Slavic dragons - 5 beasts from Eastern Europe you didn't know!
In Slavic mythologies, the words zmey (in Bulgarian, Russian and Macedonian), zmiy and zmaj (in Bosnian, Croatian and Slovenian), are used to designate a dragon.
These words are masculine variations of the Slavic word for snake, which is feminine (for example, snake is zmeya in Russian).
But first, check out our amazing selection of multi-headed dragon toys, inspired by old European legends:
Even if they have common features with European dragons, the Slavic ones have their own specificities.
1. Russian and Ukrainian dragons (East Slavs)
A. Zmei Gorynytch
In Ukraine and Russia, the Zmey Gorynytch is a three-headed green dragon, which walks on its two hind legs. This dragon can shoot fire from its three mouths.
It is a monster that murders without any motive and spreads terror. However, other sources depict him as a beneficent creature, who protects the waters and the crops.
According to a Bylina (Russian mythological poetry), Zmey Gorynych was defeated by Dobrynya Nikitich.
B. Mongolian inspirations
Other Russian dragons (such as Tugarin Zmeyevich) have Turkish names, probably as a legacy of Mongolian and other steppe civilizations.
Thus, St. George slaying the dragon, which is the symbol of Christianity overcoming the devil, appears on the coat of arms of Moscow.
Russian dragons usually have heads in multiples of three: three, six, nine, twelve. Some have heads that grow back, provided that all the heads are not severed. This is reminiscent of the myth of the Hydra of Lerna.
2. South Slavic dragons
In Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Montenegro, dragons are divided into two categories: zmaj / zmej and aždaja.
A. Zmaj / Zmej
In Slovenia, the dragon is called zmaj. However, we note that the word pozoj, which is primitive and has unclear roots, is sometimes used.
Slovenian dragons are generally evil, and therefore have a bad image among the population. They are often the enemies of the hero Saint George.
Other famous myths, probably before the Christian era, tell stories of dragons being beaten in the same way as the Polish dragon Wawel. That is, by feeding them sheep filled with sulfur.
However, sometimes the dragon is not always a danger to humans. The best proof of this is the Ljubljana. Indeed, he watches over the city of the same name. It is shown on the coat of arms of this city.
Coat of arms of the city of Ljubljana
In all South Slavic folklore, the dragon is called zmaj, zmej or lamja.
It is seen as very intelligent, wise, learned and supernaturally powerful. Some also said it can control magic and is very wealthy. Indeed, a common belief is that it holds secret castles in distant lands, which are worth enormous amounts.
It has a strong attraction for women, with whom it can give birth to a creature. Most of the time it belches flames from its mouth.
Usually, it is esteemed by the population. Even if it is not always nice, it is never totally evil. Myths tell that many historical heroes are the offspring of dragons.
Some famous national heroes were even considered dragons.
A wonderful illustration of this is Vlad III Dracula, who was part of the Order of the Dragon.
To continue the demonstration, we can mention Husein-Kapetan Gradaščević, a Bosnian general who rose to fame. Indeed, he fought against the Ottoman Empire to gain the independence of Greater Bosnia. He is commonly referred to as "Zmaj od Bosne", which translates to "The Dragon of Bosnia."
As another example, the Serbian despot Vuk Grgurević was known as "Zmaj-Ognjeni Vuk" (Vuk the fiery dragon). He was so called because of the terror he exercised during his reign and the triumphant battles he launched against the Turks.
Vlad III Dracula
Generally, Aždaja or Aždaha, sometimes Hala or Ala, is seen as a different being from the dragon. He is even a rival of the latter.
It is a completely evil creature, from the mouth to the legs.
Physically, it is similar to a dragon. It has several heads (three, seven or nine) and breathes fire.
In some Christian legends, the beast that St. George fights is described as "aždaja / aždaha", not as a zmaj.
This atrocious beast, devoid of all morals, lives in dark, dangerous places, out of reach for the "heroes" of fairy tales.
3. Other Slavic dragons
In Polish and Belorussian legends, as well as in some other Slavic myths, there is also a dragon called smok.
In South Slavic folklore, this same creature is called lamya.
In Romania, the Zmeu is a derivative of the Slavic dragon. In addition, there is also the Balaur dragon, endowed with several heads.
Finally, in order to satisfy those of you who loves these creatures from Slavic myths, we can't resist showing off our range of three-headed dragons!