Dragon painting by Liang Jin Xin

Chinese New Year was celebrated last Saturday, so I thought I’d concentrate on Chinese stories for a few weeks. “The Dragon After His Winter Sleep” was retold in The Chinese Fairy Book edited by Dr. R. Wilhelm, 1921.

Once upon a time, a scholar who was reading in his house. It was a rainy, cloudy day and the weather was gloomy. Suddenly he saw a little thing which shone like a firefly. It crawled onto the table, and wherever it went it left traces of burns. Gradually it wound itself about the scholar’s book and the book, too, grew black. Then it occurred to the scholar that the creature might be a dragon. So he carried it outside on the book. He stood there for a while, but it didn’t move at all.

Then the scholar said: “It shall not be said of me that I was lacking in respect.” With these words he carried the book back inside and laid it on the table. Then he put on his robes of ceremony, made a deep bow and escorted the dragon out on it again.

No sooner had he left the door, than he noticed that the dragon raised his head and stretched himself. Then he flew up from the book with a hissing sound, like a radiant streak. He turned around toward the scholar, and his head had already grown to the size of a barrel, while his body must have been a full fathom in length. He gave one more snaky twist, and then there was a terrible crash of thunder and the dragon went sailing through the air.

The scholar then returned and looked to see which way the little creature had come. He followed his tracks hither and thither back to his chest of books.

I love that the dragon was hibernating in the chest of books. I didn’t know that in Chinese legend dragons hibernate during the winter. While hibernating, they are very small. When the first spring storm comes they fly up to the clouds on the lightning.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all. Feel free to join in.