Thus Always to Dragons

Today is Saint George’s Day, and I am happy to have it. I need a reminder that the dragon can and must be defeated. How fitting that his day is during Easter (which is fifty days long!), when the greatest Hero defeats his (and our) greatest enemy, the dragon (Rev. 12).

So I am wearing my Saint George shirt today. Most of my book-writing in recent years has been on a computer bearing the same device. It says Sic Semper Draconis, or “thus always to dragons.” This design is by Chris Koelle, who is brilliant and also designed our “Green Ember Mended Wood” shirts. I’m not certain where the clever alteration of sic temper tyrannissic temper draconis—originated, but I know N. D. Wilson’s heroic Smiths in the Ashtown Burials series have it as their family motto. And I, a Smith working in the Forge right now, claim it as my own heraldic arms. 

I claim it because I think Saint George is a true story, regardless of the technical accuracy of all the details. No evidence exists that I know of to disprove the story’s veracity, but that’s not the point. It is true because it tells the truth about Reality. It depicts in simple terms the real Story of the world. We are in a “kill the dragon, save the girl” story, as so many have said. These kinds of stories are scandalous to zealous moderns who would rather have simply misunderstood enemies be hugged into harmony at the end of silly conflicts, rather than run through with a satisfying thrust that sounds both slick and bone-crunchingly meaty. Have some of that, dragon! This is to say nothing of the puritanical zeal of p.c. fundamentalist scolds who loathe the idea of a male hero doing anything besides selfishly messing everything up. (Sadly, we men offer so much evidence for their claim it is—pathetically—somewhat understandable.)

But the truth is this is our story, and we are that saved princess. Those belonging to Christ are called his bride. When you go to a Christian wedding, even if you are a man, look at the bride and see your example. Marriage is a picture of the deeper, truer reality of our relationship to our Savior. Christ and his bride are not like marriage, marriage is like Christ and his bride. One pictures the other. We are playing roles in a bigger story than we can fathom. The stories are true and they are ours. 

We need a hero. We need saving. We need to be rescued. That’s what Jesus does. And because he does, we can be part of his story. The Story. And we are called to be like him.

He is in the dragon-killing business. So too, in our various vocations and in our beautifully diverse capacities and gifts, should we be battling the darkness of dragonkind. It doesn’t have to be a grand and glorious battle in every moment. In fact, I am an enthusiastic advocate of thinking small. But many smalls together stack up fast. Lay all our little defiances together, row upon row, and we will find that we have fought, and fought well.

So battle on, brothers and sisters, and tell the story of Saint George to your children. Better still, tell the story of the victorious Christ, whose heroic heart and lavish love mean rescue, redemption, and restoration!

(These are only a recent few of the hundreds of pieces of art I receive from kids all over the world who are desperately hungry for heroic stories. God bless them!)

A far more serious attack on the fairy tale as children’s literature comes from those who do not wish children to be frightened…I think it possible that by confining your child to blameless stories of child life in which nothing at all alarming ever happens, you would fail to banish the terrors, and would succeed in banishing all that can ennoble them or make them endurable. For in the fairy tales, side by side with the terrible figures, we find the immemorial comforters and protectors, the radiant ones; and the terrible figures are not merely terrible, but sublime. It would be nice if no little boy in bed, hearing, or thinking he hears, a sound, were ever at all frightened. But if he is going to be frightened, I think it better that he should think of giants and dragons than merely of burglars. And I think St. George, or any bright champion in armour, is a better comfort than the idea of the police.”

C. S. Lewis
from On Three Ways of Writing for Children

Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.”

G. K. Chesterton
from Tremendous Trifles

5 Comments

  1. This is so beautiful and heartening! Thank you! I literally fist pumped the air while I was reading.

  2. Mr. Smith,
    I want to thank you. As a mom to 6 awesome children, 4 boys and 2 girls, your words ring true. I began reading your series to see if it would be appropriate for my kids’ next audiobook series for when we travel. I worry about them having examples of valiant male role models in their stories. This is particularly true with newly written watered down books.
    Well, I couldn’t put the books down! I read the Ember books 1-3 in 2 days. To be honest, I kept waiting for your stories to turn into some PC junk. But you kept true to your story and didn’t use it to further any agenda other than the telling of a wonderful story.
    I came to your site to see if there was a 4th book. I was pleased to see this section where reader can “get to know you”. I was happy to see that the man behind the series is full of character, Christ, and genuine love for the hearts and minds of children.
    Thank you for your work. I look forward to sharing it with all 6 of my children. And I eagerly await the 4th Green Ember book.

    PS. We love the story of St. George. The version in “A children’s Book of Heros” is the favorite of ours.

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