Dragons! (Part 1)

Sometimes when I need to cheer myself up or simply to focus on something outside my usual worries, I go on a DRAGON HUNT. No, I don’t have a secret stash of broadswords hidden in the back of my closet — I simply treat myself to a few hours at the Metropolitan Museum of art.

Dragons, and dragon slayers, are all over Medieval and Renaissance art. There’s a particularly charming painting of St. George attributed to Carlo Crivelli. The saintly slayer has golden curls, lions on his armor and a red & white striped staff like a slender (and dangerous) barber’s pole. Of course, I focus on the angry kitten of a dragon at his feet. He’s all claws and teeth, but he’s already been subdued and, frankly, my friendly housecat can work up a more fearful demeanor.

The legend of St. George was likely a pagan story that was adopted, and adapted, by the Church as a clever promotional tool. There are many variations on this theme.  At heart it’s about a Kingdom in a terrible territorial dispute with a dragon. In some classic versions, the dragon is a plague-bearing monster in others he simply holds the Kingdom hostage by not allowing anyone to leave or enter.

At first they appease the dragon by offering him sheep. Eventually he tires of mutton and they sacrifice children, one-by-one as dragon-food. The children are selected by lottery. George arrives when the King’s daughter has drawn the unlucky number. She’s alone on the shore of the lake waiting to be devoured as he rides by on his horse. Seeing a young damsel in distress he jumps in to rescue her. She demurs, as she is resigned to her fate, but George charges the dragon, subdues him and turns the princess’s girdle into a harness. She leads the now docile monster back to the Kingdom. St. George then promises to slay the dragon if the entire Kingdom converts to Christianity.

The story has so many wonderful classic fairytale/fable elements — a noble hero, an extortionist monster, even a princess and a happy ending. It was no doubt a great marketing tool for the Church.

Now, I think I’d better appease the housecat. He may not be a dragon, but when he wants his ears scratched I must sacrifice some keyboard time


  1. I did some searching a while back for an article I wrote for St. George’s day. Dragons and St. George are a huge part of the pubs in England. The real St. George is believed to have been part of Rome. Where he fought against the Roman Empire (the dragon of the story) and embraced Christianity. There is of course more to the story than that but the basics of the story are in there. It is always interesting to see where stories take on mythic proportions when compared to their possible reality.

    • Candy

      I’d love to see how this particular story grew and changed from its origins. Next time I’m in England — whenever that is — I’m going to look for St. George pubs. If you’re up for it, is is possible for me to read that article about St. George’s day? I’m curious. Although, like a cat, my curiosity is both my charm and my achilles heel.

  2. The current media darlings of the dragon world hail from Game of Thrones. I can only imagine the expense of the CGI effects that go into any scene they appear in. My favorite dragon wasn’t much of a dragon, but as a kid, I had somewhat of an obsession with Puff the Magic Dragon. The combo of cartoon and live action really captured my imagination.

    • Candy

      And that iconic song!
      Not long before Mary Travers died, I went to see the New York Choral Society’s Annual Holiday Concert (my friend Grace has been singing with the society for years) and Peter, Paul & Mary were guest artists on the program. I felt like a little kid in day camp.

      Puff was a dragon with a singularly welcoming message. I can see why he made his way into your imagination.

      I love the Thrones dragons! Those effects are truly spot on. You’re right, they must cost a fortune — but for once I think the expense was worthwhile.

  3. I’ve been a dragon lover forever as well. 🙂 What I find really fascinating is that dragons are a huge part of Chinese culture as well. We have quite a large Chinese population here in Melbourne and Chinese New Year beats our New Year hands down! Watching those incredibly agile young men doing the Dragon Dance is fabulous. Squint a little and you could almost believe the creature is real. 🙂

    • Candy

      The Lunar New Year Celebrations here are amazing too! The dragon dance is performed in various communities in downtown Manhattan, Queens New York and more… the flow created by all the dancers working together is wonderful. Part 2 of my dragon hunt is in the Asian and Islamic galleries at the Met Museum. Dragons are cross cultural creatures!

  4. Alas I haven’t seen the ‘Thrones’ dragons yet, I shall have to persevere with the story until I get there. My imagination was always allowed to run riot in the Anna McCaffery books Dragons of Pern etc where she kindly brought them to life for me. Of late I’ve had the fun of Pratchett and Commander Vimes with his new wife running a home for dragons albeit the miniature variety that seem to explode with some regularity. Dragons have been part of my reading ( or listening) as long as I can remember.
    However, like you, I have had to remember that the cat applies his own rules as to when and where my attention can wander and on more than one occasion his claws brought me home again.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    • Candy

      Read about dragons. Follow the dictates of the house cat.

      There are so many dragons in fiction. When writing my own dragon tale, I felt compelled to go in a “road not taken” direction in order not to fall into the typical dragon cliches.

      I highly recommend the Thrones dragons for their entertainment value. This is one time that CGI integrates into a story in a seamless manner. It’s right up there with the best dragons on film.

  5. I spent four years in the country of Georgia, and St. George is HUGE. It seems that half the male population is named after him (when in doubt, his name is Giorgi). I’m exaggerating, but not by much. Anyway, lots of St. George iconography there, and the current flag is the St. George flag.

    • Candy

      It is absolutely associated with Georgia.

      I’m intrigued that you spent 4 years there! A friend just told me about their language. I knew it was unusual and unrelated to most other languages but it seems it’s even more singular than Finnish which has a bit in common with Hungarian (if I’m not mistaken).

      10 points for really exotic travel!