“Do you want to hear a story of a princess and a brave scholar?” she asked the children. “It has monsters and a dragon,” she added to get the attention of the boys, who preferred swords and scary things.
“There was once a king who only had one child: a beautiful daughter. The princess was good to her father, but no matter how much he begged her, she always refused to marry.
No one was good enough for her. Some were too poor, some were even too rich, some were too cruel, some were too kind, some were warriors, some were poets, and all were not to her liking.
One day, when the aging king was thinking of who would inherit the throne, he decided he would force her to marry. He sent out an edict to every palace and every village of his land. He said that the man who could slay the three monsters wreaking havoc on the world would marry the princess.
Many men accepted the challenge, and the king awaited the arrival of his new son.
Among the noble and gallant warriors was the scholarly son of an old retired official. He set off on the long journey to become a hero and have a royal wife.
He first went to a village terrorized by a lütoulang. It was fierce and devoured children straying too far from home. After setting a clever trap, he killed the monster with his sword.
His next task was a seaside town being starved to death by a yaomo. The insatiable water beast would destroy fishing boats and eat all the town’s fish. The wise scholar set another clever trap and once again, slayed the bothersome beast.
Along the way to his third and final test to win the princess, he heard tales of the ferocious dragon that was almost as crafty as him. Not only had innocent maidens gone missing, but armed soldiers and idle princes, as well. The stories were so varied, the scholarly hero was baffled about how to set up a proper trap.
As he was walking down the path to the town, he came across a small dragon. He stopped and stared as the dragon played with a leaf blowing in the wind.
‘This couldn’t be the dangerous dragon,’ he thought to himself.
Looking around in fear of a bigger one, he saw there was nothing else around them. He looked once more to the dragon and drew his sword.
‘You must have heard the stories of my deadly crimes,’ he said.
The scholar raised his sword and was about to slash down when the little dragon said, ‘That wasn’t me.’
‘No one,’ answered the baby dragon. ‘Listen,’ he said as he hopped onto a big rock, ‘maidens fall in love with men their parents forbid them to marry. They elope and their parents blame me. Warriors bring shame to their kings when they lose a battle, so the kingdoms blame me. Princes become unfilial and waste away their lives in brothels and gambling houses. Everyone blames me.’
‘Is this true?’ he asked in doubt, worried this little dragon was more dangerous than his stature would appear.
‘Every word,’ replied the baby dragon.
‘What about all the stories that have been told for generations?’ wondered the scholar. ‘You’re just a baby. You weren’t around then.’
‘Oh,’ said the baby dragon. ‘You must mean my father.’
At that, the scholar once again became frightened and held up his sword.
The baby dragon laughed and told him, ‘He’s been dead for many years.’
And once again, the scholar set down his sword. He breathed a sigh of relief and wiped his brow of the nervous sweat. He watched as the dragon ate another flower and looked him over carefully.
Before the scholar could lift his sword a third time, the gigantic mother dragon dropped from the sky and burned him to a crisp!”
As Mîn Jíng ended the story, she let out a growl and pretended to grab at the children. They shrieked and giggled when she captured two of them in her arms.