A Dragon in the Neighborhood
A parable by
Nancy Ellen Hird
In a country not far away, but quite close to here, there lived a knight. Sir Knight was brave, skillful, and smart. He had fought and defeated many enemies. He was one of the best knights around.
He had, however, never come up against a dragon. And unfortunately a nasty, very nasty, one moved into his neighborhood.
The dragon strutted about the village and countryside, gobbling sheep at will and threatening to eat citizens for dessert. Everyone was terribly frightened.
The knight knew, because he was a knight, that he must do something. He ordered some books on dragon slaying, hired a trainer, and began practicing how to fight dragons. His trainer was encouraging. The knight, he said, would vanquish the dragon. No problem.
Sir Knight was not so sure. He began to think that the wisest action would be to get some help. Strength in numbers and all that.
So, he called his neighbors together and asked them to help him fight the dragon. They declined. Untrained they were, they said. Inexperienced.
"Right," said the knight.
He offered to help train them. The neighbors shook their heads. It would take too long, they said. This dragon needed to be dealt with immediately.
"Right," said the knight.
He considered what to do. He decided to write letters to his friends who were also knights.
One by one his friends sent messages back. They would meet him on Tuesday next behind the mound of boulders, alongside the road, across from the castle the dragon had seized.
The knight now bloomed with confidence. Together he and his friends would rid the land of the foul beast. It would be a great victory. Glorious. Everyone for miles around would cheer and applaud. And be safe to go about their lives.
Eagerly, Sir Knight polished his armor until it shone. The dragon, he was sure, would be impressed. He would realize that Sir Knight was formidable. He would tremble. Maybe he would even run away, leave the neighborhood, and not bother them ever again. It could happen, couldn't it?
On Tuesday next the knight reached the mound at sunup. No one else had yet arrived. He viewed the road expectantly. Any moment he was sure he would spot the dust from their galloping steeds.
He watched. He watched some more. No cloud. He turned his eyes to the sky knowing that birds scatter to the air as people travel past them. No flocks of birds scattered.
As the sun reached its zenith, he saw, in the distance, a small cloud of dust. The cloud came nearer. Soon he made out one knight.
"Are the others behind you?" asked Sir Knight as the man arrived.
"No," said his friend and he told him that he had received messages from several of their friends. They were sorry but they were unable to attend. Other duties.
The knight squared his shoulders and set his chin. "No matter. We'll rout this dragon, you and I."
"Just you and I?" asked his friend, alarmed. "What about the king's son. Surely we will wait for him."
The knight frowned and kicked a small rock--hard. It skittered across the road. He had not invited the king's son. He didn't want to bother him. He could handle this dragon without him. Or so he thought. “He's not coming," said Sir Knight.
"I'm sorry," said his friend, "but I don't go up against dragons without the king's son."
Sir Knight was flabbergasted. His friend was one of the bravest, most able knights in the realm. Why did his friend need the king's son?
Then it occurred to the knight that maybe that's why his friend was one of the best. The king's son was the most valiant warrior that ever was. Fighting alongside such a person would mean victory. Absolutely.
The knight hung his head. He should have contacted the king. He should have asked for help. He felt like the biggest fool, but he couldn't tell his friend. Sir Knight was too proud, too ashamed. "This is just one little dragon," he argued. "And we're here. We might as well do it. We can take him."
"No," said his friend staunchly.
"Fine," said the knight. "I'll do it without you. Since you're not man enough to do this with me." He threw in that last part trying to shame his friend into helping him.
His friend slammed down his visor and put his hand to his sword. For a moment, Sir Knight thought he had gotten his way. Then his friend turned his mount and rode swiftly back up the way he came.
Sir Knight was shaken, but too stubborn to change his plans. Steeling himself, he strode up to the door of the castle and banged on it.
"I challenge you to come out and fight," yelled the knight.
"With pleasure," roared the dragon, "And by the way, I'm hungry."
The door creaked. The ground shook. The dragon took the field. The knight charged.
He had not studied and trained in vain. He drew dragon blood. The dragon howled and slunk back as though greatly wounded. The knight congratulated himself and rushed forward to attack again.
Suddenly smoke billowed from the dragon. He opened his mouth and fire shot from his throat. It hit the knight's armor. The knight became warm. He became hot. The dragon let loose another blast. And another. The knight was roasting in his armor like a piece of meat. Frantically, he tore off his armor and ran.
He kept running until he reached the other side of the hill. Here, humiliated, he dropped down behind some thick bushes. He would hide, he decided, and wait for nightfall. No one was going to see him walking home in his underwear. No one. Never.
While he was cowering and scolding himself, the king's son rode by.
Sir Knight didn't move, not a muscle. He had his pride. He had his pride, he told himself.
But then he realized that how stupid he was acting, how foolish, and he called out. "Please, help! Help me! Please!"
The king's son stopped immediately and dismounted.
"I don't know what to say, Your Highness," said the knight. Then it occurred to him he did know what to say. "I'm sorry," he confessed. "I should never have tried to fight a dragon without you. I should have asked for your help a long time ago."
The king's son nodded and then offered him some water and some bread and jam. They sat down to eat. The knight told him the whole story. At its end, the knight asked, "Highness, will you fight the dragon?"
"It is my pleasure. But I would like you to go with me." He offered the knight a new suit of armor. Wisely, the knight took it.
Together they started down the road to the castle.
"This is a fierce dragon," said Sir Knight.
"Yes. I will go in front of you," said the king's son.
When they reached the castle, the king's son called out, "Dragon, it is I."
"Go away," snarled the dragon. "I'm not hurting anyone."
"You lie," said the king's son. "And I repeat, 'It is I.' Come out of there."
“You're being mean to me. Mean. Mean. Mean," whined the dragon, poking his head around the door. But then without warning, he let loose a blast of fire.
The king's son held up his shield and the fire bounced back hitting the dragon in the face. The dragon bellowed in pain. The ground shook as he came out from behind the door. And because he was a big liar who lied even to himself, the dragon charged the king's son and the knight. The king's son lifted his sword. The dragon froze, mid-step, and stared in terror. Then turning tail, he ran.
It was glorious!
"Remain here," said the king's son to the knight and he dashed into the forest after the dragon.
The knight obeyed. Shortly the king's son returned. However, he did not carry the dragon's head.
"It is not yet his time to be slain," explained the king's son. "He will hide and sulk in his cave. However, he will not stay away forever. He will come again to trouble people and you, but you don't need to be afraid. You know what to do."
The knight nodded and smiled because now he did.
Copyright, 2021, Nancy Ellen Hird, author
All Rights Reserved
You might also like I Get a Clue and We All Get a Clue. These two mystery novels for young people, ages 10 to 13, are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, and follow the adventures of Edinburgh’s newest and most likable detective, Libby Carlsen. (You’ll like her friends too.)
You can find out more about the novels and their author Nancy Ellen Hird at www.nancyellenhird.com. While you’re there, be sure to check out Libby’s Page for puzzles and such, and the Mystery Party. Learn something and have fun doing it!