Vol. 14 (2020): XIV International Symposium Contemporary Issues of Literary Studies : The Silk Road Countries` Folklore
Plenary Session

Representations of George and his Female Counterpart in Caucasus Vernacular Religion and Folklore

Kevin Tuite
Université de Montréal

Published 2020-10-20


The medieval narrative of St George freeing a princess from a dragon, the earliest attestation of which is in a Georgian manuscript from the 11th century, drew upon the conventions of eastern Christian hagiography, and early forms of chivalrous romance. But key elements of the miracle story can be traced to vernacular antecedents. The framing narrative of George killing a dragon, which dwells in a lake and eats a daily ration of the city-dweller’s children, harks back to the ancient Iranian myth of a hero slaying a dragon which impeded access to vital resources, and its numerous reflections in Caucasus folklore. Of particular interest is the role of the princess. Initially, she is yet another sacrificial offering passively awaiting her fate. But after George subdues the dragon, he asks her to lead it into the city, using a leash made from her belt. The princess’s role thus shifts from potential victim to co-participant in the victory over the dragon, albeit in a subordinate function to George, to whom belongs the honor of killing the beast. The motif of the maiden as “junior partner” of the saint likewise has precedents in the oral literatures of the Caucasus, as I will attempt to demonstrate here.