Each year, the town of Furth im Wald holds a festival called Drachenstich, or Spearing the Dragon. Part of the main street is fenced off to become an arena, and the town performs one of the oldest folk plays in Germany. The original version goes back to 1590, but the play has been revised along the way- once in 1951, and again around 2007. The festival is so ingrained into the city’s identity that the signs leading into town focus on the Drachenstich.
The story in the play focuses on the evils of war- the dragon is good and kind in the beginning of the story, but gets a taste for blood after the humans start to kill one another, until eventually there’s a traditional hero type (Udo, in this story) saving his love from becoming a Dragon-snack. It’s a pretty big spectacle.
Before I get further into the pictures, let’s talk about the dragon- after all, this is the real reason that I wanted to see Drachenstich in the first place. The dragon is quite new, and holds the world’s record for largest four-legged walking robot. It’s 15.5 meters long, 4.5 meters tall, and it has a 12 meter wingspan. It walks, blinks, breathes fire, roars, spreads its wings, waves its tail, and even bleeds at the appropriate point in the story. It was manufactured by Zollner, which also makes some of the buses that I ride to work every day.
We arrived to Furth and parked the car just in time to catch the Dragon-wranglers bringing the dragon up the street toward the Drachenstich arena. For up-the-street transport, the dragon was on a custom wheeled base- the walking speed is less than two kilometers per hour, which would have been interminably slow up that hill.
The two guys in the brown shirts in this picture are the controllers- I counted three different controllers with very large control boxes strapped to their chests.
At the top of the hill, they ran some pre-show tests, including a little bit of flame.
You can see the dude in the bottom right of this picture controlling the dragon’s head.
The dragon’s face is really expressive.
This is from the earlier part of the play, when the dragon is good and kind.
The lady in the red head-dress would be the woman that Udo is rescuing by killing the dragon. To be honest, I didn’t get a lot of the non-dragon parts of the story. There was a lot of yelling and a repeating creepy feral girl from the first scene. There were lots of horses, too.
During the climactic final scene in the play, the dragon walks all the way into the arena, spreads its wings, and does battle with Udo.
The Drachenstich festival runs until 17 August, so there’s still time to see it this year.
Who’s your favorite dragon?