(With apologies to J R R Tolkein)
Smaug had been on the rampage for far too long. Nobody with the least gram of gold was safe from his fiery, sniffing snout. And it could fair make a man's backside smart, all that fiery breath when he was chasing you. There wasn't a man anywhere who didn't have scars and cause to curse him.
And Smaug didn't care.
His raison d'être was gold, it's accumulation and subsequent loving caress by his dragon backside. It was akin to sex, wriggling that scaled bottom on a mountain of gold and hearing the soft metallic thuds and chinks as his precious golden mountain morphed from one shape into another. And then, when he was satisfied that his huge pile was in perfect order he would dream of the pretty women he was going to steal from the villages thereabouts, and play with before roasting them alive with his aforementioned fiery breath.
All this would have been well and good, but the people who lived within dragon-flying range of his Lonely Mountain didn't like it, and one summer's day they had a meeting about it.
“Things have got to change. The creature must go,” said one.
“He must be dismembered!” shouted another.
“Killed: I'd have him killed,” roared a third … and so on.
The fact of the matter was everyone who attended the meeting, and that was a great deal more than the three quoted above, wanted to rid the world of Smaug and not one of them could think of any way of achieving that aim.
Change was needed, radical change, but ridding the mountain or the forest around it of a dragon? How could you do it? Was any man brave enough to even begin to try?
Beobear stepped forwards after it seemed the discussion was going nowhere. He beat his chest with his own clenched fists and scowled until the mountain seemed to shrink before them.
“I will deal with the dragon,” he roared, and everyone to a man and a woman thought it sad that his voice had never broken, because, in truth, the roar was little more than a squeak.
“What will you do?” asked a timorous Luscia, a true beauty with hair like woven golden silk and a peaches and cream complexion.
He shrugged his huge multi-muscled shoulders, and squeaked in his best helium voice, “I will challenge the beast to a duel!”
“You'll lose,” commented a far more husky voice from a weedy little man in the centre of the group, “that beast'll fry you to a frazzle! Take my word for it, there's no way any man can fight a duel against a dragon – and win!”
Beobear snorted in falsetto. “I'll sort the beast,” he said, “Duel or no duel, I've got a plan!”
“It'd best be a good plan,” whispered Luscia, her bosom heaving.
“A better plan than any man before you has come up with,” added the weedy little man.
“It is!” roared Beobear in C minor.
And with that he stomped off towards the Lonely Mountain, his mighty muscles rippling even if his voice wasn't.
He would dearly have loved to have a plan, but he didn't despite his bravado and boasting. All he had in his mind was a mental image of Smaug sitting and snoozing on top of his pile of gold, dreaming of ways and means of accumulating more wealth from his neighbours.
How will I knock that old serpent off his his pile,he asked himself in italics, what can I do to rid us of the pest that steals our prettiest women and torments our children?
Then he had the first twitch of a daring idea. It started as a twitch, but as he mentally ruminated it grew into something much bigger than any twitch he had ever imagined. It was the king of ideas, and what's more, it would work. But first he needed some iron pyrites.
Fool's gold,he mumbled in an upper register so that the trees of the forest wibbled at the sound, and he cast around for clumps of iron pyrites that littered the ground fairly abundantly near the lonely mountain. Smaug had brought the stuff here, gleaming like real gold but when he realised that it wasn't gold at all but an ore of common iron he had snorted and cast it down to litter the forest floor.
What has fooled the beast once might fool it again,thought the brave Beobear, and after all, the gleaming and glittering stuff sure almost fools me!
He stopped his headlong charge into the forest and started gathering golden rocks that glinted with threads of fool's gold.
“What are you doing, brave Beobear?” whispered a voice and after he had jumped out of his skin he looked around to see who had spoken.
It was the beautiful Luscia. She had followed him, fearful that this big man might get destroyed in combat with a dragon that no man had beaten in all the years he had occupied the halls of the Lonely Mountain.
“I am going to drive the dragon out,” Beobear sung in soprano. “He will see my huge pile of gold, glittering in the distance, and come to steal it. While he is about that dastardly business I will go into his lair and smother his own pile with tomato ketchup!”
“Tomato ketchup?” asked Luscia, fluttering her eyelashes and smoothing the creases out of her pretty lemon skirt.
He nodded. “Tomato ketchup – laced with cyanide,” he grinned. “Not even a dragon can survive a goodly dose of cyanide!”
When he had piled as much iron pyrites into a clearing in the forest as he could, making sure that every glittering facet faced the Lonely Mountain, he disappeared into the village store and bought it out of cyanide. No man had ever purchased so much of the toxic stuff, and even though many cartons had well passed their “use by” date he bought them as well.
“It's for dragons,” he explained to the shopkeeper, who was used to villagers buying the odd bottle in order to deal with this or that garden pest.
Then he bought industrial quantities of tomato ketchup until there was none left and there would be a shortage for well nigh a year afterwards. He piled his purchases into a handcart, and together he and Luscia pulled it back through the forest.
It took all day to tip-toe, with Luscia in tow, towards the entrance to the Lonely Mountain and the tunnel that meandered towards it's heart. But they slowly sneaked in until both could sea the gigantic form of the hideous dragon Smaug atop his pile of stolen gold.
“It is dawn,” he whispered in falsetto to Luscia, “and at dawn the sun will be shining directly onto all that fool's gold we piled in the clearing.”
The he raised his voice.
“Oh mighty Smaug,” he shrieked, “I have brought you a gift of great moment! Outside your lair and in a clearing there is a wealth in gold greater than even you might dream of. It is a gift if you promise to leave the people in the villages around the Lonely Mountain in peace.”
“You fool with a young boy's voice!” roared a freshly-awoken dragon. “What makes you think I am a creature of my word?”
“If you do then I will present this woman to you,” whistled Beobear, holding Luscia's hand in the air until she had to stifle a shriek. “But first, take the gold. There are men already waking from their beds and ready to reclaim it.”
With that Smaug roared and illuminated his halls with a fire brighter than that of suns as he exhaled, and then, gracefully, he soared towards the entrance and the world outside.
“Quick! We have little time!” whispered Beobear, and he undid stoppers from his cyanide cartons and tops from the ketchup bottles. And then, like the strong man he was, he leapt onto the dragon's immense hoard and splattered it with a mixture of the two substances.
“The smell of the ketchup will hide the smell of the cyanide,” he whispered to Luscia, who tilted her bosom towards him fetchingly, and winked.
It took a good half hour to smother the hoard with their devilish mixture, and when they had finished they drifted like ghosts out of the cavern, just in time, for Smaug returned, roaring and in a fearful temper. For he had realised that the pile in the forest clearing was the most hated of all things: it was fool's gold and, it seemed, to the big man with the little voice that that he, Smaug the mighty, was a fool.
There is little more to tell. Discovering that his precious hoard was coated in what looked like virgin's blood, he tried to greedily lick it clean, for the blood of young women was his favourite tipple – but the cyanide, that deadly toxin, entered his system, and after a great deal of twitching and thrashing about he died, there and then.
Beobear was a hero when he returned to his village, and as a gift he was offered the lovely Luscia to be his bride. It was her idea, though she didn't tell him at the time.
“One thing,” he whispered to her in an innocent tinkle, “One thing: when we are wed you must promise me one thing...”
“Anything, my noble Lord,” she whispered.
“That you will always wear that tiny skirt you are wearing now, for of all the garments under every sun it is the nicest.”
She smiled at him. “Of course I will, my Lord,” she breathed. “I'll never change, though I may occasionally need to wash it..!”
© Peter Rogerson 16.01.14