Kenneth Grahame, who wrote The Wind in the Willows, had a knack for creating characters who confound expectations, resulting in satire safe for children — it doesn’t bite, it nips. In Grahame’s wry 1898 short story The Reluctant Dragon, cleanly told by John and Ginny Dildine and others, the hero is a dragon who won’t fight. He’s a pacifist, a poet-in short, a disappointment to the village people, who figure a dragon will provide them with their main source of medieval entertainment: war.
”Do, for goodness’ sake, try to realize that you’re a pestilential scourge,” begs the boy who has befriended him. But the dragon won’t budge.
Soon, St. George, natural enemy of dragons, comes to town, and a battle in this land of “orchards and well-tilled acreage” finally seems inevitable. But St. George doesn’t want bloodshed any more than the dragon does, and they and the boy find a way to please everyone.
This is a wonderful story about peace, war, and using your brain. It requires only voices that can be funny without sounding cartoonish, and it has them, especially in Gordon Bok as the phlegmatic dragon. A medieval fable with implications for the nuclear age. A-