Tuesday, 23 April 2013

St George And The Dragon

St George is the patron saint of England and each year his death is celebrated on this day. John Aubrey of Brief Lives, 1626-1697,  English antiquary, natural philosopher and writer, composed the following ditty on the matter:


To save a Maid, St George the Dragon slew
A pretty tale, if all it told be true
Most say, there are no Dragons and tis said
There was no George, pray God there was a Maid.


St George And The Dragon
Paolo Uccello - 1397-1475

“It happened that George once travelled to the city of Silena in the province of Lybia. Near this town there was a pond as large as a lake where a plague-bearing dragon lurked; and many times the dragon had put the populace to flight when they came out armed against him, for he used to come up to the city walls and poison everyone who came within reach of his breath. To appease the fury of this monster the townspeople fed him two sheep every day; otherwise he would invade their city and a great many would perish. But in time they were running out of sheep and could not get any more, so, having held a council, they paid him tribute of one sheep and one man or woman. The name of a youth or maiden was drawn by lot, and no one was exempt from the draft; but soon almost all the young people had been eaten up. Then one day the lot fell upon the only daughter of the king, and she was seized and set aside for the dragon…when, weeping, he had blessed her, she started toward the lake.” (The Golden Legend)

At which point the gallant St George, who happened to be passing at the time, decided to intervene.  According to Uccello, he is a knight in slightly shining armour with  the face of a very young insurance agent,  holding an inordinately long lance (very useful for dealing with plague-breathing monsters). He goes straight to the root of the problem and spears the halitotic dragon in the back of its foul-smelling throat. Gouts of blood drip on to the rocky ground.  As the beast ducks away,  the remarkably unruffled heroine, not a hair out of place and not a stain on her royal garments after her ordeal,  snares it with her girdle. She holds the dragon as you would hold a dog on its lead, her hand telling the cornered and fatally wounded beast to ‘sit’.

I am not sure what happened afterwards; St George being a hero and a saint, he probably had no time for dalliance, never mind matrimony, and returned the haughty maid unsullied to her father’s protection.


If you want to see what the English poet Ursula A. Fanthorpe had to say about the whole thing, painting as well as tale, take a look at Friko’s Poetry and Pictures. Fanthorpe gives each of the three protagonists ample room to voice their innermost thoughts.



18 comments:

  1. "a knight in slightly shining armour with the face of a very young insurance agent" — oh, Friko, you are amazing. I sometimes wonder what your writing would be like if you had been born in an English-speaking country, and, each time, I decide you wouldn't be you without that Germanic drollery.
    I really enjoyed this. Did you know April 23 was also Shakespeare's birthday and the date of his death? He was only 52. It seems to young to me now.
    K

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  2. I must agree wholeheartedly with Kay. She got it just right. I laughed out loud at this telling of the tale, Friko. You are one of a kind, that's for sure! :-)

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  3. Not heard this version before, but Friko, I love your stories - this is one of the best.

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  4. A good and amusing post....the link is just great. Now, who is your patron saint? I'll get my own back if I remember.

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  5. I have heard about St. George and the Dragon...but have in all honestly not know much about the fable, how or why. So this is all news to me. I am sure you have the authentic version.

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  6. From what I remember of Gibbon's account of him he was a somewhat unsavoury character...corrupt and devious.....so probably a worthy patron saint for Boris Johnson to celebrate.

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  7. There was always a dragon to slay, and in Dutch St. George was called Sint Joris, but where did all these dragons come from? Could all these people have been delusional? There must be some basis to these stories and I wonder what lies at the basis of this one. You told it very well.

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  8. I wrote a children's story once about dragons and included Saint George.

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  9. ha. what an interesting picture you know...the face of an insurance agent...that is rather evil you know...smiles....ha. i rather like your interpretation...

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  10. I love your many pretty turns of phrase. You can write!

    The girls in bikinis are walking on the sidewalk at the beach. What one sees in the background is the shops across Kalakaua ave. Waikiki is an urban beach resort. They were not walking the mall in bathing costume.


    Aloha

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  11. This was such fun, Friko, and I'm so glad you linked to that splendid poem.

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  12. Excellent stuff, Friko! You have definitely captured the 'je ne sais quoi' of the fable!

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  13. Love, love, love. The wit, the turn of phrase. I saw lots of "St. George" statues in France but I never knew the story behind it! Now, I'll never think of George than anything more or less than a brave, rookie insurance agent!

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  14. I tried to decide whether the bat-like wing protuding from the dragon's back was a wing or had he been shot several times in the behind by some hunter with large quivers on his arrows.

    Too bad so many others, sheep and people had been eaten before George arrived. Dianne

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  15. The princess looks slightly bored - perhaps she's been rescued before, or perhaps she'd rather a knight with the face of an outlaw biker rather than that of an insurance agent. There she was, hoping for a little excitement, and Sir Pasty-face spoiled it.

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  16. I can't really work out quite how an Anatolian nobleman from the mists of time, who almost certainly had no inkling of the existence of our cold and distant little land came to be our patron saint. As for dragons: well, it's only a couple of hundred years since people started writing mass-produced books about places most had never seen. It's easy to imagine fantastical creatures in strange lands where customs and fauna are so very different to what we meet whilst going about our own daily lives. But then again, if you had never seen or heard of a platypus, you would have thought that an implausible traveller's tale.

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  17. A lot of the saints just come off as choreographed histrionics to me. My dad used to have a Catholic calendar hanging & it appeard to me as if almost every day was a saint's day, but I happen to like George. I don't think he's a saint(atheist that I am), but I do like his story.

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