Fantastic Elements of Saint George and The Dragon

Fantastic Elements of Saint George and The Dragon

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Fantastic Elements of Saint George and The Dragon

     Margaret Hodges adapted "Saint George and The Dragon" from its original work that was written by Edmund Spencer. "Saint George and The Dragon" is a short story that was published in 1984. Margaret Hodges, who adapted this fantastic literature, is from North America. " Saint George and The Dragon" shows many characteristic of Magical Realism; however, it is Fantastic Literature.


"Saint George and The Dragon" is similar to Magical Realism because the characters within the story treat the events as a normal occurrence. The way in which reality is mixed with a touch of non-reality supports that the story is one of Magical Realism. Another essential part of Magical Realism is the normality of the characters. The lead character within "Saint George and The Dragon" is ordinary or mundane. Unlike fantastic literature with its Hercules and many unreal heroes, Saint George is just a normal human being. Finally, the one element that carries the largest weight is no limitations are set through out the entire story. The way that the story sets no boundaries is extremely important. It is for that reason that "Saint George and The Dragon" is probably teetering on the balance of being listed under Magical Realism.


"Saint George and The Dragon" does have its differences from Magical Realism, though. For instance, many things within the short story could never happen or even exist. Dragons, Fairies, and Dwarfs are all unrealistic. What is even more unrealistic is the fact that Saint George battles the dragon and defeats it.


Biblical allusions are sewn throughout the short story. The biblical allusions seemed as if they where almost subliminally encoded. Perhaps the simplest clue is in the title, Saint George. However, if one reads closely one can begin to pick up on the biblical allusions:


But the old hermit said, "The Fairy Queen has sent you to

do brave deeds in this world. That High City that you see is

in another world. Before you climb the path to it and hang

your shield on its wall, go down into the valley and fight

the dragon that you were sent to fight. It is time for me to

tell you that you were not born of fairy folk, but of English

earth. The fairies stole you away as a baby while you slept

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in your cradle. They hid you in a farmer's field, where a

plowman found you. He called you George, which Means

'Plow the Earth' and 'Fight the Good Fight.' For you were

born to be England's friend and patron saint, Saint George

of Merry England."(Hodges 11-12)


If analyzed, one can pick out phrases that have biblical allusions. For example when the hermit speaks of the high city being of another world, is the hermit speaking of heaven? The hermit goes into detail about before Saint George hangs his shield for him to go down into the valley and fight the dragon. The dragon symbolizes evil or the devil. Therefore, what is being explained is that before entering heaven Saint George must fight the wrongs of the world and make peace.


Although "Saint George and The Dragon" is Fantastic Literature, it does not contain any textualization. Textualization is the idea that a person in the world outside of the text might literally enter the world of, let us say, a fictional text is counterintuitive (Theim 235-247). In the story, though, not the remotest sign of textualization is noticeable. The reason is because the story is set up to tell the heroic acts of Saint George, not of a person who could become involved with the reader.


Tsvetan Todorov has classified three distinguishing traits of fantastic literature. Only one, however, is in "Saint George and The Dragon"; that would be hesitation of the character. Todorov states, "Because this hesitation may also be shared by the leading character, thus becoming one of the themes, the naïve reader identifies with the leading character (Todorov 168-174).


Character hesitation happens in the story when the dragon attacks Saint George and believes it has defeated him. However, where the knight fell, an ancient spring of silvery water bubbled from the ground. In that cool water, the knight lay resting until the sun rose. Then he, too, rose to do battle again. When the dragon saw him, he could hardly believe his eyes. Could this be the same knight, he wondered, or another who had come to take his place? (Hodges 19). When the dragon saw Saint George, it could not believe that the knight it was witnessing approach him could possible be the same knight it had fought the day before. The dragon questioning itself confirms that "Saint George and The Dragon" is, at least under Todorov's standards, accepted as fantastic literature.


Although "Saint George and the Dragon" is clearly a work of fantastic literature, it doesn't reflect all the characteristics of fantastic literature set by Eric S. Rabkin. Rabkin exclaims, "The Truly fantastic occurs when the ground rules of a narrative are forced to make a 180 degree reversal, when prevailing perspectives are directly contradicted. This is true, even if the effect lasts only a moment...and is true whether the reversal occurs in a fantasy or not. Less complete reversals, say a 90 degree turnabout...participate in the complex of feelings of surprise, shock, delight, fear, and so on that marks the fantastic; they are flavored by the fantastic"(Rabkin 8-19). Even though "Saint George and The Dragon" doesn't reflect all of Rabkin's characteristics, it does cover some of them. When the dragon hesitates about seeing Saint George after the first battle, the dragon felt an emotion of shock and surprise. Shock and surprise are listed as one of the 90-degree turnabouts that classify a work as fantastic literature.


"Saint George and The Dragon" provides many characteristics of both magical realism and fantastic literature. Although the story has characteristics of both magical realism and fantastic literature, the fantastic events far outweigh the magical realism qualities. However, whether or not " Saint George and The Dragon" is considered magical realism or fantastic literature is still open for future debates.


Works cited

Hodges, Margaret. Saint George and The Dragon. N.Y: Little, Brown, and Company Limited, 1984.

Rabkin, Eric S. The Fantastic in Literature. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 1976.

Theim, Jon. "Magical Realism in Spanish American Literature." Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community. Ed.Louis Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. Durham, N.C: Duke UP, 1995. 235-247.

Todorov, Tzvetan. The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Form. Cleveland: The Press of Case Western Reserve University, 1973.

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