What do you think this story is about?

Benjamin P. Taylor
4 min readApr 6, 2022

What’s the relevance for management, leadership, innovation?

A village is terrorised by a horrific dragon. There’s an uneasy, pathetic balance, based on the village paying regular tributes to the dragon. But over time the dragon’s demand for gold, riches, and maidens grows ever more unbearable.

While I was writing this — having never been able to track down what I think is an old socialist fairy tale (I think this story was told to me originally at a Socialist Organiser summer camp), I came across this piece https://archive.ph/kpO9g#selection-563.0-705.246 ‘to understand modern autocrats, read Soviet children’s literature’

So the elders go to the bravest, greatest young warrior, and, with tears in their eyes, beg him to face the dragon in mortal combat despite near-certain death.

The champion has trained all his life for this, and after a scarcely noticeable moment’s hesitation, he agrees.

The village gather, recite epic poems in his honour, hymn and feast him, and equip him for the fatal mission.

So, come dawn, well refreshed and armoured, the hero treks to the dragon’s lair on the mountain overlooking the village.

Margaret the Virgin
“…various miraculous incidents occurred. One of these involved being swallowed by Satan in the shape of a dragon, from which she escaped alive when the cross she carried irritated the dragon’s innards. Eventually, she was decapitated”

Striking his sword against his shield, he challenges the great beast to a fight to the death.

But the dragon is surprisingly urbane.

‘Dear chap!’ he says. ‘But of course I shall oblige you. Nevertheless, it is a long trek up here, you must be gasping. May I at least offer you a cup of tea before we battle?’

Taking the hero under his wing, he guides him into the cave, the absolute height of civilisation and (glittery) good taste. While he pours fine tea (surprisingly delicately) into china cups, and they refresh themselves with a couple of butter biscuits, the dragon talks.

Never has the hero heard such wisdom and sense in his life.

Suddenly, it becomes crystal clear to him why the dragon must terrorise the village, why the levy of gold and virgins is so essential. Why it’s actually an honour for the village to be under dragon guardianship — and THIS dragon in particular! And why the dragon suffers so terribly from his duties, and in particular from the utterly regrettable need to slay champions.

I found this from David Reay on Twitter (​
https://twitter.com/DReay/status/1242193740548063232?s=20&t=_8z-mvM02qAAJ-6wuuu7SA )​​
“In Canada we have the story of Mouseland where the mice always elect cats to protect them. The cats then pass laws based on what cats need.​ ​
Mouseland is an NDP standard. Popularized by Tommy Douglas and is available on a variety of websites. To listen to TD you can get the story and also a glimpse of one of our greatest agrarian socialist leaders (behind Wordsworth of course)​”

He can’t believe he has been so blind all his life — so witless about the operations of the universe, why things are as they are and must be.

Komodo dragon. Douglas Adams: Every animal and plant is an integral part of its environment: even Komodo dragons have a major role to play in maintaining the ecological stability of their delicate island homes. www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZFMxiQrBI4

Refreshed — nay — invigorated, he bids his leave , promises to return soon for more illumination and charming commentary, and hastens back to the village to bring them the good news.

As he marches back down the mountain, all his equipment still glistening and fine, something does nag at the back of his mind, but he pushes it away. He has a new and more glorious quest, after all — to educate the people of the village!

At the outskirts, the hullaballoo begins. Curious and excited villagers begin to encircle him as he marches. Never has a hero returned alive before! What can this mean?

But he holds his counsel until he reaches the village square, and there in front of the assembled elders and all of his community (including several rather hopeful maidens), he… forgets.

Darn it! It was so clear! All perfectly laid out and ordered and explained. But…

He mumbles. He pauses. He tries to think. But it is no use, the dragon’s tale has gone.

What does this story say to you?

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