The Proto Indo European Dragon Slaying Myth

1210 words - 5 pages

Among the descendants of the Proto-Indo European language family, there exists a common formula for the dragon-slaying myth. This formula first consists of a single male protagonist, typically of higher social status, that is almost always described as a “dragon slayer”, with a special weapon and a companion (Watkins 302, How to Kill a Dragon). Additionally, the dragon-slaying myth is specific in its wording, by virtue of being spread via oral tradition (303). Next, the protagonist is sent on a quest, either by command or through personal choice to battle against a dragon. In the PIE descended myths, the dragon is often described as being many-headed (source). Furthermore, the dragon is often portrayed as responsible for causing conflict or seen as hoarding something of great value, in many cases both actions are present. Lastly, the protagonist defeats the dragon and recovers the items that had been previously hoarded.
This Proto-Indo European formula can be illustrated through the Russian myth of Dobrynya Nikitich and his encounter with a several headed she-dragon. In the story, Dobrynya, a Bogatyr (knight of holy Russia), finds himself embroiled in a conflict with a she-dragon (Kennedy 170, European Myth & Legend). From this description it is already apparent that Dobrynya fits the PIE mold of a male protagonist of above average social standing. Additionally, the dragon having numerous heads fits the PIE criteria for dragons. The author also notes that Dobrynya is “best known as a Dragon slayer” (170). The decision to describe Dobrynya as a “slayer”, as opposed to other linguistic options, highlights the importance of the world slay and its derivatives to the PIE dragon slaying myth. Next, the she-dragon is described as wreaking havoc in the Russian capital of Kiev and capturing the favorite niece of the Russian prince, Vladimir Bright Sun (170). Here the conflict caused by the dragon is described and the Russian prince’s niece is mentioned as the object of value, hoarded by the dragon. After a three-day battle, Dobrynya emerges victorious against the she dragon (171). In this instance, the Russian myth conforms to the PIE theme of the protagonist’s victory over the dragon. Lastly, Dobrynya enters the she-dragon’s lair and frees hundreds of Russian people, including the Russian prince’s niece (171). In this last instance, Dobrynya completes the last step of PIE formula by discovering and capturing the hoarded objects of the dragon, which in this circumstance can be inferred as the people of Russia.
An analysis of other Proto-Indo European dragon-slaying myths further strengthens the validity of the aforementioned formula. In the Nordic myth of dragon-slayer Sigurd Fafnesbane, one is presented with a familiar scenario. Sigurd is the illegitimate son of King Sigmund of Frankenland (Flöistrup 79, A World of Dragons). As seen previously, Sigurd fits the criteria for being a male of above average social status. In the myth, Sigurd becomes...

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