There are two St. George’s, one is a mythical character in a story of good triumphing over evil. The other may have lived in the Middle East around 275AD and been persecuted for his religious belief. Both are famed for their courage and bravery.
The story of St. George and the Dragon is told in many different ways, and in many different countries. The key element is that he saved a Princess from a monster. It’s a great story and its popularity is evidenced by the number of St. George and the Dragon statues, monuments, carvings, and paintings around the world. See a small selection below.
However, the story is not original. First, there is a Greek myth that bears some resemblance to the story of St. George; the myth of Perseus and Andromeda. In this myth, Perseus, a Greek hero, saves Andromeda, a princess, from being sacrificed to a sea monster.
Secondly, St. Michael the Archangel is often depicted fighting a dragon in Christian tradition. To be clear, St. Michael is not a human saint with a specific birthplace or birthdate. He’s an archangel, a celestial being created by God.
As one of the chief angels in Christian, Jewish, and Islamic traditions, St. Michael holds a significant role as a protector and warrior.
In the New Testament, St. Michael leads the angels in a battle against Satan, who is represented as a great dragon:
“Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”(Revelation 12:7-9, NIV)
But despite competition from St. Michael and Perseus, it’s clear that St. George has won the popularity contest. You can download a free illustrated PDF of the St. George & Dragon tale based on ‘The Seven Champions’ by Richard Johnson.
This version of the story was written in 1596, it includes St. George saving a Princess from a dragon but also has a witch and saints from Spain, France, Italy, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. According to this rendition, St. George was born in Coventry.
Here’s a synopsis of the story:
Chapter 1 – the wicked witch
In the darkest depths of a thick forest lives Kalyb, a wicked enchantress. She delights in carrying off innocent newborn babies and putting them to death.
Using spells and charms, she manages to steal the son of the Earl of Coventry. The boy’s name is George.
But on the boy’s right hand was a blood-red cross and on his left leg a golden garter. These signs disturb Kalyb and she decides not to kill the child. In fact, she grows fond of him until he becomes the apple of her eye.
Chapter 2 – the boy seeks adventure
When he reaches fourteen he begins to thirst for adventure, but the witch wants to keep him in the forest.
One day she leads him to a castle and offers him the chance to be one of seven champions, as well as presenting him with a magnificent horse (named Bayard) and impenetrable armour including a mighty sword called Ascalon. She said all these things could be his, but only if he would stay with her. He refuses.
Chapter 3 – St. George sails to Egypt
St. George manages to trick the witch and seals her in a cave. Freed from the enchanted forest, George and the six other Champions ride for thirty days and nights until they come to a place with seven paths. Each takes a different path.
St. George, on his horse Bayard, journeys until he reaches the sea where he boards a ship bound
for Egypt. He eventually arrives in a land that is deathly silent during the day and with brooding darkness at night.
Chapter 4 – St. George meets the Dragon
It was here that St. George met a poor hermit. The hermit tells him how their land has been ravaged by a cruel dragon who demands the sacrifice of an innocent maiden every day.
He explains the King had promised to give his daughter in marriage, and the crown of Egypt, to any brave knight who would kill the dragon.
Soon St. George was at the dragon’s lair. From shoulder to tail it was forty feet long, its body covered in scales harder than brass with a great golden belly.
Chapter 5 – the battle begins
The dragon charges St. George who thrusts his spear into the dragon’s belly. George is thrown from his horse but manages to stab the dragon again with his sword.
Purple venom spews from its body and splatters St. George. The venom is so powerfully evil that his breastplate and helmet bursts into a thousand pieces.
St. George might have been killed, but he shelters under the branches of an orange tree that has magical powers. He prays to God, and then with a bold and courageous heart he advances and pierces the dragon’s heart with his sword and cuts off his head.
Chapter 6 – St. George marries the Princess
Exhausted and wounded, George mounts his horse and proceeds to the Palace of the King. The King’s name was Ptolemy and when he saw the dragon was dead he ordered the city should be decorated to honour the hero. A procession of noblemen and musicians escort St. George to the Palace.
King Ptolemy, true to his word, agrees that Princess Sabia and St. George should be married. After many adventures, they return to England where they live a peaceful and happy life.
Just to remind you, there is a free illustrated PDF of this St. George and the Dragon story based on ‘The Seven Champions’ written by Richard Johnson in 1596.