Kenneth Grahame grew up in Oxfordshire, England. Legend has it that this is where St. George slew his dragon, and Grahame grew up with this story. In his children’s story, “The Reluctant Dragon”, Grahame imagines how the story might have gone differently.
In The Reluctant Dragon, a young boy discovers and befriends a dragon living in a cave not far from his home. This dragon is very different from what you might expect from other dragons. This one was quite easy-going and friendly, and loved indulging in poetry. The villagers are surprised to find out about the dragon, and grow increasingly worried about its presence. It is, after all, a dragon.
The villagers send for Saint George, who arrives impressively armoured atop an equally impressive warhorse. The boy runs for the cave to warn the dragon. Unable to convince the dragon that he is in danger, he runs for the house where Saint George is staying. He hopes to dissuade the would-be dragonslayer by telling him how theirs is a friendly dragon, not one in need of slaying.
He is unable to convince Saint George, but does manage to persuade him to come see the dragon for himself. The two of them head for the dragon’s cave. Saint George is surprised to see that everything the boy told him was true, and dragon and dragonslayer work out an arrangement to stage a fight that would satisfy the villagers that the dragon had been vanquished, but little harm would come to the dragon.
At the end of the fight, the victorious St. George would lead the dragon to the village where they would convince the villagers that the dragon is rehabilitated and would leave the villagers alone.
The next morning, St. George leads the villagers in a procession from the village to the mouth of the dragon’s cave. The young boy is already hidden in the dragon’s cave, getting him ready for his first public appearance.
Dragon and knight make an excellent show of it all. The villagers buy the show and retreat to the village for refreshments and celebration.
Back in the village, the villagers are presented with the dragon, who Saint George convinces them has changed his ways and the dragon becomes the centre of attention at the celebratory banquet.
RKO released a feature film in 1941, produced by Walt Disney Productions, based on The Reluctant Dragon that was essentially four animated shorts strung together with cheesy live action segues touring the newly-built Walt Disney Studios. It cost $600,000 to make, and returned only $400,000 at the box office. In today’s dollars, that would be $9.5 million to make, and $6.3 million in return.
Kenneth Grahame is also known as the author of The Wind in the Willows.
You can download the free ebook in several formats at feedbooks, and you can listen to the story read aloud by Mark F. Smith at LibriVox. You can also listen to the story read aloud in seven parts by Roy Trumbull at the Internet Archive.