Saint George and the Dragon

Saint George and the Dragon: A children’s book, written by Jim Forest, illustrated by Vladislav Andrejev, published by St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.

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Though Saint George and the Dragon was written first of all for children, I had adult readers no less in mind. Whatever our age, we need to stop slaying dragons and instead convert them, beginning with the dragons we carry within ourselves. That’s the point of the legend and why it is in fact so profoundly Christian.

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Recipient of the gold medal Moonbeam Spirit Awards for 2012. “For dedication to children’s books and literacy and for inspired writing, illustrating and publishing.”

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From the book’s afterword for older readers:

True stories become streamlined into legends and legends become compressed via symbols into myths. The St. George of myth was a knight in armor who fought a dragon to save a princess, but the real George never saw a dragon nor did he rescue a princess in distress. We are not even sure he had a horse or possessed a sword.

A Christian convert born late in the third century after Christ, George was one among many martyrs of the early Church.

What made George a saint among saints was the completely fearless manner in which he openly proclaimed his faith during a period of fierce persecution when many other Christians were hoping not to be noticed. According to one ancient account, George went to a public square and announced, “All the gentile gods are devils. My God made the heavens and is the true God.” For this George was arrested, tortured and beheaded. The probable date of his martyrdom is April 23, 303, in the town of Diospolis in Asia Minor — today’s Turkey. His witness led to the conversion of many and gave renewed courage to others already baptized.

In early icons, George was shown dressed as a soldier and holding the cross of martyrdom, but in the course of centuries the dragon legend emerged. It has been told in many variations, but in its most popular form it concerns a dragon living in a lake who was worshiped by the unbaptized local people who, in their fear, sacrificed their children to appease the creature. Finally it was the turn of the king’s daughter, Elizabeth, to be sacrificed. While going toward the dragon to meet her doom, Saint George appeared riding a white horse. He prayed to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, then transfixed the dragon with his lance. In this profoundly Christian legend the dragon was only wounded by George. Afterward Elizabeth led the vanquished creature into the city — its populace charged by George with caring for a former enemy. Refusing a reward of treasure, George called on the local people to be baptized. The king agreed, promising to maintain churches and show compassion to the poor.

From a journalistic point of view, the dragon story is a literary invention, yet what better way is there to symbolize the evil that George actually confronted and defeated than to portray it in the form combat with a fire-breathing dragon? George fought and was victorious over an adversary which enslaved and terrified most of the people of his time. The white horse George rides in the icon, a graceful creature as light as air and as fearless as his rider, represents the courage God gave to George as he faced the power of death. It is the courage God gives to any Christian facing martyrdom or, for that matter, much smaller challenges.

This beautifully-illustrated book relates the classic story of St George and the dragon, with an afterword that looks at the real meaning of the legend.

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a book full of treasures

Told in a gentle, flowing manner, Saint George and the Dragon explains not only the legend, but shows how faith drives out fear, letting in peace, love and harmony. The explanation following the lavishly illustrated text discusses not only St. George in history, but details the symbolism of icons that depict this brave martyr. The illustrations by Vladislav Andrejev are iconographic in their execution, but brilliantly coloured and vivid accompaniments to the text. Both parents and children will find this book full of treasures worth coming back to again and again.

— Bev. Cooke

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What a treat!

A few months ago, we went on a trip to Saint Vladimir’s Seminary and I was able to shop in their bookstore. What a treat! While there, we pre-ordered Saint George and the Dragon and a week or so ago, it came! What a book! Jim Forest has done an excellent job of re-telling this legend in a way that will interest children. One of the most lovely parts of the book is when Saint George declares that he is a Christian knight and proceeds to explain in a beautiful and very child-friendly way all about Christianity. It is also very helpful that several pages in the back of the book are dedicated to explaining the real Saint George. After reading Saint George and the Dragon, it is quite easy for parents to speak to their children about who Saint George really was because the information on this beloved saint in right in their hands.

Vladislav Andrejev’s work is visually stunning and his illustrations for this book are the perfect pairing to Forest’s words. I wasn’t prepared by the cover for how glorious they actually are! There are thirteen full page iconographic illustrations in the book (as well as several smaller ones) and each one tells the legend of Saint George visually. The colors are rich and though the story has several scary parts, the illustrations aren’t graphic or gory in any way.

My own little ones are delighted with this storybook. They were properly horrified by the dragon and loved the story of Saint George saving Princess Elizabeth, taming the dragon, and baptizing an entire kingdom. To be honest, when I was pre-ordering the book, I was a little taken aback by the cost ($20)… especially since I wasn’t able to see it prior to ordering. I can tell you that the price is worth it. This book will be treasured by your family! In fact, I will be donating our copy of Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges to our library’s book sale. We have no need for it now that we have this gorgeous book. Bravo, Mr. Forest!

Orthodox Children’s Book Review

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A blessing of a book

In this large format children’s book, Jim Forest retells the story of St. George in simple, clear language that helps you see and feel the story. Every page spread is illustrated in the style of a Byzantine icon by iconographer Vladislav Andrejev. The icons are stunning in detail and color, and I found myself spending more than several minutes looking at them and identifying the messages within. For example, the attitude of the hands in all the pictures clearly communicates conversation. In the icon where St. George tells Elizabeth about Christ, George gestures toward Heaven as Christ leans out of the clouds and blesses him. In the following picture, Christ is leaning and blessing Elizabeth, indicating that she has believed the Message. Wonderful!

And in the icon where St. George is facing the king and queen, the dragon is clearly underfoot and even seems to be licking the foot of the cross on George’s shield in an appeasing posture. I know I will continue to find hidden details as I examine these works of faith and art.

At the end of the story, author Jim Forest provides a special essay with historical background about St. George and more icon images — a great addition for those who want to know more. In all, the book is a wonderful reminder that we can depend on Christ’s strength, might and sovereignty over the dragons–those evils and troubles–in our lives.

The story of St. George is for all of us who need courage.

I see that I need an icon of St. George near at hand to remind me of both Christ’s power and gentleness. There are so many lessons for us in this legend.

This saint’s story blessed me and increased my faith. I highly recommend this book, to both children and adults.

— Else Tennessen

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* To order the book from the publisher: http://www.svspress.com/saint-george-and-the-dragon/

* The illustrations for the book made by Vladislav Andrejev are in this folder: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimforest/sets/72157627339844345/with/6057026760/

* The book’s afterword, The Real Saint George, is posted http://www.jimandnancyforest.com/2011/06/13/the-real-saint-george/

* A blog entry about the book’s origins is posted here: http://jimandnancyonpilgrimage.blogspot.com/2011/04/saint-george-dragon.html

* A folder of icons, paintings and sculptures of St George is posted here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimforest/sets/72157626322019037/with/3858736091/