St George’s Day, Let’s Talk About Dragons

“God for Harry, England, and St George!”
– Shakespeare, Henry V

It’s St George’s Day, celebrated with bunting and pub crawls (like an awful lot of British feast days). What’s not to like? I love a good borderline mythological figure as much as the next medievalist, but truthfully it’s the dragon that gets me. I’ve had a thing for them ever since childhood.

My first ever published short story was composed at the tender age of about 13 and was titled, “The Guide to Saving Princesses,” an instruction manual for prospective heroes about choosing suitable princesses, negotiating with dragons to make sure the climatic fights look real, and general career tips for knight-errantry. It was terribly clever, she said without a hint of bias.

In university I conducted a bit of research into how St. George’s victim in the middle ages is often portrayed with female genitalia as his legend shifted to include ideas about romanticized chastity and virginity. Since in the middle ages it was the female sex that was considered particularly susceptible to lust rather than the male. Hm…

Tolkien’s Smaug is one of my favorite characters ever, but my favorite dragon-slaying story of all time has to be his historically satirical and incredibly clever, Farmer Giles of Ham. The vintage copy still in my mother’s possession was illustrated with medieval style drawings and she read it to me as a child and animated the dog Garm’s hysterical “Help, help!” cries in a way that still makes me laugh today. I might have to reread it in honor of the day. Anyone else celebrating?

smith_farmer_bal

 

 

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