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The Pagan Heritage of St George

By J.S. Mackley

Abstract: This paper considers the argument that St George is a vague saint who should not have achieved such an importance status and his survival must be because his name has been attached to an older tradition. Thus the paper follows the roots of traditions associated with St George though the writings of religion and mythology, before tracing them down through English folklore to some surprising literary descendants.

[Snip] The story of the Christian knight saving the maiden and slaying the dragon may have been brought to England by crusaders who spliced the story of Minos, who demanded tribute of seven youths and seven maidens to feed to the Minotaur in the labyrinth (Ovid 176), with the. . .story of Perseus saving Andromeda from the sea creature (Ovid 93–96). Perseus and the historical St George are both linked to Lydda in Palestine. However, as Marcus argues, ‘analogy is no proof of evolution’, and it is a long time before a link is made between the Christian Martyr and the knight who vanquished the dragon. . . . The motif of overcoming the monster goes further back to, for example, the Mesopotamian hero Marduk who defeated the dragon Tiamat. However, while the symbolic precedents might be earlier, the story of George and the Dragon is a product of the Middle Ages (Good 41).

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