Myths / Mythologies / Legends

Gorynytch and Dobrynja

archived 10-31-99
Archive file# m103199a
donated by James Vandale

Gorynytch, the dragon
Dobrynja, the heroe

A highly reknowned heroe was Dobrynja, handsome and fearless. One hot summer´s day he decided to take a bath in the river. His mother warned him: The river´s first wave belches fire, the second wave brings sparks and the third issues steam. But Dobrynja mounted his horse and rode for hours. At last he reached the river and, being scorched by the sun, he forgot his mother´s words, took off armour and clothes, and jumped into the waters. As he swam he wondered about the warning: The river was as calm as a pond. But one instant later the sky turned black as night without a cloud being seen.

Forth flew Gorynytch, a three-headed dragon with seven tails. Flames poured out of his mouth and heavy smoke issued from his ears. He had iron claws, and the air around him was saturated with sulphur. "An old prophecy foretells that one day Dobrynja would slay me", he roared, "but this proves wrong: The heroe now is my victim!". Dobrynja dived to the shore to fetch his weapons, but his horse and with it his armour were gone. Nearer and nearer came the dragon. Dobrynja allready felt the fiery breath upon his skin when suddenly he beheld his helmet.

He filled it with sand and struck it so violently at the dragon that off sprang one head! The heroe soon overwhelmed his foe. But before he found means to hew the other heads off, Gorynytch started to plead for his own and his hatchlings´ lives. And the heroe had pity. He believed the foul words of peace and let him go. The dragon, however, had nothing better to do than to fly to Kiev and abduct Duke Vladimir´s lovely niece. Dobrynja beheld him carrying his prey back to the mountains.

In spite of his mother´s warning he rode to Kiev. There he found the duke´s family and friends mourning the loss of the virgin. But no one dared to ride for her rescue. One of the guests had beheld Dobrynja and Gorynytch earlier at the river - as he thought - making friends. Thus he proposed that none but the heroe could rescue the lovely maiden. Dobrynja was sent out at once. Wretched and dismal he rode back home. There he told his mother whad had happened. That night while he was sleeping his mother prepared a seven-fold silky whip. The next morning she adviced him to get his grandfather´s horse, which had been neglected for years, and ride to the dragon´s cave. He would find it unguarded so that he could ride in safely. To kill the dragon´s hatchlings he just should give his horse a lash with the whip, and it will trample the brood.

Dobrynja did as his mother had told him. He had luckily killed the hatchlings and was just to enter the cave when Gorynytch rushed in. Seeing his dead children he cursed the heroe for "breaking the oath". Three days the fight between the two deadly enimies lasted. Then suddenly Dobrynja remembered his mother´s words. He grasped the whip and flogged the dragon who was soon overwhelmed. This time he had no pity at all and hew off the three dragonheads. Three days and nights he bathed in the blood of his foe. At last, when he was nearly killed by its venom, he again used his whip, and the blood disappeared. He washed and refreshed himself and went to rescue the virgin.

Eleven caves he broke open, hundreds of victims he freed, but not the maiden. She was imprisoned in the twelth cave, where he found her at last tied to the dump rocky walls with golden chains. He soon got her out of this foul prison. After a night´s rest he brought her back safely to Kiev.

My version of the legend tells nothing about a reward, but I am sure that he married the virgin and gained both fame and wealth.

FRÜH, Sigrid (ed.) (1988): Märchen vom Drachen.
Fischer TB vol. 2875, 172 p., Frankfurt a./Main (Fischer).
I. Bilibin. Illustration for the Russian fairy-tale Dobrynia Nikitich and the Dragon.
Water Color. The Russian Museum. - Aurora Art Publishers, Postcard No. 4528.3K / 3.1863

© MCMXCVIII by J. Georg Friebe
Custos Musei Naturalis Historiae Vorarlbergensis, Dornbirn (Austria)
last update 22.10.1998

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