There are many stories of the ferociousness of dragons, but the legends of their strength and goodness are often overlooked.
The following is just one of these stories.
One cold winter’s afternoon, a carpenter (or Cooper, as they used to be known) was searching for wood, when a mighty blizzard blew up. In the freezing wind and driving snow he soon became disorientated and, as darkness fell, there seemed little chance of survival unless he found some cover for the night.
At last the hapless man stumbled into a ravine and, keeping close to the ragged walls, he inched his way along until he came across a small cavern. Inside it was pitch black and still bitterly cold, but at least he was out of the merciless storm.
Slowly the carpenter moved around the cavern until he found a passage that led steeply downwards. Eagerly seeking to find more protection he started along the low passage, carefully feeling his way, until he finally became aware of a wide open space filled with a glorious warmth.
Still unable to see, he was gradually beginning to thaw out, when he suddenly realised that there was a strange sound coming from somewhere beside him – he was not alone. Listening carefully he realised that the noise was the slow steady breathing of a slumbering beast…. a large one…. or was it more than one?
Knowing that he had no choice but to remain, the exhausted man curled up in the dark, hoping to remain unnoticed, but one of the beasts stirred. As it opened its eyes the cave was illuminated in a soft golden glow, and the man saw that it was a dragon – one of a pair.
The creature glanced around its lair and spotted the carpenter who was cowering at his feet. The magnificent beast uncoiled its tail and wrapped it around the terrified man, bringing the uninvited guest close to him. For one terrible moment the dragon regarded the man with a steady gaze but, finding no evil intent, it gently released him and returned to its sleep.
Thus time and winter passed, and the carpenter managed to survive in the dragon’s cosy lair, feeling quite safe in their company. When the temperature dropped he even wrapped a tail around him to keep warm. He ate the meat that remained on sheep carcasses left by the creatures, and mushrooms that grew on the walls of the cave. A gentle trickle of water within the cave gave him all the sustenance he needed.
One day the carpenter awoke to a loud rushing sound. The winter ice had melted and cascades of water were tumbling into the cavern, filling it rapidly. Fearing he was trapped, he rushed to the mouth of the cave and found the dragons there, stretching their wings. He moved towards them as one took off majestically into the sky.
The second dragon was preparing to follow its mate, but allowed the carpenter to hold on to its tail as it skillfully navigated the ravine to the open sky. As it reached the top lip of the ravine, it slowed and allowed the carpenter to drop safely to the ground.
The carpenter went back to his family, who feared him dead, and told his story of how the dragons had saved his life, not just once, but twice. Firstly from the fierce winter and secondly by lifting him to safety as the deluge of melted water filled the ravine. And from that day onwards they regarded all dragons as their friends.
By Claire Russell