There was once a young man who was a woodcutter, and very poor. He and his wife had no children, which was a great sorrow, but they were honest, hardworking folk, with kind hearts.
One day, the young man was working deep in the forest when he came across something very strange. Lying in a clearing, half-hidden in the wild grass, was an enormous, brown, shiny egg — so large that he needed both hands to carry it. The woodcutter took the egg home to his wife, who wrappedit in warm red flannel and put it in a basket by the fire.
A few days later, as she sat sewing, the woodcutter's wife heard a tap, tap, tap coming from the basket, and when she looked at the egg, she saw it had a great crack in it. Then the two halves of the shell fell apart and there, lying in the basket, was a weird little baby. The woodcutter's wife was overjoyed, and ran to tell her husband that they now had the child they had always wanted.
He was certainly no ordinary child. He was covered in silvery scales, had a stumpy little tail, and a face rather like a crocodile. But to the woodcutter and his wife he was the most beautiful child in the whole wide world.
Time passed, and the child grew and grew. And as he grew, he became uglier, until he was quite frightening to look at. Yet he had the sweetest, most loving nature you could imagine.
Soon, the neighbours began to whisper among themselves about the woodcutter's child.
“See his long, scaly tail!" they said. "See the wings folded beneath his coat! And what a hideous face he has, with his long, snapping jaws!" But the woodcutter and his wife loved their ugly child dearly, and he repaid their love.
At last, the woodcutter's child grew to his full size, and he really was an alairning sight. He had pointed teeth and long claws, and sometimes, when there was frost about, he could not prevent a little smoke and flame from curling out of his nostrils. He treated all the village people with great politeness and kindness, but they were still afraid of him. They talked about him even more now, and began to voice their suspicions aloud — the woodcutter's child was ... a dragon!
Their fear made them angry, and one day they gathered together and marched to the house of the woodcutter. They banged on the doors, and rattled the shutters, and threw stones at the windows, and drove the woodcutter and his wife and the dragon (for such indeed he was) out into the forest.
Then the farmer heard about the dragon, and he gave the woodcutter no more work, and the family were forced to wander about the countryside, sheltering in ditches and begging bread where they could. The woodcutter and his wife soon grew tired and thin, but they never ceased to love their dragon son.
One day, the dragon led the woodcutter and his wife to the top of a high hill. "Please wait here for me," he said. "I will return by sunset." Then he flapped his horny wings for the very first time, and flew off into the clouds. The woodcutter and his wife sat down, weary, sad and afraid. All day they waited for the dragon's return, with neither food nor drink.
At last, they saw the dragon's wings outlined against the setting sun, and they prepared to welcome their child. The dragon flew down and kissed them both gently. "You have suffered much because of me," he said, "and I love you both dearly. Now here is your reward." And he brought from under his wing a beautiful bag, full of gold. "I have been to the King of the Dragons," he went on, "and for your loving kindness to me, the King sends you enough money to live in comfort for the rest of your lives." Then the woodcutter and his wife said that they had only behaved as any parents would, and they cried when the dragon said he must leave them, and go back to his own kind. Although they never wanted for anything again, and lived happily on a little farm for very many years, they never forgot the dragon, their child, and they often looked for the shadow of his wings against the setting sun as they fetched in the cows for milking on a cold winter's evening.
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