the camouflage did not prevent the juvenile from becoming literal roadkill. It is doubtful that they would do any better in the modern age when facing cars. Though I appreciate that this tale actually tells us about the young of a fantastic species - usually lindwurms and other dragons are presented to us as fully-grown adult menaces.

That its power is located in its tail is also a noteworthy detail (perhaps that’s also what gives the Lindwurm its Transformer powers?), and I will have to watch out for similar vulnerabilities with other German dragons.

Translation: The German text presents the lindwurm as “male”, but since that is the default gender of words that end with the suffix “-wurm” (“worm”), I wouldn’t read too much into this - we don’t know whether the older lindwurm was the mother or the father of the juvenile.

The desperate farmer was driving past the “Neuendorf Gehege”. “Gehege” normally implies some sort of enclosure with wild animals (such as deer), but the word is also sometimes used for forest preserves used for hunting, which I feel is more appropriate here (since building enclosures would have been rather more costly back then).