Dragons are an important part of German myths, legends, and tales. They are usually portrayed as evil and stories are told of how people outsmart and kill them. There are a several different types of German dragon. Nidhogg, Fafnir, and Jormungand are the more famous dragons from Norse/Germanic mythology. There are four types of dragons mentioned in German stories. They are the lindworm, firedrake, black worm and the puk.
Not much is written about the puk, it is a small dragon spirit with four feet. It lives in households and brings stolen goods to the head of the house. Stories of the puk started in Germany and spread outward through Europe from there.
The black worm is mentioned in a tale of a greedy man. This dragon sleeps coiled around its hoard of treasure but it is not big enough to fit around all of it. While it is sleeping, a man sneaks into the creature’s cave and quietly fills his pockets with gold. He wants more gold and calls to his wife to come in and get some gold. This awakens the dragon who roars, scaring the man into dropping the treasure he took. When the man runs away, the black worm and its gold sink into the ground, never to be seen again.
Firedrakes are from German mythology. They usually are found in caves guarding treasure. They can breathe fire to defend themselves from intruders looking to steal their treasure. The dragon that Beowulf defeats toward the end of the epic poem is a firedrake. J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous dragon Smaug is also a firedrake.
Lindworms are often depicted as a monstrous serpent, sometimes with front claws and wings, other times just with front claws. They are evil creatures and considered a bad omen. They invade churches and churchyards digging up corpses. When cattle and other livestock go missing, it is blamed on a lindworm. They are thought to be greedy creatures that guard hordes of treasure in underground caves. In some German tales, a lindworm is a human that became so greedy he transformed into the monster.
There is a German story called Die Siebenkopfige Schlange (Seven Headed Serpent) about a seven-headed serpent that demands a sacrifice of twelve youths and twelve maidens every year or it would destroy the country. After years of this, the king’s son finds out how to kill the beast. He takes some cotton, sneaks into the serpent’s palace, silences the warning bells with the cotton and cuts off each of the serpent’s heads.
Another German story is Der Norlands Drache (Dragon of the North). It tells of a dragon coming from the north and destroying the countryside. It was a powerful dragon that could hypnotize its victims and draw them to it so it did not have to move until all of the food in the area was gone. A wise man found out that only a man wearing King Solomon’s ring could defeat the dragon. One young man went to search for the ring. He was able to find and steal the ring from the witch that possessed it. A magician told him how to use the ring to defeat the dragon. He became a hero and married the king’s daughter.
Jormungand is the middle child of a giantess and the god Loki. According to legend, Odin took Jormungand and threw him into the great ocean that encircles Midgard, our world. The serpent was so greedy and ate so much that he grew until he was able to surround the Earth. When he reached this size, he was force to grasp his own tail between his teeth. It is said that if he ever lets go of his tail the world will end. Jormungand is also known as the Midgard Serpent or the World Serpent because of this.
Fafnir is a dwarf that was transformed into a dragon due to his greed. Fafnir was given a treasure by the gods. He brought the gold to a cave and carefully guarded it day and night. His greed caused him to transform slowly into a dragon. Fafnir’s brother, Regin, plotted to kill Fafnir and take the treasure for himself. Regin and Sigurd (his foster son) dug a hole in the ground and Sigurd waited in it with his sword. When Fafnir passed over the hole Sigurd drove his sword up into Fafnir’s exposed belly, killing him. Regin took the dragon’s heart and cooked it. When Sigurd was passed the heart, he burned his fingers and licked them. Instantly he could understand the language of the birds. The birds told Sigurd that Regin was planning to kill him. Sigurd listened to their warning and killed Regin first. He packed the treasure into a cart and rose away.
Nidhogg is a monstrous serpent that lies below the World Tree in the underworld and gnaws on one of its roots. When Ragnarok comes, it is said that Nidhogg will rise and take all of the dead with him to join the final battle.