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The Dragon's Pearl

(illustration by Kailey Whitman)



Once there was a boy and his aging mother, who lived in a village near the Min River. Times had grown hard. The rain had stopped falling, and the mighty Min River became shallow. The villagers whispered that the River Dragon had lost his power to send the rains. For, you see, dragons have mighty powers that control the forces of nature. Soon many of the villagers were starving.

To feed himself and his mother, the boy had to cut grass and sell it in exchange for a tiny bit of rice. As the drought got worse, the boy had to go farther and farther from his home in search of any green grass. Then one day, after walking farther than ever before, he discovered a patch of the tallest, greenest grass he had ever seen. He cut it at once and returned to his mother. “Mother, look at this! I must return to that spot again tomorrow!” He did return and found that the same patch of green grass had regrown in the night. “Impossible!” said the boy, but it was so. Day after day, he returned to the same spot and harvested the lush grass, which they sold for rice.

Although the boy and his mother now had plenty to eat, it was such a long way to walk every day. So the boy’s mother made a suggestion. “My son, dig up the patch of grass and replant it here. Then you will not have to leave me every day.”

The son thought this was a good idea, so he walked to where the grassy patch was and began to dig in the ground. As soon as he did, he uncovered a shining, white pearl in the soil. He ran all the way home leaping for joy! Now he and his mother would be wealthy!

“This is good fortune!” said his mother, and she hid the pearl at once in the family’s rice jar. “But we must not let anyone see!”

The next day, when the boy returned to the patch of tall grass, it was withered and brown. It seemed the miracle had ended. The boy returned home heartbroken, but his mother called out to him as he entered their house.

“Look! Look!” She pointed to their rice jar, now overflowing with rice. “This must be a magic pearl!” she said. “It made the grass grow, and now it makes the rice increase.” So they put it into their money box, which had been empty for so long. The next morning, the box was overflowing with coins.

“Do you know what this means?” the boy said. “Our village is saved!”

The kind mother and son used the magic of the pearl to increase their wealth and food, and they shared this prosperity with the other villagers. Soon, everyone in the village had plenty to eat and plenty of money in their money boxes.

But some people in the village wanted this fortune for themselves. These wicked neighbors spied on the mother and son in their hut and saw them using the magic pearl. They beat on the door and shouted, “You have been hiding a treasure from us! Hand it over!”

“We must not let them find the pearl!” cried the mother.

The mob was about to break in, so the boy slipped the pearl into his mouth to hide it. But as he did, his mouth and throat burned with thirst. “Water! Water!” he cried, running out of the house and down to the river, with his mother following behind him. The river was low from the drought, but the boy fell on his knees and began to guzzle up what water was left. As his mother watched in shock, he drank the whole river!

Then his eyes became golden, his body lengthened, his skin turned to brilliant scales, and his head grew beautiful horns. He had transformed into a mighty dragon.

“I see now!” cried his mother. “The magic pearl once belonged to the River Dragon. He lost it, and you found it!”

The boy-turned-dragon opened his mouth, and water flowed out again, filling the river to the brim for the first time in many years. Then he turned to dive into the water. His mother tried to hold him back, crying, “No, my son! Don’t go!” The boy looked back at her one last time before he vanished into the river forever.

As his mother sat crying on the river bank, she said, “My son, you have stopped the drought caused by the dragon’s lost pearl. But now you must take the dragon’s place. You must watch over us and make sure there is always plenty.”

The great dragon, deep in the river, heard his mother and did exactly as she said.

This story is an excerpt from Introduction to Mythology for Kids: Legendary Tales from Around the World by Zachary Hamby. Click here to find out more about this book on Note:  This site contains affiliate links.