Continuing my tour of dragons of the British Isles, today I am going to tell you about the Mordiford Wyvern.

c206a_by_kutty_sark-d64avnlOne day, a young girl called Maud, who lived in the village of Mordiford, was wondering around the forest adjacent to her village one day. Whilst wondering, she found a small, bright green creature, with translucent wings a snout and a tail. the little creature was no longer than a cucumber, and was prowling amongst the flowers. Maud, who had wanted a pet for the longest time, was delighted and picked up the creature, taking it back to her parents to show them.

Immediately upon seeing the little creature, her mother and father recognised it as a Wyvern. they demanded that Maud take the creature back to where she found it, lest it bring trouble and ruin down on the village. Maud fought with her parents, but they were adamant, and Maud indignantly resigned and took the infant back into the forest.

However, instead of just putting it back where she found it, she hid it in the forest, is a special place that she knew, and there she kept it as her pet. She fed it milk and played with it, watching it grow and learn to fly. Month on month, it grew bigger and bigger, turning a gorgeous emerald green colour, with powerful wings that could take it round the forest.

c207a_by_kutty_sark-d64avthAs the dragon grew, it could no longer be satisfied with just milk, and began to ate meat. It started on chickens, but even those became too small, and it began to steal livestock from the local farmers, cows and sheep going missing often, causing concern and outrage amoung the local population. The villagers knew it was the Wyvern who was taking the livestock, so they tried to band together and stop the beast by killing it themselves. However, they were ill prepared for a fully grown Wyvern, and it killed and feasted on them instead, and developed a taste for human flesh.

Maud was the only person who the Wyvern would not harm, and when she visited the Wyvern in it’s new lair on a ridge in Hauge Wood, she would plead with him to stop his killing, stroking his scales and claws to calm him down. However, the Wyvern remained loyal only to Maud, the girl who had raised it from infancy, and kept on killing the villagers.

The villagers grew afraid, and exhausted with the constant attacks from the Wyvern, and desperate, sought help from outside. The tale splits here, one version saying that they sought help from the noblemen of Mordiford, and another that they promised a criminal freedom if he could slay the beast.

In the nobleman version, a man from the Garstone family took up the plea, and set out in full armour to end the beast’s life, and had trouble finding the beast as it camoflagued into the forest greenery. It ambused him, dousing him with flame which his only just managed to avoid the worst of, and plunged a lance into the dragon’s throat.

st_george2With the criminal, the villagers offered prisoners a pardon and freedom, if they could slay the best. One criminal, under the sentence of death, takes up the offer, and hides in a barrel covered in hooks, spikes and blades by the confluence of the rivers Wye and Lugg. The Wyvern, following it route that came to be known as the serpents path, came down from it’s lair to drink, and smelling the human, wrapped itself around the barrel to get at the human inside, but mortally wounded itself on the blades of the barrel.

Both version end with the dragon being mortally wounded, but managed one last desperate breath that burns the slayer alive. Maud, insane with rage, burst out from the forest, to find her pet mortally wounded and dying. She flings herself over his body, with him as he dies, and sobs bitterly at the loss of her friend.

The village of Mordiford is in Hertfordshire in England keeps this story tale as part of it’s culture and heritage. It is constantly mentioned in records of the town, and a portrait of the dragon appears in the local church. However, it is aonly a replica of the original, which was destroyed in 1811 when the vicar ordered it to be, because dragons were considered “a sign of the devil”

Mordiford_Church_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1372166

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