St. George and the Dragon

So, to start, something about this story that I didn’t know (which maybe I should have …) is that this part of the story of St. George’s life was actually brought back, as if by Crusaders from the East, and they Europeanized it (it’s a word). Basically they added the court stuff and the Romance tradition stuff, because that’s what Europe was all about at the time. The legend caught on in the Late Medieval Ages, and eventually became included in the Christian tradition of St. George. And not a terrible thing for a guy to have attached to his name, the title of dragon slayer. I wouldn’t be complaining, anyway.

So as far as the myth itself goes, we’ve got a couple different places it’s sent. First off, we have it set in Libya, in a place called Silene. This information is passed to us from the Golden Legend, which is a collection of hagiographies (saint’s lives, of the lives of other ecclesiastical figures) compiled by one Jacobus da Varagine. Alternatively, we have a Georgian narrative from the tenth-century that places the myth in a place called Lasia, whose emperor (who happens to be idolatrous) is named Selinus.

Either way, we’ve got Saint George in the East somewhere. An important part of the story is that he’s in a town with a lake, and this lake happens to have a dragon living in it, who is obviously poisoning the water supply. Typical dragon behaviour. In order to placate the dragon, the people of the village fed the dragon two sheep everyday. Eventually, however, they ran out of sheep. That’s when things got really shady, and they started feeding the dragon their children. They chose the children by lots, which, I supposed, if you’ve already accepted that you’re going to feed children to a dragon, is the fairest way to go about choosing.

One day, however, the king’s daughter was chosen. The king was torn apart by grief, and offered all his gold and silver for his daughter to be spared. The people refused, and his daughter was sent to the dragon to be eaten. Dressed as a bride, no less, because symbolism. Now who should happen to be passing by the lake at this moment but St. George himself. Needless to say, he refuses to leave when the princess insists that he does. What kind of a hero would he be if he left?

So, the dragon rises out of the water, and St. George makes the sign of the cross and charges at it, wounding it with his lance. He then throws the princess’s girdle around the dragon’s neck (because symbolism) and it follows her around like a puppy. The two brought the dragon back to village, and the people were pretty reasonably terrified. Then crafty St. George was like, hey, I can kill this thing for you, but you have to promise to convert to Christianity, and the people were like … yeah, okay. The king converted and built a church on the place the dragon was slain, and the altar in the church produced a spring whose water could cure all disease. Not a bad deal, I’d say.