About Vouivres

Vouivres are flying serpents, or wyverns, with jewels embedded to their foreheads, [2] which gives them the sense of sight. [1] Many thieves and heroes have attempted to steal the precise gems, [4] despite the reputation of invulnerability attributed the vouivres. [5]

Vouivres are indifferent to humanity, except for when people attempt to harm or steal from them, and thus, they are not considered dangerous. [2]

Many legends speak of one vouivre, usually a female vouivre, who wore a tiara and beautiful dress. [4] They become vulnerable when they bathe, as they must remove their carbuncles and become totally blind for the duration. [5] Vouivres will hide their prize on the shore or under a stone before continuing. [2] Thieves have attempted to steal the precious gem during this time, [4] but the retribution of the offended vouivre is devastating, [2] forcing the thief to either abandon the treasure or die. [4]

Vouivres keep regular schedules, most notably when they travel for food and drink. [2] In some legends, the vouivres are only vulnerable once a year. In Avoudrey, the dragons only bathe at Christmas, [2] or at Easter. [5] In Mouthier, the vouivres bathe at the eleventh stroke of midnight on Christmas. [2] They are very intelligent, and so only bathe during mass time; thus, no mass-going persons could ever find any vouivres in a vulnerable state to be slain. [5] Of course, many individuals would skip mass for a chance to slay an otherwise undefeatable dragon. [5]

Others attempted to plunder the roost of vouivres while they were bathing. Those that succeeded became rich overnight. The less-than-fortunate thieves, such as those who stayed too long or could not carry all the treasure out with them, would be caught by the vouivres and locked up in her caverns without food or drink for years. [5]

There are many stories about a vouivre being defeated. One instance includes a cunning warrior who filled the bathing area favored by the dragon with spikes, causing the vouivre to impale itself blindly. [5] Another accounting claims that a wily villager tricked a vouivre into an oven, where it was roasted. [5]

Etymology and Translation

The French word vouivre can be translated into the English wyvern, although historically the terms cannot be directly interchanged in folklore. [1] Similar to the word 'wyvern', vouivre comes from the Latin vipera (viper, snake). [2]

The Indo-European root gwer, gwor indicates 'warmth,' and the later words in German, French, and English indicated a 'serpent of fire.' These words included wurm and wyvern, which means that these terms did not refer to water snakes. [3] This also explains the carbuncle on their foreheads, which is related to the Latin 'carbonculus,' a burning coal, which they must remove to protect while bathing. [3]

The Carbuncle, or the Jewel, of the Vouivre

The vouivres have a beautiful gem affix to their foreheads. In some instances, it is considered the purest ruby embedded in a tiara, so valuable that all the gold in the world would not be able to purchase it. [4]

This jewel enables vouivres to see. [1] The Carbuncle, a ruby or sometimes a diamond, has such a brightness that when the vouivres flies across the night sky, it appears as if a trail of fire burns behind the dragon. [2] Sorcerers often coveted the ruby for its magic and special properties. [1] When vouivres sleep, their carbuncle can be stolen and they can be killed. [1]

Habitat and Locations

The legends of the vouivres are among the most famous stories of Franche-Comté, France, starting around the nineteenth century. [2] They lived in caverns, apart from humanity, guarding treasure. The legends in the Alpine regions claimed that some vouivres had enough gold that, should someone dare steal it, that person would become richer than kings. [5]

In some legends, vouivres lived in abandoned monasteries, [1] and in general, they prefer sparsely populated locations, including caves and swamps. [2] Some live beneath the ruins of castles. Other vouivres spend much time underground, which can be entered through a hole in the floor of a den or by a cave on the side of cliffs. [2]

Regardless of the source, vouivres do not wander; instead, they form a roost or permanent home, [2] where they guard hoards of treasure. [1] Vouivres rarely leave their precious wealth unguarded, except for when they drink and bathe, [4] and in some tales, a thief might steal the carbuncle from a vouivre's head when they sleep. [1]

Vouivres will visit bodies of water, such as streams, rivers, fountains, and so on, so long as the area is concealed appropriately, for the vouivres will drink and bathe in these areas. [2]

Physical Description

Vouivres are winged serpents with an incredible gem embedded in their heads in place of eyes, [2] or they have this gem on a tiara. [4] In some tales, a cavity of the skull itself kept the carbuncle in place. [2] This jewel grants vouivres their ability to see. [1]

The vouivres are dragons variously described as having the foreparts of a well-endowed woman, [1] or as having the ability to transform into a woman. They rarely have four legs attributed to them, but always have two large bat wings that enable them to fly. [2]

Quick Facts

  • Vouivres have bat wings, [1] between no legs and two legs, [4] and an invaluable gem embedded on their foreheads. [2]
  • When they fly across the sky at night, it seems like a line of fire burns behind them. [2]
  • This jewel grants vouivres their ability to see. [1]

Related Articles

Footnotes

  1. Rose [Dragons] 385
  2. La Vouivre
  3. La Vouivre : Ètymologie
  4. Contes et lègendes: Vouivre
  5. Holman and Valen The Drac: French Tales of Dragons and Demons

For more information on footnotes and references, please see the bibliography.