The Legend of Krakus and Smok

Atop Wawel Hill on the Vistula River in Poland, there stands a beautiful, ancient castle and a Cathedral in which are buried many of the Kings of Poland. Below lies the ancient city of Krakow ( the original capital of Poland) home of Polandís ancient glory and heroic deeds.

But long, long ago, before the city of Krakow existed, before the castle and the cathedral, there existed a small settlement of peaceful people, who tilled the soil, harvested their crops and prospered. In the evening when work was done and the sun had gone to sleep, they would gather around fires and the old men would tell stories of an evil dragon who lived in a deep dark cave in the side of Wawel hill.

The entrance to the cave was overgrown with thick weeds and brambles and no one would dare venture near the cave lest they awaken the creature inside. No one, that is, accept five foolish youths, who disbelieved the older generation. They thought the old stories foolhardy and set out to prove them false.

Despite dire warnings from their elders, the young boys armed themselves with torches and flints and set out to climb the hill. They laboriously made there way through the thick brush and soon arrived at the mouth of a cavernous cave. Peering into the cave with their torches in hand, they could see nothing. They entered in and felt the presence of evil around them. The air was foul and the boys wanted to bolt and run, but not wishing to face the embarrassment of returning to their village in the state of fright, they pressed on. Advancing through the long, narrow cave, their torches threw hideous shadows against the wall of the cave. They could hear deep and regular breathing, but still they went on. Suddenly, they saw in front of them a huge heaving mass. It was covered with greenish scales and worse yet, it was awakening from its sleep!

Needless to say, the boys ran the fastest that they had ever run in their lives toward the entrance of the cave. Behind them they heard roaring and bellowing and they felt hot breath on their backs. They did not bother to turn and look, but rather, plunged down the side of the hill running, stumbling, and rolling until they reached the bottom. Only then did they look up to see a hideous dragon at the top of the hill with sharp teeth and evil flashing eyes.

The dragon made its way down the hill, and hungry from its long sleep, it went directly to a herd of grazing cattle and seized one of the hapless creatures and carried it back to its cave. The people were shocked and terrified and the boys slunk away, ashamed of what they had done.

From that day on there was no peace in the village. Daily, the dragon would appear to carry off a victim. Sometimes a sheep, or dreadfully, a child or even a grown man. The villagers called the hideous creature "Smok". Men banded together to try and slay the dragon, but their primitive weapons were no match for the thick scales of the dragon. Many men died in the attempt to rid the village of this terrible curse.

In the same village lived a wise man named Krakus. Some thought him something of a magician, for he would mix herbs to heal the sick. The villagers came to Krakus to ask for his help. Krakus thought for a long time, studying his jars of herbs and things, and all the while murmuring to himself. Then he started to mix up a paste. He summoned the villagers to bring a sheep to him. He covered the poor sheep with the unpleasant mixture and carrying it up the hill, threw the sheep inside the cave.

After several suspenseful moments, there came the sound of the great dragon roaring and bellowing its way down to the Vistula River. The mixture that the sheep had been coated with caused a great burning inside the dragon. It drank and drank until it began to swell. Some say it drank half of the Vistula River that day. Still it drank to quell the relentless burning in its gut. Suddenly, there was a great explosion and the dragon burst!

The people rejoiced at the demise of the fearsome creature. They were so impressed with the wisdom of Krakus that they invited him to rule over them. They built a stronghold at the top of the hill and below it, the city prospered under his rule. The city was named Krakow in honor of Krakus. When Krakus died the people gave him a magnificent burial, and erected a mound over his tomb, bringing the dirt with their own hands. It has endured throughout the centuries as a lasting monument to their wise and brave King.