The Reluctant Dragon Essay, Research Paper
The Reluctant Dragon
By Kenneth Grahame
GRADE LEVEL: This is a relatively short book and would be good for third or
forth graders or for someone at an intermediate reading level. This packet will be designed for third graders.
SYNOPSIS: The setting of this book takes place in medieval times in a small
English village. It’s about a boy, his mother and father, a dragon, a dragon
slayer, and the people of the village. It all begins when the father of the boy
discovers a dragon in a cave in the countryside. The father tells the boy and the
boy proceeds to go and find the dragon. When the boy finds the dragon, he talks
to it. The dragon is timid and doesn’t want any trouble from the boy. The boy
became good friends with the dragon and they share stories and poetry with
each other. Word gets back to the village and they begin talking about the
dragon. They spread rumors about the dragon and say that it is a menace and a
scourge. The villagers want to see the dragon destroyed in a fight. They recruit
a dragon slayer from far away named Saint George. Upon the arrival of the
saint, the boy meets up with him and convinces him to visit the dragon. The boy
and the saint meet the dragon and talk with him.
The saint explains that he must defeat the dragon and the dragon asks the saint why he must be defeated. The saint explains that is what the villagers want to see to be appeased by the foe. He says that it is irregular for the dragon to win and it would not win over the public. Both the dragon and the saint finally reach an agreement. They decide there will be a staged fight so that the villagers will get to see what they want to see. They also agree that the dragon will not be harmed and the saint will win. The saint also agrees to change the ways of the dragon in the villager’s eyes and make him into a good dragon. The next day they act out the fight with the entire village watching. Everything goes as planned. The saint wins victoriously and the dragon becomes socially acceptable. Everyone is happy and the boy and the saint walk the dragon home to his cave where he can now live in peace.
TOPICS: Getting along with others, imagination, communication, sharing, history, animal rights, violence, poetry.
THEME(S): There are many lessons in this book that would be beneficial to young readers. Some of the more important themes of the book are prejudice, problem solving, and getting along with others. These are good themes because they are ones faced by children everyday. Children can learn a lot from this book.
The main theme of prejudice is displayed when the entire town assumes the dragon is evil. They stereotype the dragon. They show how they feel when they recruit the help of the saint. The saint didn’t even know the dragon wasn’t evil until he talked with the dragon. At the beginning of the book even the father of the boy prejudges the dragon. The reader can see the prejudgment of the dragon by the father because the father runs off frantically at first sight of the dragon. The boy is the only one who doesn’t pass judgment on the dragon. He is more curious than anything and he wanted to see for himself if the dragon is good or evil.
I thought this was a good scene for a young reader to relate to. It shows that adults aren’t right to pass judgment on anyone before they get a chance to get to know them. To a child, the book also shows that they can make friends with anyone no matter their color, size, stereotypes, or race.
Another great lesson for children is problem solving. There was a problem with the dragon and how the saint had to kill it. The saint and the dragon compromise so that both of their problems are solved. This is the part of the book when they decide to stage the battle between the two.
The author was trying to teach problem solving skills. He did this by giving the dragon a personality. The dragon could talk, and he was also very intelligent. The dragon and the saint could both solve their problem by talking them out. Solving the problem wouldn’t be possible if the dragon couldn’t talk. This is good to teach children that problems can be worked out without fighting and violence.
Pre-reading Activities: Develop a brief history lesson about medieval times. Include setting, timeframe, weapons, etc. Create a timeline with the children. Have children create a story pertaining to living in medieval times.
Questions: 1. Why isn’t the boy afraid of the dragon?
2. Is the dragon good or bad?
3. What does reluctant mean?
4. Why is the story called The Reluctant Dragon?
5. What kind of relationship does the boy have with the dragon?
6. Why don’t the villagers like the dragon?
7. Where did the dragon come from?
8. Is the dragon old?
9. What did you learn from the dragon?
10. What did you learn from the dragon?
11. What did you learn about different people?
12. What did you learn about stereotypes?
13. What did you learn about friendship?
14. Who are the main characters?
15. What was the boy’s favorite pastime?
Post-reading Activities: Have children write a haiku about the book. Make sure they are given directions on how to write a haiku. Do an art project making swords and shields out of construction paper. Act out a mini skit using the swords and shields.
ACROSS THE CURRICULUM: Create an art related Literary Response Mode (LRM). Have children illustrate and color a comic strip about a similar situation regarding friendship. They may use real-life or fictional characters. They will do this project using blank paper, markers, colored pencils, crayons, colored construction paper, and glue.