Tales from the Northern Forests

St George’s Day

(23rd April)

The name George means 'farmer' in the original Greek (literally, 'earth worker'). i
I think it is very appropriate that this day is celebrated the day after Earth Day. First we celebrate the Earth than we celebrate the earth worker.

But who is this George, this earth worker?
To some he was the Arian Bishop of Alexandria who died in 361. To others he is a Roman officer martyred around 300 near Lydda during the Diocletian persecution. To some he is the patron saint of England. To others he is the patron saint of Aragon and Portugal. i
To me, George is a saint and a king but above all he is man: a man who lived then and who lives now; and who works the earth as only man can. For which other species has the abilities and skill humans have to work this earth. I would know none.
Therefore anyone who works this earth whether it is a man, a woman or a child is to me a George or Georgina. And if they do it with honesty and love they are all Saints to me.

There is an old legend about St. George. Apparently, besides working the earth he is also quite a hero. Therefore, sit back for a moment and listen to the story of St. George and the Dragon, as you might not have realised yet that you too are a hero.

St. George and the Dragon

As the beginning of a new century dawned, so, too, did the day the king of Silene had been awaiting with dread. For on that morning his beloved daughter was to be sacrificed to the monster that had been terrorising his land for what seemed like an eternity.
The beast, a huge, winged dragon, with a long spiraling tail and olive-green, crocodilian scales had emerged from Silene's vast swamplands many months before and had choked the countryside with evil-smelling clouds of poisonous vapour that blighted everything it enveloped.
In an attempt to end its violation of their fields, local farmers had fed the monster with two sheep each day. This strategy had succeeded until the time came when there were no more sheep, whereupon the reptilian tyrant recommenced its own campaign of devastation by asphyxiation. That was when, with a heavy heart, the wretched king had finally agreed to the daily sacrifice of a child, in the hope of assuaging the dragon's appetite long enough for some miracle to deliver his country from this abomination.

But the days, and the weeks, had fled by, and no miracle had occurred. And at last the morning had arrived when it was the turn of the king's own daughter, the fair princess Alcyone, to be tied to a wooden stake at the edge of the swamp and surrendered to the loathsome creature. No one suspected that the miracle for which the king and everyone else in Silene had prayed so earnestly and for so long was about to take place. The princess had been standing bound upright to the stake for only a few minutes when her face grew ashen with fear, for she heard a thunderous tread approaching ever nearer, surely the herald of her impending doom. but suddenly she realised that the sounds were coming not from the swamp ahead but from the plains directly behind her.

She craned her neck to find out what, or who, was causing them and saw a tall knight, clad in silver-gray armor with a white breastplate upon which was emblazoned a scarlet rose. He had just dismounted from a cream-coated charger and was carrying a long lance and white shield, once again adorned with a scarlet rose, as he strode toward the tethered maiden. His name was George.
He quickly untied the princess and stood in her stead, valiantly prepared for battle with her monstrous foe. He did not have to wait long. Without warning, the dense reed beds fronting a steaming quagmire close by were thrust apart, as a great dragon head, borne upon a powerful neck, forced its way through them. It was followed by a massive body supported on four muscular limbs and with a lithe tail twisting furiously like a corkscrew.
During the course of his travels through many strange lands, George had seen all manner of vile, misbegotten apparitions, but nothing prepared him for the wave of revulsion that swept over him as he beheld the dragon of Silene. Dripping with stinking slime that only emphasized the livid hue of its scales, the hideous creature resembled a huge mound of rotting meat - green with putrefaction, oozing decay, and reeking of death.
Longing to avert his eyes and his nose from such a sickening presence, but intent upon banishing the monster from the face of the earth, George raised his right arm-and was about to plunge his lance into the dragon's throat, when two shapeless lumps flanking the broad base of its neck suddenly burst into life.

To his bewilderment, George found himself surrounded by a flurry of blazing eyes. Everywhere he looked, they glowed and dazzled him, hypnotising him with their terrible allure, until he raised his arm again and hurled the lance with all his might into the midst of these spellbinding, unblinking orbs. A terrible scream rent the air, and the eyes suddenly vanished.
No longer mesmerised by their movement, the knight looked down, and there lay the dragon, still alive but mortally wounded, his great lance through its throat and protruding out of the back of its neck. And over its prone body, like an ornate shroud, lay its immense wings, whose bright markings, resembling an array of brilliant eyes, had so bewitched his vision.

Running to him in delight came the princess Alcyone, and once they had tied the girdle of her robe around the subdued dragon's neck, they rode back to her father's castle, leading the monster alongside George's mighty steed. There, George beheaded their one-time oppressor, and after bidding farewell to the grateful Alcyone and her father, he rode away into the dawn of a new day.

~ The End ~

The origin of the dragon and how it became such a monster is a mystery, except to you maybe. All we know is that it exists and consumes everything and everyone in its path. But we also know that you have the power to fight and kill it. You might not know it, or believe it, but you are that knight in shining armour who will save the day.

It might be a comfort to know that you are not the only one facing a dragon. The white knight Braveheart also has a story to tell about fighting dragons.
Click here on Braveheart and the Monster for his story.
Brigitte Franssen

More Tales from the Northern Forests  >>

  1. Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, Millennium Edition, London, 1999, ISBN 0-304-35873-8 (pbk).
© Brigitte Franssen 2010
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