The Dragon of Wantley

Episode 5: The Dragon of Wantley

Tales of Britain and Ireland
Tales of Britain and Ireland

A storytelling and folklore podcast.

Telling some of the famous and not so famous British and Irish myths, legends and folktales, in no particular order.

Coming direct from South Yorkshire it is currently regularish, and will feature all of the above and whatever other miscellaneous snippets take my fancy.

Presented by Graeme. Website at

5: The Dragon of Wantley
byTales of Britain and Ireland.

This episode we’ve a lighter tale in the form of The Dragon of Wantley. There is everything you’d expect from a good dragon slaying story: a Knight, a maiden, and a digestive complaint. Plus Sheffield steel puts in an appearance. Musical credits, sources and more at #myth #mythology #folklore #legends

Moore! Moore! Moore!

The Dragon of Wantley
I am pretty sure this picture was not originally drawn for this story Link to the broadside Ballad

A lighter tale this episode in the form of The Dragon of Wantley. I tell a unique blend of two versions of this ballad, which is set just outside my home town of Sheffield.

There is everything you’d expect from a good dragon slaying story: a knight, a maiden, and a digestive complaint.

Plus Sheffield steel puts in an appearance, for a little bit of civic pride.

“He had long claws, and in his jaws Four and forty teeth of iron”

– unknown authour, The Dragon of Wantley
Story in summary (Warning – contains spoilers!)

The story in brief, without the detail or discussion – not a transcript.

If you’ve already listened and just want a refresh, only want the bare bones of the story, or really don’t care about spoilers then please do click below to read on…

The Dragon of Wantley


Keep scrolling for a hodgepodge of illustrations, photos, links, asides and various other odds and ends somehow connected to the story, the episode the discussion section, or whatever else takes my fancy.

The Dragon Map

While this is a local story to me in Sheffield I didn’t hear about it until I found a picture of the dragon on this exquisitely detailed railway map of Yorkshire by Estra Clark, who you can read a lot about in this fascinating blog here:

Map featuring image of the Wantley Dragon
You’ll notice that above the dragon is Peniston. Just saying.

It really is a beautiful map of Yorkshire featuring other myths and legends, as well as many fabulous illustrations of the towns and cites and their key sites, I absolutely love it. I spied the map first at the Hull Streetlife museum (my life is a non-stop roller coaster), and a copy of it now adorns my wall.

See it in all its high quality glory here.

You’ll notice that above the Dragon is the town of Peniston. Just saying.

Thomas Percy

“The Bishop” – Thomas Percy was a trailblazing figure in the world of ballad collection with his work “Reliques of Ancient English Poetry”

Keep reading

The poem and the arse/shat controversy

Wantley Dragon stage production
Good spikes. Shame about the tiny dragon

Looking for the original source to link to you, gentle reader, I was somewhat horrified to find that pretty much all versions of Percy’s Reliques of ancient English Poetry (volume III) which I can find online have fallen victim to a prudish censorship!

A misguided puritanical effort to protect gentle readers one imagines.

I link you here to Percy Reliques at project Gutenberg here as an example: The Dragon of Wantley

BUT… Should you be minded read it then please do note that where it reads “a…” you should read (loudly and vocally if possible) ARSE and where it timidly venture “s…” you should proclaim SHAT. It’ll make the whole thing a lot more fun to read.

Whore” is fine apparently.

Comic opera and American Novel

While the key source for this tale is the Percy’s Reliques I also combined it with a very few select elements of this eighteenth century burlesque opera. According to Wikipedia this opera “pointed a satirical barb at Robert Walpole and his taxation policies”. And I’m sure that’s just as hilarious today as it was back then.

There is also a sequel to it… which is even less relevant and from which I took nothing apart from outdated gender stereotype based comedy.

I also didn’t use anything from the much later 1892 novel of the same name by Owen Wister (a man whose publishers really wants you to know is the author of “The Virginian”). That story has nothing in common with the ‘real’ Wantley Dragon.

But below is the opening pages to the second edition I mention in the episode as it really tickled me.
I promise it’s worth reading the two pages in full.

The whole Owen Wister novel is here, but I don’t recommend it!

Wharncliffe Crags
Wharncliffe Crags Today
Mick Knapton at English Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

Selected Sources

Musical credits for Episode 5: The Dragon of Wantley

Intro and outro theme from the incredibly talented Alice Nicholls Music

Other music, used under various Creative Commons licenses:

Denis Murphy’s Polka. I’ll Tell Me Ma. John Ryan’s Polka

Main Square
Railroad’s Whiskey Co

Hot October

Damiano Baldoni
Sol Draconis

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