Saturday, November 4, 2017

“St. George and the Dragon” as ring-composition

I’ve been having a discussion of my HEX01 presentation with Per Aage Brandt over at Academia.edu: https://www.academia.edu/s/96c91669c5/abstract-patterns-in-stories-from-the-intellectual-legacy-of-david-g-hays

He mention that the tale of St. George and the dragon might be a ring. Of course I’ve heard of the tale, but never read a version of it. So I looked it up in Wikipedia and, yes, it certainly appears to be a ring, as least as recounted in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_George_and_the_Dragon

Here I’ve taken the Wikipedia re-telling and simply divided it into sections, which I’ve numbered, using Ω for the central episode:
1. The town had a small lake with a plague-bearing dragon living in it and poisoning the countryside.

2. To appease the dragon, the people of Silene fed it two sheep every day. When they ran out of sheep they started feeding it their children, chosen by lottery.

3. One time the lot fell on the king's daughter. The king, in his grief, told the people they could have all his gold and silver and half of his kingdom if his daughter were spared; the people refused.

4. The daughter was sent out to the lake, dressed as a bride, to be fed to the dragon.

5. Saint George by chance rode past the lake. The princess tried to send him away, but he vowed to remain.

Ω. The dragon emerged from the lake while they were conversing. Saint George made the Sign of the Cross and charged it on horseback, seriously wounding it with his lance.

5’. He then called to the princess to throw him her girdle, and he put it around the dragon's neck. When she did so, the dragon followed the girl like a meek beast on a leash.

4’. The princess and Saint George led the dragon back to the city of Silene, where it terrified the populace.

3’. Saint George offered to kill the dragon if they consented to become Christians and be baptised. Fifteen thousand men including the king of Silene converted to Christianity.

2’. George then killed the dragon, and the body was carted out of the city on four ox-carts.

1’. The king built a church to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint George on the site where the dragon died and a spring flowed from its altar with water that cured all disease.
And here I’ve reduced the segments down so we can see the symmetry better:
1. Impurity: Dragon poison’s the town.
2. Appease the dragon, first with sheep, then with children.
3. The king pleads for his daughter.
4. Daughter sent to the lake, dressed as bride.
5. Saint George arrives. Princess tells him to go.
Ω. Saint George wounds the dragon, under Christian protection.
5’. St. George captures the dragon with the Princess’s girdle.
4’. The princess and St. George lead the dragon back to Silene.
3’. King & people convert to Christianity.
2’. George kills the dragon.
1’. Purity: Church and spring with curative waters.
Looks pretty good to me.

The Wikipedia text, of course, is a retelling and, I imagine, a simplified retelling at that. What about the “original” version, or at least the oldest one we’ve got (11th century); is it a ring-composition? What about other versions?

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