Myths / Mythologies / Legends
Archive file# m103199b
donated by James Vandale
Dragon myths from Vorarlberg (Austria)
Vorarlberg is the westernmost province of Austria.
It is a mountainous area, and most of its inhabitants
live in the alluvial plane of the river Rhine.
The other valleys are less densely inhabited.
And the alpine areas serve as pastures during summer.
Life was not easy for the peasants in this rough
country. And during winter they had much time to
ponder about the vast powers of nature. Many
natural hazards were attributed to the dark and
supernatural forces of the underworld. Therefore
Vorarlberg is rich in folklore and mythological
creatures. We learn about the "Nachtvolk" - the
people of the night, compareable to elves - or
the "Butz" - a kind of goblin roaming the mountain
pastures and haunting the farmhouses during winter.
Dragons, however, are seldom found in these myths. And
they were not defeated by noble
knights or saints. Believe me, the knights of our
country had no desire to leave their small, but
comfortable castles in the valley of the river
Rhine. As the dragons did not devour lovely
virgins, but only a cow now and then, the nobility
was not inclined to relieve the peasants of these
creatures. This was done by wandering scholars and
other wise people, who possessed some supernatural
The Dragon Slayer("Der Drachentöter"; BEITL, 1953: No. 312/II)
A fierce dragon once haunted the pastures, forests
and ravines near Brand, a small and remote village
well within a steep and narrow mountain valley. He
often came down to the village to devour the cattle
and harmed the peasants in every way he could. All
attempts to get rid of the foe were in vain. Then
one day a travelling scholar happened to visit the
village. He promised relieve - but at the same time
he warned the peasants of his own powers. Nevertheless
the people of Brand were more affraid of the dragon
but of the unknown magick of the scholar. The wayfarer
proposed two methods to defeat the dragon: water or
fire. Although knowing the forces of torrents and
debris flows the peasant considered the fire more
A common motive in alpine folk lore is the punishment of hart-hearted people. It explains the occurence of vast devasted areas, glaciers or strange morphological features. As these legends should remind us of the powers of the LOrd, they usually are not connected to dragons - with one exception.
Der Jolerbühel(VONBUN & BEITL, 1950: No. 18; "Bühel" is a dialect word for a small hill)
The site of a strange hill, the Jolerbühel, in the
village Bezau was once occupied by a rich farmhouse
surrounded by fertile fields and pleasant meadows. One day a
stranger appeared begging for alms. When the
hart-hearted farmer drove him away, the stranger
turned around and warned: "Just wait, what I
will bring you in return." Then suddenly the beggar
disappeared, and one moment later the sky turned
black as night. Water roared and a nearby creek
turend into an impetous torrent. Down the valley
came trees and boulders devasting the once so lovely
place. And in the midst of the debris flow there
was the stranger leading a fierce dragon by a red cord.
With his tail the dragon drove all trunks and rocks
towards the farmhouse. He heaped up the debris
above the house burying both men and cattle.
Then the stranger took the red cord and, leading
the dragon through the center of Bezau, he turned towards
the neighbouring village. Both beggar and dragon
were seen never again.
This is not the only dragon threatening Bezau:
The Dargon of Lake Sonderdach("Der Drache im See Sonderdach"; VONBUN & BEITL, 1950: No. 20)
A small lake is situated about one hour´s walk above Bezau
amidst pleasant pastures. It lodges a huge
dragon. Of course nobody knows its depth. One day some
curious country lads tried to fathom the lake.
Suddenly they heard a voice:
Frightend out of their wits they fled the enchanted waters. From that day on nobody again dared to measure the lake in fear of the dragon. With a stroke of its tail the brute might break through the shores. Then masses of water and mud will rush down the hill and the dragon will ride upon this debris flooding and ravaging the village.
In another myth the dragon not only acts as the bringer
of debris flows. He also guards a mysterious hoard:
The Dragon of Galina gorge("Der Drache im Gallinatobel"; VONBUN & BEITL, 1950: No. 100)
One of the most striking features in Galina gorge
is an isolated huge rock. As the tale goes, in
former times it rested upon three other boulders.
A poor sheperd often seeked shelter beneath this rock.
Every time he did so, he found coins of silver,
and sometimes even of gold. One day his father got
aware of these findings and - quite correctly - guessed
that this was the hiding-place a hoard. But the moment he
crept beneath the rock a dreadful thunderstorm arouse.
Water rushed down the gorge carrying soil and stones.
The man could escape, but the cave beneath the rock
was buried. It is said that a wandering
scholar had deposited his valueables there. A dragon
guarded the hoard. This dragon also
causes the thunderstorms and torrents
of rains that still ravage the gorge occasionally.
One day the dragon will leave his dwelling in
the worst thunderstorm ever experienced. He will pass
the hoard over to any person daring to stay on a
nearby wooden bridge during the flood.
The Dragon and the "Venediger"("Der Drache und das Venedigermännlein"; VONBUN & BEITL, 1950: No. 141)
Long time ago a dreadful dragon ravaged the surroundings of
Sonntag, a small mountain village, where he harmed both man
and cattle. All efforts to banish the beast were in vain.
One day a "Venediger" appeared. Fearlessly he mounted the
dragon and rode off through the valley waving his hat. From
that day on the dragon was seen never again.
BEITL, R.: Im Sagenwald. Neue Sagen aus Vorarlberg. - 464 p., Feldkirch (Montfort-Verlag) 1953. Reprint Bregenz (Franz-Michael-Felder-Verein) 1982.
VONBUN, F.J. & BEITL, R.: Die Sagen Vorarlbergs. Mit Beiträgen aus Liechtenstein. - 308 p., Feldkirch (Montfort-Verlag) 1950. Reprint Bregenz (Franz-Michael-Felder-Verein) 1980.
Have a look at the original german text!
© MCMXCVIII by J. Georg Friebe
Custos Musei Naturalis Historiae Vorarlbergensis, Dornbirn (Austria)
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