St. George is the prototype of the familiar European story where the knight sallies forth from the city to the wilderness to kill the dragon and save the princess.
The popular legend of Saint George’s fight with the dragon is only as old as the 11th century, the oldest known written version coming from Georgia (Europe). The tale exists in a multitude of variants, but a synoptic plot goes like this:
A city is harassed by a dragon that lives in a nearby lake. At first, the townsfolk appease the monster by giving it their cattle but when their lifestock runs out, they end up feeding their own children to the beast. The offerings are determined by lot.
One day, the lot of the only daughter of the king of the place comes up. The princess is sent out to the dragon and waiting for her doom when a lone knight, Saint George, happens to ride by. Told about the situation, he promises to save the princess in the name of Jesus.
One exciting fight later, George ties up the dragon and drags it into the city. The townsfolk are terrified, but Saint George assures them the power of Christ has defeated the monster, and promises to finish it off if they will become Christians. The king and the citizens consent, and George sends the monster to dragon heaven.
Everybody celebrates and the king wants to reward Saint George. But George declines all worldly rewards and instead makes the king give the money to charity. After making the townspeople promise to be good Christians, George rides away, possibly into the sunset.
The localization of the legend varies: In the Georgian version the town saved by George is called ‘Lasia’, but in the Golden Legend it is ‘Silene in Libya’ (the identity of these places in uncertain). In the Middle East, the spot where George killed the dragon is traditionally identified as Saint George Bay near Beirut. The legend is also recognized among Muslims of the same region, some of whom postulate the dragonslayer was really the immortal Al-Khidr.
The legend of St. George, as told in The Golden Legend (13th century), can be read here.
In the inverted myth, the hero comes from the wilderness and the dragon is ruling over a degenerated castle/city/civilization, so that the hero enters the castle to kill the dragon and rescue the princess. I’ll be using the first episode of Berserk to illustrate this myth (tomorrow) but here are some other random examples.
-Armageddon in the Bible
-Every Conan the Barbarian story
-The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of time
-The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
-Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn by Tad Williams
-The third act of Final Fantasies 3/6, 7, and Tactics
If you think of any other examples, please leave a comment. It’s a dead giveaway when somebody in a throne room turns into a snake and killing the snake demon frees the peasants in that town from a brutal dystopia of mercenaries, terrorism, and taxation.
I’d recommend watching this episode as a stand-alone story, it’s excellent by itself (except for the opening theme, which is surprisingly bad).
In the anime it’s only implied that the count/snake demon is eating the children that are being sent to him as danegeld (seen very briefly in a scene early on with a carriage full of them, and an unexplained scream just before the scene of the count eating dinner) but it’s very explicit in the manga. This myth could be summarized “hero as counter-elite”.
People with advantages are loath to believe that they just happen to be people with advantages. They come readily to define themselves as inherently worthy of what they possess; they come to believe themselves ‘naturally’ elite; and, in fact, to imagine their possessions and their privileges as natural extensions of their own elite selves. In this sense, the idea of the elite as composed of men and women having a finer moral character is an ideology of the elite as a privileged ruling stratum, and this is true whether the ideology is elite-made or made up for it by others. In eras of equalitarian rhetoric, the more intelligent or the more articulate among the lower and middle classes, as well as guilty members of the upper, may come to entertain ideas of a counter-elite. In western society, as a matter of fact, there is a long tradition and varied images of the poor, the exploited, and the oppressed as the truly virtuous, the wise, and the blessed. Stemming from Christian tradition, this moral idea of a counter-elite, composed of essentially higher types condemned to a lowly station, may be and has been used by the underlying population to justify harsh criticism of ruling elites and to celebrate utopian images of a new elite to come.
-C Wright Mills
The Power Elite