It is an ancient Celtic legend about one of Edinburgh’s most famous landmarks - which is almost as old as the city itself.
But now the mythical tale of the overweight dragon that terrorised some of the city’s earliest inhabitants for their livestock before falling victim to its own greed is to centre stage in what is billed as the city’s biggest ever sound and light experience.
Images of the fire-breathing creature - which legend has it fell victim to its own greed and was turned into the hill that became Arthur’s Seat after falling asleep - will be beamed onto one of the walls of the 900-year-old fortress.
The depiction of its mythical links to Arthur’s Seat, which is actually a 350 million year-old extinct volcano, is expected to be one of the highlights of Castle of Light, an all-ticket spectacular specially designed for the attraction, which will be staged over 22 nights in November and December.
The castle facade and 10 sites within its walls will be transformed by a series of specially-created installations and animations for the 3750-capacity event, which will see the castle remain open until 10pm.
As well as the dragon, Castle of Light will feature dramatic images of Up Helly Aaa, the annual fire festival celebration of Shetland’s Viking heritage, the Callanish Stones on the Isle of Lewis, the Glenfinnan Monument and Glencoe in the West Highlands, the Cuillin mountain range on the Isle of Skye and the Forth Bridges.
A specially-recorded reading by Scots Makar Jackie Kay of a poem about the famous meeting of war poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon in Edinburgh will be heard outside the war museum at the castle, while a soundtrack for a sequence which will greet visitors to the esplanade has been created by the Gaelic-electronica fusion band Niteworks, from the Isle of Skye, who previously masterminded the music for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay fireworks.
The legend of Edinburgh’s sleeping dragon is thought to significantly pre-date the naming of the hill, which is linked by historians to the legends of King Arthur and Camelot, which are associated with the fifth and six centuries.
The story is even said to have inspired Hogwarts School’s Latin motto in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books - Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus, which translates as “Never Tickle A Sleeping Dragon.”
Andy McGregor, artistic director of the event, said: “We’re still working on the design of the dragon, but it should be about 60 metres long when it is finished. It is based on the old story of a very greedy dragon that would fly above Edinburgh and go marauding around the city, stealing food from the locals, but ending up eating too much.”
The Castle of Light experience will begin as soon as ticket-holders arrive on the esplanade, where the facade will be transformed in a dramatic opening sequence.
Mr McGregor added: “The whole site at the castle is a fantastic site, but in projection terms the facade is a really dramatic vista for people arriving at the event.
“The esplanade will be open to the general public at the time, so hopefully what’s happening outside will be a compelling vision which will act as an advert for what is happening inside the castle. We’re not seeking in any way to replace the experience that a visitor would get at the castle during the day. We’re not trying to give people a history listen and once people cross the drawbridge they will be free to wander around the castle as they wish.”
Audrey Jones, head of new business and film at Historic Environment Scotland, the agency responsible for the castle, said: “Our remit for the event was that we wanted it to be completely unique and bespoke to the castle. We wanted it to be relevant and fun, rather then historical and dull. The team has more than done that - it looks amazing.”