Once upon a time in a faraway land, there lived a dragon. At least, that is how you expect the story to go. Fairy tales, myths, and legends never get into specifics that can be historically challenged because it would ruin the point of the story. Without a doubt, many of the fair tails, myths, and legends that are told—at least by mankind—are based in some sort of fact. A good story is good to the extent that it has reached a point where nothing needs to be revised or embellished, which can take a long time. Of course, there are some stories that are so perfect, good, and true in themselves that nothing ever needs to be revised, but this story does not fit into that category. Therefore, this story starts with “once upon a time in a faraway land” instead of “approximately 1700 years ago in Central America” because then nobody will discount it just because they could not find sufficient proof it really occurred. (All conclusive scientific evidence of the existence of dragons disappeared in the early 12th century, but it is still possible for those who are committed to knowing the truth to find the occasional clue).
Now, dragons are a very interesting and mysterious race. Like people, there have been good, kind, and honorable dragons, and there have been evil, cruel, and deceptive dragons. It is true without exception that every created thing is designed to follow its nature, and when its nature involves the ability to make choices, it can make good or bad choices. Just like people, some dragons have made good choices while others have made very bad choices. This explains why stories about dragons can be very different. However, there is another way in which dragons are all alike and are very different from people: they are almost never impatient or impetuous. This makes sense because they count their lives in centuries instead of years, so they rarely ever rush to do anything, including make judgments. If you stop and think about it for a moment, you will realize that this is perfectly logical, for who has ever seen an impatient turtle, tree, or whale? For this reason, dragons are very thoughtful creatures. (I do not say “dragons were” because there are at least two dragons still alive today; however, it will not do any good searching for them because they will not be found unless they choose to be, and to be honest, they find today’s humans on the whole exasperatingly foolish, willfully childish, and dangerously self-centered).
Now, this story is about a very specific dragon in a very remote location in a very unusual situation. Just like children, dragons normally grow up and live according to what is imparted to them. While there are certainly exceptions, children who are taught to be kind will be kind, and children who are taught to be cruel will be cruel, and for the most part, it is the same with dragons; each individual has the ability to choose to be different, but most do not. The big difference is that for dragons, unlike for children, most of this training is passed into the baby dragon through its blood when it first forms in the egg. They do not have the conscious memories of previous dragons, but their nature, temperament, and behaviors have a strong effect; it is like our experience of deja vu but a hundred times stronger. Because of this, dragons are born with a strong inclination to be like their ancestors. They can fight this impulse, but it is not easy to fight the influence of generations of prior dragons. This is why some areas of the world describe dragons as evil while others describe dragons as good; they usually are that way in those places because they have been that way in those locations for millennia. (It is unclear where and why the first split occurred between those who chose to be good and those who chose to be evil, but the strongest historical evidence suggests it was sometime around the flood and had something to do with Babylon).
The dragon of our story was born in an area where dragons had been evil for many generations, and if you saw this young dragon, you would believe it. You have probably seen some people and noticed their features reflect their disposition, positively or negatively: their bodies began to reflect their hearts. Well, if you think about it, it makes sense that dragons would be born reflecting their disposition because their inclination for good or evil is in their blood, affecting their development from the moment an egg is laid. As a result, each dragon is born looking slightly different from its parents, either more evil or good. (If you have wondered why Chinese dragons are different from their English cousins, this is the reason).
On the one hand, you would naturally expect from this information that a dragon born in the line of evil dragons would be evil; on the other hand, you would logically infer that there would not be much of a story if this dragon were not different in some way. In this instance, Dragon—there is no translation into English, either spoken or written, for his name—was one of the very rare examples in which a dragon chose to be different from its inclination. There are several possible reasons why he began to deviate from his biological inclination even before he was hatched, but there is no way to identify with any real certainty which circumstances or events actually influenced his developmental deviation, so that is not part of the story. What is clear is that Dragon was born looking like a very evil dragon but trying not to be a very evil dragon. (Whether or not he was successful, the fact that he made the commitment to fight against his evil inclinations and impulses instead of yielding to them is very admirable, and for that reason alone, he deserves our support and encouragement).
You might wonder why Dragon looked evil when he hatched if he fought against it from as early as he could remember. Sometimes, genetics can be a strong influence in how somebody looks. In this instance, millennia worth of evil dragon blood in his veins could not be countered in a matter of mere months; therefore, he still looked like an evil dragon—though not as evil-looking as if he had embraced his inclinations. The color, shape, and texture of his scales, claws, wings, and face were designed to instill terror and dread in anyone who saw him. However, there was one single feature in which his choice to resist his orientation toward evil won over his biology: his eyes. If anybody could have gotten close enough to look into those eyes without already judging him, they would have seen something different. (In today’s society, most people have lost or have never learned the ability to look in another’s eyes and see what is really there; this is a great tragedy because the eyes almost always accurately reveal what is in another’s heart).
It is important to note that even though Dragon chose not to yield to evil, it does not mean he was an entirely good dragon. All dragons have instincts, and his had been formed by a long family history filled with cruelty, hate, and deception. True, he had chosen to reject those things, but doing so did not instantly change his disposition or his understanding. If you think about it, you will agree that choosing to not be cruel does not automatically teach somebody how to be kind, renouncing hate does not instantly make somebody loving, and rejecting dishonesty does not mean somebody knows how to tell the truth. This was very much the case for Dragon: he had to learn many of the attitudes and behaviors that most of us take for granted. (Trying to be good in contrast to everything one knows and feels, and learning how to do that from scratch with no example or teacher, is more than anyone—dragon or human—can be reasonably expected to do).
Now, two things that Dragon had going for him were, as mentioned previously, that dragons by nature are neither impatient nor impetuous. Although he may have an impulse to react out of anger, he could stop and consider what he was doing before he did it. This helped him to take time to think through his choices and evaluate the repercussions of his actions. If you think about this, you will see the wisdom in what he did. It did not take a great deal of thought for him to recognize that eating people was not good, so that was rarely an issue. He could not change his raspy voice, but he could speak in a way that minimized the occurrence of hisses. However, some behaviors required many years of consideration before he really began to understand them. For example, giving a straight answer did not come naturally to him because as long as it was true in some sense, it was not really a lie; similarly, it was not easy for him to realize that stealing was always wrong if it was something like cattle or sheep that he needed for food. (To be fair, these are common struggles for creatures who count their lives in centuries because they become accustomed to seeing all sides of every issue, often tending toward relativism, and they find the concept of invisible boundaries very confusing, expecting others to think like themselves).
Considering all the work he had to go through, Dragon probably would have given up if he had not had one very understanding friend. Almost immediately after his birth, he came across an injured beggar taking shelter in a cave on the mountain. It was very fortunate for both of them that Dragon was not hungry, for he might have made a meal of him before he realized the better of it. As it was, he had just finished eating, so he was somewhat sleepy. Dragon’s voice was not an issue, for he had not yet learned how to speak, and his looks were not an issue because the man was blind. The man, understanding from personal experience as a beggar how easy it is to be misjudged, did not immediately assume the worst about a baby Dragon standing next to him in a cave. Also, he knew a blind person could not outrun even a baby dragon. (Later, they would both joke about the situation, Dragon claiming he did not eat him because he smelled bad and the man saying he did not run away because he had twisted his foot).
After that first night, Dragon and Beggar—which is what people called him—became friends. Dragon would bring back food to the cave for the man, and Beggar would tell stories about people and far-off lands and adventures. It was through these stories and conversations that Dragon learned all about people. Beggar became his teacher and helped him understand things like kindness, friendship, and truth as well as how to speak his language. It would be great to say that they were friends for many, many years, but in this case, it was not to be. You see, Beggar was already very old and not in the best health when they met. They actually only had a little over two years together before Dragon was left alone. (Although a couple of years can be a long time for people, it is very brief for dragons, so it was actually a clear sign of how good Dragon really was in his heart that he truly missed Beggar).
Dragon was tempted to become very reclusive after Beggar was gone, and anybody who knows anything about dragons knows they are extremely introverted. However, his time with the man had left him curious about other people and places, and he found himself unable to be content being alone. He decided, therefore, to travel down from the mountain to meet people. Now, Beggar had advised him on how to make a good first impression with new people, but being blind, he could not foresee the major difficulties Dragon would have related to his looks. Needless to say, those first few attempts ended disastrously. (We should not judge the people too quickly, for it is understandable that they would be frightened and run away when a very evil-looking dragon is yelling “Stop!” in a loud dragon voice).
In a very patient manner, Dragon realized he needed to be friends with the people if he wanted them to be friends with him. Therefore, he started to do things to change their minds. If he saw someone being robbed on the road through the valley, he would fly in, pick up the robber, and drop him in the river; when one of the young children got lost in the woods, he stayed with the child all night, telling her exciting adventure stories, and then led her to a nearby farm in the morning; and when the woodcutter got sick one winter, he brought his family a sheep, two goats, and a cow so they had food, milk, and clothing until he got better. (In this situation, we should admire his thoughtfulness and not inquire where the sheep, goats, and cow came from, for we already noted Dragon’s confusion in this regard).
It took Dragon a year to convince the local people he was not evil. This was no easy task, for dragons in this area had been evil for a long time. Even when the people started to accept him, things were still rough. Some people could never see past the look of his scales, claws, wings, and face or the raspy sound of his voice. Nevertheless, those who got close enough to look in his eyes became his friends. Not all the problems had to do with people, though. Dragon had to learn to be careful with his claws, and there were many unintended injuries as he learned to interact with others; additionally, two alleged fire-breathing incidents almost completely destroyed all the trust he had formed with the people. Still, perseverance paid off, and Dragon not only gained many generations of friends but was almost single-handedly responsible for changing the history of the area concerning the nature of dragons. (The End)