Welcome to Easy Stories in English, the podcast that will take your English from OK to Good, and from Good to Great.
I am Ariel Goodbody, your host for this show. Today’s story is for intermediate learners. The name of the story is The Very Hungry Dragon. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Dragon. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Dragon. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
Today’s story is completely original. It is one that I wrote myself, and it’s been quite a long time since I’ve written something myself for the podcast. I’ll be honest, after I got back from holiday this summer I had a period of intense writing, where I wrote lots of stories over several weeks, including today’s story, but after that things got quite busy. In a few weeks, I’m doing a Spanish exam. It’s a very high-level Spanish exam. So I’ve been very busy preparing for that. Of course, I have my usual work. Uh, I’m going on holiday in December to Spain.
Oh yeah! I’m going on holiday to Seville, Sevilla, in the south of Spain, so if any of my listeners happen to come from that part of Spain, if you happen to live in Seville, please do send me a message and let’s meet up. That would be fun. We could go for a coffee or something and, I don’t know, maybe you can tell me some interesting stories about Seville.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, I’ve been quite busy, so I haven’t been writing as much as I want. I’ve mainly been adapting fairy tales. But this story I am very proud of. It’s very fun. It’s very amusing, kind of childish, but also, I think, interesting for adults.
Basically, I’ve realised recently that I really enjoy writing fairy tales and children’s stories that are also interesting for adults. If you’ve listened to a previous set of episodes, The Beetle and the Boy, you’ll understand what I mean. It’s very much appropriate for children but it’s also interesting for adults, and I think this story definitely fits within that category. The main character may be a playful, childish dragon, but, as a parent, if you’re listening, you might identify with the mother who has to deal with her, as well.
I’m also very happy about this story because I love dragons. I think dragons are so cool. So dragons are big, mythical creatures that have been found in all cultures of the world. Unfortunately, they are not real, which is maybe actually a good thing, because they’re very scary! They’re big, powerful monsters that can fly and breathe fire, and traditionally dragons collect treasures like gold and jewels and silver, and they hoard these treasures, they pile them all up and sleep on them. If you watched the TV show Game of Thrones, Daenerys was a dragon rider. She owned dragons. She was called The Mother of Dragons. She actually had a dragon called Drogon, which is kind of a stupid name for a dragon, if you ask me.
I generally have a lot of stuffed animals, like teddy bears, uh, but I especially have recently acquired a few dragons. So across the road from my house, near where I live, there is a charity shop. So a charity shop is a shop run by a charitable organisation such as Unicef, Oxfam, Dorothy House, and so on. And people bring their old clothes, their old books and toys to the charity shop, and the charity shop sells them at a cheaper price, and all of the money goes to the charity. So it’s a really great system. They’re very popular here in the UK. There are lots of charity shops around, and the charity shops in my city, in Bath, are pretty good ones generally.
So the other day I was walking past this charity shop near my house and in the window I saw a big, purple dragon with eyes, and I thought, “Ooh, I really want that!” But I told myself, ‘Look, you always buy stuffed animals and then they just sit in your room. You can’t buy this. It’s very big. You need to make sure this is the right decision.’ So I kept walking. I went all around town and I thought about it, and I said, ‘If you come back and the dragon is still there, you can buy him.’
So I came back the next day and he was gone from the window! And I was so sad. I thought I had missed my chance. But I went inside and, uh, it turned out they had just moved him from the window. So he was still there. And he only cost me four pounds! Considering he was a big, lovely, fluffy dragon, it was a fantastic price. And not only that, but I went back to the same shop a few weeks later and I found a big, red dragon that’s actually a puppet. So you can put your hands in its head and move its mouth around, which I love using on my online classes.
So if you want to see my dragons, you can book an online class with me on italki, or, of course, you can just go to EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Dragon, the transcript for this episode, where I will post the pictures. The purple dragon is called Alejandro, but I haven’t named the red dragon yet. So maybe you could also comment and suggest the name. I would love that.
Today’s story is also all about food, which is another thing I love. So I’m really following that idea of “write what you love”. Recently, with all the cold weather, I’ve been feeling very, very hungry, and I’ve been eating a lot of chocolate. I’m sure I’m not the only one. But it is really a problem because, you know how sometimes people say, ‘You should listen to your body and eat when you feel hungry and your body will tell you what’s right to eat’? And mostly I agree with that. The only problem is, apparently what my body wants to eat is bars of chocolate and bags of sweets, so I can’t listen to it all the time, unfortunately.
Anyway, I would love to hear what you think about this story. Basically, what I’m saying is, I want you to send me compliments. So you can go to EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Dragon and leave a comment. But only postive comments! I won’t accept any negative comments. No, I’m joking. You can comment whatever you want. It is a free, open space, and I really appreciate ALL of your comments, even if I might disagree with them…
OK, so I’ll just explain some words that are in today’s story.
Spit out, and the past tense is “spat out”, is when you go [spitting noise]. Or [spitting noise]. Or [spitting noise]. Those are all horrible, horrible spitting noises. I apologise. Anyway, you spit out bad food. Maybe you try some food and it’s disgusting, so you spit it out. Or maybe it’s mouldy. Maybe it’s gone bad and you can’t eat it anymore. You might also spit out chewing gum, although you shouldn’t. You should always wrap it up in a piece of paper and throw it in the bin, or do what I do, and just swallow it. In some cultures around the world, spitting has traditionally been something accepted. So, a few hundred years ago in America, many people chewed tobacco and spat it into jars, and people would see how far they could spit. In the UK, at least, it’s kind of not accepted now, culturally. It’s seen as very rude to spit, and actually I think this is true in most parts of the world now. It’s not very hygienic, and I think that’s the main reason people don’t like it anymore.
Jewels are precious stones, fancy rocks, nice rocks that you take out of the earth that shine and are pretty colours. For examples, rubies are red, emeralds are green, and amethysts are purple. These are all examples of jewels. Also, in some cultures, I don’t know if this is a universal thing, certain jewels are associated with the different months. So the month you are born in determines your birthstone, just like it determines your zodiac sign. So I was born in May, and my birthstone is emerald, but I looked this up on Wikipedia and apparently the birthstones are different in different countries. Even it’s different between America and the UK, so I guess it’s maybe not that popular. Anyway, I certainly don’t own any emeralds… yet.
Creep, and the past tense is “crept”, means to go very, very slowly. So you’re moving across the floor like a beetle or an ant, and you’re trying to be as quiet as possible, so that nobody can hear you. For example, if you wake up in the middle of the night and you really want to eat that doughnut in the kitchen, but you don’t want to wake up anyone else because you don’t want them to know that you ate the dougnut, you’re going to creep out of your room and creep along as slowly as possible. Spiders also creep, and an unpleasant person who moves around in the shadows is a creep.
When your stomach rumbles, it means you are hungry. So your stomach rumbling is a sound kind of like— Oh! You probably couldn’t hear that. My stomach rumbled quietly then. It’s a sound like [stomach rumbling sound]. OK, that was a bad, uh, impersonation, but I hopefully think you get the idea. Basically when you are very hungry, your stomach makes an angry noise and unfortunately my stomach rumbles very loudly. Sometimes I have to rerecord parts of the podcast because my stomach is rumbling too loudly, but don’t worry, I ate a big breakfast today.
Munch is when you eat like this [munching noises]. Basically, you’re eating very happily. You’re taking big bites. And you’re probably eating something crunchy, something that’s a big hard. So you munch on a chocolate bar, you munch on cereal, you munch on crisps, and so on. There is actually a very popular type of crisps in the UK called Monster Munch, and when I was a child Monster Munch only cost 15p a bag, but now they cost, uh, maybe 30p or 40p. By “P” I mean “pence”, by the way, like cents. So, like, wait… I’m not very good at maths. Give me a moment. 20p is a fifth of a pound… I think… I’m not good at maths!
A merchant road. So a merchant is something that doesn’t really exist now. They’re basically people who went and sold things in different places. You find this a lot in stories from the Middle Ages: travelling merchants, they took goods from one place and sold them in another, and so a merchant is a road that merchants travel on. For example, the Silk Road was a big merchants’ road in ancient China.
A caravan is like a little mobile home on wheels and you attach it to the back of your car. So people with caravans usually drive and go on holiday somewhere, and stay in their caravan. It will have a tiny kitchen, a tiny bathroom, uh, a tiny living room. It’s going to be very small, but you can theoretically live there. In the old days, caravans were just ways of transporting goods. So as I said before, merchants would travel around and they carried all of their goods and belongings in caravans, which usually horses or donkeys or mules pulled along.
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OK, so listen and enjoy!
The Very Hungry Dragon
Once there was a very hungry dragon called Grella. Every day she ate five meals. For breakfast she had ten bananas, five fried eggs, and three slices of toast. For her mid-morning snack she had twenty chocolate biscuits and three cups of tea. For lunch she had twenty bowls of soup and thirty loaves of bread. After lunch, she was very tired, so she slept for an hour, and when she woke up she had a jar of pickles, because she loved the salty taste. Finally, for supper she had a roast pig covered with honey and herbs.
This was all very well and good. After all, Grella was a dragon, and dragons are almost always hungry. But it was strange, because Grella never ate jewels.
‘I don’t understand!’ said Grella’s mother. ‘Soup and pickles and pig are all good, but you need some jewels! Jewels have important vitamins in them.’
But Grella hated jewels. They were hard, and they didn’t taste of anything. At every meal, her mother gave her a plate of jewels, but she never ate them. When her mother tried to make her eat them, she hid them in her cheeks and spat them out later. Her mother even tried disguising the jewels. She made a tomato out of rubies. She made a cucumber out of emeralds. She made an aubergine out of amethysts. But Grella smelled each of them, and knew they were not the right food, and threw them on the floor.
One day, Grella’s refusal to eat jewels became too much for her mother.
‘Grella, if you don’t eat your jewels, then you can’t eat anything else.’
She took away the bananas, and the eggs, and the bread and the biscuits and the pickles from the house. She filled every cupboard with fresh, shiny jewels, and for every meal the family would have nothing but jewels.
‘Now, eat your dinner, Grella.’
Grella stared at the plate of emeralds in front of her.
‘If I can’t have what I want, I won’t eat,’ she said. She flew to her room and slammed the door behind her.
For a few days, she continued in this way, and avoided her family at meal time. But eventually, she got too hungry, and in the middle of the night she crept out to the kitchen.
Grella picked up an emerald and stared at it. It just looked so strange. It looked like something you would put on your tail, or decorate your house with. Not something you would eat. But all the other dragons in the world ate them…
Grella’s stomach rumbled. She put the emerald in her mouth and bit down. She munched and munched, until the emerald had turned into dust. Then she swallowed it and went, ‘Eugh!’ It tasted awful, but it dealt with her hunger, so she ate another, and then another.
By the next morning, Grella had eaten all the jewels in the house. Her mother was overjoyed.
‘Wonderful, just wonderful! Wait here, Grella. I’ll go out and fetch some more jewels for breakfast.’
Her mother brought three baskets of jewels back with her, stolen from some king’s castle. It was enough to feed a whole family for a week, but while Grella’s mother went to wake up the rest of the family, she ate up all three baskets, and licked her lips, waiting for more.
‘Grella!’ said her mother when she came back. ‘You can’t have eaten all those jewels…?’
‘I did,’ said Grella. ‘And I want more. Where’s dessert?’
‘Those were all the jewels I got!’ said her mother. ‘Look, I can go and make some toast if you want.’
But all Grella could think about was eating jewels. She needed more, she needed bigger, shinier ones. And most importantly, she needed them now.
Grella ran to the window and jumped off the balcony, spreading her wings and taking flight.
‘Grella, where are you going?!’ shouted her mother. ‘It’s a school day!’
But Grella didn’t hear her. She flew through the air, and in the distance she smelled jewels. She followed her nose, passing over the rough, sharp mountains where they lived, until she came across a merchant road. There, down below, was a caravan from a faraway land.
And it was heavy with jewels.
Grella was a well-educated dragon. She knew that it was bad to kill humans, because then they would come and get revenge, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t have a bit of fun. She flew down and ripped the roof off the caravan. The human merchants saw her and screamed, running away and abandoning their goods. Grella laughed, and picked up the caravan in her hand. She emptied it into her mouth, letting all the jewels pile up before she munched and crunched them all into a delicious mixture and swallowed it all in one go.
Grella understood now. Her mother had been right. Jewels were amazing. They made her feel wonderful inside, like there was a party going on inside her stomach.
Grella took a big, loud burp, and flew off to find more food.
Grella went wild for a whole week, flying round the entire world and stealing all kinds of jewels. Word quickly spread of her behaviour. Of course, all the adult dragons disapproved. She was giving them a bad reputation and putting herself in danger. Besides, she should really be in school!
Eventually, after eating so many jewels, she grew fat and heavy, and feeling satisfied, she flew home to take a nice, long sleep.
But her mother had different ideas.
‘Grella, HOW DARE YOU?’
Grella blinked at her mother. ‘Didn’t you want me to eat jewels?’
‘I— I— Not like this! I’ve been so worried about you, and besides, now everyone is talking about our family and saying nasty things. It was very unthoughtful of you!’
Grella’s mother kept shouting and telling her off, but Grella ignored her. She felt a deep tiredness pass over her, and she couldn’t stop herself from falling asleep…
When she woke up, it was night. She had no idea how long she had been asleep, but she was sure it had been a very long time. She knew this because her stomach was rumbling, which meant it was time to go and eat some jewels.
Grella crawled to the kitchen, yawning loudly as she went. She opened the fridge.
No jewels there.
So she went and opened the cupboards.
No jewels there, either.
She looked in the freezer.
No jewels there!
She searched the entire house, and even crept into her parents’ bedroom to look around while they were asleep, but she couldn’t find a single jewel anywhere!
She did find something in her brother’s room, though. Under the bed he had a secret collection. He hated the all-jewel diet their mother had put them on, and he had hidden away all kinds of food: pickles and biscuits and chocolate and bread and tins of all kinds of soup. Grella pulled it out, piled it up on the kitchen table and just stared at it.
They didn’t shine like jewels. They had funny smells. Some were hard, but some were really soft. Cautiously, she picked up a biscuit and licked it.
Oh, how she had missed that taste!
Grella started to eat, and by the time her parents woke up, she had eaten pretty much everything. She lay down on the floor and gave a big, happy burp.
‘Oh, my daughter!’ cried her mother. ‘My daughter is back!’
She went and hugged Grella, which made the young dragon feel a bit sick.
‘I don’t understand you!’ she said in annoyance. ‘First you want me to eat jewels, then you shout at me for it, and now you’re happy that I’m eating other food!’
‘I know, I know. Please forgive me. I should’ve never forced you to change.’
She started crying, and hugged Grella even tighter. Honestly, mothers were so confusing!
‘My food!’ cried Grella’s brother when he saw the remains of her meal. ‘Grella, how could you?!’
‘Don’t worry,’ said their mother, standing up and wiping her eyes dry. ‘From now on, we will have all kinds of food in this house. There will be jewels for those who want them, but I’ll make sure you have all kinds of human food to enjoy as well.’
And so everything went back to normal. Every day Grella ate five meals. For breakfast she had ten bananas, five fried eggs, and three slices of toast. For her mid-morning snack she had twenty chocolate biscuits and three cups of tea. For lunch she had twenty bowls of soup and thirty loaves of bread. After lunch, she was very tired, so she slept for an hour, and when she woke up she had a jar of pickles, because she loved the salty taste. Finally, for supper she had a roast pig covered with honey and herbs.
Oh, and she still ate the occasional jewel, just for variety.
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