Saint George Legends
from Northern Europe

translated and edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2002-2011


Contents

  1. Lindorm Legend (Mecklenburg).

  2. Saint George (Mansfeld).

  3. The Dragon (Baden).

  4. The Lindorm (Lusatia).

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

  6. Links to related sites.


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

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.




Saint George

Mansfeld

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 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.




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.




Links to related sites

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Revised February 9, 2011.