Krak, or Krakus, is the legendary founder of the Polish city of Cracow.

There are several versions of the founding legend, all occuring circa 700AD, but the two most common are as follows:

On Wawel Hill, alongside the Vistula River, once, well before the current city of beauty and buried kings, was a small village of sheep and cattle farmers.

The village life was idyllic, except for the farming part, and the bit where there was a dragon, sleeping in a cave, on the hill.

Of course, being that the elders had told the story of the dragon for generations, and everyone knew that they'd be safe unless someone went into its cave and woke it up, no-one worried too much.

This can only go on so long, as anyone familiar with the narrative imperative and/or teenagers will tell you.

Five impetuous Polish lads, puffed full of bravado, vodka, and hormones (this part is extrapolation, but I think, justified), took it upon themselves to disprove the legends of their forefathers, and thusly earn the undying respect of the village lovelies.

So, they bravely set forth, and climbed the hills, and found, to their surprise, a cave. Slightly shocked, and yet slightly gratified that their elders were not entirely lying about the subject, they continued, slowly, inside.

As they crept along, in dank, dark, creepy tunnels, wondering if the elders kept them out of here because this is where their still was, one of them heard a noise. The others, slightly harder of hearing, said it was his heartbeat, or the wind, or something.

They continued on, and then - the others heard it too.

However, trapped by their bravado and scientific analysis, they continued to blame the wind, and kept on.

The cave was quite deep, but there comes a time when they find the final corner, and turn it. The wind has been getting louder, and louder, and more and more like the breating of some gigantic beast, all this time, of course, and the five young men's fight or flight mechanisms have been gearing for action, so:

They turn the final corner.

The thing, whatever it is, opens its eyes, and affixes them with a baleful glare*, and breathes, again, and they feel it, this time, hot, and getting hotter.

The five young adrenaline pumped Polish lads run for their lives, and the Dragon stretches, and performs the Draconic version of morning ablutions.

Then, hungry, it stoked its internal fires, and slithered from the cave, in search of food.

This ablutative process took long enough, and the boys' tale had been fearsome enough, that there was none of the Dragon's favourite food around, so instead, it stole a fine heifer, and retired.

This continued for some time. The Villagers recalled the Dragon's name - Smok - and wailed, quite a bit, dependent, as they were, upon their herds.

Here is where the stories divide:

In one, the most common, Krak was a wise man of the village, who, in typical wise man fashion, sat back and did nothing, until the villagers came to him. At which point he said:

"Fear not, Villagers! I, Krak, will solve all our problems - the traditional Polish way!"**

He mixed up some vile concoction, and smeared it over a ram.

Alternately:

The King of Poland became aware of the Dragon Menace, and despaired. Knights were sent, in vain, to fight the beast, but they acheived nothing bar saving the Dragon inventing tinfoil, for all your roasting needs. Men of science, men of valour, men of complete scepticism, with regards to mythical draconic beasts, all quested to slay or disprove the beast.

Things were dire, very dire.

Then this shoemaker, Krak, had a bright idea.

He put some saltpeter or sulphur in a sack, and either dressed it like a ram, or cut a ram open, and put it inside - the difference is negligible, really, but we're going for reporting as many sources as possible, here.

This is the reconvening part of the tale:

Then he, with great daring, bravery, guts, gumption, spirit, valour, and, possibly, elan, walked up the hill, holding his Trojan Sheep, and threw it, mightily, into the cave.

The Dragon, being stupid, lazy, and generally good-for-nothing, as all mankind's enemies are, in defeat, scoffed the sheep, and swallowed.

The villagers, down below, watched Krak run down the hill with bated breath. As he arrived, there came a tremendous bellow from the cave, and the enraged dragon, throat burning with the fires of Hell or Industry, depending on the source of the legend, leapt from its cave, and hurled itself bodily into the Vistula (that's the river, remember).

There, the Dragon drank, and drank, swallowing half the swift-running stream, and drank some more, and began to swell, and drank, and leak at the seams, and drank, and then, finally, with a burst of boiling water not seen again till the first, and failed, industrial revolution steam engine, popped.

Small wet parts of Dragon flew into the air, but, fortunately, due to the flammable nature of both Dragons and the brand-new Dragon Poison, the water burned away, then the debris, before it landed.

Krak, of course, was a hero. The people were mightily impressed, the king's daughter married, and the village Krak's to rule.

He built the castle that now stands atop Wawel Hill, and the city named for him. And, on the passing of the king, he inherited the positon, and went on to rule Poland wisely and well for many years.



*
1) Baleful glares are traditional moster material, if they have big eyes. It's the law.
2) Also, after sleeping for several centuries, if someone woke you up, wouldn't you be slightly baleful? It's possible that it was really blurry that they meant, but of little to no importance.

**
(Rough translation)

Thank you Kidas for pointing out that Smok is the generic word for Dragon, in Polish.

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