Some Dragon-lore of Alsace

The following paragraphs are translated from Revue d’Alsace, 1851. They were originally published on Patreon in March 2021.

The serpents that can be seen, sometimes, at night on the banks of the river Mossig in the Kronthal valley, and shine with a phosphorescent glow, are also specters from hell.  The devil also appears in the Jura mountains, under the form of winged serpents, dragons with eyes that cast a light brighter than diamonds. They also exist in the region of Montbéliard where the monster is called a vouivre(*).

At Riedheim, near Bouxwiller, one can see at certain hours of the night, a dragon entirely covered in fire flying above the village; sometimes it enters by way of dormer windows into the attics of houses and steals wheat and other provisions there, only to leave them behind in other houses.

An old schoolmaster of Riedheim(**), who was also a carpenter, had worked hard at his workbench well into the night. (He was working, I believe, on a coffin). After extinguishing his light, he was going to disrobe by his window, when he abruptly saw the fire dragon, with its prodigious length, glide and disappear down the chimney of a neighboring house.  Villagers claim that the treasures of the dragon brought this way belong only to the following second generation. A family of Riedheim is at this moment in possession of just such a treasure. Villagers also say about members of this family: “They have happiness and good fortune; their grandparents received a visit from the dragon!”

(*) We call vouivre, vivre, guivre, a winged serpent that only has one eye (called a carbuncle) that shines with so radiant a light that the monster appears to be entirely on fire. According to an ancient tradition, the village of Dung (3 km from Montbéliard) owes its emancipation to the one who delivered the region from a vouivre. (See Duvernoy, Ephémérides du comté de Montbéliard. ((This book still exists for us!)) For more details, see also, X. Marmier, (Féerie franc-comtoise), Paris 1845, p. 73 and pages following. ((This book I found for the year 1841!)))  The vouivre that dwells on the shore of springs and fountains might well have once been called Mélusine.

(**) According to a recounting by his granddaughter, who died four years ago, then a woman of fifty years. –For the dragons who fly through the air at night, see Grimm, Mythol. in German, p. 652.

With that first footnote, I’m sold. I’m not sure I can fully picture a dragon with only one eye, but I can completely get behind the idea of a “fire dragon” covered in radiance so intense it looks like being covered in fire. 

If you’ve enjoyed this series of folklore translations and would like to support my further translation endeavors, please feel free to support my work on Patreon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: