Arts On The Move has published a fabulous one act play, The Legend of St. George and the Dragon, based on this story.
THE LEGEND OF ST. GEORGE AND THE DRAGON
a story version
by Alison Chaplin
George was a Knight who travelled the world, doing good deeds and putting right wrongs. He was kind, honourable and brave.
In a country called Libya there was a city called Silene. The people of Silene were – mostly – good and lived a simple life. They farmed animals, they grew crops, and they went every day to draw water from a nearby spring. One day, however, a dragon decided to make its nest by the spring and life became very difficult indeed for the people of Silene. Their crops died, the animals grew weak and people began to suffer and starve. Many men of the city tried to chase the dragon away, but they failed. Many men of the city tried to fight the dragon, but they were ripped apart by its sharp claws.
Eventually the people of Silene came up with a plan. They would distract the dragon by taking him a sheep every day, for a meal. While the dragon was busy eating, the people would quickly draw the water they needed from the spring. This plan worked well. The dragon would be given its daily meal of a sheep or a lamb and, whilst it was distracted, buckets would be filled and the good folk of Silene could water their crops and quench their thirst.
But eventually the sheep ran out and, one day, they didn’t have any more sheep to offer the dragon. Life became bad again, only this time they had an angry dragon to contend with too! The city of Silene began to suffer as it had never suffered before. The King, who was not very effective, or wise, or kind, could not think what to do to help his people, other than to offer half of his lands and all of his gold to any Knight who could slay the dragon. As no Knights lived in the city, this didn’t seem likely to happen. But the King couldn’t think of anything else. The problem of the dragon didn’t really affect him as much as it affected his people.
The dragon got hungrier and hungrier, and angrier and angrier until eventually it demanded that the people of Silene sacrifice a child for its food. The people were appalled and horrified. They pleaded with the dragon but it would not change its mind. Eventually the people realised that this was the only way of keeping the dragon happy and stopping it from killing them all. They decided that every child’s name would go into a draw to choose which child would be sacrificed to the dragon. The whole city agreed and every child’s name was put forward – including the name of the King’s own daughter, Princess Sabra.
As George rode into Silene he met an old man, a hermit, who lived alone at the edge of the city. The hermit told George of how the dragon had ravaged the country, eating all of their sheep, maiming and killing their men, preventing them from being able to draw much-needed water, and terrorising all of the people. George was horrified and he vowed to do something to help the poor people of Silene.
George arrived just as the draw for the first child sacrifice was taking place. He watched, in stunned silence with the rest of the crowd, as the name drawn out was that of the Princess Sabra. The King pleaded with his people to put her name back and to draw again. He begged his people to let his only child go free. He beseeched his people to think of another way to appease the dragon. But the people, quite rightly, said that a plan was a plan and that everyone had agreed to the draw taking place. The Princess Sabra would be sacrificed to the dragon the next morning, at first light.
George was determined to save the Princess, as he would have been determined to save any child. He vowed to the King that he would use his trusty sword, Avalon, to slay the dragon and release the people from the clutches of this terrible dragon. George was a true Knight – brave, honourable and kind – and the King offered him anything he desired in return for killing the dragon. But all that George wanted was for the people of Silene to be happy, and for the King to rule them well, with kindness and wisdom. The King agreed that he would.
George spent the night with the hermit and, the next morning, he rose before dawn. He saw the procession of women, with Princess Sabra at the front walking towards her doom. He spurred on his horse and overtook the ladies. Then, comforting them with brave words and reassurances, he persuaded the princess to return to her palace. Then he entered the valley and went to fight the dragon.
As soon as the dragon saw him it rushed from its cave, roaring with a sound louder than thunder. The dragon knew that George was a true Knight, and that true Knight’s mean trouble for dragons. Although its head was immense and its tail fifty feet long, brave George was not afraid. He struck the monster with his spear, hoping that he would wound it. But the dragon’s scales were so hard that the spear broke into a thousand pieces. George fell to the ground and rolled under a nearby orange tree to catch his breath.
When he had recovered his strength he stood to face the dragon again. He struck the beast with his sword, but the dragon tore George’s armour in two with his deadly razor-sharp talons. George, again, threw himself under the orange tree to rest and then, without armour to protect him but with his trusty sword aloft, he charged at the dragon.
The dragon, angry at being attacked again, opened its wings wide in a show of strength and George pierced it under its wing where there were no scales. Because George was a brave Knight, whose sword was strong and whose aim was true, the dragon died instantly. And the people of Silene – and its children – were saved.
George refused the King’s offer of land and gold – and even the hand of Princess Silene in marriage – but he did remind the King of his promise, and the King pledged to be a good, kind and wise ruler of Silene from that day onwards. Which he was.
George continued to travel the world, visiting many towns, cities and countries and changing the lives of people who were poor, frightened, or unkind. At some point he visited England and helped the people there. When George was recognised for his good works and became Saint George, the people of England made him their patron Saint in recognition of his bravery, honour and kindness.
If you’d like to celebrate St. George’s Day (April 23rd in England), or would like to perform this great legend for your own celebration, have a look at the fabulous one act play published by Arts On The Move, The Legend of St. George and the Dragon, which is based on this story.