The Princess and the Dragon
There once was a small mountainous kingdom called Hinnom. The kingdom was ruled by an old king who had only one love; a daughter whose name was Charis. Unlike most princesses of popular folklore, Charis was hideous; so ugly that her father the king had a very hard time finding suitors who would court his daughter. This seemed odd because Charis was known for her gracious behavior, not to mention that, though a small kingdom Hinnom was very wealthy. Most of the wealth in Hinnom was in livestock in the form of sheep and goats.
Because there was little hope of Charis ever being married, she found companionship among the herds. Other than the king, it seemed as if the sheep and goats were the only ones who loved Charis. She prided herself in being able to speak their language. They would respond to her call and would follow her anywhere. Charis spent most of her waking hours with the sheep and the goats, except, that is, on the night that occurred every month three days after the new moon.
On that night, the darkest in the mountain kingdom, a terrible dragon would make his way from a cave in Dark Valley, fly into the fields of Hinnom and have his fill on two or three of the fattest goats. The dragon loved goats. The goats were among Charisí favorites of all the animals of Hinnom, perhaps because they were as ugly as she was or perhaps because no one really liked them either. The third day after the new moon was very hard on Charis because she knew the fate of the animals she loved. She had to be dragged from the fields by the kingís servants and locked in her room until the deed was over.
For many years the wisest of the wise had gathered to determine how to rid the kingdom of this awful blight. Some had suggested they leave the mountains and give up any dreams of peace. Others had concocted ways to kill the dragon. One even suggested that they make the dragon king.
Only one could come up with the plan that was suggested when all other plans had failed. Ekim, the kingís most trusted, suggested a plan that would not have been taken serious had it not been for the one who had spoken it. Ekim was the one whom the people believed might even be the very one to slay the dragon. He dared the unthinkable, the impossible. His reasoning was clear. Charis was of little good to the kingdom. She was unbearable to look upon and constantly smelled of goats. The future of Hinnom was at stake because it was widely known that the king had offered over half the kingdom to anyone who would marry her and he had no takers. What would become of the kingdom with her as queen and neíer a chance that she would ever produce any offspring? Ekim suggested that she take all her smelly, ugly goats and march them to the Dark Valley and beg the dragon to leave her people alone. One jokester said that Charis was so ugly that the dragon may actually die of fright if he looked at her face. The kingís men thought the plan may just work and went about how they would force the king to do such a thing to his daughter. The hard part would be to trick Charis into giving up her goats for the people who had spurned her all her life. Maybe, just maybe, she would obey the one who had loved her in spite of her repulsive appearance. Would the king dare such an arrangement? It would have to be his choice and he would have to believe that it was the only chance for the survival of the kingdom.
After many days and even more tears the king was convinced that the plan may be the only way. He finally agreed but only if Charis would do it without reservation. If her eyes even moistened the king would call off the plan and suffer under the terror of the dragon and deal with the consequences of having no heir. He called Charis to the throne room and laid out the plan. She would march the goats from the fields of the kingdom to the Dark Valley where she would offer them to the dragon in return for the peace of the kingdom. He explained that the dragon may very well eat her but at a very minimum it would be the end of goats in the kingdom. When and if she made her way back to Hinnom, the goats that she loved would soon be only a memory. Surely, the dragon would eat them all in short order.
As Charis listened, her heart grew heavy but when she saw the gravity of the matter in her fatherís eyes she knew she had little choice. She would go. And go she did. That very day she walked to the field as she had every day since she could walk and led the goats toward the Dark Valley. They followed without hesitation not caring where they were going.
The journey was long but not long enough. Charis had too much time to think. She thought about the eminent death of her only friends. She thought about her own death. She also thought about her father and how hard this must be on him. He really did love her. She never thought about turning back. She arrived after three days. She had left on the night of the new moon.
The cave, she was told, would not be hard to find. First, she would smell the brimstone, and then she would feel the heat. If she was lucky she would see the flames before the dragon saw her. She did. Then he saw her. She didnít make a sound and he didnít make a move. He didnít look as scary as she imagined. In fact, she saw a glimpse of what she could have mistaken for kindness. Was it kindness? She stepped forward to make her plea. Behind her the goats began to back up nervously, yet never taking their eyes off the dragon. Before Charis could say anything, the dragon stepped out of the cave entrance and stooped down. Then, placing his head near the ground, the dragon looked into the eyes of the princess. He tilted his head slightly as if he was questioning whether or not what he saw was real. Who was this human who would dare enter the Dark Valley? He had never seen one so close. He had certainly never seen one so brave. Charis told him the whole story and asked if the trade would be enough to keep him away from the Kingdom of Hinnom. He was baffled. Who would make such an offer? Hadnít she said that she loved the goats? Could it be that she loved the king more?
Then, the strangest thing Charis had ever seen began to take place before her very eyes. A giant emerald tear slid down the dragons jaw. It hit the ground with a thud. She fully expected that it would splash and cover her. It didnít splash though. It was not a tear at all but what looked to be a scale. She looked back into the dragons eyes. More of these green scaly tears began to drop all around. It was raining green scaly tears. The dragon started to change. He began to get smaller and what had been a large ferocious lizard began to take the form of a man. Charis didnít know whether to scream in terror or shout for the sheer joy of what she was seeing. Before she could comprehend what was taking place, a boy so handsome that she felt ashamed to be in his presence stepped from among a pile of emerald scales. Naked, he picked up one of the scales to cover himself and walked toward her. He introduced himself as Mada and told an incredible story of how he had been cursed by an evil wizard. He was destined to live out his life in the Dark Valley. He feared that he would never know love or beauty again, but now he had come face to face with both. And it had changed him. She had changed him. He reached out and took her hand. Charis, too stunned to speak, felt something that she had only felt from her father and the goats. She felt loved. She felt beautiful. The journey back to Hinnom was long but not long enough.
When the king, who had hopefully waited for the return of his daughter, saw her, he was overjoyed. He ran out to greet her but before he could say anything, Mada, without introduction, asked the king for his daughterís hand in marriage. When he found out that the dragon had been destroyed, he agreed. To this day you can see Mada and Charis among the goats and all is well. All shall be well.
mbrown c. 2009