The sun glinted off George’s helmet as he readied his spear. Aiming at the dragon’s heart, he spurred his horse forward. The princess screamed and flames engulfed George as the dragon reared back its head. Armor heating, George flung a prayer heavenward and plunged his spear into the dragon’s breast, rescuing the princess and defeating his mighty foe once and for all.
St. George is arguably the most famous of all medieval saints associated with a dragon. He is the patron saint of England (also of Portugal, Greece, Georgia, and Lithuania!), credited with slaying the mighty dragon, and in Christian terms, he slew the devil, freeing England from the clutches of Satan, turning the country to the true religion and saving it from eternal peril (https://www.ancient-origins.net/history-famous-people/exploring-famous-legend-st-george-and-dragon-005794).
This story is recorded in infamy, but what if it’s not just a story? What if there really was a knight named George and he really did slay a dragon? Is it possible that dragons didn’t all die out millions of years ago as modern science tells us? There are an awful lot of depictions of St. George killing the dragon that match up superbly well with known dinosaurs from the fossil record. How could these medieval artists have matched these animals so completely unless they’d seen them for themselves? It’s only been in the past century or so that dinosaur skeletons have been recreated with any amount of accuracy with the further knowledge anatomy. Let’s take a closer examination.
In the middle ages, it is important to note that when the word “dragon” was mentioned, everyone knew what the storyteller was speaking about—without description. This ideal of a dragon was prevalent enough, that even when crucial to a story or legend, often very little description is spent on the beast itself, as everyone was already familiar with this phenomenon (https://www.medievalists.net/2017/04/seven-things-didnt-know-medieval-dragons/). How do multiple societies become so familiar with this central idea without ever seeing such a creature?
Let’s take a momentary rabbit trail. Did you know that the word “dinosaur” was first invented in 1842? Sir Richard Owen, an English paleontologist who was part of Darwin’s well-known Beagle expedition, discovered giant fossil remains of what he called “terrible lizards.” He called them dinosaurs (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-lancashire-31623397). Any guesses as to what these creatures were previously termed? Ah, yes. Dragons. Do you think the world’s dinosaurs, proven in the earth’s fossil records could be the same creatures that roamed the earth and terrorized villages and were called dragons? Could they have lived alongside humans? We’ll look at this more in a later post.
Did you know that a bone belonging to a Tyrannosaurus Rex was found in Montana—and that there were blood vessels and soft tissues preserved inside it??? If these bones were millions of years old, these tissues wouldn’t be present. It stands to reason that these giant beasts may have actually walked the earth with humans. And given rise to the world-wide phenomenon of the dragon (https://answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2013/08/17/dragons-everywhere/).
By the time of the medieval age, these giant lizard-like beasts seem to have faded largely into symbolism to show good defeating evil. But what about Bishop Bell’s tomb? He died just before 1500, and his tomb clearly depicts dinosaurs (www.creation.com/bishop-bells-brass-behemoths). Or what about the newly discovered temple remains of Ta Prohm deep in the Cambodian jungle (not quite European, but still compelling)? With a coinciding date of 1186 and a clear depiction of a stegosaur, as well as carvings of swans, monkeys, a water buffalo—all clearly known animals. Was the stegosaur a contemporary of this temple and the people who built it (www.icr.org/article/jungle-covered-ruins-may-hold-surprising/)?
Regardless, the European dragon has reached far and wide and still shows itself in modern fantasy and imagination world over.
Let’s have some fun in the comments (go to the top of the article, click the grey “Comments” button)! What’s your dragon name?
St. George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges
The Shadow Queen by C. J. Redwine
The Dragonslayer’s Sword by Resa Nelson
Creative Writing Prompts
Smoke curled from the beast’s nostrils, floating up and turning the air acrid. I readied my sword.
Sir Reginald III, Earl of Facts, Fantasy, & Fascinations was the most genteel dragon I’d ever had the pleasure of meeting. He sat opposite me; his steaming cup of tea held delicately in his claws. “What do you think of my proposition?” he asked me. I gulped.
Why do you think European dragons have achieved such wide-spread popularity?