Table of Contents
I told this story to Benji yesterday, and it came out coherent enough that I thought it worth writing down. It’s about 4200 words long, so get comfy if you’re going to sit through the whole thing. I’m glad I took the time, too, because in the end, I rather like Lumpy.
Part One: Lumpy the Dragon
Once upon a time, there was a dragon named Lumpy. He was a purple dragon with green and yellow spots, and he had big wings and long, clever claws. Lumpy lived in the forest with the other dragons, all of whom were named things like Vicious and Killer and Firey because they were all like that.
The other dragons all had sharp, pokey spikes along their backs and tails, and they were colors like black and red, except for some that were camouflage color to blend in with the woods, or ones that were blue like the sky on their bellies to be camouflaged while flying. They all breathed fire, of course, and had huge razor-sharp teeth and claws.
When Lumpy tried to breathe fire, all that came out was smoke that smelled like cinnamon. And Lumpy never grew spikes; instead, he just had little lumpy knobs on his back, which is how he came to be named Lumpy.
The other dragons liked to eat people and cows alive, and they all liked hoarding gold and treasure. They didn’t care about pretty flowers, butterflies, nice smells, or fish, nuts, and honey, all of which Lumpy preferred. While the other dragons were out pillaging villages, or stealing princesses, or toasting knights with their flames, Lumpy went for walks in the woods, admiring beautiful flowers, or listening to the burble of creeks, or finding especially delicious honeycomb. He even learned to understand honey-bee dance language, because he was so observant.
So, you see, Lumpy was quite different from the other dragons. Unfortunately, the other dragons made fun of him because he was so different. They mocked him when he came home wearing a tiara of wildflowers, or when he brought back some especially luscious honeycomb, or told them about tickling fish in a river. They especially mocked him for not collecting any gold or kidnapping any princesses or eating any knights. No girl dragons would even look at Lumpy, let alone make dragonets with him. Even Lumpy’s family was rather mean to him, and his parents told him what a disappointment he was as a dragon.
This all made Lumpy very sad and hurt his feelings. But because Lumpy had a generally sunny disposition, he didn’t let the other dragons’ mockery hurt his feelings. Instead, he just went for long walks in the woods by himself, finding and appreciating the beauty of the forest. He knew that he was who he was, no matter what the other dragons thought, and he wasn’t going to change what he liked just to make them happy.
One day, when he was a young dragonet, Lumpy was watching the honey-bees talking (by dancing; sadly, Lumpy couldn’t communicate very well with them, since he couldn’t waggle quite the way they did, but he was able to say polite things like, “Excuse me, may I have some honey?” and “Thank you for the delicious honey.” He found the bees to be quite polite) when he oversaw a surprising conversation.
A honey-bee from far away had come to visit Lumpy’s favorite hive, and this strange honey-bee said, “Where we live, we have a terrible time with giants. Giants love honey more than anything else — even more than little boys — but they get very sick from just a few bee-stings! And an entire hive of stings will kill that great big giant! Can you believe it?” The other bees commiserated with having to sting giants to keep them away from the hard-won honey, but all agreed it was worth it to protect their golden hoard.
Lumpy found that interesting, but as years went by, he forgot about it. Dragons live for hundreds of years, after all, and once two or three hundred years had passed, Lumpy had seen many other more interesting things. Besides, giants never came to his forest; all remained serene and beautiful.
At least, it was serene and beautiful for dragons, up there at the top of the food chain. It was a little harder on humans, who were one rung down and always getting raided by those huge, voracious dragons. Humans had learned, however, that dragons only liked to eat live prey, and would leave a limp, stationary body alone in preference for moving food (often the person’s horse, cow, pig, or sheep, none of which were smart enough to play dead. Dogs did better, having a natural predilection for laying around).
That is why all parents in the woods taught their children to play dead whenever a dragon was nearby. Usually the dragon, which had a fairly short attention span, would be distracted by some poor other panicking creature running away and would leave the prone human alone.
Part Two: Lumpy and the Little Boy
It was a lovely spring morning when Lumpy went out into the forest to find his favorite honey-tree. He was galumphing through the forest and had made himself a wildflower crown, as he was wont to do (dragons have long, clever claws that can make things, although usually they just use them for ripping open knights’ armor or breaking into store-rooms), and he’d draped it rather lopsidedly over his large head. He looked rather ridiculous, galumphing along through the woods like this, but he was quite content.
Some distance off, a little boy was out hunting for truffles with his pig, Truffles (this name suggested by Benji). The boy’s family was rather poor, and Truffles the pig found enough truffles that they could sell them and buy a little bit of food. The boy knew he had an important job helping earn money for his family, and he diligently hunted truffles every day of the season.
The little boy spotted Lumpy through the trees, but he didn’t see the good-hearted, galumphing, purple, yellow, and green Lumpy; instead, he glimpsed the dim, shadowy figure of a huge, presumably vicious dragon through the tree trunks. Naturally, he was terrified! But his parents had taught him well, and instead of running away, as he first intended, he dropped to the ground and held very still.
Lumpy caught a glimpse of the boy falling to the ground. Now, because Lumpy was so nice, he worried that the boy had hurt himself. People didn’t usually just fall to the ground and lay still did they? Although he was hundreds of years old, Lumpy’s experience with people was limited to secondhand observation of the people brought back by his dragon kin, and somehow he suspected those people weren’t acting like people usually do. But he wasn’t sure. So he headed over to check on the horizontal human.
Unfortunately, the pig wasn’t as well trained as the boy. When the boy dropped the pig’s leash and the dragon moved towards them, Truffles squealed in terror and dashed off into the woods.
The boy held very still, even when the pig — his family’s livelihood — ran away.
Lumpy came up to the boy and gently prodded him with one claw. “Are you all right?” Lumpy asked.
Now, dragons can speak, and they do talk to each other quite often; but they rarely spoke to people, preferring not to get into long and often tedious conversations with their dinner. After all, a conversation consisting entirely of “Please don’t eat me, please, please, please don’t eat me, I promise my family will give you lots of gold if you just let me go home” wasn’t very good for digestion.
As a result, the boy was quite surprised when Lumpy talked to him. So surprised, in fact, that he sat up and said, “What?!”
This really answered Lumpy’s question. Clearly the boy wasn’t hurt, having sat up so easily. “Pardon me, if I frightened you,” Lumpy said, “I just wanted to ensure that you hadn’t injured yourself when you fell.”
“I’m OK, if that’s what you’re asking,” the boy said. He wasn’t used to the fancy way Lumpy talked, which came from reading too many books about philosophy and art. “It’s just that Mother and Father told me to always fall on the ground and pretend to be dead when I see a dragon, so I don’t get eaten.” He eyed Lumpy a little suspiciously. “Are you going to eat me?”
“Good gracious, no!” Even the little boy, unused as he was to dragon expressions, could see Lumpy’s revulsion. “I eat only nuts, berries, fruit, honey, and fish. Certainly never any red meat! No, no, no.”
“Well, that’s a relief,” the boy replied. But, with the risk of imminent death removed, the boy realized the gravity of losing his pig, Truffles, and he burst into tears. “I’m OK… but I lost our pig! How will we ever get any food now, if I can’t find truffles to sell for money? What will Mother and Father say?” He laid back down and wept piteously.
Now, Lumpy was a compassionate dragon, and he knew the pig had run away because it was afraid of him. Lumpy wanted to make things right, so he crouched down near the little boy.
“I have a very good nose,” Lumpy whispered (a dragon whisper is quite loud). “I can follow your pig’s trail and we’ll catch him again.”
When the boy looked up with tear-stained eyes, he saw the crooked crown of wildflowers on Lumpy’s head, and noticed that the dragon’s armored skin was purple with yellow and green spots, and didn’t feel so frightened anymore. In fact, he felt just a bit hopeful.
“Really? You could find him?” He wiped his eyes and nose with a rather filthy sleeve. Seeing the smear of dirt and snot left behind across the boy’s face, Lumpy cringed but didn’t say anything. Personally, Lumpy preferred to stay clean and nice-smelling, another difference between him and the other dragons.
“I’m certain I could,” Lumpy agreed. And he was certain, because, like most pigs, Truffles didn’t exactly smell like a bed of roses. He radiated a unique and unmistakable odor that Lumpy could follow with his eyes closed. “Let’s go!”
Off Lumpy galumphed, rather excited to be helping the little human.
A few minutes later, Lumpy looked back and didn’t see the boy anywhere. Although Lumpy galumphed slowly for a dragon, his long legs had still gone much too fast for a little boy to keep up! So he went back to the boy and helped him climb up onto his back. The lumps, which had brought so much scorn to Lumpy, made perfect seats for the boy to sit between and handles to hold on.
Off they galumphed, following the stinky pig trail.
Part 3: Lumpy Saves the Day
After a surprisingly long time — evidently the pig had run very fast, being extremely scared — the pig smell got much stronger. But just as they almost reached the pig, Lumpy and the boy heard a huge crashing noise. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! CRACK! CRASH!
Now, despite being an odd bird in many ways, Lumpy was like the other dragons in that he was accustomed to being the biggest thing in the forest. No other animals were as large as dragons, as strong as dragons, or as intimidating as dragons. So when he heard these big noises, Lumpy felt a little nervous but a lot curious.
Besides, the stinky pig smell was in that direction. On they went.
Soon Lumpy and the boy reached the source of the loud noises. It was a pair of gigantic feet, connected to some huge legs, which went up to an enormous torso, of which Lumpy and the boy could only see about half, for the giant — it was a giant — was about twice as tall as most of the trees in the forest. He was easily twice Lumpy’s size, too.
The giant was busy swinging an enormous scythe, chopping down trees to clear a path. Trees and splinters flew in every direction. And the pig was scurrying around by the giant’s feet, squealing in terror.
Fortunately, the pig was approximately the size of a field mouse compared to the giant, who hadn’t yet noticed the succulent pork on the trotter scrambling around way down there.
At this point, Lumpy and the boy did something very brave (you could say foolish, too, but I like to think they were being brave). They dashed — no more galumphing, this was a downright run — in around the giant’s feet. Lumpy snatched the terrified pig up in his front claws.
Holding the pig meant that Lumpy couldn’t run so fast anymore. He had to awkwardly balance on his hind legs while the boy clung to the lumps on his back.
Eventually even the extremely dull-witted giant noticed all this activity, and he yelled loudly. Giants love to eat succulent little boys, and a dragon would be pretty filling if rather tough, and the dragon was holding a tasty bite of pork, and he (the giant) was quite peckish after clearing all those trees! Dinnertime!
He swung his scythe at Lumpy and the boy, hoping to snare both the dragon and the boy in one go. But Lumpy, who had centuries of practice flying, leaped into the air at just the right moment so that the breeze of the scythe ruffled the boy’s hair. Lumpy flapped his wings furiously to fly away as quickly as he could — a speed which, thanks to the aerodynamics of his back lumps, would have surprised his fellow dragons.
As Lumpy, the boy, and poor, terrified Truffles the pig gained altitude, they looked down and saw a long, straight swath of destruction through the heart of the forest. Lumpy’s heart constricted. His beautiful forest, being destroyed!
Circling high above, the dragon and his passenger noticed that the giant had cleared an arrow-straight path heading right for the dragons’ forest home and, just beyond, the castle and humans’ town.
“We have to get help!” the boy yelled to Lumpy over the howl of wind. Lumpy nodded and beat his wings harder, zooming towards the castle as fast as he could fly, which thankfully was much faster than the giant could clear trees. Behind them, the giant roared angrily and resumed swinging his giant scythe, clearing as fast as he could. Trees flew in all directions.
It didn’t take long for Lumpy and the boy to reach the town. After dropping Truffles the pig off (literally, although not from a great height; after which Truffles hid straight away in his mud puddle and refused to move for two months, although he recovered to his normal porcine self thereafter), Lumpy and the boy flew on to the castle. They bypassed the regular front door with all the guards, who were sure to turn them away, and instead flew straight to the balcony adjacent to the throne room.
Lumpy landed delicately on the balcony and carefully turned around, ready to take off again. The boy slid down and dashed into the throne room, interrupting an important meeting between the King and Queen and some merchants who sold coral from very far away. The merchants had traveled for a long, long time to reach the King and Queen, and were extremely irritated at having a filthy urchin interrupt them by yelling incoherently, “Giant! Giant! There’s a giant coming straight for the castle!”
Not unreasonably, the King called, “Guards! Grab that boy and throw him in the dungeon!” Although generally a benevolent and tolerant monarch, the King didn’t take kindly to interruptions either. To his credit, he did intend to listen to the boy, but at some later, more expedient time.
When the boy heard this, spun around and, quick as a flash, dashed back to the balcony, leaped onto Lumpy’s back. They flapped away before the guards could grab him. The guards, King, Queen, and merchants all stood with their mouths hanging open at the sight of a boy riding a (presumably) ferocious dragon.
It wasn’t a sight they saw for long, though, because Lumpy immediately zoomed back to the forest. He hoped his dragon kin would help fight the giant.
But when he and the boy arrived, after they sorted out the fact that the boy wasn’t dinner, the other dragons simply mocked Lumpy.
“A giant? I’d call that a fairly small boy,” they said.
“If you aren’t going to eat him, at least give him to us! We’ll make sure he doesn’t go to waste!”
“A giant BUTTERFLY is attacking, you say? Ha, ha, ha!”
“Go away and come back with some treasure, or a princess. Don’t waste our time with stories!”
Discouraged and disappointed, Lumpy flew the boy to his favorite clearing. In the middle of the clearing stood a large honey-bee hive in a dead snag, and around the snag grew a rainbow array of wildflowers. Just within the shade of the trees at the perimeter, a small stream burbled. It should have been quite idyllic, with little bees busily gathering nectar from the flowers, the sun shining, and a little breeze ruffling the trees’ leaves.
But Lumpy and the boy couldn’t enjoy the clearing. They were too worried. “What can we do about the giant?” the boy cried. “He’s getting closer every minute, and nobody will believe us. We have to stop him somehow, but we can’t!” He started to cry again.
Lumpy sat watching the bees, pondering. The breeze blew the smell of warm honey from the tree. Suddenly, Lumpy leaped to his feet with an excited spurt of cinnamon-smelling smoke. “Eureka! Honey!” he yelled, and the boy covered his ears. “Giants adore honey! We shall lure him away back home with the honey in this tree!” And he started prancing around the clearing, waggling his tail and rear end in a most undignified fashion.
The boy scrambled out of the way, shaking his head. “Honey? Why would a giant want honey?” he shouted, trying to be heard over Lumpy’s tromping.
Pausing in his bee-dance, Lumpy explained about his encounter with honey-bees hundreds of years before. “I’m sure this giant would rather have all the honeycomb from this tree than spend all day cutting trees,” Lumpy said, too excited to speak pompously.
“But what about when he’s done eating the honey?”
“I am confident we shall obtain inspiration before such a juncture,” Lumpy replied.
“Ok…” the boy said dubiously, and then dashed to the creek to hide in the water while Lumpy tore the honey-tree apart to reach the comb. Fortunately, his bee-dance had communicated enough to the bees that they understood the importance of sharing their work, and the bees didn’t fight to protect their honey. They did, however, continue to swarm around the extracted honeycomb, not knowing what else to do.
The boy watched, and wondered what the bees would do now that Lumpy had reduced their home to a bunch of sticky splinters. The bees buzzed rather sadly around the former site of their home, seeming rather confused to the boy.
Lumpy, with the boy carefully aboard far from the sticky honeycomb, flew back toward the giant, who had made alarming progress through the woods while the pair were absent. When they reached the giant, Lumpy flew in a few circles around his head so the giant could get a good sniff of the honey.
As they hoped, the giant immediately stopped clearing trees. “HONEY!” he roared, dropped his scythe, and reached to catch Lumpy.
“FLY!” the boy shouted, watching behind them, as Lumpy zoomed back along the cleared tree path. “Fly faster, Lumpy! He’s almost catching us!” And it was true. Although Lumpy could fly quite fast, the giant’s long legs flashed as he ran, almost catching Lumpy time and again.
But they flew, and flew, and flew, faster and farther and longer than Lumpy had ever gone before. Soon they spotted a small building in the distance. It grew, and grew, and grew until it was an enormous castle.
They flew right through the enormous open front doors and into the enormous Great Hall, where a table was set for dinner, with an enormous empty platter just waiting for the spoils from the giant’s depredations. Everything was so big that Lumpy could fly around with plenty of space to maneuver.
Lumpy dropped the honey onto the platter with a gigantic GLOP! that splattered honey all over the room — the ceiling, walls, table, place settings, and chair. Even all over Lumpy and the boy. Mission accomplished, they banked sharply to turn around and escape.
BOOM! The castle door slammed.
The giant had returned, and he was extremely hungry after running so far.
But, once again, he saw the honey and forgot everything else. The giant pulled out his chair and sat down in the sticky honey, getting stuck in the chair as he did. He picked up a knife and fork, both of which stuck to his hands, and dug into the honeycomb without a glance around. He had completely forgotten about Lumpy and the boy in his passion for bee-free honey!
As the giant wolfed down the honey, making rather revolting munching and slurping noises (leave it to a giant to make even eating honey disgusting) Lumpy and the boy carefully tiptoed out of the castle. The boy unlatched the door, which was too awkward for Lumpy’s sticky claws; he eased it closed very quietly behind them, and with a gentle click the castle door shut behind them.
Now, after all this flying and carrying and being scared, Lumpy and the boy felt exhausted. But they didn’t dare rest there, outside the giant’s castle! Instead, weary as they were, they flew back a ways towards their homes. They were so tired that neither one noticed a small dot winging away towards the dragon forest in the distance.
After about an hour’s flying, Lumpy spotted a small river. He landed near the river and caught some fish, which he shared with the boy. The boy cooked his over a little fire, but Lumpy preferred his raw. The boy picked some strawberries for them (another thing claws aren’t so good for) and then they both took a long nap.
The sun had almost set when they woke up, feeling refreshed and ready to go home. Lumpy flew easily towards the sunset while the boy told him about how hard he worked to earn money to buy food for his family. The boy’s mother was often sick and his father had been hurt in a logging accident, and although the kids tried to provide for everyone, they all felt hungry most of the time.
Lumpy felt sorry for the boy. He kept flying, and while he flew, he did some thinking.
When they arrived in the clearing with the stump of the honey tree, they found the swarm of bees still buzzing around confusedly.
“I have an idea,” the boy told Lumpy. “What if we sent the bees to go live in the tree-road the giant made? Then the bees would have a home, and the bees could guard us from the giant coming back.”
That is what they did.
Lumpy told the bees about the long swath of fallen-down trees cleared by the giant, and helped the swarm find a perfect new home. The bees were very happy, and did so well that they made new hives all along the path — which, conveniently, did indeed keep the giant away from Lumpy’s forest forever.
Because he was quite fastidious, and after this adventure ended up covered with honey, dirt, bits of leaves, squashed bugs (from the rapid flight), fish guts, and who knows what else, Lumpy insisted on stopping at his home to clean off before returning the boy to town. The boy felt apprehensive at returning to the dragons’ part of the forest, but agreed reluctantly because he trusted Lumpy.
The pair swooped down into the dragon-kin home, where Lumpy had his own little (for a dragon) house off to the side.
Much to their astonishment, all the dragons were gathered at Lumpy’s house when they arrived. An enormous mound of nuts and berries was piled up there, nearly dwarfing the house.
When they landed, all the dragons started roaring and flapping their wings (which is how they clap). Lumpy and the boy were confused, until one of the dragons explained that she had followed them to see if they had told the truth about the dragon. She’d seen their brave and clever honey-lure flight, and the way they had trapped the giant in his castle with honey, and she’d flown back to tell all the other dragons about it.
From then on, nobody made fun of Lumpy.
He found a girl dragon to have dragonets with, and he taught them to appreciate flowers, butterflies, and, most of all, honey.
Lumpy and the boy remained friends for the rest of the boy’s life, and indeed on into the boy’s descendants’ lives. To this day, Lumpy’s family and the boy’s family remain the best of friends, and no dragons ever bother the boy’s family. (Although, of course, dragons did continue their usual dragonish behavior. You can’t have everything, you know.)
All the dragons made sure to share gold from their hoards with the boy, whose family lived much better from then on. After all, nobody messes with a boy who’s friends with a dragon.