Maud & The Dragon
This is an old legend about a place just 100 miles from Bath. It’s also about a girl and her “pet” . This is a special Story Circle adaptation.
Once upon a time there was a little girl called Maud. She lived in place call Mordiford, in Herefordshire, on the border between Wales and England.
One warm autumn day, Maud was picking blackberries in a the woods. As she went deeper between the trees, she heard a strange noise, and went to investigate. There, under the golden autumn leaves, tucked deep within the grass and brambles, snuggled up so comfortably, was the strangest little creature she ever did see.
Its body was the size of a cucumber. How big is a that? Exactly right. It had bright green scales like the very greenest grass. Each bright green scale had golden tips that shimmered under the autumn sunlight. The creature’s tail was long and pointed. It had wings, as light and transparent as a dragonfly’s. But what captured Maud’s attention most were its flickering eyes, shining as bright as stars on a clear winter’s night.
Maud gazed in wonder at this tiny beast. Every so often, it fluttered its delicate wings, but it was clearly far too young to fly. She felt as though time stood still and nothing in the world mattered at all. The beast gazed back at her and Maud felt as though they had known each other forever. It gently stood up and frolicked around her, squeaking with joy and excitement. And then? And then it clambered onto her lap and snuggled up for a cuddle.
Maud and the creature sat in the afternoon sunshine for who knows how long. She fed it her blackberries, the sun began to set, and the forest started to chill. “Oh, dear,” said Maud. “I have to go home,” and she looked down at the beastie and it looked up at her. “I can’t take you with me; you have to stay here with your mummy and daddy,” she said and she carefully laid the creature back where she found it and walked her way home - trying very, very hard not to look behind her.
When Maud reached her front door, she sighed, smiled and went in. Her dad was laying the table and her mum was putting wood on the fire. They turned to Maud to kiss her hello, but her mother dropped the wood and her father spilt the milk. “Argh!” said Maud’s dad, as he looked at his daughter. “What?!” said Maud. “Argh!” said her mum, and Maud was confused. “Look behind you!” they said, “It’s a wyvern!”
Maud was completely confused. What’s a wyvern? She looked around her - did they mean a raven had come in? But there, at her feet, was the beautiful creature from the woods. “Get that dragon out of here!” said her father. “Dragon?” thought Maud - “this is a dragon?”
The baby dragon - which her parents called a wyvern - sauntered merrily to the fireplace, curled up and fell asleep. And very gently, very kindly, Maud’s parents explained about the creature from the woods. This is what they said:
“What you see now as a sweet, loving pet, like a kitten or a puppy, is the wildest of wild beasts, Maud, sweet heart. It will grow into a creature that’s dangerous to humans.
“Like all nature’s creatures, it must eat to live, and it must eat well. It must grow strong and big. But to do that, it will need lots of meat: our cows, our sheep, and perhaps even people. It will breathe fire to destroy our homes and our village, so that it can catch all it needs to eat, to survive.
“We cannot keep this dragon. It must live far, far from humans, if it’s to live at all. If the villagers knew there was a baby dragon, even in the woods nearby, they would kill it immediately, so it could never grow up and become a danger to us.”
This was the most awful thing Maud could imagine. This lovely little creature - it would never hurt her! But she also loved and trusted her parents, so she listened hard and she came up with an idea to make sure no-one would get hurt.
Early next morning, Maud and her parents went on a long, long journey with the baby dragon tucked deep inside Maud’s cloak. They travelled for three whole days into the wildest, farthest mountains. Far, far away from people and villages, far, far away from danger. And there, in the wildest reaches of the countryside, they left the little dragon, with a long hug from Maud, plenty of water and a massive basket of blackberries.
Many years went by and Maud thought about the dragon every day. She knew she had kept it safe from harm, but was sad at leaving a tiny creature who could not understand that to protect it, she had to leave it. It was a very difficult lesson.
Of course, as Maud grew up, so did her dragon. Far, far away, that cucumber-sized baby became an impressive adult. Its soft green scales hardened into deep green discs. Its firefly wings grew leathery and bat-like. And its curly tail grew something that looked like a deadly sting.
Maud was now a woman, with a farm and a family of her own. Her parents had become grandparents and her children were fine young people. But all was not well in the village. For the last few months, sheep and then cows had gone missing. Pigs, too, and even bulls. Everyone wondered if wolves were eating their livestock. No-one let children play alone any more. The villagers were frightened.
One day, one of Maud’s friends galloped in from the big town, half a day’s ride away. “There’s a dragon!” she cried, “It’s a dragon that’s taking our animals!”
Maud’s parents went quiet, but Maud didn’t hesitate. “Nonsense,” she said, “there’s no dragons here. It’s wolves, of course. Of course it’s wolves.” Her mother and father shuffled their feet and looked at one another with worry. Their grandchildren saw this and knew something was up.
That night, when Maud put the children to bed, her youngest gave her the biggest hug and said, “Mummy, I believe you.” Maud was surprised. “What do you mean?” The child smiled and said, “I think it’s wolves, too. But I’d love to see a dragon.”
Maud thought and thought all night. She woke her her husband and told him she was going to see an old friend. “You’re going to see your dragon, aren’t you?” he said. Maud nodded. “I’ll come, too,” he said, and together, they crept out the door, leaving the children and her parents fast asleep.
It was a very dark night. The sky was cloudy and the moon was nowhere to be seen. Maud had prepared for a 3-day ride to where she had left the dragon. But before they could leave the village, they heard the loud howling of wolves. They stopped the horses and looked. All around them were hills - hills that they could see.
“The moon’s very bright,” said Maud’s husband. Although it was the blackest night, the night sky was alight. They galloped up a hill to get a better look. “It’s not the moon!” said Maud. “It’s a fire.” In a giant circle all the way around the village, someone - or something - had set a ring of fire.
And stuck outside this ring of fire were dozens of howling wolves. They could not get through the fire into the village. It was as if someone had protected the village with the strongest fence imaginable…
Maud and her husband sat on the hill in wonder as they watched the pack of wolves pace around the ring of fire. The wolves were frustrated - they could not reach the village that was full of tasty cows, pigs and sheep.
The flames raged all through the night. By dawn, the whole village had joined Maud and her husband to watch the flames that wouldn’t go out, and see the exhausted, hungry wolves pace round and round in failure.
Everyone knew the flames had kept them safe. Everyone knew they had to be dragon flames, because they’d kept alight so long. And everyone knew they were extremely lucky that - for some strange reason no-one understood - a dragon had decided to protect this village.
Those magic flames protected the village, night after night, all through the winter, until there were no wolves left for a hundred miles.
When spring came, the children could play outside, the people lived well and no-one spoke badly about dragons ever again. Maud often hoped that she would meet her dragon once more, but if she did, she never told anyone.
But her youngest child thought it was strange, so strange, that every night after this, Mummy left out a bowl of blackberries - and by morning, they were gone, and the bowl was always hot…
What other cute creatures grow up to be dangerous?
Is it a good idea to keep wild animals as pets?
Do we know how animals think?
Have you ever had to do a difficult thing, because its the right thing to do?