Thursday, November 12, 2020

StorySpotting: Dragon slaying 101 (The Mandalorian)

StorySpotting is a weekly or kinda-weekly series about folktales, tropes, references, and story motifs that pop up in popular media, from TV shows to video games. Topics are random, depending on what I have watched/played/read recently. Also, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. Be warned!

Where was the story spotted?

The Mandalorian, season 2, episode 1 (The Marshal)

What happens?

The Mandalorian stops by in a small town on Tatooine, and in exchange for something he wants he promises to help the locals kill a giant sand shark Krayt dragon. The local miners team up with the Tusken raiders, and together they make a plan for killing the giant monster. First, they try to blow it up from below (since the belly is the only soft part), and when that doesn't work, Mando volunteers himself to get swallowed by the dragon, along with a pile of explosives, and blow it up from the inside. The dragon, by the way, spews acid everywhere, but the Mandaloria armor protects out hero from being digested. 
(Hint hint, wink wink.)

What's the story?

Killing dragons is a very popular pastime in folklore, so I'm not going to list all the options, just some fancy ones that come to mind. 

When I saw the Tuskens burying a bunch of explosives in a pit, trying to lure the dragon into slithering over then, I was immediately reminded of the Icelandic Völsunga saga, and its later German descendant, the Niebelungenlied. In this legend cycle, the hero Sigurd / Siegfried kills the dragon Fafnir by digging a pit, and stabbing it with his sword below (also getting drenched in dragon blood in the process, which makes him invulnerable). 

As for killing dragons with explosives: there is a legend in Kraków about the Wawel Dragon, a monster that used to inhabit the cave below the Wawel Castle. Two princes, Lech and Krakus, killed it by feeding it a sheep skin filled with sulphur, causing the dragon to combust from the inside. In a Hui legend from China, the hero Lilang subdues a mean dragon by feeding it cakes, in which he has hidden iron chains. By yanking the iron chains, he takes hold of the dragon's heart from the inside. For leverage.

Getting swallowed by a dragon and killing it from the inside also has a long international tradition. In a Nez Perce Coyote story, Coyote has himself voluntarily swallowed by Monster, so that he can burn and cut the creature's heart until it dies, rescuing all the people that have been swallowed. (I mean, look at that illustration! It's from this book.)

In the Irish Fianna legend known as The chase above Lough Derg, the Fianna faces a terrible (female) dragon that swallows people by the hundreds, including some of Fionn's best warriors (and his son Oisín). Fionn ends up wrestling the monster onto her back, and his son Dáire jumps down her throat, cutting a way from the inside out, rescuing the swallowed warriors. Fun fact: they all come out without their clothes, and with no hair left on their body. Talk about acid...

In Christian mythology, it is Saint Margaret who gets swallowed by a dragon (usually Satan himself in dragon form) and is portrayed victoriously bursting forth from the monster's stomach, because it could not handle the cross she was carrying. 

In another personal favorite of mine, a Puerto Rican folktale, a brave lad named Juan rescues people by volunteering to get swallowed by a shark - and then causing it such a bad toothache from the inside, that is has to go do the dentist. Shark dentist.

In a Hungarian Roma folktale, a village is threatened by a dragon that inhabits a swamp. A brave young Roma man spies on the dragon's feeding habits by hiding himself in a hollow tree, and then organizes the entire village into a dragon-slaying party. By coordinating their attack with scythes, pitchforks, and guns, they manage to lure the dragon from the swamp, and then kill it. 

In the legend of Princess Minne and Dietwart, a dragon attacks an unsuspecting hunting party in the woods, and the brave princess and her suitor face it together. In the end, Dietwart manages to stab the monster through the jaws, and the carcass falls on top of him, injuring him with fire and acid. (Could have used some Mandalorian armor...)

In the end, let's give a shout out to my favorite dragon-killing legend ever, Sistram and the Dragon, in which a half-swallowed knight instructs two other knights in slaying a dragon without accidentally cutting his legs off along with the monster's neck. Safety first, people. 


To paraphrase G. K. Chesterton: Stories don't exist to tell people dragons exist. Stories exist to tell people dragons can be defeated. 

1 comment:

  1. Stories exist to tell people dragons can be defeated. I resonate with that :)