Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Scent of Spring: Dragon Takes Wing, Grimm's Saga No. 216, a Saga from Switzerland in which a Man Escapes from Entanglement with Two Ancient Worms

Alpine folk in Switzerland have preserved many sagas about dragons and worms, which in ancient times dwelled in mountain caverns and often descended upon the valleys, leaving total destruction and sorrow behind. Even now, when an impetuous forest stream breaks its banks, crashing down the mountain and pulling along trees and rock with it, the local folk cite this melancholy proverb: “The dragon has taken wing.” The following story is one of the oddest:

A barrel binder from Lucerne went out into the forest to fetch Dauben wood for his barrels and lost his way until he found himself in a barren, lonely place. Night came and he suddenly fell into a deep pit, but it was muddy, like a well. On both sides of the bottom, gangways led off from the side into enormous caves. When he approached to examine them more carefully, to his horror, two frightful dragons blocked his way. The man prayed fervently while the dragons wound themselves round his body several times, but they did not harm him. One day passed thus, then several. He had to endure the dragon’s tight embrace from November 6 until April 10. He was only able to nourish himself with the salty dewdrops that formed like beads of perspiration on the stone walls

When the dragons smelled the scent of spring, they knew the winter season was over and decided to take flight. The first dragon did this with a loud roar. When the other prepared to do the same, the unlucky barrel maker took hold of the dragon’s tail, gripped hard and was pulled out of the well. Once above, he released his grip and fell free. He then returned to town. To commemorate his experience, he had a picture of his ordeal embroidered on a priest’s frock. It can still be seen in the Holy Leodagars Church near Lucerne. According to church records, this happened in the year 1420.

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