What’s that? Could the mightiest beast of myth truly have foes that could best it?
Indeed, my friends, while the dragon is a fearsome opponent in any mythology, it has it’s own natural and unnatural enemies. Lets explore some of them.
First up on our list is actually a group of animals often shown to combat dragons: large cats. You think I’m joking, but there are several cultures that claim one large cat or another is the dragon’s mortal enemy.
For the Europeans, they believed that lions and panthers fought with dragons. For lions its easy to see why they might pose a threat, being the “king of beasts” and all that, but why panthers? According to some medieval bestiaries, after feasting and taking a long nap, the panther gives a mighty roar upon awakening. This roar was said to be very sweet smelling and attracted all animals except the dragon, who would hide in a hole to escape the smell and the threat of the panther. Meanwhile, in much of Asia, the tiger is seen as the greatest enemy of the dragon. The tiger was said to represent Yin energies, while the dragon represented Yang energies, thus they were constant foes.
Another of the more “natural” enemies for a dragon was elephants. No real reason is given why except for sheer size and how, when dying, the elephant would fall and crush the dragon beneath it.
Now to the more mythical foes.
Ispolin are legendary giants of Bulgarian mythology (roughly ten feet tall) said to possess three heads, but only one eye the size of an egg. They fed on raw meat and had voices so powerful they could easily hold a conversation with another of their kind while standing on a different mountain. Specifically noted as an enemy of dragons, they would often engage them in battle. However, since they could be taken out by tripping them with a blackberry bush, I can’t imagine they posed too much threat flying, fire-breathing dragons.
Surprisingly, there’s even a mythical tree dangerous to dragons. The peridexion tree bears sweet fruits that attracts doves. This tree can somehow burn a dragon with it’s shadow, thus keeping the birds safe.
Finally, the ichneumon, or echinemon as its sometimes called, was a weasel or mongoose like creature that lived in swamps. While something so small may not seem like much of a threat, it’s method of killing dragons is brutal. When they felt a dragon approaching, an ichneumon would bury itself in the mud of the swamp and wait. As they passed by, the ichneumon would leap from the mud and into one of the dragon’s nostrils. From there they would burrow their way deeper into the nasal cavity–the mud on their fur keeping them safe from the fire–and then eat the dragon from the inside out. Yikes!
Despite the horrifying methods of the ichneumon, I like how these enemies present the dragon as truly part of the environment, rather than an untouchable predator with nothing to fear. It “naturalizes” them a bit. Hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed researching it!