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The eternal struggle between the good and the evil has worried mankind since time immemorial and was one of the main topics in the oral tradition and fiction. For the most part, the evil was allegorically depicted as a terrible serpent or a dragon. While Christianity tended to be hostile towards creeping reptiles, snakes and dragons were not purely negative characters in the era of ancient Germanic peoples, and the struggle of gods and heroes with these reptiles had a deeper meaning than an ordinary single combat.

If we take a closer look at the abundant and heterogeneous ethnographic material, we can notice that the dragon-fighting motif itself is clearly of prehistorical (archetypical) origin. Legends about dragons and snakes exist in all cultures and on all continents: from Europe and Asia through Africa to Latin America.

The oldest mention of dragon-fighting can be found in the Old Testament, in chapter 14 of the Book of Daniel. A dragon is also mentioned in the Book of Revelation, where Archangel Michael fought the beast. In contrast with, for example, the Chinese culture, where dragons are positive characters, the European culture has always considered the dragon to be an antihero, a personification of the animal element which is fought against and defeated by the protagonist. In this context, dragon-fighting can be viewed symbolically as a reflection of the fight against the evil in the world.

In this article, the authors try to identify the genesis and trace the development of the dragon-fighting motif in Russian culture, which adopted it from Byzantium through hagiographic literature but soon developed its original versions, notably the unusual example of “The Tale of Peter and Fevronia of Murom”.

Key words

Dragon, serpent, dragon-fighting, evil, hagiographic literature, epic, hagiography, prophet Daniel, Saint Dimitry of Rostov, fantasy, archetypes.