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The Dragon and the George  (Dragon Knight, volume 1)

By Gordon R. Dickson 

8 Jan, 2023

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


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1976’s The Dragon and the George is the first volume in Gordon R. Dickson’s secondary-world fantasy Dragon Knight series.

Jim Eckert’s quest to marry fiancée Angie Farrell faces a number of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, most of which boil down to “insufficient income.” Even if they were to combine their resources, medieval historian Jim’s instructor salary and laboratory assistant Angie’s wage wouldn’t pay the rent on the cheapest trailer park domicile in Minneapolis1. If they cannot afford to combine households, how can they possibly get married?

Psychology graduate student Grottwold, rival for Angie’s heart, provides a solution of sorts when Grottwold inadvertently teleports Angie to another universe. No Angie, no marriage, no need to look for a better job for Jim. Problem solved!

Jim does not see it that way.

Certain that he didn’t simply disintegrate Angie, Grottwold convinces Jim to let himself be strapped into the same equipment that vanished Angie. Grottwold is convinced that using the same settings, but with a lower voltage, will dispatch Jim’s mind to wherever Angie went. Provided Jim’s astral projection can make mental contact with Angie, he might be able to hypnotize her into the state of mind that will return her to Minnesota.

Alas, Jim does not appear in the other world as a ghost. He finds himself in the body of a weak-willed host. Not only that—he has possessed, not a human, but a dragon. A dragon named Gorbash.

It’s convenient that Gorbash’s grand-uncle Smrgol is a garrulous fellow whose unprompted rambling conversations are very nearly indistinguishable from infodumps2. Jim soon learns most of what he needs to know to pass himself off as the dragon Gorbash.

The good news is that Angie is easy to find. The bad news is, she is the prisoner of another dragon, Bryagh. Dragons do not often capture “georges,” as they call humans, especially since georges developed hard shells and thorns (armour and lances). Bryagh will not willingly give up his prize.

Aware that he cannot solve this problem on his own, Jim appeals to the wizard Carolinus. Carolinus would normally be unwilling to help Jim for free3. However, the situation in which Jim and Angie are entangled is even more serious than Jim first understood. Grottwold’s half-assed experiment has given the Dark Powers a chance to interfere in Gorbash’s world.

Even with Carolinus and Smrgol’s help, Jim would seem to have no hope of overcoming the axis of evil (Dark Powers and allies) or retrieving Angie from their grasp. Just as Bryagh is now but one of a vast alliance, Jim will have to find his own allies, save Angie, and prevent the Dark Powers from unbalancing the world.


Most of the novel takes place in a secondary fantasy universe that has dragons and wizards and just one single language4. What’s weird is there are two countries mentioned: England and Wales. No Welsh language? Plausible world-building may not have been mission one for this novel.

While there are two opposed forces in this world (Chance and History), neither is bad and both are necessary. The Dark Powers’ goal is to undo the great balance. They don’t care which of Chance or History win out, only that one does. The total triumph of either would be bad.

Dickson was a grad student at the University of Minnesota and I have a dim memory that he (or possibly Poul Anderson5, also a student there) were forced by financial necessity to sell their blood. I wonder if his university experience shaped his view of academia.

Dickson was perhaps best known for his Very Serious Musings on human destiny, musings illustrated in his long-running Dorsai series. Dickson did from time to time delve into comedy. This novel was one of those forays in fun. Which it is to some extent, even though the world might be ending soon, even though there’s a horrifying slaughter of defenseless townsfolk midway through the novel. I’m sure he was trying to be funny; I was not amused. However, a case can be made that I do not have a sense of humour.

The novel seems (even) more dated than one would expect for a mid-1970s novel. This may be because it began as the short story "St. Dragon and the George," published in September 1957’s The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. There are some similarities to L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt’s The Incomplete Enchanter (1941) and The Castle of Iron (1950): inspiration or parallel development?

Alas, I didn’t love this book. Rereading it was less a revisit of a beloved teen fave than it was a homework chore. Dickson’s sense of humour doesn’t mesh with mine and his prose is pedestrian6.

Other readers disagreed. The Dragon and the George was nominated for the 1977 World Fantasy Best Novel (losing to Doctor Rat by William Kotzwinkle and edged out by Dark Crusade by Karl Edward Wagner, The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck and The Doll Who Ate His Mother by Ramsey Campbell), placed eighteenth for the Locus Best Novel (see here for a complete list of finalists), and won the August Derleth Fantasy Award for Best Novel (beating Katherine Kurtz’s Camber of Culdi and Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire). As well, there were eight sequels—someone was buying those books.

The Dragon and the George is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Barnes & Noble), and here (Chapters-Indigo).

I did not find The Dragon and the George at Book Depository, probably because the current editions are ebooks and Book Depository does physical books.

1: Nothing is more fun than plots that require me to consult an inflation calculator. Jim’s income is $175 a month. The Co-op charges $120 per month for double-decker bunks and slop. The disintegrating mobile home Jim and Angie consider costs $140 per month (so $70 each per month). In modern American dollars, that’s about $880, $600, and $700, respectively.

Renting the trailer sounds cheaper, but there are the heating, electrical, food and other costs not covered by the rent, not to mention the near certainty of freezing to death in the first winter. Not sure the math on costs works out, but surviving a Minnesota winter in an uninsulated trailer of questionable structural integrity is unlikely to work out well.

2: Is Smrgol simple a chatty old duffer who enjoys explaining to people facts they are well aware of? Or is Gorbash a dragon of little brain to whom established fact needs to be repeated over and over? The text supports both interpretations.

3: Jim could offer Gorbash’s hoard to the sorcerer … if Jim had any idea where it was.

4: To quote: "In the domain of the Powers there is only one language possible by definition.”

For what it’s worth, Jim is multilingual. He’s acquainted with modern, Middle, and Old English, Latin, Greek, French and German, Spanish, modern Italian, and all the medieval forms of the Romance languages (not fluent in all of them, of course). This fact is both impressive and completely irrelevant to the plot.

5: Speaking of Poul Anderson, The Dragon and the George is dedicated to one “Bela of Eastmarch,” which some quick googling suggests is none other than Anderson.

6: F&SF seems a bad fit for Dickson. If Campbell had edited a fantasy magazine, that would have been a more appropriate venue. Unfortunately, the history of speculative fiction magazines is spotty. If Campbell ever had such a magazine, its title is unknown.