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Saint George and the Dragon

children's book - cover image - Saint George and the Dragon -Hodges

With symbolism throughout, the storied Red Cross Knight, as a duty to the Fairie Queen, engages in a three day battle with a dragon, and wins the hand of Princess Una.

Full Review

Of course, the story of St. George and the Dragon is wildly unbelievable: the youthful knight has never fought a battle, yet produces a show of force exceeding that of three men, succeeding where no other man could.

Being so ancient a myth, the author has license to make the story of St. George as compelling as she might wish. Given the possibilities, this retelling is disappointing. Lengthy stretches of narration tell us what to imagine, rather than show us. Character development is nearly non-existent, and italicized asides have little bearing on the story.

Some sentence ideas appear to have been lifted directly from Edmund Spenser’s (1552?-1599) original story, The Faerie Queene.  Imagery appears that children, especially modern children will not understand. For example, what is the point to a child of the lark in,

Then dawn chased away the dark,
a lark mounted up to heaven,
and up rose the brave knight…
ready to fight again.

Similarly, a child has no idea why the princess rides a donkey and trails a lamb on a leash. Few children will grasp it as a reference to Jesus riding into Jerusalem, with his flock of sheeple following behind. Why does a dwarf follow them, or why does a brilliant castle (Kingdom of God) appear before them in the sky, only to be ignore?

And, why is the knight revived the first night by a magic spring and the second night by healing dew from an apple tree? These things are allusions to religious (lark, donkey, lamb etc.) and mythical images (e.g. poppies symbolize entry into the underworld followed by a quick exit) but why leave them unexplained in a retelling for children? Friesian Horse

The illustrations are by far the best part of the book. We see the clueless knight riding across the plain on his beautiful Fresian horse (right); we almost see the fearsome, brass-scaled dragon’s invincibility; while the young princess Una (the “One”), golden tresses released at last, is all youthful beauty and innocence.

Given its awful theme of sacrifice and duty, some expression of the historical basis of the story or of its impact on British history would have given children a better sense of the cultural value of the story. As it stands, there are better ways to encourage a child’s interest in reading.