This is a story I learned from a traveler, from afar and ago, from a country rich and prosperous which knew not hunger, nor frost, nor fear. It was a country where everybody had a roof and enough to eat, where there were no thieves but poets and musicians on every street and people lived happy and in peace.
As you already know Best Beloved, people can’t recognise happiness when it hits them on the nose and people from this country were no different. They liked drama and sad stories and did not know they were happy.
One day, as he had wandered further than was usual, in a secluded clearing, a man came upon a huge egg, big as a calf, round, shiny like a jewel and warm under the sun. He thought it beautiful and brought it back home. He had his family and neighbours admire it and everyone was amazed at its beauty. That night, unable to part, he fell asleep next to it and had a very strange dream. From the egg came a voice : « Keep me warm and protect me from harm for I hold a magnificent treasure. Everything you’ll do for me I will repay a hundredfold when the time comes. »
Charmed and in awe, the man did everything the egg asked, put it on a soft blanket and laid it in the sun. Then he built a fire around it and asked his family to keep feeding it night and day. Soon, the whole village was under the egg’s spell and everyone fed it with their stash of logs. Only a sassy little girl, an old crone and a restless young man remained unconvinced by the beauty of the jewel-egg. The girl said : « It’s a big egg, why not feed our village with it and make jewels from its shell? »
The old woman said : « No good will come out of it, I can feel it in my bones. Come winter, we’ll freeze for lack of wood. Let’s break its shell into dust and speak no more of it. »
The young man said : « I heard stories about its like. This is a dragon’s egg, when it will hatch, it will eat us live. Break its shell before that and forget all about it. »
But the villagers made fun of them. What were a few logs compared the promised treasure hidden within ? They wouldn’t listen and soon, they too began dreaming that the egg talked to them. It would give them advice on their business and they would prosper. Some of them had nightmares but were so terrified they refused to speak of it. The egg’s power grew over the country and the village became a holy place where people would come, hoping to dream egg’s dreams and get advice from it.
Little by little, the country changed, the roads became unsafe and there was tale of travelers being attacked. The man who had found the egg said : « Our neighbours did it, they are jealous of our egg and will try to steal it, we must be wary! » So the people chased the poets from the streets and replaced them with guards for fear the egg would be stolen. Thus they felt safe for a while.
The egg’s counsels became less benevolent and more cruel but nobody cared to notice. Some made good deals thanks to it but others were led to ruin. They were ousted from their homes and knew hunger and frost and fear. The country changed still more and became a dark place that travelers avoided. But people there still believed they held a great treasure and would be attacked. Their guards didn’t reassure them anymore and they chased the musicians away from the streets and replaced them with warriors and thought they’d be safe.
Still more and more people were being driven away from home and made terrible nightmares of which they dared not speak. The sassy little girl who wanted to make an omelette had long since been kicked away. The old crone who felt dire times coming in her bones had been dispossessed too and when the young man had tried to protect her and to tell of dragons, he’d been beaten away.
The whole country was worshipping the egg and it seemed shinier and more beautiful every day. But some people began to regret the time when there was music and songs, the time when there were poets and musicians on the streets instead of guards and warriors kicking sassy girls and lame elders and beating any who tried to protect them. But they didn’t dare say anything. They thought it was too late already to change their mind and that they got what they deserved. Sometimes there would be another sassy child and another far-seeing elder and another man to defend them but the warriors had stiff clubs and no one dared opposed them. And so still people lived as they used to, saying all was well and thanking the egg for all it did for them.
Finally came the day when the egg creaked, cracked and exploded in a whirl of sapphires, rubis and diamond-like emeralds. The creature that hatched was beautiful and grand and great. It stretched a long serpentine neck and wide wings that shed a glittering shadow on the land below then bellowed such a mighty cry that walls shook and leaves fell all over the country. People were stricken by its appearance. Some thought « DRAGON ! » and fled and hid. Some thought « DRAGON ! » and froze in terror. Most thought « DRAGON ! » and were rapt with wonder and praised the mighty beast. The dragon claimed the country as his own. Everyday it would eat twelve cows and four and twenty piece of sheep, drink six barrels of wine and twelve barrels of beer and sometimes it would eat the cupbearer but no one dared speak of it and it was always worshipped. It finally ate the man who had found its egg without any more reason than that it was bored that day and none would say a word.
Neighbour countries started to fear the dragon would come eat their livestock and they got an army ready to kill it. When the dragon learned of it, it took flight and in a single long outbreath of fire reduced the great army to cinder. The people were stricken by this deed and praised him louder still. They made as if the monster had saved them from their spiteful neighbours and lived on as if all was well. But fear plagued them and nothing would quench it. They armed more warriors and made as if it would protect them, even though the dragon had proved they really really didn’t need them. But people Best-Beloved are very good at blinding themselves and though most now longed for their lost happiness, they refused to acknowledge what caused the change and mourned their misfortune, pointing fingers to their neighbours and accusing each other.
The country was desolate, stricken by dread and no one new how to bring peace back anymore. The dragon prevailed arrogantly, never raising its voice and became bigger and fatter.
Meanwhile, in exile, the girl who wanted to make an omelette grew, the elder taught her to listen to her bones and the young man gathered berries and hunted rabbits to feed them. One day, the girl said : » Time has come to get rid of this big fat dragon and cook a méchoui with it. » The elder didn’t say anything because she had no more to teach. The young man didn’t say anything because he had been waiting for this. He took his bow and quiver and prepared to leave. But the girl took his bow and set it aside. She replaced it with a lute, taught him a catchy tune and they were gone. Everywhere they went, they would settle on the corner of a street, the young man would play his catchy air and the girl would sing her song then quickly swiftly, they would leave before the warriors could catch them. The song told of lost felicity and of terror and ended joyfully. Those who heard it wept and laughed as they found hope somehow.
Rumor of their coming spread and the song could soon be heard everywhere. Its melody was so rousing and people had so long been denied music that they couldn’t stop singing it. The girl and her companion disapeared as they’d come but the song stayed, pervading the air. The dragon forbade that it be sung but he couldn’t stop grandmas singing to craddles and even the clubbed warriors could be heard humming. Soon as it was known to all, the girl came back into the furthest possible place and along her the young man and the old woman. They sang and began walking. They traveled all day towards the dragon’s lair. By nightfall, they were still singing and a small crowd followed. They didn’t stop but lit torches and kept walking through the night. By morning, the crowd was larger still and they were stil marching. The dragon saw them coming but shook with laughter. These minuscule idiots could nothing against its might. He ate a few cows and slept.
By the end of the second day, half the country’s people followed the girl and though she was exhausted, she didn’t stop for the night but lit a torch and kept singing. By the third morning, the whole country sung with her. The dragon felt a tinge of worry but it still trusted its power : one hot breath would scatter them. It growled but the people marched on. The dragon started laughing, did they believe they could slay it with music ? It so incredibly mighty ? It drank a few barrels and fell asleep disdainfully. The girl took advantage of it : she had a verse ready, never sung before. And this is what she sung to her gathered people :
« Take a strong rope and tie the wings tight tight.
Take a stake and bury it deep deep in the ground.
Take a thick blanket and blind its eyes
Then finally grab a sharp axe and slice its neck ! »
And as she sung, people did what she said and so was slain the mighty dragon. They dismembered its body and feasted on its meat three nights and three days. They made jewels out of its hide and with it crowned the girl. Warriors threw their weapons and took musical instruments instead and learned again to love music and poetry. It all took time and people were still hungry and cold for many seasons and they remembered long the lure of the beautiful egg of dragon.
So it was and so it will be and so ends the story.
This was inspired by talks I had with ❤️Marco about politics, and is dedicated to his kind and beloved soul.