Disney Dragon Week: Epcot World Showcase
Today we have the chance to look at not one, but two dragons. Unlike Maleficent Dragon or Figment, their stories don’t originate through Disney lore. Rather they are centuries old tales. Both Germany and Italy at World Showcase offers a statue of one slaying a dragon. While they represent two different heroes, their lives and experiences are parallel. Let’s start in Germany in the Platz.
Germany: Story of St. George
Here in the center before the clock tower lies a modest fountain, with a pillar and the statue of a knight slaying the dragon. This statue you see at Epcot is reminiscent of the statue of Saint George located in Rothenburg, Germany. Our first story is about St. George.
There was a dragon which nested near a spring of water (hence the fountain). In order for them to obtain water to drink the people would have to draw out the dragon away from the spring. To do so, they would offer a lamb. But if that didn’t take, they would draw straws and offer a young maiden. Only as luck would have it, the straw fell to the king’s daughter. The king cried for help and St. George appeared and slayed the dragon with a magic sword called the Sword of Ascalon.
But what is the real story of St. George? While not entirely certain, it is believed by many that George was born in the late third century by a father who was an important Roman army official, and whose mother was a Palestinian. George, meaning “worker of the land” lost his parents while he was still young. He enlisted as a soldier and was favored by the Emperor Diocletian. In time he was promoted to the station of Tribunus, and stationed as an imperial guard.
In AD 302 Diocletian made an edict that every Christian soldier denounce Christianity and offer sacrifices to Pagan gods. George renounced the edict, and declared himself publicly to be a Christian. To change his mind, Diocletian tried to persuade him otherwise with gifts of money, land and slaves. George refused, and Diocletian was left with no other choice than to put George to death. George left his wealth for others, went through brutal torture, and then was decapitated.
In time George would become a model of chivalry and a patron saint to soldiers. His legacy endures throughout much of Northern Europe, not just Germany. Even though many question the connection of the dragon, no one questions the values of courage and fortitude this tale has come to represent.
Italy: Prince Theodore
The Italy pavilion in World Showcase at Epcot builds off of the City of Venice. Here we see several statues, offers a statue of one slaying a dragon. In Italy, this statue is known as Prince Theodore, and he graces the entrance to the Plaza di San Marco (St. Mark’s Square).
The dragon in this tale was also a challenge to the nearby community. To satisfy the appetites of the dragon, believed to be a large crocodile, the priests in practicing idol worship would sacrifice the children of Christians during that time. One Christian widow cried out in prayer when her children were being thrown to the Dragon and Prince Theodore appeared and slayed the dragon. It is said that many saw Michael, the archangel, appear to support him. Many were baptized when they saw this heroic feat.
But the actual story begins long before that. Theodore’s father was a Christian and was such a brave soldier that he was given the Prince’s daughter to be his wife. His new wife, however, scorned his faith. In a vision the Theodore’s father was told to leave for Egypt for his own safety, but that his young son would be okay, and would eventually become a great Christian some day. Indeed, that son, Theodore, became a great soldier himself, was given some 500 knights to command, and was named Prince Theodore of Esphehlar. When they were in battle in the desert, the soldiers were thirsty for water. Theodore prayed for help and the resulting rain quenched their thirst. His faith was so impressive to the other soldiers that all of them converted to Christianity.
In battle against the Persians, he was so successful that the king named him a hero of the Roman empire and ruler of the city of Otichos.
In time he would find his father and be reunited. But his heroic acts such as saving children from pagan sacrifices upset the evil priests. They sought to have him beheaded, which the King granted. Having been slain, his mother carried him to Egypt to be buried with his father.
He died a defender of the faith. He has since been remembered by the people of Italy and has been memoralized with statues like the one here.
Here are some souvenirs to take back home to your organization or life experience:
- Who are the real dragons in your life? Who are the ones who threaten the very things you believe?
- In your daily endeavors, what does courage look like to you? Is courage itself real, or is it a myth?
- Where do you draw the line in terms of what you believe, and what you practice daily. Could you be found guilty of practicing what you believe is right?
- Courage can be defined as acting on what you value most rather than acting on your fears? What do you fear? What do you value? What will make you value more what you believe than what you fear?
Today we had two stories of dragons. Tomorrow, we’ll visit not one, but two parks internationally to see the stories of two very different types of dragons. It might surprise you what we cover. So join us.
In the mean time, if you like these kinds of stories and examples relating back to your life or business, consider joining us for our Walt Disney World Best Practices Program. Four days this December where you’ll see best in business ideas come alive. We’ll be in all four parks, including Disney’s Hollywood Studios as the new Rise of the Resistance opens. You’ll definitely want to join us, so check it out!