Once upon a time in a land far, far away lived a Dragon. His home, for it was a He, was
in a cave near the top of a tall mountain. At the base of the mountain, surrounded by lush
green fields and a mighty forest was a village of gentle country folk. They tended the land,
ploughing the fields, growing wheat and raising sheep for their wool and meat, and cattle
for milk to turn into cheese and butter.
All was peace and tranquillity. The dragon kept watch over the village ensuring no wild
beasts or robbers harmed them. If ever danger threatened all the villagers had to do was
‘Dragon, oh Dragon, please come and protect us’ and the Dragon would rouse from his
slumbers, for he spent a great deal of time sleeping, and come roaring down the
mountainside, scorching the earth before him with his fiery breath, chasing away any
robbers and gobbling up any wild beasts.
In payment for this protection the villagers would leave coal and wood for the Dragon
to keep his fires burning. That’s all he ever asked for. The robbers had long ago learned
to keep away from the village. The wolves and the bears kept well within the confines
of the forest, even when the fields were fall of lambs, tempting the wolves to test their luck.
And so it went on until only the people of the village believed in the dragon for they
were the only ones to see him. Eventually knowledge became rumour, then legend, in the
wider world. The wild beasts of the forest didn’t forget, of course, because they saw the
Dragon when he came to collect the coal and the wood. And every now and then one of
their number would disappear for the Dragon was partial to a bit of meat.
So it came to pass that one dark night in the middle of winter some robbers crept into
the village. They stole the silver from the church; money from the bank (no sympathy
there for no one liked the bank manager); and precious things people had hidden under
their mattresses. The people gathered together, trembling in fear as the robbers pillaged
the entire village.
‘Dragon, oh, Dragon, please come and protect us,’ they cried.
To no avail. The Dragon did not come. The robbers laughed at their foolishness and
left feeling pleased with a good night’s work.
The next day the mayor called a meeting of all the villagers in the inn, The Fiery Dragon.
‘The Dragon has deserted us,’ he declared. ‘Obviously the offerings we usually give him
are not enough.’
‘What should we give instead?’ everyone asked.
‘I think he wants a proper sacrifice,’ someone said. ‘We must give him a young maiden.
That’s the usual price, isn’t it?’
There was much nodding of heads and mutterings of dissent. The people who had sons
thought this was a reasonable bequest. Those who had daughters were not so happy.
But it was finally agreed. A lottery was held and a beautiful young maid was chosen as
a sacrifice to the Dragon.
The day came and the girl, her name was Gilda by the way, was tied to a stake where
the people usually left the coal and wood for the dragon. No one stayed to watch what
happened next. No one wanted to see poor Gilda gobbled up by the Dragon.
What happened next was this.
Gilda was tied to the stake, trying very hard not to cry. Crying made her eyes red and
she wanted to look pretty for the Dragon, maybe then he would not eat her.
The Dragon flew down from his cave and landed a few feet away from the stake,
looking for the piles of coal and wood that should have been there. He didn’t seem to
notice that Gilda was tied to a stake and with a lumbering gait he wandered closer to her.
‘Where is my food?’ he asked, for that’s what the coal and wood were to him.
‘I am your payment this year,’ Gilda said.
‘What, speak up, don’t mumble so.’
‘I said I am your payment this year,’ Gilda said raising her voice.
‘What? Why? What good is one little girl? Tasty maybe, but no more than … than a
single lamb or bear cub. I would need a whole flock to keep me going.’
‘The villagers thought you wanted a blood sacrifice,’ Gilda told him, making sure her
voice was loud and clear. The Dragon shook his head. A small ruby popped out of his
ear and lay in the grass. He did not seem to notice.
‘Why would they think that?’ he asked.
‘The other night we were robbed. We called to you but you did not come. The village
elders thought you were angry with us.’
The Dragon shook his head again. A diamond popped out of his other ear.
‘Why would I be angry with you? You give me coal and wood to keep my belly nice
and warm. Those are far more useful than skinny little girls with no flesh on their bones.
Or even fat ones, for that matter.’
‘Then why didn’t you come when we called. I know it’s been a while, but we thought
that agreement still stood.’
The Dragon shook his head, quite emphatically this time. A whole shower of tiny
gems filled the air.
‘You didn’t call. I would have come. I’m programmed to wake to the words. What
did they say?’
Gilda looked down at the scattered gems that twinkled in the grass. The Dragon took
no notice of them. A thought occurred to her. Keeping her head down she whispered:
‘Dragon, oh, Dragon, please come and protect us.’
‘What!’ roared the Dragon. ‘Speak up girl, tell me what they said.’
Gilda looked up at the Dragon who towered above her. He lowered his head to just
a few feet from her. She could smell the strange Dragon-breath of burning coal and wood.
‘Dear Dragon, don’t be cross when I say this, but I think you are a little bit deaf.’
The Dragon frowned, if Dragon’s could frown. ‘I don’t think it’s permanent or anything
to do with how old you are. I think your ears need cleaning out. Every time you shake
your head things fall out of your ears. Look at the ground.’
The Dragon turned his head and looked at the ground.
‘Well, I’ll be blowed,’ he said. ‘I sleep on my pile of treasure. Could be some has got
in my ears. What can we do?’
‘Release me and I’ll look,’ Gilda said.
The Dragon couldn’t untie the rope that held Gilda to the stake, but he took the stake in
his strong jaws and pulled it out of the ground, gobbling it down with a few snaps of his
mighty jaws. Gilda climbed up onto the Dragon’s back and along his scaly neck until she
reached his left ear. Dragon ears aren’t like other ears, they are just a hole with nothing
around them. Gilda gently pulled the skin on either side of the hole apart and peered in.
Indeed it was packed with tiny gems.
‘Let me get some tongs and I’ll clear them out. Wait here.’
The Dragon stretched out on the grass and waited. Gilda returned with her father who
had brought a ladder with him and a big basket. Gilda climbed the ladder and with the
tongs she carefully plucked the gems from each ear, dropping the offending gems into
the basket. By the time she had finished there were enough gems to make a crown!
‘Now can you hear me?’ she asked in the softest of tones.
‘You don’t have to shout, I’m not deaf!’ the Dragon replied.
Gilda showed him the basket of gems and offered it to him.
‘These are rightly yours,’ she said.
‘No, they are yours now,’ the Dragon said. ‘Payment for restoring my hearing.’
The village rejoiced that night. They gave the Dragon all the coal and wood he could
eat. The ladies of the sewing circle decided they would make him a giant blanket to
cover his treasure so that never again would the small gems get into his ears while he
slept and make him deaf.
All was well again and they all lived happily ever after.
Copyright©Kristen Stone 2017