Woodcut frontispiece of Alexander Barclay, Lyfe of Seynt George (Westminster, 1515)
Saint George defeating the dragon and saving the princess.
According to the Golden Legend, the narrative episode of Saint George and the Dragon took place in a place he called "Silene", in Libya; the Golden Legend is the first to place this legend in Libya as a sufficiently exotic locale, where a dragon might be found. In the tenth-century Georgian narrative, the place is the fictional city of Lasia, and the idolatrous emperor who rules the city is called Selinus.
The town had a pond, as large as a lake, where a plague-bearing dragon dwelled that envenomed all the countryside. To appease the dragon, the people of Silene used to feed it two sheep every day, and when the sheep failed, they fed it their children, chosen by lottery. It happened that the lot fell on the king's daughter, who is called Sabra in some versions of the story. The king, distraught with grief, told the people they could have all his gold and silver and half of his kingdom if his daughter were spared; the people refused. The daughter was sent out to the lake, dressed as a bride, to be fed to the dragon.
Saint George by chance rode past the lake. The princess, trembling, sought to send him away, but George vowed to remain. The dragon reared out of the lake while they were conversing. Saint George fortified himself with the Sign of the Cross, charged it on horseback with his lance, and gave it a grievous wound. He then called to the princess to throw him her girdle, and he put it around the dragon's neck. When she did so, the dragon followed the girl like a meek beast on a leash.
The princess and Saint George led the dragon back to the city of Silene, where it terrified the people at its approach. But Saint George called out to them, saying that if they consented to become Christians and be baptised, he would slay the dragon before them. The king and the people of Silene converted to Christianity, George slew the dragon, and the body was carted out of the city on four ox-carts. "Fifteen thousand men baptized, without women and children." On the site where the dragon died, the king built a church to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint George, and from its altar a spring arose whose waters cured all disease.
In a later version of the legend, St. George travelled for many months by land and sea until he came to Libya. Here he met a poor hermit who told him that everyone in that land was in great distress, for a dragon had long ravaged the country.
'Every day,' said the old man, 'he demands the sacrifice of a beautiful maiden and now all the young girls have been killed. The king's daughter alone remains, and unless we can find a knight who can slay the dragon she will be sacrificed tomorrow. The king of Egypt will give his daughter in marriage to the champion who overcomes this terrible monster.'
When St. George heard this story, he was determined to try and save the princess, so he rested that night in the hermit's hut, and at daybreak set out to the valley where the dragon lived. When he drew near he saw a little procession of women, headed by a beautiful girl dressed in pure Arabian silk. The princess Sabra was being led by her attendants to the place of death. The knight spurred his horse and overtook the ladies. He comforted them with brave words and persuaded the princess to return to the palace. Then he entered the valley.
As soon as the dragon saw him it rushed from its cave, roaring with a sound louder than thunder. Its head was immense and its tail fifty feet long. But St. George was not afraid. He struck the monster with his spear, hoping he would wound it.
The dragon's scales were so hard that the spear broke into a thousand pieces. and St. George fell from his horse. Fortunately he rolled under an enchanted orange tree against which poison could not prevail, so that the venomous dragon was unable to hurt him. Within a few minutes he had recovered his strength and was able to fight again.
He smote the beast with his sword, but the dragon poured poison on him and his armour split in two. Once more he refreshed himself from the orange tree and then, with his sword in his hand, he rushed at the dragon and pierced it under the wing where there were no scales, so that it fell dead at his feet.
In 1935 Stanley Holloway recorded a humorous retelling of the tale as St. George and the Dragon written by Weston and Lee.
The Dragon Knight, a series of books by Gordon R. Dickson, adopted this story as a past event into its canon, significant in that dragons had since referred to humans as 'georges.' The story of St. George and the Dragon is referred to on occasion, but never told. The first book in the series, The Dragon and the George, is a retelling of a previous short story by the same author, "St. Dragon and the George".
The 1968 children's book The Iron Man, by Ted Hughes, is a contemporary re-telling of the myth in which nature (the dragon, named the 'space-bat-angel-dragon' in the book) and man eventually work together symbiotically, creating harmony on Earth after the eponymous Iron Man defeats the beast in a contest of endurance.
A 1975 episode of "Space: 1999" titled "Dragon's Domain" made reference to the legend of St. George and the Dragon. A crewman from the space station heroically kills a dragon-like creature after it has consumed other astronauts. The main character played by Barbara Bain eventually concludes that the crewman's story will create new mythology similar to the legend of St. George.
The poem "Fairy Tale" by Yury Zhivago–the main character from Boris Pasternak's novel "Doctor Zhivago"–relates a modified account of this legend; Yury's poem differs in that it is nonreligious and makes no mention of the village.
The village of Wormingford in Essex, England also lays claim to the George and the Dragon legend. A dragon, now believed to have been a crocodile that escaped from Richard I, was slain in the River Stour. There are differing accounts, including different dragon slayers, however one popular account tells how Sir George Marney (of Layer de la Haye) killed the dragon with his lance. The church in Wormingford (which is dedicated to St Andrew) has a stained glass window depicting this scene.
One version of the tale tells St. George as losing the battle with the dragon early on in the encounter. St. George retreats, and wanders down to the river. He prays over his challenges, and removes his armor to melt it down. He takes the melted metal and forges it into a metal box. He places his fears, doubts, and lack of faith inside the box, and goes out to face the dragon again, without armor. St. George instantly slays the dragon. Some scholars interpret the moral of this story is that our fears and doubts are all that prevent us from overcoming seemingly impossible obstacles.
^'To the Glory of St George' in: Ingersoll, Ernest, et al., (2013). The Illustrated Book of Dragons and Dragon Lore. Chiang Mai: Cognoscenti Books. ASIN B00D959PJ0
^Robertson, The Medieval Saints' Lives (pp 51-52) suggested that the dragon motif was transferred to the George legend from that of his father fellow soldier saint, Saint Theodore Tiro. The Roman Catholic writer Alban Butler (Lives of the Saints) was at pains to credit the motif as a late addition: "It should be noted, however, that the story of the dragon, though given so much prominence, was a later accretion, of which we have no sure traces before the twelfth century. This puts out of court the attempts made by many folklorists to present St. George as no more than a christianized survival of pagan mythology."
^No Land is an Urland- The Creation of the World of Dragonslayer by Danny Fingeroth from Dragonslayer- The Official Marvel Comics Adaptation of the Spectacular Paramount/Disney Motion Picture!, Marvel Super Special Vol.1, No. 20, published by Marvel Comics Group, 1981
^McNeill, Graham (2008). Mechanicum: war comes to Mars (mass market paperback|format= requires |url= (help)) (print). Horus Heresy [book series] 9. Cover art & illustration by Neil Roberts; map by Adrian Wood (1st UK ed.). Nottingham, UK: Black Library. pp. 212–215, 360–364. ISBN978-1-84416-664-0.
Loomis, C. Grant, 1949. White Magic, An Introduction to the Folklore of Christian Legend (Cambridge: Medieval Society of America)
Whatley, E. Gordon, editor, with Anne B. Thompson and Robert K. Upchurch, 2004. St. George and the Dragon in the South English Legendary (East Midland Revision, c. 1400) Originally published in Saints' Lives in Middle English Collections (on-line text: Introduction).