Written and compiled by Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewska
Drachenfels or Dragon's rock was a rugged and picturesque mass of volcanic rock that rose above the Rhine River, in Germany. This is the legend:
As one travels half-way up this crag, there is a cavern said to be a "Dragon's Lair." Inside the cave lived a hideous monster. This monster was half-man, half-reptile.
The village peasants held this creature as a frightening thing. They worshipped this old fellow by offering sacrifices of humans, preferably young virgin maidens. The early Christian monks held this practice in great distain, and said the pagan priests perpetuated these practices.
Two warrior princes, Rinbod and Horsrik, were always taking Christians off as their prisoners and using them as live offerings to their dragon.
On one of these raids for prisoners, Rinbod and Horshik began to quarrel over a beautiful, young Christian maiden. It might be said that they were captivated by her innocence and great beauty. They both wanted her for their own as a trophy possession and object of desire. After the shouting back and forth, they took up their swords and dueled for her favor. They were hell-bent on killing each other until a pagan high priest intevened.
"You should not kill over this Christian maiden," the pagan priest scolded. "She is better suited for the heart of our ancient winged-one."
The men were stunned that this beautiful girl should be wasted on a dragon. They both had lusty thoughts about the girl. Even though they knew, in their hearts, that she was repulsed by both of them. As they spoke together, Rinbod decided that his lust was really love, and that he could see himself giving his life for this maiden. He knew the cruel ritual that accompanied this sacrifice and his heart ached for the thought of her enduring all that suffering and dying so young.
However, the priest had great power in the area, and his orders could not be broken. The girl was told of her fate. She prayed that God would spare her pain and suffering on the following morning. She was taken off early to the spot outside the Dragon's Lair. She was bound to an old oak tree and trembled knowing of her fate. The morning air was chilly, with a damp dense fog. The old beast rose at sunrise, and the entire area was like a smoldering fire as the mist burned off by the sun's rays. The priests, warriors, and peasants waited at the summit of the crag to see the results of their sacrificial offering. As the mist melted away, they could see the girl.
Suddenly, a few onlookers grasped and cried out as the monster crept out of his cave. He plodded along with fire coming from both of his nostrils and his mouth. Then he bellowed out an earth-shaking sound.
The maid remained the only calm one in the crowd. She began to sing a beautiful, melodical hymm. The dragon had never heard such a lovely sound, but being a dragon he sprang upon his prey. The maiden held out her crucifix, which stopped the beast in his tracks. A moment later he ran away and swam into the Rhine River.
The people could not believe their eyes. They ran down the hill and untied the fearless girl with the heavenly voice. They were both mystified and curious about the power of her cross. She explained its power and they wished to learn more of her religion. The pagan priest told them this was a sorcerer's trick, but the people saw the power of the cross with their own eyes.
Rinbod was one of the first Christian converts in this pagan town. He married the wonderful and beautiful captive and built her a large castle on Drachenfels. The castle was a token of his love, and they were said to be happy there. The ruins of this castle can still be seen today. On occasion the people say they hear the bellow of a Dragon that comes out of the misty morning, but no one has ever really seen the beast again.
Spence, Lewis. Hero Tales & Legends of the Rhine. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1995.