Today, 26th February, is National Tell a Fairy Tale day. It’s an unofficial national holiday, and has no known creators, but fairy tales are stories that we grow up with, get re-imagined as we grow up, and they have been around for a very long time.

So what exactly is a fairy tale? You can probably name quite a few, especially since Disney re-imagine a lot of them into wonderful films, but the definition of a fairy tale is a that it’s a type of short story that typically features European folklore fantasy characters, such as fairies, witches, elves, dwarves, giants, gnomes, mermaids, trolls, goblins and magic or enchantments. They’re different from legends (which generally involve a belief that the tale took place) and fables, which contain a moral to the story.

The term ‘fairy tale ending’ also comes from fairy tales, since they tend to have an ending where every one lives ‘happily ever after’ to go along with the classic opening ‘once upon a time’. Although this does not apply to all of them, especially if you look at some of the older fairy tales by the brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson.

Specific stories are often told and re-told with many variations, since fairy tales were oral traditions to begin with, and it is hard to find an original version of something which has not been written down. A couple of my favourite fairy tales are Rapunzel and The Twelve Dancing Princesses, but there are many out there, from the well known ones to single page obscurities.


Dragons also have their places in fairy stories. The classical tale of a dragon eating/kidnapping a princess who is then rescued by a dragon slayer that kills the dragon and marries the girl is a tale that dates back even to Greek times. Andromeda was the daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopeia, king and queen of Aethiopia. Her mother Cassiopeia boasted that her daughter was even more beautiful that the Nereids, the nymph-daughters of the sea god Nereus who were often in the company of Poseidon. As punishment Poseidon sent a sea monster (often depicted as a sea dragon) to ravage the coast of the kingdom. The desperate king consulted the Oracle, who announced that the only way to be free of the monster was to sacrifice his daughter to the monster. Stripped naked, Andromeda was chained to a rock by the sea and left for the monster. Persues was retuning from having slain the Gorgon Medusa and happened upon the chained Andromeda. Whilst invisible due to a magical helm, he killed the sea monster and set Andromeda free before proceeding to marry her.

I’ve posted tales of dragon terrorising towns and villages before here, The Lambton Worm and The Whitby Wyrm as prime examples, as well as the legendary St George and the Dragon. But there are stories where the dragons are shown in a different light. In The Mordiford Wyvern, the dragon is taken care of by a young girl before it is slain by a knight, but the knight ends up dead as well, and there is definitely no damsel in distress. There’s a story I’ve found which is a bit of a twist on the classic tale, where the damsel in distress is in distress, but is a bit of a bad ass herself.


Princess Miranda and Prince Hero:

Princess Miranda is the most beautiful princess in the world, with twelve beautiful maidens who are her ladies in waiting. People came to her island, and built a city there and became her subjects, attracting by her beauty. Princes as well came to woo her, but she did not care to marry any of them, and any who persisted or tried to force her were turned to ice, merely with a glance from her eyes.

One day Kosciey, King of the Underworld, came to the surface to see what there was. He found the green island, with it’s city and beautiful princess, and was delighted with her beauty as he looked upon her sleeping, dreaming of a prince that would be worthy of her. He tapped his staff three time and then he was on the island, calling out for the princess to be his queen. The princess called together her brave army to stand against him, but he breathed upon them with his poisonous breath, and sent the entire army to sleep. Just as he was about to lay his hands upon the princess, she threw a glance of scorn at him, and he was changed to ice, giving her the chance to flee.

Kosciey did not remain ice for very long, and as soon as the princess had fled, he regained his form and followed her to her city. With his poisonous breath, he sent the entire city to sleep, including her twelve faithful maidens, but he could not affect Princess Miranda. And he was afraid of the glances that could turn him to ice, even temporarily, so he surrounded the castle on the hill with an iron rampart, and placed a dragon with twelve heads on guard at the gate, waiting for the princess to give herself up to him.

Days, weeks and months passed, and her kingdom became a desert rather than the lush green land it had been before, with all the inhabitants of the city and her army sleeping. Even her twelve maidens were asleep in the palace, and she was left all alone to wander around the palace by herself. The only person who would come close was Kosciey, and he would never come into the room for fear of her icy glares. He would knock at the door and ask her to surrender, promising to make her queen of his underground realm, but she only ever gave him silence and threatened him with her glance.

Whilst grieving in her loneliness in the tallest tower of the palace, she could not forget of the knight that she had been dreaming of, and saw him again just as he had appeared in the dream. She looked up at the blue sky and asked a cloud if he was coming to help her, who told her to to ask the wind, who told her to ask the stars, who told her to ask the moon, who told her to ask the sun, and the sun told her that the knight was coming to help her with an enchanted ring that would make the army he was bringing increase a thousand fold when he put it on. But force was not enough, and the sun had to teach him a way to destroy the King of the Underworld.

Prince Hero was wearing the golden helmet that the Princess had seen in her dreams, and was at the head of the army that he was bringing to march against Kosciey. He too had seen the princess in a dream, and seen that she needed help, and had heard of her beauty which was famous throughout the land.

The sun came down and struck his helmet, and the sun spoke to the prince. “Dismiss you army, for no mortal way can kill Kosciey, and you may only free the princess and her city by killing him. Seek out the old women Jandza. I will tell you where to find the horse that will take you to her.” And the sun told him where to find the horse that knew where Kandza lived. Prince Hero was most surprised, but he took off his enchanted ring and threw it into the sea, at which point his great army dissolved into mist. He turned to the east and travelled onwards to find the horse.

Three days later he found the iron door in the green meadow the sun had told him about. going down into the dungeon, there was another locked door, but the horse neighed so loudly that the enchantment feel off, and the warcharge broke through the chains that had been binding it at the Prince’s whistle.

“Prince Hero, I have long waited for a rider such as you. Take the mace from the saddle and mount my back, for I know the way everywhere, and the mace will strike wherever you command it to!”

Prince Hero mounted the charge, and the fly over mountains and forests, and before the sun had set, they had come to primeval forest where the old women Jandza lived. A perpetual twilight covered the large trees, and the forest was silent, and this was where he found the little house on legs that the old women Jandza lived in. The women gave him food and water, and a night of rest, and in the morning he told her all, and what he had come to her for.

The old women told him about the old oak tree in the Ocean-Sea on the island of everlasting life. The life of Kosciey was sealed in an egg, guarded by a duck, guarded by a hare, in a coffer made of iron that was buried under the tree. If he found and broke the egg, then Kosciey would die.

Prince Hero thanked the old women, and left on the charger, who knew the way to everywhere, and they were quickly at the ocean. On the shore line he rescued a talking fish from a net and threw it back into the sea. The charger bade the prince to sit firm on his back, and set off across the water, since the horse could walk on top of it. A great wind rose up, and the waves became large, but the horse pushed on, and they eventually came to the island.

The prince wandered the island until he found the old oak tree, and tugged and tugged at it until he managed to uproot it, and find the hole where the iron coffer was buried. Opening the coffer, he picked up the hare by the ears, but alarmed the duck, which flew off straight to the sea. The prince fired a shot, which hit the duck and it fell out the sky. But in that instance the egg which she had been protecting fell from her, and landed in the sea where it drifted to the bottom. The fish that the prince had rescued not an hour before flashed at the surface, and dove down after the egg, right into the depths of the sea, where it found the eggs, and brought it back to the prince in it’s jaws.

With the egg safely in his hands, the prince mounted his horse once again, and they rode to Princess Miranda’s island, where they found her palace surrounding by a great iron wall. There was only once entrance through this iron wall, and it was guarded by the monstrous dragon with twelve heads. Six heads were always awake and watching, whilst the other six heads slept. Anyone who approached the gate could not escape the horrid jaws, and the dragon was unkillable, for it could only suffer death by its own act.

1f39576901c0b59b65ba235a65c07fabThe prince stood on a hall before the gate, and commanded his self-fighting mace, which could also become invisible, to clear his entrance to the palace. The invisible mace fell upon the dragon, thundering on it’s heads with such force that all the eyes of the dragon became bloodshot. The best became enraged, hissing and clawing and snapping all around, but it could not see the mace, and became more and more bloodied. So furious and blind the dragon became, that it could not see what it attacked, and it’s claws and teeth turned upon itself, ripping and tearing apart it’s own flesh, until it bled so much, that the life left it’s body, and it slumped to the ground, dead.

Prince Hero was free to pass into the courtyard of the palace, through the iron wall, where he could enter the palace and find Princess Miranda in the tower where she was waiting. “Be careful!” She warned him. “My enemy Kosciey is in the palace, and he is a most terrible and powerful foe.”.

“Do not trouble about me Princess Miranda, for I have the life of Kosciey in this egg. Mace, find and beat Kosciey!” The mace battered through the iron doors and found the King of the Underworld and beat him around the head until a mortal would have suffered death, but not him. He spied Prince Hero through a palace window, and rushed out into the courtyard to smote him. But the prince was ready, and in his hand he held the egg, and when Kosciey came out into the courtyard, he squeezed as hard as he could, and crushed the white egg in his hand.

At once all the life left Kosciey, and his body fell down as the enchantments lifted. All the people and solders that had been put to sleep awoke, and in the palace was great joy. Princess Miranda came to the Prince, to thanks him most gratefully for his deeds, and gave him her hand. She had finally found a man that was worthy of marrying.


It’s nice that the princess has magical powers that the villain is afraid of, and although the prince rescues her, it’s more like an army waiting for backup to arrive, and the fact that she decides to marry him, rather than the classic, the king decrees his daughter will marry the hero, is also kind of nice.

Of course I do prefer it when the dragon is not the bad person in the story, but that is slightly rarer, especially in the old fairy tales. But there is this one.


The Dragon of Ghent

A long, long time ago, a dragon lived in northern Syria. He was such a tender-hearted old dragon that he was called the weeping dragon, because he wept large bucketfuls of tears whenever the Belgians crusaders and Caracens fell to fighting. Because they fought so often, the tears of the dragon flowed in abundance into the ground and the soil became unusually fertile, and there soon grew from this soil a rare flower. The Belgian crusaders found this flower, and loved it for it’s bright colour, so much so that when the last war was over, one of the crusaders, Taff, took the seeds of the flower and planted then in his own garden. Tulips of brilliant colours grew around his house, bringing him high praise and money.

The fame of these tulips spread far, until it reached back to Buccoleon, the weeping dragon himself. Now that the war was over, he had stopped weeping and the tears had dried up, and the sombre brown scales that he had been covered with before slowly turned into scales of gleaming gold. Living peacefully in the outskirts of a town, when he heard of the tulips he decided that he would fly and see them for himself.

Golden_dragon_by_daeigira_blood-d3i6t2kHe asked direction of a passing bird, who knew the skies better than he did, and was told the way to the large cathedral of Constantinople where the clouds could direct him from there. The dragon shook himself from head to toes, and launched himself into the air. The ground shook with his great weight as he lifted off, and the town he lived nearby were awoken by it. “Look, the dragon!” They called, spotting his golden hide in the sky. “The dragon’s flying away, we can’t live without out dragon, let’s follow Buccoleon!” But they realised that they could not keep up with a flying dragon, and they realised that they could not keep him near their town. For good dragons like Buccoleon always got what they wanted, and this dragon wanted to go away. They watched him fly away, until he was no longer even a speck in the sky, and went back to their daily tasks. Much to their surprise, they found that life was much the same, even without a dragon nearby.

Buccoleon was on his adventure, and he flew and flew until he reached a large city with a tall spire and found a pink dawn cloud. He asked the cloud how to get to the garden of Taff, and the cloud gave him directions to Vienna, and told him to ask the Danube River when he got there. He flew and flew, and found the river, taking a short rest as he asked it where to go next. “Steer north and slightly west until you see Nuremburg castle, then ask the wind to show you the rest of your course.”.

So he flew and flew until he came to the castle, and sat on the tallest tower to wait for the strongest wind, and then asked it which way to go. “Come with me, I am going there myself.” The wind told him, and they journeyed together. the wind told him about the garden of Taff, and how it was like a sunset over the ground with the colours of the rainbow from the palest moonlight to the deepest tree-shadow. And just then, the dragon saw the edge of the garden coming into view. He was so jubilant as he saw the glorious flower fields that he shouted “It is fairer than anything I have seen”, but just as he was about to dive down, and arrow smote him, and he feel headlong to the ground.

The dragon’s fall from the sky looked like the fall of a glorious golden star, and people rushed to the bell tower from all around to see what was happening. The first person, a resolute and well-liked man asked “Who sent that wicked arrow?”. “Archers from the tower.” he was told by a young boy. “Archers? Who sent them?”. Taff, the florist of the tulips came to the front. “the goldsmiths have been envious of how my flowers have brought fortune my way. Perhaps they sought to kill the dragon for his golden scales?” The potter of the town nodded, “Aye, they told the baker as much yesterday”

Other friends of Taff who also lived in the village told the story of how The Weeping Dragon had shed his tears, and it was the tears that had caused the marvellous tulips to grow. With one accord, it was voted that Buccoleon should receive the utmost honour, and be immortalised on top of the weather vane of the belfry. “The dragon shall live forever among us! Victory – not death for the dragon, but victory in immortality!”” The leader called out to the crowd, and the bell tolled out a mighty tone of gladness, proclaiming this victory across the land.

And to this day, on top of the bell tower, is a golden shining dragon, that turns in the wind, and forever looks over the garden of tulips in Ghent.


The Paper Dragon

Once upon a time, on a wall in a little house in a country far away, there hung a beautiful paper dragon. It was carefully folded and looked almost lifelike. The dragon was painted the colours of the rainbow, and its tail was spread wide like the tail of a peacock. Many years went by, and the people who lived in the house enjoyed the picture of the colourful dragon. People who came to visit the house stopped to see the brightly-coloured dragon, but no one ever asked about where it had come from. A couple of times, someone took it down from the wall, only to put it on another wall in the little house, and arrange the tail slightly differently. Doing this, they felt a vibrant feeling of energy and of life. Something about holding the paper dragon made them feel free.

Once, a stranger on his journey passed by the house and happened to see the beautiful dragon hanging on the wall. Struck by its beauty, he stared closely at the dragon. Without asking permission, he lifted down the dragon from the wall. He hung it over his arm and went out into the yard. With skilled fingers he tied a string around the dragon’s body and quickly went to an open place. As a breeze began, the stranger carefully let out the string and ran into the wind. Up the dragon list into the air and it soared high above like a kite. the dragon seemed to be pulling higher and high into the air, almost as though it was flying.

The people who lived in the house came outside to watch the man with the dragon. They were surprised to see their beautiful paper dragon flying above them, brightly coloured with its long tail flowing behind it. They began to think that, maybe, there was something about this dragon that they had not noticed before. As the wind blew, the dragon happily danced in the air above. Without warning, the string broke, and the dragon flew higher and higher, further and further away from them. The people below squinted as they looked up at the brightly colour dragon. Suddenly the little paper dragon began growing; its paper wings stretched wide and long. Its paper body began to change and the small creature flew higher and higher. The people below looked in amazement as the dragon came to life and flew away. Turning to them, the stranger said, “Some thing are just meant to be free.”



And there you have three lovely fairy tale dragon stories for you to digest.