Slaying the Dragon in Germany – Furth im Wald’s Drachenstich

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This post was originally published on August 27, 2014 and updated on July 16, 2019.

Previously I wrote about the mouflon sheep roast I had during my vacation in the Bavarian Forest. Well, that wasn’t the highlight of the trip by any means! I also attended the oldest live play in Germany, the Drachenstich (“Dragon Slaying”) in the town of Furth im Wald not far from where I was staying.

Every August, this town is all about the dragon! There are dragon signs:

Dragon designs adorn the ironwork on the town bridges:

The town fountain is St. George slaying a dragon:

Even the Greek restaurant has a dragon on the sign:

And there are posters everywhere advertising the play:

Although the Europeans don’t have the penchant for merch the way we Americans do, you could buy Medieval damsel headdresses:

…and sword-shaped pretzels:

… and I managed to buy the last bar of dragon soap:

The little town was dressed up in Medieval finery, with velvet banners hanging out of most upper story windows:

…and the courthouse was decked out in all its finery:

We spotted a brewery with a painted sign on the wall advertising “Dragon’s Blood” beer.

However, when we tried to track it down we learned that the brewery closed years ago and they keep the painting to promote interest in the annual pageant. Aw.

The stage, I should say arena, for the show was erected across from the courthouse on the market square.

Here’s a shot in the opposite direction:

Our seats were on the right in the photo above in the section just before the risers.

Without a doubt, the star of the show is the dragon himself. What a wonder! He is actually in the Guinness Book as the largest self-propelled robot in the world. Hollywood special effects technicians and international robotics experts were part of the team who created this two-million-Euro wonder. He even has his own website! There, you can see photos of the dragons in the show throughout history. Some are quite comical.

I was most interested in checking out the robot, so my husband and I visited the Drachenhöhle (“Dragon’s Cave”) the day before the pageant. The dragon lives in a cave shaped oddly like a warehouse on the edge of town. Seemed legit.

We met a friendly ticket attendant who helped us navigate our way into the cool, cave-like interior. There were a few surprises…

In the first room you can see historic photos. Here’s the one I referred to earlier from 1874:

The note in German next to the magnifying glass emblem says, “Mobility Technology, 1900”. I think Jim Henson must have seen this photo because Big Bird’s head looks like this dragon.
Another favorite photo of mine was a shot of the cast from 1907:

None of them look too thrilled to be there except the jester. He looks kinda high.

The plotline of the play is that, among other things, the princess Marie has decided to sacrifice herself to the dragon to save the village because she heard that, darn it all, the knight Udo (and her love interest) went and got himself killed fighting Hussites. She was all ready to go when Udo rides in and saves the day, not being dead after all. This wall had photos of all the Maries and Udos through the years:

Some of the costumery:

Posters from the performances:

…and dragon-tech displays (that’s a robotic dragon leg in white):

Presently we came to a small hallway leading to a very dark room from which I heard low, throaty growls and an occasional roar.  Uh-oh…

I was worried for nothing, though, because the dragon was asleep. Here’s my husband being all brave:
You can see the dragon’s forked tongue on the left undergoing a paint job because of his injuries sustained in the previous evening’s slaying. You can also see the film in the background on the right. It was very interesting and showed historical information plus tech about the newest monster.

There is a large poster in a frame in the back of the cave where you can slay the dragon yourself (we look WAY too pleased with ourselves!):

I am so impressed by this beast, and with the fact I could get as close as I wanted for photographs. The dragon has a variety of facial expressions, bleeds, breathes fire from his nostrils, shoots fireballs from his mouth, roars, growls, walks, etc. You can see the spring in his eyelid in this shot:

Here you can see the Audi diesel engine inside him:

The detail on the scales was terrific:

His tail swings around as well:

Of course, he wasn’t moving when we were there. He requires six people acting in concert, each with one of these radio control units, to make him perform:

That afternoon he was resting on his transport:

He also has his own truck for long distances.

After my visit to the dragon’s cave, I was stoked to see the show. The next evening we made our way to the stands and took our places among the crowd.

What a show! It’s a two-and-a-half hour presentation complete with Hussites, princesses, knights, cardinals, the devil, real galloping horses, wooden carts and actual musicians (including the guys that play those long trumpets on the castle walls). And, of course, the dragon. I wondered what they could ever do to keep my attention for that period of time, but they did it with flying colors. But they’ve had over 500 years to perfect the script, so I shouldn’t be so surprised.

The outdoor arena and stage was sturdy and highly technical, with wireless mics for the actors and suspension cables for the devil who climbed up the side of the castle. None of the actors missed a cue as far as I could tell (it was in German), and everything seemed to move very smoothly. There were over 200 actors and most of them were locals. The costumes were phenomenal and I loved the horses who galloped through the arena at every possible opportunity.

Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take any photos during the performance, but it was nice for me to be focused on the action without a camera between me and it. That said, I managed a few shots with my iPhone (that’s why the images that follow are such low-res):

First the Burgermeister gave his welcome speech. We couldn’t start the proceedings until the Bishop arrived. Apparently the new bishop is more punctual than the last guy.
Fast forward to the end of the play. You can see the dragon, slain, and some of the actors taking a bow. If you look closely you can see Udo’s sword sticking out the top of the dragons’ head:

Couldn’t resist a selfie. Now you see the dragon awake with wings spread. The crowd was invited to meet the actors and get close to the dragon after the show was over. I’m happy I went to his cave instead. The arena was mobbed that night.

This was the last performance and, therefore, a party night for the town. We didn’t stay but enjoyed the beautiful night, music and merriment on our way back to the taxi stand:

Photo for No Apparent Reason:

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