Saint George and The Dragon
Copyright: Re-telling by Kristie Burns
In the year 280, in a town in Cappadocia, a great soldier named George was born who would grow up to help poor people who were being taken advantage of. Of course he didn’t know this when he was born and his parents didn’t know of this either. He was just born, like any other child is born, and was welcomed into the world and greatly loved by his parents. His mother was a Christian and so she raised him reading the bible and always made sure he followed what she called, “the rules of a good Christian”. She wanted to make sure her son grew up knowing that it was not right to lie, steal or kill. She wanted her son to be kind to others. She was very serious about teaching him these things. So while his father taught him to fight, to work with a sword, to chop wood and other skills, his mother spent many hours with him reading verses and talking to him about how to be what she called a “good person”.
Through his training he decided to become a knight. He was only 17-years-old. Back in the day very few kids went to college when they were 17. Most of them would choose a profession. They would decide to be a baker of bread, perhaps a person who builds houses or a knight, as George decided.
Because George had been taught well by his father and was also a very kind and polite person thanks to his mother he rose quickly in the ranks of the military. He had a master called Diocletian and this master was very happy with him. He made George a master of many other soldiers under him.
But this same man, Emperor Diocletian, was not as kind to other people. He favored George, but he did not favor others. One day this emperor was in a cave. He went there to worship the god Apollo. He was just in the middle of asking Apollo some very important questions about his kingdom when a voice inturrupted him.
It said, “The just who are on earth keep me from telling the truth. By them the Sacred Tripod is made a lie”
This “Sacred Tripod” stuff sounded like very powerful magic to the emperor and he was not happy! How dare someone else in the kingdom have more powerful magic than he did?!
So he asked his assistant, “who are these people who dare to have powerful magic?”
His assistant replied, “they are the Christians”
This made the emperor so angry that he went back to his palace and declared that anyone who was Christian should be beaten, thrown out of their home or fired from their job. He was not aware that his favorite soldier, George, was a Christian. But George was aware of the unfairness that the emperor was guilty of. He was so sad for all the people. Many of these people were his friends and fellow Christians he had known since he was little.
However, even if he had not know them and even if he had not been Christian, it was hard to watch what the emperor was doing. Any kind person with a good hear would have been heartbroken so see innoccent people including small children being beaten and thrown out of their homes.
When George started to talk about this with his family and friends what do you think they said?
Of course they said, “George! Shhhhhh! Be quiet! The emperor’s assistants or people might hear you and then you will lose your job too – and your favor with the emperor. You might even be killed!”
But George did not listen to them. He felt sure that it was more important to fight for what was right, just and kind than to protect himself. His mother had always told him that. And he thought to himself, “what better way to die than to be doing something kind and good?”
He also thought, “I would feel so badly if I died in a battle fighting for this horrible emperor instead.”
So George did the first thing he could do. He started giving away everything he owned to the people who had lost things. He gave his clothing to people who had their clothing taken from them. He gave his money to people who had their jobs taken from them. He paid to have slaves set free and he even gave his house to a family that had lost their home.
He didn’t need the house anymore. He had decided to travel and continue to help people. And he was very happy doing this. This is what his mother had raised him to do. He liked making his mother happy and making his God happy. This gave him purpose and joy in his life.
So one day on his travels he was finding his way through the desert plains in Libya and came to a city called Silene. He was so shocked at what he found there! He had expected to find the same poor people he had found where he came from. Perhaps he could give them some money or food and make their lives easier.
But these people had a much bigger problem! The emperor had sent a dragon to this town. This little town was known for being completely Christian. The emperor knew that he would not be able to get the towns people to turn on each other and do bad things to each other so he sent a dragon instead. He knew the dragon would make everyone in the town miserable. And he was right.
By the time George arrived the dragon had eaten almost all of the flocks and herds of cattle and sheep. Now, seeing that there were few sheep and cows left the dragon had even started to come into the village and chase the children around saying, “you are next! When I eat the last cow I am coming after you!” and then he would breathe his terrible horrible smelly breath on them.
So the townspeople were in the process of gathering up all the children under the age of 15 to choose the first few for the dragon’s meal. They had decided that to protect the town from complete destruction it would be better, simply, to feed the dragon on a regular basis in an orderly and neat manner outside the village walls.
Unfortunately, one of the first children that was chosen was the daughter of the village king, Cleodolina. She was a beautiful girl and so sweet as well. She loved to play with little children, tend her flower garden and sing in the woods to the birds and squirrels she saw there.
Of course such a beautiful and loved girl was a sad choice. Everyone in the village was sad. They were sad about their own situation but also sad about losing the deal Cleodonia. But nobody was more sad than the King. Imagine – if your father heard you were to be eaten by a dragon – how would he feel? Very sad indeed!
But he could not do anything about it. He was the one who had declared the solution to begin with. And he was a very fair man. So he couldn’t say “Everyone has to feed the dragon a child but myself”. That would not be fair at all. Even when he was tempted to declare this his own daughter said, “No, that would not be fair. I will go”.
The King made only one demand of the people. He asked for some more time with his daughter. There were still some sheep and cows left so he asked that she be allowed to stay home with him until the very last day.
So she did. But on the last day she bravely told her father, “I must go now and do my duty to save the people of this town.” In this way she was actually a lot like George. He had also sacrified himself for his people. So little Cleodolina walked slowly to the outside wall of the village and approached the dragon. She was not scared and she was not sad. All she could think was, “if this dragon eats me he will not eat my friends. And I love my friends.”
Fortunately for her this is exactly when George arrived at the village. He saw her walking slowly and seriously outside the village walls and looking to where she was headed he saw a large, beastly and very hungry looking dragon licking his lips.
He shouted to her, “Stop fair maiden! There is a dragon!” thinking that perhaps she did not know. But she replied, “I know. I am going to save my people”.
George, however, seeing how she was without any sword or armor to protect herself decided to help. He replied, “I will help you”
The maiden replied, “No, just go away. We need to feed the dragon. I don’t want him to eat you for lunch, too.”
“Ah but my God would not be happy if I did not fight for what is right. I will fight this dragon and save you and your people.”
So George got out his sword and he fought with the dragon. He poked the large scales on the dragon with the edge of the sword and the dragon returned by poking George with the edges of his snapping teeth and by breathing his smelly hot breath into his face.
Both George and the dragon soon became very miserable. Finally the dragon stopped and said, “what do you want?”
Ending #1: The Dragon is Not Killed (this is a more gentle ending)
George said, “I want you to leave my people alone. The emperor was wrong. These are good people. They do not deserve to be punished.” And the dragon saw that he was right. He was impressed with the goodness and light that surrounded George. So the dragon agreed and he flew back to his own land that was filled with dragons. It was on an island and there were always plenty of fish for the dragons to eat there so he would never go hungry. He even agreed to bring back some fish to the villagers to make up for the cows and sheep he had taken from them. And thus is the blessing of George’s faith and bravery.
Ending #2: The Dragon is Killed (traditional ending)
But George did not reply. He knew that dragons were not to be trusted and this was a trick. So calling upon God he asked for help and bravery and he rushed at the dragon with all of his strength and with his sword above his head.
The dragon was so surprised that George didn’t fall for his trick and was so taken aback by his quickness that he didn’t have time to react. George was able to sink his sword deep into the head of the dragon and he died instantly.
George then returned to the village with the dragon and distributed the meat among all the people of the village. And what a blessing the meat was! Since they had lost all their cattle and sheep they had nothing substantial to eat and many of them were starting to starve. The dragon meat was quite tasty and helped them get by until they could buy more sheep and cows.
Expanded Ending: Optional
However, although the villagers were happy, this was not the end for George. The Emperor was very angry and started posting posters around all the villages demanding that all Christians be treated even more badly – especially George who was helping them!
But George was not fearful – he was angry! That spirit and courage that comes to us from our relationship with eternal powers gave him stregnth. On his way to tell the Emperor what he thought, he tore down as many signs as he could find and ripped them up. He was sure when he reached the Emperor he would be very angry and certainly the Emperor would want to lock him in the dungeon forever or have him killed.
And he was right. The Emperor gave him one last chance to save himself. He said, “think of yourself and your own freedom and life! Don’t continue to help these undeserving people”
But George said, “These people do not deserve to be punished. I will continue to help them!”
So, sure enough, the Emperor had his men take George down to the dungeon and place a large rock on his body. But instead of dying in peace or begging for his life George spent his last moments praying to God and thanking him for the many blessings of his life. He thanked God that he was able to save the village and help all the other people he had helped.
And then the voice of an angel came to George. The voice said, “Fear not, I will take away your pain” and then the angel hugged him with bright light and George felt no pain. The men who witnessed this became Christians the next day.