Book Cover
Title The Reluctant Dragon
Series ---
Author Kenneth Grahame
Cover Art Inga Moore
Publisher ---
First Printing 1898
Category Children
Warnings None

Main Characters

The boy, the dragon, St. George

Main Elements Dragons

The Reluctant Dragon is an 1898 children's story by Kenneth Grahame (originally published as a chapter in his book Dream Days), which served as the key element to the 1941 feature film with the same name from Walt Disney Productions. The story has also been set to music as a children's operetta by John Rutter, with words by David Grant. The story takes place in the Berkshire Downs in Oxfordshire (where the author lived and where, according to legend, St George did fight a dragon). It is Grahame's most famous short story. It is arguably much more well-known than Dream Days itself or the related The Golden Age. It can be seen as a prototype to most modern stories in which the dragon is a sympathetic character rather than a threat.

In Grahame's story, a young boy discovers an erudite, mushroom-loving dragon living in the Downs above his home. The two become friends, but soon afterwards the dragon is discovered by the townsfolk, who send for St George to rid them of it.

As I was reading it I realized that the idea wasn't new to me, perhaps I had seen the Disney movie, or read some other book with a similar premise, or maybe it just made me think of the movie Dragonheart, but this being an older story it may very be that Grahame was the first to think of dragons and dragon slayers in this way!

For a North American reader this story immediately came off as British. It has snarky humour, and drips with sarcasm. And it puts an old story on it's head. Here we have a dragon, which as we all know burn and plunder villages and steal princesses and hoard gold...but this dragon is different. Frankly, he's lazy and can't be bothered by all that, he much prefers lying in the sun composing poetry. But the villagers view him as an evil scourge (though he hasn't lifted a claw in their direction) and send for the famous dragon slayer St. George. Now St. George has a duty to do, and while he's not any more interested in a fight than the dragon is, there is that honour and duty thing, it's expected after all. I won't spoil how the story ends, it's short so you can read it for yourself. And it's free from Project Gutenberg or!

Posted: February 2013


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