Some of Epcot’s World Showcase pavilions were laid out to feel like the winding streets of the countries they represent. The Germany pavilion, however, was designed to resemble a town square, or a plaza. In the middle of this plaza, like many plazas around the world, is a fountain. In the middle of the fountain is a sculpture of St. George slaying a dragon. I was thinking about that sculpture the other day, and it occurred to me, I don’t actually know anything about St. George except that famous there is a legend of him fighting a dragon. I didn’t even know how the story went.
Who was St. George?
Why did he fight a dragon?
Did he win?
I decided to do some digging and here’s what I uncovered: We don’t really know that much about St. George the man. He lived in the 4th century. He was a Roman soldier. He was killed for his Christian Faith.
And that’s about it.
Almost everything else we know about St. George comes from the legends, of which there are many. The most famous, of course, is this one with the dragon, and it goes like this:
Once upon a time, George, was riding down the road when he came upon a beautiful young woman who was tied up. Though she looked afraid, she refused George’s help when he went to free her. “But why?” he asked.
“I’m waiting for the dragon to come eat me.”
“Then let me untie you and you won’t be eaten.”
“You don’t understand,” said the women. “This dragon lives in a pond near my town. For years, the townspeople offered it our livestock to keep it from attacking and destroying our town. Once we ran out of livestock we had to resort to … other types of offerings.”
“Like what?” George asked. The women didn’t respond and George’s eyes grew wide as it dawned on him. “Oh.”
“All of the children in town had their names put in a hat and every day a new name is drawn.”
“That’s awful,” said George.
“Today my name was drawn. Though, my Father, the King, pleaded with the town’s people to not make me go through with this, they wouldn’t hear it. They’d lost enough sons and daughters. It’s only fair that the king share their grief.”
George had heard enough. He drew his Iance. “No one else dies,” he said.
The princess screamed and George turned around to find himself face to face with the dragon. The beast raised itself up and spewed clear liquid at the soldier. George dodged to the left, “You breathe venom instead of fire, do you?” George spun his lance over his head and back down to his side. He ran toward the monster, lept up and smashed the broadside of the lance into the dragon’s head. Dazed and wounded, the dragen crashed to the ground.
Quickly, George, took off his belt and wrapped it around the dragon’s neck Apparently, his belt was conveniently (and oddly) imbued with the magical ability to tame the beast. The battle was over as quickly as it had started.
With the beast now tame and the princess now free, the trio walked into the town. The townspeople were, understandably hesitant about welcoming them until George assured them that he would finish the job of slaying the dragon if the entire town was baptised and became Christians (how’s that for an ultimatum?). Once everyone was baptised, George, true to his word, beheaded the dragon. From that day on, no dragon tormented the town again.
And they all lived happily ever after.
There are a couple different version of the legend, but that’s the gist of it. The story surprised me in its complexity (and also its weirdness) but I’m glad to have learned it because now I have a better appreciation for the statue at Epcot.
Fun fact: the statue is inspired by the one in Rothenburg, Germany and (bonus fun fact) the reason the statue is on top of a fountain is in reference to the dragon having lived in a pond in the legend.
What’s your favorite detail in the Germany Pavilion?
(Photo from the personal collection of Lou Mongello.)
To learn more about Chris and read his recent posts for the WDW Radio Blog, visit his author page by clicking the link on his name at the top of this post.