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Basic Information

The Serpent-Slaying Myth, is a recurring motif in many different mythologies (especially all the varieties of Proto-Indo-European Mythology). In this myth, a snake or dragon is slain by a culture hero or storm god.

There's also sort of an "epic-level" version of this known as the Chaoskampf, in which the serpent is associated with chaos, an abyss or void, or primordial water (such as an ocean or major river). Such a primordial sea serpent or titan is often a mother goddess figure, or at least a mother of monsters. Their death is apocalyptic and may have elements of a flood myth or creation myth, such as the sea being created when the dragon's blood was shed upon the dry earth. Often the serpent is an additive monster like a hydra, or a composite monster like a chimera. Frequently there is a introduction to the tale where the dragon eats some cattle that belonged to the hero, or to the gods, or were important in some way to the hero or the gods. Compare this conflict with that of titanomachy, where the gods displace a more human generation of precursors. It is at least possible for a mythos to contain both struggles.

Interestingly, some mytheia (for example the Norse/Scandinavian) put the Chaoskampf at the end of the present order, rather than the beginning - for example when the Midgaard Serpent is loosed to do battle with the Aesir - and die beneath the hammer of Thor - on the day of Rangnarok.

Examples include:

Mythology Serpent Hero
Albanian Mythology Kulshedra Drangue
Armenian Mythology Vishap Vahagn
Canaanite Mythology Tannin Baal
Celtic Mythology Meichi Dian Cecht
Egyptian Mythology Apep Ra
Germanic Mythology Fafnir Sigurd
Greek Mythology Typhon Zeus
Greek Mythology Lernean Hydra Heracles
Greek Mythology Python (mythology) Apollo
Hindu Mythology Vritra Indra
Hittite Mythology Illuyanka Tarhunt
Jewish Mythology Leviathan Yahweh
Mesopotamian Mythology Tiamat Marduk
Norse Mythology Jörmungandr Thor
Persian Mythology Zahhak Fereydun
Polish Mythology Wawel Dragon Skube or Krakus
Romanian Mythology Zmeu Fat-Frumos
Shinto Yamata no Orochi Susanoo
Slavic Mythology Veles Perun
Ugaritic Mythology Lotan Hadad


Game and Story Use

  • In a game like Scion RPG, or really any pan-mythology game, you can mix and match your favorite dragon with another culture's slayer (or, more likely, just introduce the dragon and the players will volunteer to slay it).
    • All these serpents might be spawn of the same mother (Tiamat had 11 monster babies, for example), or just different names for the same primordial wyvern.
    • There might be a single hero known by many names in many lands, or a series of heroes who inherit the mantle and defend the earth from a cyclically-occurring snake-invasion.
  • You can go much more subtle and clever with it, using this as symbology or hidden meaning, with or without drawing your players attention to it overtly.
    • A great example is G.R.R.Martin's A Song Of Ice And Fire, where, 17 years before the main narrative there is a rebellion that changes the world forever. The deciding battle of the rebellion takes place at a ford in a river, where a prince whose heraldry is a 3-headed dragon is defeated by a knight who hails from a place called the stormlands.
  • Some sort of Coded Myth approach would be interesting, if you come up with hidden meanings for the cow, the lizard, the storm-lord, and the water.
  • Speaking of which shamanistic characters may be able to perform some kind of heroquest around this myth to gain divine assistance in their own monster slaying.
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