There are many stories about Transylvania Vampires. But how about the Romanian Dragon? Balaur in Romanian, this mythological character is usually associated with the history of European dragons. Like his siblings, the Romanian balaur is depicted as a giant reptile, kind of a metamorphic snake. Similar to the basilisk snake, balaur is a Romanian mythical monster. Let’s find more about this villain!

Fire-breathing balaur
Fire-breathing balaur via Google Images

What is balaur?

Is it a snake? Or it’s a reptile? Is it even real? Oh well…almost. Firstly, he is a folklore character.  Even more, he is like a dragon. Balaur has wings, claws, fins, and sharp fangs. Hence it’s a dangerous hunter on any terrain. In any case, he isn’t born. Anyway, it’s commonly known that he evolves from a snake that hasn’t accomplished his mission. If he didn’t bite anyone in 7-12 years, while in underground isolation he will grow legs and wings.  Additionally, this process is irreversible. For example, in werewolf legends, the villains will change shape on daylight. The balaur, on the other hand, keeps his shape at all times.

Romanian dragon
The Romanian Dragon via Google Images

In most tales, balaur represents evil. Accordingly, he has fire-breathing abilities. No doubt, it’s a strong and cruel villain. He can grow up to 12 heads, one for each year of isolation. Even more, after being chopped off, his heads will grow back. Consequently, he’s a dangerous enemy. Only two heroes can defeat him. Firstly, Fat-Frumos is the Romanian hero who wins the princess’s heart. In addition, Saint George, the dragon slayer, becomes a balaur slayer in Romanian folklore.

Romanian Saint George, the balaur slayer
Saint George the Balaur Slayer via DivinArt

In any tale balaur is the main antagonist. He can produce natural disasters and influence weather. Even if good always wins, he is still an emblematic villain. For example, he’s always causing trouble. In particular, kidnapping the princess and threatening the hero’s kingdom.

Balaur Bondoc – Bird or dinosaur?

Balaur Bondoc cladogram
Balaur Bondoc cladogram via Scientific American

In 1997 Dan Grigorescu found some small unidentified bones. They were elements of the front limbs. However, they weren’t enough to find their origins. 12 years later, in September 2009, Mátyás Vremir found the first partial skeleton of Balaur Bondoc. As a matter of fact, it happened along the Sebeș river, in modern-day Romania. After that, the remains were scientifically described in August 2010.

The bones were found relatively close to Hațeg. It was initially assumed that Grigorescu found the remains of a dwarf dinosaur. However, scientists are not so sure anymore. Meanwhile, they named him. In Romanian, Balaur Bondoc means “stocky dragon”. They nailed it, right?

Dromaeosaurid Balaur Bondoc
B. Bondoc as dromaeosaurid by E. Willoughby

Unlike the bogeyman legend and other Romanian superstitions, today’s protagonist is more than a fictional character.  Furthermore, there are still unanswered questions. Initially, it was generally agreed that Balaur Bondoc is a dromaeosaurid, similar to a Velociraptor, thanks to his reduced dimensions. However, after studying his characteristics, several scientists came with new explanations. What if he was a flightless bird and not a dinosaur? When interpreted as a dromaeosaurid, his anatomy didn’t match. It would make him a very strange looking dinosaur. On the other hand, when he is supposedly a member of the Avialae, he blends in. Happily, this doesn’t make Balaur Bondoc less interesting.  It just changed his status – from a tiny dinosaur to an archaic flightless bird.

Avialae Balaur Bondoc
B. Bondoc as Avialae by E. Willoughby

What else?

So the Romanian dragon is not a linear subject. He’s a tale villain and a name-giver for an archaic creature found on Romanian land. What else? Oh well, according to the stories, the villain has also exceptional powers. And not all of them are evil. For example, in some tales is stated that a balaur’s saliva can produce gemstones. And whoever manages to kill him, will be forgiven a sin.

Romanian stamp
Romanian stamp – B. Bondoc via Google

Even though he’s an important character in Romanian folklore, he’s not even close to fame as Transylvania Dracula. And no Romanian wolf legends mention it. Even more, what is Transylvania famous for? Mostly vampires and spooky tales. It’s not dragons, for sure. So what? There are many sides and tales in a country’s culture. Why should you stop at the most popular ones? If you want to understand it, dig deeper. Feed your curiosity. Learn more about the subject. In the meantime, let us know your opinion – Is Balaur Bondoc a dinosaur or a flightless bird?

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