Tag Archives: St George

St George’s Day

DRAGONIts St George’s Day so what better excuse for publishing a picture of a puppet dragon made out of newspaper?

Here are some links about St George, the use of his image, sacrifice and identity to make you think on England’s patrons day:

The Golden Legend 

Clapton Orient’s War Game

Interpreting the Great War

Wave your Flag

I Need a Hero!

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.“Where have all the good men gone?” asks Bonnie Tyler in her song, “I Need a Hero”.  Good question Bonnie.  See, the title of her track isn’t just catchy it’s true.  We all need heroes and stories would be poorer without them.  I have written before about fairy tale villains and the modern anti hero’s role in stories but where would they be without a good old fashioned hero to foil them?  The tug of war between good and evil and right and wrong has manifested itself in countless ways through time.  Be it a Knight in shining armour sent to battle a dragon or a humble servant/beggar who’ll save the Kingdom and marry a Princess (the premise of many a pantomime) we need a hero.  What are their qualities and their relationships with their followers and loved ones and what can we learn from their adventures?

The hero.  The warrior, the conqueror, the vanquisher, the heartthrob.  Archetypally the hero is male although not always.  For every Aladdin there is a Scheherazade who demonstrates the qualities of heroism.  The hero is generally young or youthful.  The hero is bold; strong both in body and mind and is respected widely for their strength.    Many heroes represent change and vibrant progressiveness which will shake up a stagnating world.

I have recently been exploring epic poetry and for the purpose of this blog we’ll consider Odysseus, King of Ithaca and the warrior Beowulf.  Both men are legendary figures, first appearing many thousands of years ago with their exploits translated and reinterpreted over time since.  Odysseus the Greek and Beowulf the Scandinavian come from very different traditions but they are both heroes.  Both are bold warriors and leaders of men who have not just defeated mortal armies but monsters too (Odysseus blinding Polyphemus the Cyclops and Beowulf slaying the beast Grendel and his Mother).  They have demonstrated great intelligence and cunning through their various adventures but they are not without falls.  It is Odysseus’ arrogance which leads Poseidon to seek vengeance against his entire crew.  It might be argued that Beowulf dies because he is too proud to ask his younger warriors to fight with him.

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.What of their followers?  Despite gifts and praise, when Beowulf’s followers are faced with a Dragon fear gets the better of them.  At many stages of The Odyssey, Odysseus’ crew verge on mutiny and in finally disobeying his will, they doom themselves.  That I suppose is the point.  The fallibility of their followers is in sharp contrast to the quick wits and mental toughness displayed by the hero.  Our heroes inspire ordinary men to be better than themselves and rise above their weaknesses (in 1001 Nights, the heroine, Scheherazade inspires King Shahryar with her skill as storyteller).

As we remember The Great War I am struck by the relationship between Hero and follower, their relationship with conflict and sacrifice and the parallels with modern conflict and soldiering.  Odysseus is reluctant to go to Troy but his contribution once there is invaluable whilst Beowulf offers his men to aid another Kingdom.  How many brave and loyal men died at Troy, following their leader’s orders, so that King Menelaus could retrieve Helen?  How many brave and loyal men were prepared to lay down their lives because their leader said so, to fight somebody else’s dragon.  Stories and their meanings can be disputed but I think that this is an interesting perspective that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Without meaning to continue the Great War analogy too far, for the hero there is a Home Front.  It is from here that a hero will often find purpose for it is here that they know love.  Odysseus spends time with Circe and Calypso but has a deep and faithful bond with Penelope who steadfastly waits for his return.  After his success, Beowulf is received by Hygelac, King of the Geats and his people with warmth, love and adoration.   It is in the reconciliation of love that we see the hero’s actions have been for a selfless cause.  The hero is rewarded but really everybody’s a winner (Odysseus reclaims his Kingdom and family, Beowulf strengthens the bond with another country and consolidates his position and again, our heroine Scheherazade spares the people of her city any further misery by changing the heart of King Shahryar).  Our hero must understand love and it’s influence on their actions.  A strong moral compass is important to a hero because if they are seen to act out of greed or for individual gain they would be viewed quite differently (Robin Hood is a hero for redistributing his loot not for keeping it!).

It isn’t just love and new found riches that our hero will enjoy.  It isn’t uncommon for them to live long and prosperous lives and sometimes to even achieve further greatness.  Now what do they call that?  Oh yes… “They all lived happily ever after!”

St George and the Dragon: The Golden Legend

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.I was recently asked to recall the stories that I told.  As I compiled my list it occurred to me that my repertoire includes stories about our world from all around the world. A striking example of this is The Legend of St George and the Dragon.

The Legend of St George and the Dragon is well known in England because he is the nation’s patron saint and although it seems, on the surface, a straight forward battle between man and beast (albeit mythical monster) this is a story which is appreciated around the world.

It is said that the story was first brought to England from the Holy Land  by Knights returning from the Crusades.  The story goes that St George comes to the town of Silene in Libya.  Learning that the town is troubled by a terrible Dragon, George seeks the beast out and kills it.  He is hailed as hero by the people.  It’s easy to see how the central idea of bravery, honour and valour conquering a terrible enemy would have resonated with the returning soldiers and fascinated the population at the time.

The idea of George as a Knight fighting with a Dragon, sometimes referred to as “The Golden Legend”, is a romantic view of the Saint’s life.   Saint George was a Roman Soldier, who was born in Turkey 2000 years ago and died for refusing to renounce his Christian faith.  In death St George is respected by Christians and Muslims alike.  As well as England, St George is patron of the World Scouting Movement and other countries including Georgia, Greece, India, Russia and Egypt.  The list of countries and cities who have chosen George as their patron saint is much longer than this but I feel this selection demonstrates his truly global appeal.

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.George and the Dragon is a legend: a traditional story sometimes popularly regarded as historical but not authenticated (www.oxforddictionaries.com).  Both Knight and Dragon can be viewed as metaphors (the saint’s battle with religious persecution).  In some versions of the story George captures the Dragon and only agrees to killing it if the people of the town convert to Christianity.

At the beginning of this blog I said that St George and the Dragon demonstrates how the stories I tell are about our world from all around the world.  Now, I’m not suggesting that everyone who chooses George as their patron did so because of “The Golden Legend” but I would say that you don’t have to be religious to buy into the metaphor.  Everyday all around the world people face hardships and difficulties.  They aren’t knights and don’t have swords or shields but they do share the resolve and courage that George had in facing his Dragon.

Doing the right thing isn’t always easy – it’s a simple yet enduring message.