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“Stan and the Dragon”

Once upon a time there was a husband and wife who lived in a comfortable house, owned a herd of healthy cows, and had a fine garden with many fruit trees. Still, the wife was unhappy because they had no children. Unable to see her miserable for one more moment, her husband, Stan, left early one morning to consult a magician. After making sure that Stan really wanted children the magician told him, “Go home, your wish is granted.”

Imagine Stan’s surprise when he opened the front door and there were oodles and heaps of children of every size, shape, personality and color. “How will we feed all these children?” asked Stan. “There must be more than a hundred.”

“No matter,” said his wife cheerfully. “They are all welcome.”

The next morning Stan left to find a way to feed and clothe his children. After walking all day, asking for work at every farm and receiving only no, no, and another no, he felt more than a little discouraged. When he saw a shepherd herding his sheep, Stan was ashamed to realize all he could think about was what a fine dinner his children could have if he stole a few of the sheep. He decided to hide in a thick bush and hoped he wouldn’t fall asleep.

Just before midnight, when his eyes were so heavy he could barely stay awake, he heard a horrible noise, so loud the ground shook. A dragon, swooped down, picked up a lamb in each claw and flew away.

Stan took pity on the shepherd and helped him gather the frightened sheep. In return, the man offered him half of his dinner. He told him how the dragon came each night and stole two sheep. “If this keeps up I’ll soon have no more sheep to herd.”

“Hmm,” said Stan. “If I rid you of the dragon, how will you reward me?”

“It’s not likely you can, but if you do, I’ll give you sheep enough to start your own flock.” The two men agreed and the shepherd soon fell fast asleep. Stan was wide awake, trying with no success, to think of a way to make the dragon stop stealing the shepherd’s sheep.

The next day, while helping the shepherd tend his sheep, he wanted to think of a plan, but horrendous memories of the hideous sound drowned out his thoughts. As midnight approached Stan’s fear intensified until he was so frightened he could hardly stand up.

When the dragon appeared, rushing down toward the sheep, the noise was even worse than the night before. Terrified, Stan screamed, “Stop your atrocious noise or I will…”

The dragon was so startled it stopped mid-flight, landed, and said, “Who are you?”

Stan’s fear spoke for him. “I am Stan, the mighty man. I eat dragons for breakfast. These sheep are mine. Leave now or I will eat you.”

“Go ahead. Eat me,” bluffed the dragon.

Stan moved toward the dragon, knife and fork in hand, looking as ferocious as he knew how.

The dragon stepped away from Stan and said, “Well, if these sheep are yours I better look elsewhere.” He flapped his wings, preparing to leave.

“Just a moment,” snarled Stan. “We have a score to settle. You’ve already eaten too many. You have to pay me for my losses. That man over there, he’s my shepherd and he knows the exact amount that is due. Pay up or else.”

“I don’t have any money but my mother does. If you come with me and help with our chores, she’ll take a liking to you and give you more gold than you can carry.”

Stan’s terror turned to amazement. He felt himself grow bold and strong. “Lead me to her,” he growled, as best he could.

The dragon’s mother was bigger and more fearsome than her son. Sam was terrified but thinking about his hungry children gave him courage. “You say you’re stronger than my son, do you? Well, we’ll soon see,” said the dragon’s mother. She gave her son an enormous iron barrel and said, “Throw it as far as you can.”

It fell so far from where Stan was standing he could barely hear it crash. “Your turn,” said the dragon.

“Oh, it’s such a pity that I might have to kill you with this barrel,” said Stan, sounding mournfully sad.

 “What?” yelped the dragon.

“A long time ago I did a favor for a magician and now, any time I throw something, it comes back. Since it’s your barrel it will probably smash right into you and kill you before you know what’s happened.”

“Well, in that case, there’s no hurry. My mother will think of another way to see which of us is stronger.”

The next morning the dragon’s mother gave them each a huge pail and said, “The one who is stronger will carry the most water.” The dragon lifted the pail as if it weighed nothing, ran to the well, filled it up, and was back in an instant. “Your turn,” he said.

Stan bent down and with his pocketknife, began to dig up the earth. “No sense carrying a pail all that way when I can dig a well close by.”

“Stop,” screamed the dragon. “The well was dug by my grandfather’s great-grandfather. It mustn’t be disturbed. “I’ll carry the pail for you.” Stan kept digging.

"I’ll give you twice the gold I promised if you’ll stop digging,” cried the dragon. Before Stan could reply, the dragon filled and emptied the pail twice. When the dragon mother saw how much water she thought Stan had carried, she devised another plan.

The next morning she said, “Let us see who can collect the most wood in the next hour.” The dragon had no trouble lifting huge oaks out of the ground but Stan climbed to the top of the highest tree and noticed a vine creeping up toward him. He tied it to a strong branch and then, holding it, climbed to the top of a second tree. When he noticed the dragon watching him he said, “It’s too much work pulling out one tree at a time, I’m going to tie all of the tallest trees with this vine and then I’ll pull them up, all together.”

Terrified the dragon yelled, “No! Stop! My great-grandfather’s great-grandfather planted this forest. You mustn’t ruin the forest. I’ll give you three times the amount of gold I promised if you’ll leave the trees alone.”

“Very well, but this is the last time I’m going to promise to stop. Once I start something, I finish.”

The dragon and his mother decided it didn’t matter who was stronger, they just wanted Stan to leave. “Very well,” said Stan, who was enjoying himself, “but if you want me to go, you’ll have to carry me and the gold back to my house.”

Quicker than an eye can blink, the dragon loaded up the gold and bent down so Stan could get on his back.

As they approached Stan’s house, they could hear the laughs and shouts of his children. “Hmm,” said Stan. “Maybe you better stop here. I have hundreds of children and they’re all stronger than…” Before he could say another word, the dragon dumped the gold, shoved Stan off his back, and disappeared into the sky.

Stan grinned. Hmm, he thought, there’s enough gold here to feed and clothe my children for the rest of their lives. Not bad for three days work.

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Updated January 2019.
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