SAINT GEORGE AND THE DRAGON

Once upon a time, the people of Sylene, a town in Libya, lived in fear of a huge dragon. It hid in the desert near the town walls and sneaked up to the gates to catch passersby unaware. It poisoned them with its breath before eating them up. Soon nobody dared to enter or leave the town, the town's trade vanished and famine threatened. So the towns - folk decided to appease the monster with tribute. First, they offered a dozen white ewes. Satisfied and full, the dragon disappeared for three months ... but then came back.

They offered more sheep; the dragon took them, and then more. Each time it became dragon ordered the townsfolk to send it their young people. Its appetite for fresh meat grew by the day, until nothing could satisfy the beast. The people sent the fairest young girls of the town to be eaten, sadly making this sacrifice to stop the dragon from attacking. At last the dragon demanded the fairest maiden of all: the king's daughter, the princess Sabra.

One gray morning, the princess went to meet her fate. Growling with delight, the dragon led her off to its desert lair.

It happened that on that day a young knight called George was riding by. When he heard the sad news, George galloped off to the cave where the dragon took its innocent prey. At first he followed the dragon's tracks, but as he drew nearer, he could hear the princess's cries and the dragon's growls. He reached them just as the dragon opened its mouth to swallow Sabra.

The knight brandished his lance; on its point fluttered a banner, white with a red cross. "A coat of arms - he must be serving a great lord," thought, Princess Sabra, who had never seen a knight bearing a cross before.

With a loud war cry, George attacked. The dragon drew back in surprise - who dared disturb it when such a feast was in sight? The dragon turned instantly to face its brave and unexpected enemy. It stared a George, hoping to hold him petrified, but George twisted and turned to avoid its hypnotic eye.

George charged and struck the dragon. He wounded it, but his lance stuck in the thick skin and broke. Dismounting, he fought bravely on foot, sword in hand. Again he wounded the dragon, but it hardly seemed to notice, and fought on with its vicious claws. The battle seemed lost; but George called on his lord for help. For the first time, Sabra heard the name of Jesus.

What happened next was a miracle: the dragon walked back a few steps, bowed its head and lay on the ground in submission! Sabra did not believe her eyes. She was rooted to the spot by fear. George ordered her to take off her silken sash and tie it around the monster's neck. Trembling, she obeyed. To her great surprise, the dragon, now tame, did not resist. George and Sabra brought the dragon back to the town like a gigantic pet on a leash.

The people of Sylene rejoiced and the king declared a feast in George's honor. When the king asked what reward he would like, George said that the city's safety was enough, but he hoped that the people would now become Christians. Next day they were all baptized, and George and the princess were married. He became the protector of the now - prosperous town. But one fine day, he left as he had arrived, alone on his horse, off to far countries in search of adventure.

From: Myths And Legends Of Dragons
By: Gilles Ragache
Illustration: Francis Phillipps