A Study of Dragons of Eastern Europe – Nonfiction, Folklore, Social Customs
“Lovingly presented and charmingly illustrated to an exquisite standard, ‘A Study of Dragons of Eastern Europe’ is an authoritative piece of scholarship.”
Dragons: Smok, Zmey, Hala, Lamia, Balaur, Zmeu, plus Dragon Slayers: Fairy-tale heroes, Fǎt-Frumos, St. George, St. Elijah, Kraljevich Marko, and Dobrynya Nikitich.
Have you ever wondered if dragons were real?
Author Ronesa Aveela grew up in Bulgaria, terrified by tales of dragons capturing beautiful girls for their brides. Her grandmother armed her with protective herbs and performed rituals passed down from generation to generation.
Dragons, the third book in the series, takes you across Eastern Europe to discover folkloric beliefs, fairy tales, customs, and rituals about the dragons who once lived in the land, and still do within the hearts of many. You’ll learn historical facts, discover intriguing and horrifying stories, and enjoy beautiful illustrations to gain a complete experience of these magnificent creatures.
Here are a few topics you can expect to find within the book’s pages:
- Learn about how dragons or the idea of dragons developed. Did they ever exist in some form in the past?
- Explore the lives of dragons: their purpose, how they live, how to defeat or appease them.
- Discover the stories, facts, and fiction behind several popular dragon slayers.
Dragons is an enlightening nonfiction cultural study in the Spirits and Creatures series. If you like impeccable research, chilling stories, and clever humor, then you’ll love Ronesa Aveela’s educational folklore series.
Explore the pages of Dragons today to discover a world of wonders.
This series about spirits and creatures from Eastern Europe developed from an idea about a future book in the Dragon Village series. In the first story, “Unborn Hero,” a character possesses a book called Lamia’s Bible, which holds the secrets of all the mythical creatures in Zmeykovo (Dragon Village). I wondered what those secrets might be. If I owned a magical book, I’d want to know the weak spots in my adversary’s character. How could I defeat each creature? How could I control them? I began my research with Kikimora and discovered a wealth of information—too much to include in a magical tome, but too much to discard as well. Thus, this book about household spirits begged to be written.
My original intent was for the book to contain beings that appear only in Bulgarian folklore—whether from Thracian, Slavic, or Proto-Bulgarian origins—since the focus of my work to date has dealt with Bulgaria. But again, as I extended my research beyond Kikimora, many of the Slavic spirits I came across were not popular in Bulgaria, but they add so much color to the world of Eastern Europe that to exclude them would have been a loss to the reader.
The stories and other information from across Eastern Europe vary from country to country, and even from region to region. I have compiled that information into a composite whole to paint a picture of each spirit. There are so many more spirits, too many to include in this book. What I have included are some of the most popular, plus a few that may be obscure.
Many, if not all, of the beliefs and rituals about these spirits originate from pagan times. When Christianity dominated the region, “double-belief” became popular—a mixture of Christian-orthodox and pagan belief systems. The old gods may have vanished or become insignificant, often being replaced with the saints. However, the lesser divinities, including the spirits, remained. Christianity did not “replace” the old beliefs; it merely added to them. Peasants viewed the new religious beliefs relevant for their life after death, but to survive in this life, they believed they needed the protection of the spirits who lurked everywhere.
This book is meant to be fun, to inform you about these fascinating spirits, to give you a glimpse into a culture you may be unfamiliar with. You’ll “experience” the spirits through more than words. Where I could, I’ve included various artistic interpretations of the spirits: in art, music, and video, as well as in literature, both old and new. I’ve also included additional material to enhance your understanding of the people and their culture.
As you read this book, imagine you live in a rural area, filled with the unknown. You make your living from the land, where nature is sacred. She can be harsh or she can provide you with plenty. Understand that all of these beliefs and rituals have not completely faded from existence. You can still find places where these spirits are a part of people’s lives. Who’s to say they’re wrong? I certainly won’t.
Whether you believe or not, it’s an enlightening journey discovering these spirits who have existed at least on the pages of stories and have spread from one generation to the next by word of mouth. And I hope it will be a journey you’ll enjoy and remember.
Praise for A Study of Dragons of Eastern Europe
“The book is a dragon’s treasure of poems and stories from myth, legend and folklore. I found some of the poems achingly beautiful…”
“The sheer amount of detail and source references is a researcher’s dream come true.”
“Intelligently, well-written this extraordinary work of writing was filled with much entertainment and enjoyment.”
Ronesa Aveela continues to enchant and educate with the latest installment in the Spirits and Creatures series: A Study of Dragons of Eastern Europe. As advertised, the book offers a bountiful amount of dragon lore from Eastern Europe, a topic often overlooked in lieu of Western European dragon tales. From etymologies to protective measures, Ronesa relays a veritable treasure trove of folklore and fairy tales, not only of dragons but also the heroes who fought them. Numerous citations from Slavic sources are included, a feature not often found in English studies. Through examples, accounts, snippets, stories, and poems, the reader is thoroughly immersed in a fantastical world of monstrous beasts both malevolent and benevolent. Ronesa deftly adds breakdowns of the symbolism in tales and offers meanings and morals to stories more complex than they might seem. Folklore told in an informative and engaging way, A Study of Dragons of Eastern Europe is a must-have addition to any library of myths and legends!
— David Flora, Blurry Photos Podcast
Dragons are perhaps the most ancient, complex and magnificent of all mythical creatures. They have haunted the human imagination for thousands of years and whenever they appear they herald a significant event, for better or worse.
Ronesa Aveela’s wonderful new book introduces us to the fascinating world of Eastern European dragons, a group that is little-known in the West. Meet the snake-like Smok; the shape-shifting Zmey who can transform into an attractive young man to seduce unwary maidens; the Lamia and Hala, voracious female weather demons; and from Romania, the devilish Zmeu and the flesh-eating Balaur who creates precious gems from his saliva.
These dragons inhabit the twilight zone between good and evil. In folk belief, they play an integral part in the human life cycle, both materially and psychologically. They have elemental power. They can destroy the harvest by causing drought, floods and hailstorms, or they can be benevolent and protect the earth’s fertility. On the other hand, some dragons can drive you mad. The love of a Zmey, for example, can cause a maiden to languish and pine away – a condition that we might now categorise as mental illness. Dragons can also procreate with humans but the child born of a woman and a Zmey will either become a hero, or in anecdotal accounts, will suffer from physical or mental handicaps.
Well-written, easy to read and comprehensive, including texts that have never before been available in English, this is a real treasure trove of a book. It covers the origin of dragons, their mythological transformation over time, full descriptions of the nature of each species and ways to appease or defeat them, plus an account of bold dragon-slayers from fairy-tale heroes to Christian saints. It encompasses extensive research and fascinating “facts,” beautifully embroidered with magical traditional tales, intriguing legends and extraordinary folklore. Did you know, for example, that you can repel a Zmey by challenging him to a pee-ing contest and then tossing his urine over him?
This is not an academic study but it is well-researched and referenced. I have reservations about some of the suggested symbolism, though this is a subjective opinion, and a few of the theories and interpretations that are described are rather fanciful and lack evidence. So keep your critical hat on and decide for yourself whether they ring true or not.
Overall this is an excellent book, a rich voyage of discovery into the mysterious realm of Eastern European dragons. It’s full of surprises, fun to read and jam-packed with dragon facts. Yet it touches deeper levels too, for it is also an exploration of the borderlands where human psychology, the natural environment and the mythological imagination meet. There is much here that we may recognise from our own experience of the world, ourselves and others. Read it and enjoy!
— Moni Sheehan, storyteller and director of A Spell In Time, British-Bulgarian storytelling company