Monday, 26 July 2010

Dragons from around the world

From China all the way to Britain, as far back as 7000 years ago, the dragon has often appeared in stories, mythologies and cultural references. Yet the dragon plays a benevolent role in the East and an evil one in the West; is it a psychological symbol of our struggles or is there a better explanation for the myth of dragons?

For centuries, the dragon has played a big role in art, myth and religion. "St. George and the Dragon" is one of the many legends about this symbolic creature. While there are several variations of this story, one version goes like this:

The people of Silene (Cyrene, in present day Libya) had lived for a long time in fear of an evil dragon outside their gates. At first they had placated it each day with several sheep but soon it was demanding both a man and a sheep for its meals. Then, not happy with the arrangement, it wanted more delectable flesh and insisted on the sacrifice of young virgins. The king decided that the young girls of the city should draw lots each day to determine who would be the next victim. One day, to his horror, the lot fell to his daughter, the beautiful Princess Sabra. In vain, the king pleaded with his subjects for her life. They were adamant. He must abide by the rule that he himself had made.

Against his wishes, but bound by his own law, the king saw his beloved daughter, dressed as a bride, led off to the spot where the dragon was eagerly waiting. But at that moment a strange knight appeared on horseback. It was George of Lydda, on his way to see the Roman Emperor Diocletian and plead for the lives of Christian slaves. Making the sign of the cross with his sword, he spurred his horse against the dragon. They fought until the beast fell wounded to the ground. George told the princess to fasten her belt around the dragon's neck and lead it into Silene. The people honored George as a hero and he told them that if they would consent to becoming Christians and be baptized, he would slay the dragon. The people agreed and George took his sword and cut the dragon's head off. By coincidence, the town of Silene is near the place that Perseus, a Greek hero, is said to have rescued Andromeda from a terrifying sea dragon.

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