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The Book of Dragons
Tales and Legends from Many Lands
By O. Muiriel Fuller, Alexander Key
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2014 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
The Story of Siegfried
BY MAUD MENEFEE
LONG, long ago, before the sun learned to shine so brightly, people believed very strange things. Why, even the wisest thought storm clouds were war-maidens riding, and that a wonderful shining youth brought the springtime; and whenever sunlight streamed into the water they said to one another: "See, it is some of the shining gold, some of the magic Rhine-gold. Ah, if we should find the Rhine- gold we would be masters of the world—the whole world." And they would stretch out their arms and look away on every side. Even little children began looking for the hidden gold as they played, and they say that Odin, a god who lived in the very deepest blue of the sky, came down and lay in the grass to watch the place where he thought it was.
Now this gold was hidden in the very deepest rocky gorge, and a dragon that everyone feared lay upon it night and day. Almost all the people in the world were wanting and seeking this gold; it really seemed sometimes that they were forgetting every thing else, even the sweet message and the deed they had brought the world. Some of them went about dreaming and thinking of all the ways there were of finding it. But they seldom did anything of all they thought, so they were called the Mist-men. And there were others, who worked always, digging in the darkest caverns of the mountains, and lived underground and almost forgot the real light, watching for the glow of the gold. These were called the Earth-dwarfs, for they grew very small and black living away from the light. But there were a great many blessed ones who lived quite free and glad in the world, loving and serving one another and not thinking very much of the gold.
There was a boy whose name was Siegfried, and though he lived with an Earth-dwarf in the deep forest, he knew nothing of the magic gold or the world. He had never seen a man, and he had not known his mother, even, though he often thought of her when he stood still at evening and the birds came home. There was one thing she had left him, and that was a broken sword. Mimi, the Earth-dwarf, strove night and day to mend it, thinking he might slay the dragon. But though he worked always, it was never done, for no one who feared anything in the world could weld it, because it was an immortal blade. It had a name and a soul.
Each evening when Siegfried thought of his sword he would come bounding down the mountains, blowing great horn-blasts. One night he came laughing and shouting, and leaped into the cave, driving a bear he had bridled, straight on the poor frightened Mimi. He ran round and round, and darted here and there, until Siegfried could go no more for laughing, and the bear broke from the rope and ran into the woods. When Siegfried turned he saw that the poor little dwarf was crouched trembling behind the anvil, and he stopped laughing, and looked at him.
"Why do you shake and cry and run?" he asked. The dwarf said nothing, but the fire began to glow strangely, and the sword shone.
"Do you not know what fear is?" cried the dwarf at last.
"No," said the boy, and he went over and took up the sword; and lo! the blade fell apart in his hand. They stood still and looked at each other. "Can a man fear and make swords?" asked the boy. The dwarf said nothing, but the forge fire flashed and sparkled, and the broken sword gleamed, in the strangest way.
The boy smiled, and gathering up the pieces he ground them to fine powder; and when he had done, he placed the precious dust in the forge and pulled at the great bellows, so that the fire glowed into such a shining that the whole cave was light.
But the dwarf grew blacker and smaller as he watched the boy. When he saw him pour the melted steel in the mold and lay it on the fire, and heard him singing at his work, he began to rage and cry; but Siegfried only laughed and went on singing. When he took out the bar and struck it into the water there was a great hissing, and the Mist-men stood there with Mimi, and they raged and cried together. But still Siegfried only laughed and sang as he pulled at his bellows or swung his hammers. At every blow he grew stronger and greater, and the sword bent and quivered like a living flame, until at last, with a joyful cry, he lifted it above his head with both his hands; it fell with a great blow, and behold! the anvil was severed, and lay apart before him.
The joy in Siegfried's heart grew into the most wonderful peace, and the forge light seemed to grow into full day. The immortal sword was again in the world. But Mimi and the Mist-men were gone.
And the musician shows in wonderful music-pictures how Siegfried went out into the early morning, and how the light glittered on the trembling leaves and sifted through in little splashes. He stood still, listening to the stir of the leaves and the hum of the bees and the chirp of the birds. Two birds were singing as they built a nest, and he wondered what they said to one another. He cut a reed and tried to mock their words, but it was like nothing. He began to wish that he might speak to some one like himself, and he wondered about his mother; why had she left him? It seemed to him he was the one lone thing in the world. He lifted his silver horn and blew a sweet blast, but no friend came. He blew again and again, louder and clearer, until suddenly the leaves stirred to a great rustling, and the very earth seemed to tremble. He looked, and behold! he had waked the dragon that all men feared; and it was coming toward him, breathing fire and smoke. But Siegfried did not know what fear was; he only laughed and leaped over it, as he plunged; and when it reared to spring upon him, he drove the immortal blade straight into its heart.
Now when Siegfried plucked out his sword he smeared his finger with the blood, and it burned like fire, so that he put it in his mouth to ease the pain. Then suddenly the most strange thing happened: he understood all the hum and murmur of the woods; and lo ! the bird on the very branch above was singing of his mother and of him, and of the gold that was his if he would give up his sword and would love and serve none in the world. And more, she sang on of one who slept upon a lonely mountain: a wall of fire burned around, that none could pass but he who knew no fear.
Siegfried listened to hear more, but the bird fluttered away before him. He saw it going, and he forgot the gold and the whole world, and followed it. It led him on and on, to a lonely mountain, where he saw light burning; and he climbed up and up; and always the light grew brighter. But when he was nearly at the top, and would have bounded on, he could not, for Odin stood there with his spear across the way. The fire glowed and flashed around them, but the sword gleamed brighter than anything that ever shone, as Siegfried cleft the mighty spear and leaped into the flame. And there at last, in the great shining, this Siegfried beheld a mortal like himself. He stood still in wonder. He saw the light glinting on armor, and he thought, "I have found a knight, a friend!" And he went over and took the helmet from the head. Long ruddy hair, like flame, fell down. Then he raised the shield, and behold in white glistening robes he saw the maid Brunhilde. And she was so beautiful! The light glowed into a great shining as he looked, and, hardly knowing, he leaned and kissed her, and she awoke.
And it seemed to Siegfried that he had found his mother and the whole world.
The Ballad of the Knight and the Dragon
HIGH up in the green forest of Cerna, at the borders of Serbia, there is a point where the Carpathian mountains seem to dip into the Danube only to emerge again on the other side and continue rising, forming the chain of the Balkan Mountains.
On the left bank of the Danube, at the ford of Rushava, lived three beautiful sisters, Ana, Maria and Rosana. Early one summer morning, before it was yet light, they stole out into the dew and mist. It was a holiday and they were to spend it singing and playing in the green woods they loved so well.
First came Ana, looking like a fair pink and white flower in her holiday robe. The second sister, Maria, was a vision of loveliness. Pride spoke in her walk and looked out from her big brown eyes which were bordered with thick, curling lashes. But the youngest sister, Rosana, was even fairer than the other two. Like a soft grey-blue dove she was, just flown from the nest. Nay, like unto both the evening and the morning star in beauty, surpassing even the radiant fairy Sanziana, and all Rumania knows how beautiful she is.
Not a care in the world had the three maidens as they played and frolicked in the wood. They gathered flowers which glistened still with diamond dewdrops, and wove them into wreaths for their hair and garlands for their robes. And while they twisted the flowers they sang the songs of their homeland, of their dear Rumania.
The forest echoed with their laughter and songs, and thus the day passed joyously, until the long shadows warned them day was nearly done. The youngest one, the fair Rosana, had grown weary ere this and had stopped to rest under a big tree, centuries old. Her two sisters had wandered on through the forest and now they turned their steps homeward without thinking of Rosana.
Still Rosana slept and twilight deepened into night. The birds hushed their singing and tucked their sleepy heads beneath their wings. The little stars came out and twinkled at each other, as if to say they knew the beautiful Rosana, fair enough to be a sister star, was sleeping in the forest. All night they watched over her until the first streaks of dawn chased them from the sky.
Then Rosana awoke and she was frightened at not finding herself safe in her white bed at home. She wept and called for her sisters, but there was none to hear save a little grey rabbit that scampered along a path in the forest. Yet there was another, a little cuckoo. Beautiful he was and brave. He flitted among the trees and sang with a loud voice.
"Dear cuckoo," called Rosana, "listen to me, you brave one! Lead me out into the open, to the road where carriages go by, so I can again find my home and my sisters. If you will do this, then I will be a cousin to thee!"
"Ah, my sweet one," sang the cuckoo. "I do not know whether I will lead thee into the open or not. I have as many cousins as there are flowers on the mountain and what should I do with another?"
"Cuckoo, cuckoo," implored Rosana, "listen, O brave one! Lead me out into the open, to the road of carriages, and I will be a sister to thee."
"No, my child, no," said the cuckoo. "I have as many sisters as flowers that bloom in the spring."
"Cuckoo, cuckoo," begged Rosana again, "listen, O brave one. Lead me into the open that I may find my sisters, and I will be a wife unto thee as long as I live."
"No, sweet maiden," sang the cuckoo, "that cannot be, for I am not a young man able to wed thee. I am only a little bird."
Even as the cuckoo spoke there suddenly appeared from behind a rock the horrible dragon of Cerna. Gruesome he was and cruel. He crawled across the path of the maiden and wound his tail around her. Rosana shrieked with terror, until the forest echoed with her piteous cries.
High up in the green forest of Cerna, where many brave men have lived and died, was a valiant Rumanian knight, by name loan Iorgovan. His arms were like two great clubs, and he rode upon a horse that was as swift as an eagle. Two little dogs, quick and keen, followed his horse.
loan lorgovan was riding gaily along enjoying the beauty of the morning. His horse pranced spiritedly and the knight waved his lance in the air, calling meanwhile to his dogs. Suddenly he heard someone crying. He stopped and listened but try as he would he could not determine what it was. Nor could he make out whether it was the voice of a man or woman. The mighty river Cerna roared loudly through the forest and drowned all sounds in its bosom.
So the knight turned back on the forest path and said to the river Cerna: "O my clean Cerna, stop, I pray thee, stop! I will throw into thy bed a silver lamprey and a golden distaff, with dragon's eyes, which will spin and turn by itself, if thou wilt but stand stiff."
The river Cerna heard him and at once stood still. Then loan lorgovan, with arms like clubs, at once heard and knew the voice was not that of a man but of a woman in distress. Then he became angry and he spurred on his horse. Roaring like a lion and splitting the air with his cries, he came hurtling through the forest.
The dragon caught sight of loan Iorgovan racing toward him and he turned and ran away full of fear and trembling. But the knight was not to be put off. He followed hard after the dragon, until they both crossed the river Cerna. Then the dragon turned around and waited for the knight.
"Ioan Iorgovan, with arms like clubs," said the dragon, "with what kind of a good message does thou come to me this day? Or hast thou the thought to destroy me? I pray thee, grant me peace and turn back to thy home. I swear if thou shalt kill me it shall be worse for the people of thy land. I will place a curse on the country and send a swarm of flies and they will bite the horses and oxen until the beasts will run mad and the plough will come to a standstill."
"O accursed one," cried loan Iorgovan, "dost thou still bandy words with me? I will teach the country and the people will hearken to me. They will raise smoke and the flies sent by thee will choke. My horse will not die but thou shalt perish, for I have heard thou hast killed a beautiful maid with thy robber's jaw."
"That is not true, loan Iorgovan," said the dragon. "When I heard thee coming through the forest roaring like a lion, I at once left the maid safe and unharmed. I pray thee, leave me alone and turn back to thy home. I swear on my head that it shall be worse for the country when I am dead."
But loan Iorgovan, with arms like clubs, was resolved to slay the dragon, for many were the tales told of the beast's evil doings in the countryside. So the knight seized his good sword and cut the dragon into pieces.
Rosana had been hiding behind one of the big trees in the forest where she saw everything that went on. She had recovered from her fright and approached the knight shyly and with maidenly dignity. Ioan Iorgovan thought she was the loveliest maid he had ever seen.
"Ioan Iorgovan, with arms like clubs," Rosana said softly, "lead me out in the open to the carriage road, that I may meet my sisters, and I shall be a wife unto thee as long as I be alive."
Then wonder seized loan Iorgovan of her beauty and youth. He knelt at her feet and kissed her hand in reverence.
"My beautiful flower," said the knight, "thou art like a fairy. Thou shalt indeed be a wife to me as long as you be alive."
Then he embraced her and kissed her, and led her out into the open road where the carriages went by. The knight led the maiden back to her home and the wedding feast was celebrated right merrily.
But the blood of the dragon ran down into the river Cerna, until the water was red with it and it ran across the Danube itself. The curse the dragon had foretold came to pass, and a great plague of flies came upon the people of Rumania. The insects bit the horses and oxen until they ran mad and the plough was stopped. But loan Iorgovan, with arms like clubs, gathered the people together and taught them how to build fires and smoke out the flies until once more the country was at peace.
And today the people in far Rumania will show the imprint of the hoofs of loan Iorgovan's horse, and the footprints of his dogs on the high cliff overhanging the banks of the Danube.
The Dragon Sin
FRANCES JENKINS OLCOTT
ONCE upon a time, in ancient days, a fearful Dragon inhabited a certain forest. No one had the courage to subdue him, for his name was Sin. No knight, who ventured into the forest, was strong enough of himself to overcome the monster; and neither sword nor spear could harm him.
It chanced one day that the brave young warrior, Saint Leonard, was riding through the forest. He saw the Dragon Sin stretching out his hideous scaly length to prevent his passing by. Down from his horse the good Saint leaped, and crushed the monster in his arms.
Then backward and forward they struggled, the Dragon tearing Saint Leonard's flesh with his sharp claws. For three nights and three days, they wrestled thus together, then on the fourth day the Saint, breathing a prayer for help, drove the monster before him into the inner recesses of the forest.
And there the Dragon Sin stayed, skulking in the darkness; and he never ventured out again to attack the good young warrior.
Now as soon as Saint Leonard had conquered the Dragon, there was seen a wonder. Over the forest-ground were sprinkled drops of the Saint's blood, shed from his wounds. From them sprang up a host of Lilies-of-the-Valley, like a holy white carpet.
Then all the little Lilies softly chimed their scented bells in honor of Saint Leonard's victory for God.
Excerpted from The Book of Dragons by O. Muiriel Fuller, Alexander Key. Copyright © 2014 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents"THE STORY OF SIEGFRIED, by Maud Menefee (German)"
THE BALLAD OF THE KNIGHT AND THE DRAGON (Rumanian)
"THE DRAGON SIN, by Frances Jenkins Olcott (Sussex)"
"THE GREEN DRAGON, by Countess D'Aulnoy (French)"
THE DRAGON-PRINCESS (Chinese)
"THE DRAGON OF THE NORTH, by Andrew Lang (German)"
"RAGNAR SHAGGY-BREECHES, by Philip Schuyler Allen (Danish)"
THE TWO BROTHERS AND THE FORTY-NINE DRAGONS (Greek)
THE BIG WORM (Bahaman)
"THE STORY OF LLUDD AND LLEVELYS, from The Mabinogion (Welsh)"
THE GOLDEN APPLE-TREE AND THE NINE PEAHENS (Serbian)
THE LEGEND OF THE VIKING'S CAVE (Norwegian)
THE PRICE OF CURIOSITY (Ainu)
"THE STORY OF ST. GEORGE AND THE DRAGON, by Mary E. Christie (English)"
"THE SHEPHERD AND THE DRAGON, by Bozena Nemcova (Czech)"
THE LEGEND OF DRACHENFELS (German)
YANNI AND THE DRAGON (Thessalian)
THE DRAGONS OF LUCERNE (Swiss)
"THE YOUNG DRAGON, by Julia Brown"
"THE LAST OF THE DRAGONS, by E. Nesbit (Cornish)"