Saint George Legends
from Northern Europe

translated and edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2002-2023


Contents

  1. St. Yegóry the Brave (Russia).

  2. Lindorm Legend (Mecklenburg).

  3. The King's Trophy (Thuringia).

  4. The Horseshoe on the Wall of the Saint Nicholas Church in Leipzig (Saxony).

  5. Saint George's Banner (Saxony).

  6. Saint George (Saxony).

  7. The Knight Saint George at Nauhain (Saxony).

  8. The Dragon at Nebra and the Knight Saint George (Saxony-Anhalt).

  9. The Lindorm in Marktbreit (Lower Franconia).

  10. The Lindorm at Frankenstein Castle (Baden-Württenberg).

  11. The Dragon (Baden).

  12. George's Meadow (Swabia).

  13. The Lindorm (Lusatia).

  14. Saint George and the Uffington White Horse (England).

  15. The Dragon's Well, Brinsop (England).

  16. Saint George in Cornwall (England).

  17. Links to related sites.


Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

St. Yegóry the Brave

Russia

St . Yegóry the Brave -- our St . George -- possesses many of the attributes of Perún [the Thunder-God]. He is, however, a purely mythical character, and the extremely ancient religious poems relating to him present the most amusing mixture of Christianity and Greek mythology, as in the following example:

In the year 8008 (the old Russian reckoning, like the Jewish, began with the creation of the world), the kingdoms of Sodom, Komor (Gomorrah), and Arabia met their doom. Sodom dropped through the earth, Komor was destroyed by fire, and Arabia was afflicted by a sea-monster which demanded a human victim every day.

This victim was selected by lot; and one day the lot fell upon the king; but at the suggestion of the queen, who hated her daughter, Elizabeth the Fair, the girl was sent in his place, under the pretext that she was going to meet her bridegroom.

Yegóry the Brave comes to her assistance, as Perseus did to the assistance of Andromeda, but lies down for a nap while awaiting the arrival of the dragon. The beast approaches; Elizabeth dares not awaken Yegóry, but a "burning tear" from her right eye arouses him.

He attacks the dragon with his spear, and his "heroic steed" (which is sometimes a white mule) tramples on it, after the fashion with which we are familiar in art. Then he binds Elizabeth's sash, which is "five and forty ells in length," about the dragon's jaws, and bids the maiden have three churches built in honor of her deliverance: one to St. Nicholas and the Holy Trinity, one to the All-Holy Birthgiver of God, and one to Yegóry the Brave.

Elizabeth the Fair then returns to town, leading the tamed dragon by her sash, to the terror of the inhabitants and to the disgust of her mother. The three churches are duly built, and Christianity is promptly adopted as the state religion of Arabia.

In another ballad, Yegóry is imprisoned for thirty years in a pit under the ground, because he will not accept the "Latin-Mussulman faith."




Lindorm Legend

Mecklenburg

In the vicinity of the main road between Neubrandenburg and Stavenhagen, adjacent to the field belonging to Gevezin and Blankenhof, there are three hills: Blocksberg, Jabsberg, and Lindberg.

A long time ago lindorms lived there. When they lay outstretched, they resembled a felled fir tree, and they were feared far and wide.

Once a wagon was driving along the road, and not far from the watermill it came to a young lindorm lying across the road asleep in the sun. Thinking that it was a fir log, the driver drove over it. Only after the run-over beast cried out did the driver realize what it was, and he drove away.

Hearing the cry, the old lindorm rushed forward and found its young one dead. Enraged, it attacked a wagon loaded with straw headed in the direction of Neubrandenburg. The driver saw it and fled in a gallop. Fortunately, on the far side of the Neuendorf Enclosure he lost his connecting pin, leaving the rear part of the wagon behind with its load of straw, while the driver hurried away all the faster on the front part of the wagon.

The lindorm tore about in the straw, but finding no one there, it continued in pursuit of the driver. In order to gain speed, it bit into its tail, then rolled along after the wagon like a hoop. The driver just barely made it to the Brandenburg gate, which was quickly closed behind him, with the lindorm on the outside.

The lindorm remained lying just outside the gate, there where Saint George's Church now stands, and no one from Brandenburg dared to go through the gate.

Now a foreign prince by the name of George was in the city, and he made the decision to challenge the lindorm. After a difficult battle he succeeded in cutting off the beast's tail, which was the source of its strength, and then he quickly killed it.

In commemoration of this event Saint George's Church was built, and the story is depicted on its altar.




The King's Trophy

Germany

On the outer wall of the Saint George Church at Mühlhausen one can still see numerous stone monuments that attest to the foundation of the city. Among these is one depicting an amazing legend.

Ages ago there was a king in Thüringen. One day while hunting, his hounds jumped around a tree in a thicket and could not be held back. He had one of his servants climb up the tree trunk, which was hollow, to see what was inside causing his pack to bark. A small wild man was inside, and the king's men fetched him out. The king was delighted with this trophy and had him sit next to himself in the coach. He forthwith called an end to the hunt.

He named the captured wild man Noah and confined him in a crypt. The king himself waited on him and cared for him.

One time when the king had to be away, his son George was playing ball in the castle, and the ball fell down through a hole in the crypt.

The little prince called down: "Wild man Noah, give me back my ball!"

The wild man answered: "I cannot give you your ball. If I were to throw it out, it would fly so far that you would never find it. Instead, go into your father's chamber, fetch the key, and open the door for me. Then I will give you your ball."

The prince fetched the key from his father's chamber, for without the key no one could open the crypt.

He opened the crypt, and the wild man came out, gave him his ball, and said: "In my need you have helped me, and if you are ever in need just go into the woods and call for me, and I will help you as well."

Soon afterward the king returned home, and his first step was to look after his trophy. How alarmed he was to discover that the crypt was empty, and he immediately suspected that it was his son who had freed the wild man.

He summoned him and asked: "George, did you take the key, open the crypt, and let the wild man Noah out?"

The little prince honestly confessed to what he had done.

The king at once disowned his prince, for his trophy was dearer to him than anything else.

The prince sadly left his father's house and wandered aimlessly about in poverty until finally he came upon a shepherd. The shepherd suspected at once that the lad was not from a lower class and took him in. He taught him what he needed to know to help with the herd.

George the sheepherder came to know a beautiful girl, and as he was now coming of age, he asked her to marry him.

At that time a terrible beast called a lindorm had taken over the region. It demanded a human sacrifice every year. According to ancient belief, this beast was a magical curse. If it did not receive its sacrifice immediately it roared like a thunderstorm, threatening to destroy everything in the land.

The time came when the people were called together to draw lots determining who would be the lindorm's next sacrifice. Sheepherder George's bride-to-be drew the losing lot.

He remembered what the wild man had promised him. He stepped forward and asked that the sacrifice be delayed, for he intended to kill the lindorm. He quickly ran into the woods and called on the wild man Noah for help and support.

The wild man appeared before him and gave him a white horse and a sword, then told him to put on a white robe, mount the white horse, point his sword foreward, and charge against the monster. The monster would hungrily open wide its jaws, and George could penetrate its throat with his sword.

And so it happened. Thus George's bride, as well as the entire land, were freed from the monster. The people cheered with joy, happiness ruled throughout the land, and George was dubbed a knight.

Everyone now wanted to know more about George's origins. He confessed that he was the king's son and related how he had become a sheepherder. He was told that his father had died, so he could return home safely and assume rule over the kingdom.

Thus a king's son became a sheepherder, the sheepherder became a knight, and the knight became a king.

Now that George had taken over the kingdom, he traveled throughout the land familiarizing himself with his realm and seeking adventure. He came to a small settlement surrounding a mill. The community had no church. The young king, wanting to give thanks to God, had a church built in this settlement. The church still carries his name, George, as its founder.

The builder of the church carved the entire history into a stone monument. And that is how the city of Mühlhausen had its beginning.




The Horseshoe on Wall of the Saint Nicholas Church in Leipzig

Saxony

At the time when present-day Leipzig was represented by only a dark grove of shady linden trees, in a high castle in the vicinity there lived an aged king with his daughter. A prosperous village lay at the foot of the mountain. He owned all the surrounding land, as far as the eye could see.

He should have been happy, but he had no peace, for a terrible lindorm housed near the village. In order to pacify it they had to give it two sheep every day. After emptying their stalls they were forced to sacrifice a human to it every day. Everyone had to submit to the lottery: rich and poor, old and young, male and female. There were no exceptions.

One day the lot fell to the beautiful princess. They were about to lead her out to the dragon, when a handsome youth appeared, mounted high on his horse, wearing silver armour, and carrying richly decorated weaponry. It was the knight Saint George.

The dragon confronted him angrily in order to claim its prey, but Saint George drove his lance into its side. This happened near the present-day Saint Thomas Church courtyard. Above the door of a neighboring house one can still see a painted depiction of the knight battling the dragon.

The lance was sharp, but it did not kill the monster outright. Bellowing with pain and lashing about with its dreadful tail, it crawled toward the village. The knight pursued, looking for an opportunity to strike a fatal blow. Suddenly his horse shied back, for it had lost a shoe and its hoof was bleeding. This happened at the present-day Ritterstraße [Knight-Street], which was named after Saint George.

The knight spurred his horse onward and overtook the dragon in the vicinity of the present-day Georgenhaus [George House], which was also named after him. He leaped from his horse and with his sword slit open the dragon's body.

Everyone shouted for joy, and the happy king offered to grant him any wish, but the knight requested only that a farrier come and fit his horse with a new shoe. When this had happened, he rode away.

To memorialize this event the king had the lost horseshoe nailed to a linden tree. When the tree was felled at the founding of the city, the horseshoe was moved to the Saint Nicholas Church, where is still on display.




Saint George's Banner

Saxony

When Count Ludwig of Thüringen went with Emperor Friedrich to Palestine, God sent to him from heaven the banner of the knight Saint George, as a reward for his charity and good works. The banner was brought to the Wartburg, and afterwards to the castle Tharand in Meissen. In 1190 fire broke out in the castle, and many people saw the banner fly out of the fire and through a window. However, no one saw what became of the banner. To commemorate this miracle the Saint George Church was later built in Eisenach.




Saint George

Saxony

Before there were any Counts of Mansfeld, a knight by the name of George lived in Mansfeld Castle. A lindorm lived on a hill outside the city (in the direction of Eisleben), and even today this hill is called Lindberg. To save their own lives, the inhabitants had to give a maiden to the lindorm every day as a tribute. Soon there were no more virgins to be found in the little city, and the lindorm demanded the knight's daughter. The following morning the knight himself challenged the dragon and slew him, freeing the city. Henceforth he was called Saint George, instead of George.

As a memorial the image of him killing the dragon was carved in stone above the Mansfeld church entrance, and can be seen even today.




The Knight Saint George at Nauhain

Saxony

It is said that the knight Saint George was an ancestor of the counts of Mansfeld. Thus, for ages his image has been depicted on all buildings, columns, wells, weapons, shields, windows, and -- above all -- on the Mansfeld coinage. Furthermore, in the city of Mansfeld a church was built in his honor.

After George left home to see the world, he settled for a lengthy sojourn in Cappadocia. At this time a mighty, poisonous dragon was housed in a large lake just outside of the city of Silene in Libya. With its breath it killed many people who had to pass that way. It then devoured them. Whenever the citizens attacked the dragon, it always drove them back in flight. Wanting to make peace, they gave it two sheep every day. When they ran short of sheep, they sacrificed a human, chosen by lottery, whatever their station in life.

When the lot fell to the king's only daughter, and she was being led out, the knight Saint George approached, and after learning of the situation, he told her to be of good courage. Mounted on a good horse and with good armour he attacked the dragon, killing it with his lance. For a long time afterward he remained with the king, and was held in great honor.

Later he traveled to Meissen and took up residence in Staupitz, situated betweetn Leisnig and Döbeln. However, no record of him remains in these places, except for his name and a few ruins.

Furthermore, the large and prosperous farm at Steinau near Hartha is said to have once belonged the the knight Saint George.

It happened that one time the knight Saint George was nearly captured by his enemies. He escaped on his horse and fled to the top of the high cliff named Spitzstein. Unable to procede further, he promised in his heart that if God would help him, he in turn would build a suitable memorial. He lept safely from the cliff and made his way to the village of Wesewitz, then escaped across the Mulde River.

It is said that before jumping from the cliff, he let fly into the air a sheet of paper fly upon which was written that wherever it might be found, he would have a church built to thank God. This did happen, and he had the Nauhain church [Georgs-Kapelle] built.

Later it happened that while journeying home he was caught up in the persecution led by Diocletian. He was place in a cask studded with sharp nails and blades and was thrown over a cliff, but he remained unscathed. This angered the despot, who then gave the command to have him beheaded.

A long time afterward he was cannonized by the pope and entered into the register of saints. In his honor his portrait is always on displacy in the Nauhain church.




The Dragon at Nebra and the Knight Saint George

Saxony-Anhalt

Once when the castle at Nebra was under seige, its inhabitants were suffering greatly, although they had defended themselves most bravely. The enemy had succeed in taking control of the well adjacent to the castle. When thirst plagued them most seriously the princess of the castle climbed down to a spring that gurgled forth from the foot of the castle hill, there where a bridge now crosses the Unstrut River, across from the tavern Zur Sorge. This spring is now beneath the tavern's dance floor.

The princess had barely begun dipping water from the spring when a dragon emerged from a nearby cave and threatened to devour her. However, she was miraculously rescued. The knight Saint George with a large entourage came to her aid from Wendelstein. He killed the dragon and liberated the besieged inhabitants of the castle.

Thus the church at Nebra is dedicated to Saint George, and this event is depicted in a stone carving on the church. For the same reason the seal of the town of Nebra portrays Saint George.




The Lindorm in Marktbreit

Lower Franconia

A statue of the the knight St. George, the town's patron, killing the lindorm, is carved into the corner of the town hall of Marktbreit, a town on the Main River. The lindorm lay in the town moat and demanded a human sacrifice every day.

A brave hero slayed it.




The Lindorm at Frankenstein Castle

Baden-Württemberg

The extensive ruins of Frankenstein Castle lie above the village of Eberstadt, two hours from Darmstadt. There lived there a knight named Hans, although others say his name was George. In the village there flowed a spring from which the peasants drew their water, and water from there was also carried up to the castle.

A fearsome lindorm lived next to the spring, and he demanded the sacrifice of a not-too-small animal -- a sheep, a dog, a calf, or a hog, and as long as he had these to eat, anyone could come to the spring. But if these failed, he devoured the people who came to the spring.

Finally the Knight of Frankenstein decided to free the village and the region of this dangerous monster. He armed himself and fought with the lindorm, who fiercely defended himself, spitting out as much fire as was possible. Finally the knight struck off the lindorm's head, but the dragon's pointed tail wrapped itself around the knight, sticking him where he was not covered by his armor: in the hollow of his knee.

The lindorm's entire body was poisonous -- both inside and outside, and thus the brave Knight of Frankenstein died from the dragon's poison.

Afterward he was buried with his forefathers in the church at Niederbeerbach (others say it was at Oberbeerbach), where the Frankensteiners have beautiful grave monuments. There they built a stately monument for the knight, life-sized and equipped with armor, sword, and mace. He is depicted standing on the lindorm, whose tail is pointed at the hollow of the knight's knee. Angels are crowning him: an authentic image of the Christian martyr and saint, the knight Saint George.




The Dragon

Baden

In ancient times a fiery dragon came to the area above the village of Ebringen and disappeared into a cave on the southern slope of Schönberg Mountain. The heathen population revered the dragon as a god, to whom from time to time a human sacrifice had to be presented for its nourishment. Finally the lot fell on the charming and youthful daughter of the prince who resided at Schneeburg Castle.

At the same time there lived at the foot of Schönberg Mountain a young knight who had secretly converted to Christianity. When he learned of the horrible fate awaiting the prince's daughter he bravely resolved to kill the all-powerful dragon. Well armored and with a mighty spear in his right hand, he mounted his valiant steed and, trusting in his god, he advanced toward the hellish beast.

Greedily awaiting the fearlessly advancing attacker, the monster lay before his cave, his jaws opened and fuming with poison. The proud and foaming steed reared up, but powerful arms swiftly and surely held the reigns and aimed the spear. Hissing, the death-delivering projectile flew into monster's open throat.

The prince and the people received the news of the young knight's brave and liberating deed with jubilation. And with jubilation they praised the battle god who had granted such great power to the warrior. To commemorate the deed, stone crosses were erected on the houses in Ebringen, above which the dragon had formerly flown. Some of these stone crosses still exist on gables in the village. The daring knight, whose name was George, was now revered as a saint, and thus the place where he lived was later called Saint George.

Until a short time ago, an annual festival was held there every April 23, the saint's day, and peasants from the region would ride their horses around the church three times, asking Saint George's protection for their horses.




George's Meadow

Swabia

East of Immendorf in Swabia, and belonging to that place, is George's Meadow. In the vicinity are George's Spring, George's Acre, and George's Pasture. The church in Immenstadt is dedicated to Saint George, and Saint George's Day is celebrated with dancing, games, and other popular entertainments. In the church there is a wooden statue depicting Saint George killing the lindorm next to one of a kneeling maiden wearing a golden crown and with folded hands. In ancient times a lindorm had his lair on George's Meadow. Every year on a certain day a person, chosen by lot, had to be brought to him to eat. Once the lot fell to a maiden who belonged to the long-time lineage of the Heideckers. However, on this day the lindorm was killed by the knight Saint George, thus rescuing the maiden with his brave deed. On the site where the church now stands was formerly a castle. One can still see there a somewhat elevated place surrounded by the depression of the former moat.


The Lindorm

Lusatia

According to an old legend, a long, long time ago horrible lindorms and dragons lived in the swamps and lakes of Lower Lusatia. They were like snakes, only much larger, and they breathed smoke and flames. They laid to waste the surrounding land, and they devoured people and animals in large numbers.

Near the village of Zilmsdorf [Cielmow] (one of the oldest places in Lusatia) there is a place out in an open field where flames as tall as a man often shoot up from the ground. People call it dragon-fire, and they say that the great dragon killed by Saint George lived there.

Next to the old salt road that leads to Sorau [Zary] is a pile of stones. This is where the battle took place, and this is where a stone monument to the saint once stood, depicting him high on his horse, lance in hand, and with the dragon at his feet.

This dragon had been eating thirty people every day and laying to waste the farmland far and wide. It also was able to assume human form, in which it caused the downfall of many people. It would rob them of their money and then bury them deep in the woods behind the Forstner Heath.

Normally it would fly through the air, and when it did so it had to take a route above Zilmsdorf. A certain man by the name of Wochner lived there who was a well-known exorcist. He had the ability to detain the dragon until a crowing cock from the area caught it by surprise. Every time this happened it would have to drop its gold.

Note by Karl Haupt:

People made pilgrimages from far and wide to a statue of Saint George near Zilmsdorf. In 1615 the provincial governor Count Promnitz had it rebuilt, namely at the request of Emperor Matthias (given at a dedication ceremony in Sorau in 1611). In about 1710 the stone was still standing there. On the north side was a carving of the knight Saint George on a horse with the lindorm beneath him. The stone was seven yards high and three yards wide. The inscription from the seventeenth century on the west side read:

Effigiem Christi dum cernis semper honora
Non tamen effigiem sed quem designat honora.
Aspice, mortalis, pro te datur hostia talis.

Above this, on a stone cross, was an image of Christ made of gilded tin. (Magnus, Geschichte von Sorau, p. 115)

Here, in Protestant reinterpretation, the knight is transformed into the Savior himself, who "treads upon the serpent's head."




Saint George and the Uffington White Horse

England

A manuscript of Bishop Pocock (1757), preserved in the British Museum, tells how that dignitary inspected the Uffington figure, and the hill below, where there was a mound called Dragon Hill. This mound was formerly deemed a barrow, but the idea is now disputed. The bishop found a story current that St. George slew the dragon on this spot, and that the chalk picture commemorated the deed.... And, indeed, the creature itself is almost as much dragon-like as equine.




The Dragon's Well, Brinsop

England

The church at Brinsop is dedicated to St. George, and contains a fine tympanum of eleventh century date, representing St. George mounted, in the act of slaying the dragon. The Dragon's Well is in Duck's Pool meadow, on the south side of the church, while on the other side is a field called "Lower Stanks," pointed out by the late parish clerk as the spot where St. George slew the dragon.




Saint George in Cornwall

Cornwall

Here [in Cornwall], as in other English counties, Christmas customs are fast disappearing. Two of the favourite sports in Cornwall were a metrical play (exhibiting the successful prowess of St. George exerted against a Mahometan adversary) and a representation of some transactions at a market or fair.

In the first, St. George entered, accoutred in complete armour, and exclaimed:

Here come I, Saint George,
That valiant champion bold,
And with my sword and spear
I've won three crowns of gold.

I slew the dragon, he,
And brought him to the slaughter
By which I gained fair Sabea,
The King of Egypt's daughter.

The pagan then entered:
Here come I, the Turkish knight,
Come from the Turkish land to fight.

Some more dialogue then ensued, and a fight took place, when the Turkish knight fell; recovering slowly he raised himself on one knee, and cried out:
Oh! pardon me, Saint George;
Oh! pardon me, I crave;
Oh! give me but my life,
And I will be thy slave.

St. George again knocked him down, but immediately relenting, he called out,
Is there no doctor to be found,
To cure a deep and deadly wound?

The Doctor now appeared on the scene with a small phial, which contained the juice of some particular plant, capable of recalling any one to life: he tried all his skill to restore the wounded, but failed. At this juncture St. George was supposed to kill the Doctor.

Soon after, the Turkish knight appeared perfectly well, and having been fully convinced of his errors by the strength of St. George's arm, he became a Christian; and so the scene closed.




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Revised August 21, 2023.