We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about the Zmey.
A zmey is a Slavic dragon. They are usually depicted as lizard- or snake-like creatures, with scales, bat wings, and two or four legs. They can spit fire and generally have more than one head. The usual number is three. Much like a hydra, the heads will grow back if they are cut off unless the stump is burned or covered with ash.
A zmey is usually depicted as representing pure evil. Many Slavic national myths have stories of heroes defeating dragons, paralleling the story of St. George. St George is in fact the patron said of Russia. The Russian coat of arms as well as the coat of arms of the city of Moscow depict St. George defeating a dragon. Some dragons have Turkic names, symbolizing the centuries-long conflict between the Slavs and the Turks.
However, among the South Slavs of the former Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, zmey are often regarded as benevolent. A dragon protects the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana. Often a zmey will defend its territory against ale, demons that destroy crops.