Gorynytch, also known as Gorynych or Gorynietch, is a dragon from Russian and Ukrainian mythology, which terrorized the area around Kiev before being slain by Dobrynja the warrior. He is depicted as a large, three-headed beast with seven to twelve tails (as with most myths, there are variations), winged and surrounded by smoke as per the classic Western image of a dragon. Some accounts have him being unable to breathe fire, others have it issuing from his ears, and still others have it belching from his mouth. Aside from the variable number of tails and uncertain origin of his pyrotechnics, Gorynytch is known for possessing fearsome claws of solid iron. Claws, teeth, or scales of metal are a common theme in Occidental tales; the reliance upon most European and Eurasian societies upon metal for tools and weapons implies that any beast which exists coated in minerals must be strange and powerful, indeed.

Gorynytch was capable of speech and in most versions of his tale begs for his life when Dobrynja is about to kill him upon their first encounter (which often results in Gorynytch losing one of his three heads--unlike a hydra, Gorynytch could not regrow his). Dobrynja allows the dragon to return to his hatchlings; upon the continued attacks on the local countryside Dobrynja and his horse tracked down Gorynytch, trampled his hatchlings to death, and killed the angry father upon Gorynytch's return. The month-long battle ends with the rescue of the dragon's captives (including, naturally, the beautiful daughter of the czar).

Another version involves Dobrynja wrapping himself in pitch-soaked rope to protect himself from the dragon's claws and fangs (and most likely to ensure he wouldn't fit down the beast's throat), later hitching Gorynytch to a fourteen-foot plow and making a furrow into the sea. Gorynytch the plowhorse is drowned for his troubles, and as usual the captured maiden(s) are released.

Gorynytch, as with most other mythological creatures, has been adapted on occasion for roleplaying games. The instance with which the author is most familiar is a version for the second edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, which gives him nine tails and wolflike heads. The statistics for the beast (referred to as a "gorynych" and no longer a unique monster) are collected in the first Monstrous Compendium Annual softcover. While the information included is less than helpful for the scholar, it (and the rest of the creatures in the volume) is accompanied by an excellent picture by Tony diTerlizzi.

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