The legend of Saint George and the Dragon comes to us from the time of the Crusades, when Middle-Eastern countries such as Libya were in the (European) public mind as dens of heathen wickedness. In other words, it is an artifact of its times.
The basic version comes to us from Golden Legends, a Catholic compilation of the lives of the saints, although artists have created more embroidered versions over the centuries.
According to the tale, Saint George was a knight from Cappadocia who was traveling in Libya. When he came to the city of Silene, the people were lamenting. It seems there was a pond near Silene where a dragon lived. Its poisoned breath killed anyone who came near it. To pacify the dragon, the king of Silene had declared it should be given two sheep every day. But when the sheep ran out, they were forced to give the dragon their children. The king of Silene had instituted a lottery to choose the victims fairly.
Alas, the king’s own daughter drew the fatal lot. He tried to wiggle out of it, but the citizens who had already sacrificed their own children wouldn’t hear of it. Still the king delayed for a week, until the dragon returned and began to poison all the citizens. Grieving deeply, the king dressed his daughter in her wedding finery and sent her to meet her fate.
Saint George arrived in time to see the princess departing for her doom. He asked why she was weeping, and when she explained the circumstances, he vowed to help her. She begged him to save himself, but he said that Christ would save them all.
While they were talking, the dragon saw them and attacked. George drew his sword, made the sign of the cross, and then charged the dragon. He injured it severely with his spear, and while it was helpless, instructed the princess to tie her belt around its neck. When she did this, the dragon became meek and obedient.
George and the princess then led the dragon back to Silene, where the people fled before the dragon. Finally the king came out and asked how he could reward the knight for saving his daughter. “Be baptized and saved by Christ,” said Saint George. “Then I will slay the dragon.”
As usual, the king hedged and offered other treasures, but Saint George didn’t want anything else. So the king and all his citizens were baptized. Fifteen thousand people converted to Christianity. Saint George kept his word and struck off the dragon’s head. Four ox carts were required to remove its body from the city.