The "Drachenstich", the dragon is back

When the dragon comes out of the forest, a whole region is in turmoil. The small town of Furth-im-Wald, between Bavaria and Bohemia, can pride itself on celebrating one of Germany's oldest folk plays.

Latest edition : 28 July 2022

Decorated houses, lanterns and pennants everywhere and, in the shop windows, more or less old photos representing a valiant knight and his princess. As if by a miracle, possible road works, which had dragged on all year round, were completed in early August.

No doubt, the small border town in eastern Germany is about to experience its “fifth season” which, here, is not carnival, but “Drachenstich”, the spearing of the evil dragon. Every year in August, it is the "dragon fever" that seizes the inhabitants.

A little preview of the show:

What could be more normal, since everyone grew up with this spectacle, like their parents before, their grandparents, great-grandparents…. Each child could recite the words of each actor (all volunteers). Each boy dreamed of one day playing the knight Udo, the one who fights the dragon while the girls saw themselves in the role of the lovely princess who, for the love of the people, is ready to sacrifice herself to the dragon.

Me too! (I was born there) But, even though I was a girl, it was the role of the big bad that attracted me, that of the black knight.
But that was before 2006 and the decision to rethink the show, to rewrite the lyrics.
The history of combat evolves with the times, mirroring the course of history along the border. The dragon symbolizes the threat coming from the east, the lives lost in battle. With the opening of the borders, it was, frankly, no longer conceivable to call your Czech neighbors the bad guys!

The new play emphasizes historical truths more than popular feelings. There is also question of religious fanaticism, a strangely current theme! The action has been fleshed out, invites reflection. Voiceovers set the context.

As a result, visitors who do not understand German have a little trouble following the storyline, identifying the "bad guys" and the "good guys". In the old version, it was simple: the brave soldiers went to fight the enemy, the evil knight was draped in a black cloak, the good guys were in armor, and the princess dressed in white. To fully enjoy the show, it is therefore better to inform yourself beforehand.

The dragon comes out of its lair

Fight scenes, verbal jousting, religious disputes, a story of love, betrayal and honor. Nothing is missing for a pleasant spectacle. But it would be only just another play if it weren't for this technological and robotic marvel: an authentic (or almost) dragon that moves while breathing fire!

This is the biggest walking robot in the world! More than 20 companies pooled their know-how to create this high-tech monster in 2010. Special effects specialists from Hollywood took part, as did the German Space Center.

He is the real hero: 15.50 meters long, 3.80 meters wide, 4.50 meters high with wings measuring 12 meters. Packed with modern electronics, this technological marvel has been surprising since 2010, making ancient dragons look quite tiny!
"Tradino" as the inhabitants of Furth im Wald call him, is the descendant of a long line of more or less frightening dragons. Over 500 years ago, it was actually men in disguise who mimicked this wicked animal.


This "spearing of the dragon" goes back to the dawn of time. While too many documents have been destroyed during the turbulent history along the Bavarian-Bohemian border, the first written mention of this dragon dates back to 1590.

Originally, it was even part of the religious procession on Corpus Christi day. The fight between a knight representing Saint George and the dragon was part of a colorful staging desired by the Catholic Church in response to the Protestant movement. A sort of "counter reformation". The peasants dipped handkerchiefs in the blood of the dragon reputed to be miraculous.

But the knight and the dragon attracted far more spectators and revelers than the church. And in 1878 the fight with the dragon was over - at least in the procession! Because the inhabitants of the city hold on to their dragon and they openly trigger a small revolt! Result: since 1879, he is therefore entitled to his own festival.

1000 years of history

The dragon festival animates the city every year in August for 15 days. In addition to the performances (at night they are really spectacular), several events punctuate this fortnight.

The bearfestival for example (no town or village in Bavaria without its own bearfestival) with its opening parade: after the free public tasting of beer brewed specially for the festival, traditional groups and musicians go to the party grounds.

On sunday, the great historical parade traces more than 1000 years of history. Some 1400 participants in period costume, 250 horses, numerous musical groups pass through the city.

Thie children have their own great celebration of the Middle Ages.

Not to forget the Cave Gladium,  formidable encampment of knights, soldiers and clans from all over Europe who occupy a vast area.

While strolling in the camp one can observe them during the training, attend various tournaments, watch craftsmen work, buy clothes and accessories for any outfit of the Middle Ages, knight or lady, listen to music of period (the musicians know how to set fire even with a simple bagpipe!) and of course eat properly.

And every evening, the party is obviously in full swing in the large hall on the fair grounds.