The Tale of Custard the Dragon
The Tale of Custard the Dragon
The Tale of Custard the Dragon Summary
The Tale of Custard the Dragon Introduction
About the Poet
- Frederic Ogden Nash (August 19, 1902 – May 19, 1971) was an American poet well known for his light verse. He wrote more than 500 pieces of verse. With his unconventional rhyming schemes, he was declared the country’s best-known producer of humorous poetry.
- Nash died at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital on May 19, 1971. He was buried in East Side Cemetery in North Hampton, New Hampshire.
- At the time of his death in 1971, The New York Times said his “droll verse with its unconventional rhymes made him the country’s best- known producer ofhumorous poetry.”
- A biography of Ogden Nash: The Life and Work of Americas Laureate of Light Verse, was written by Douglas M. Parker, published in 2005 and in paperback in 2007. The book was written with the cooperation of the Nash family, and quotes extensively from Nash’s personal correspondence as well as his poetry.
Central Idea of the Poem
‘The Tale of Custard the Dragon’ is a humorous poem. It gives a detailed description of a little girl Belinda and her pets. She lives with her pets like a kitten, a mouse, a dog and a dragon. All the dwellers of the house except Custard,pride themselves on their fearlessness. They mock poor Custard for his timidity. The mouse and the kitten are so brave that they can even chase lions. Custard the dragon is such a coward that it always wants to live under the cage to protect itself. However,when the real danger comes, all other run away in panic except Custard. The pirate who comes to Belinda’s house is killed by the dragon with his heroic act. The bravery of Belinda and rest of her pets fails. They all shout for help and it is Custard who rescues them from the pirate.
The Tale of Custard the Dragon Summary
This is a story of a girl Belinda, who has some strange pets. They have queer names. She calls the black kitten Ink, the little grey mouse Blink, the yellow dog Mustard and the cowardly dragon Custard. Belinda, the kitten, the mouse and the dog are very brave but the dragon is timid. One day, a pirate, armed with a pistol, enters their house. Except the dragon Custard, all the others become afraid of the pirate. Custard attacks the pirate and gobbles him up. Belinda then embraces him while Mustard licks him. Even after this brave incident, Custard does not give up his cowardly ways. He still keeps on crying for a safe cage.
Poem at a Glance
- Belinda lived in a little white house with her pets.
- Blank kitten, Ink, grey mouse, Blink, yellow dog, Mustard and a dragon named Custard were her pets.
- All the pets were sharp and brave except Custard. Custard was a coward who always cried for a nice safe cage.
- Custard had a big sharp teeth with spikes on the top and scales below him.
- Belinda and Mustard always made mockery of timidity of Custard and called him ‘Percival’.
- Belinda and Blink giggled loudly. Custard was insulted by asking his name.
- All of a sudden, they saw a pirate climbing up through the window.
- The pirate had pistols in both his hands and a dagger in his mouth.
- Seeing the pirate, Belinda got frightened and cried for help. She also became pale in fear.
- Mustard ran away in terror and cried. Ink reached in the household and Blink reached in the mousehole.
- Custard snorted like an engine and struck his tails like irons in a prison.
- The pirate gaped at Belinda’s dragon and gulped down some wine. He even fired two bullets but they did not hit.
- Belinda hugged Custard, Mustard licked him, Ink and Blink danced around him in glee.
- On the bravery of Mustard, Ink and Blink, Custard agreed that everybody was braver than him.
- Belinda still lives in her white house alongwith little black kitten, grey mouse, yellow dog, red wagon and realio, trulio, her little pet dragon.
- Belinda is very brave like a barrel full of bears. Ink and Blink, Mustard are also brave but Custard cries for a nice safe cage.
English The Tale of Custard the Dragon Important Questions and Answers
I. Short Answer Type Questions (20-30 words & 2 marks each)
In which way did everyone react after Custard ate the pirate?
Custard the dragon had killed the pirate. So, Belinda hugged him. Mustard licked him. This way they showed their affection. Ink and Blink danced merrily around Custard in happiness.
How was the appearance of the pirate? Discuss.
The pirate was very horrifying. He carried pistols in both his hands. He stuck a dagger in his teeth. The pirate had black beard and one of his legs was of wood. All these things show that his appearance was dreadful.
Why was Custard the dragon called ‘percival’?
Belinda considered Custard the dragon a coward. She always made mockery of the dragon. All the pets including Ink, Blink and Mustard also made sarcastic remarks on the timidity of Custard and lack of courage. That is why Custard the dragon was called ‘percival’.
Describe the appearance of the dragon.
Custard, the dragon had a formidable appearance, with sharp teeth, toes like daggers, spikes on back and scales on the belly. Its mouth was a fireplace and the nose was always fuming like a chimney. However, in sharp contrast to the appearance its temperament was extremely timid.
II. Short Answer Type Questions (40-50 words & 3 marks each)
What message does the poet convey to the readers through this poem?
The poet gives a very clear message to the readers. One should be energetic and physically fit. But it does not mean that outward appearances and physical strength make a person brave. One must be strong from within. One must have the strength of mind and self-confidence.
Although Custard the dragon had lot of physical strength even then he was bullied. He was retorted for his timidity and cowardly behaviour.
Do you find ‘The Tale of Custard the Dragon’ to be a serious or a light-hearted comedy? Give reasons to support your answer.
‘The Tale of Custard the Dragon’ is a humorous, light-hearted poem as the characters display behavioural attributes contrary to their appearance as well as nature. It is extremely funny to imagine a fierce looking dragon crying for a safe cage or mouse raging like a lion.
Is there any hidden message that the poet is wishing to convey or do you think that entertainment is the sole purpose of writing this poem?
The interpretation of the message in the poem may vary for different readers. The situation narrated, underscores a basic truth that the real test of courage is seen during a crisis. The dragon though never put his strength on display, exhibited it in action when it was required to do so.
What do you think changed the attitude of the other animals and that of Belinda towards the dragon?
Custard, the dragon initially commanded no amount of respect from Belinda and the other pets, on account of its cowardice; but when the house was attacked by an armed pirate, all others panicked and ran for shelter. Only the dragon savagely attacked the pirate and ate it up. Thus, the other animals realised his worth and came to respect him genuinely.
III. Long Answer Type Questions (100-120 words & 5 marks each)
Why was Custard the dragon called ‘cowardly’? But he proved everyone wrong. How?
Custard the dragon was physically strong. But each moment he cried for a nice safe case. It was his aspiration that the little house in which he lived with Belinda was not safe. He appeared to be a coward as he always cried for a safe cage. When the pirate entered the house of Belinda, everyone was terrified. The face of Belinda had become pale due to fear. Custard faced the pirate boldly and hit him hard. It led to the death of the pirate. Through these activities, we can say that he proved everyone wrong.
‘Bravery is spontaneous’. Explain it with reference to the poem.
Custard was truly brave and did not boast like Belinda and her other pets. Custard had the courage to face real danger, whereas everyone only boasted of their bravery. Custard faced the pirate and killed him, and he proved it by not running away. Bravery and courage are the qualities, which are exhibited when someone actually faces a dangerous situation. Thus these qualities are spontaneous.
Belinda was as brave as a barrel full of bears.
And Ink and Blink chased lions down the stairs,
Mustard was as brave as a tiger in a rage,
But Custard cring keeps for a nice safe cage.
Discuss the humorous elements in the given passage.
The extract from “The Tale of Custard the Dragon” is humorous in vein. The poet gives a vivid description of Belinda and her pets. Belinda was very brave. She was as brave as a barrel full of bears. Ink and Blink also chased the lions down the stairs and showed their strength. Mustard showed his bravery like a tiger in anger. But Custard demanded for a nice safe cage to hide himself. This way Belinda and her pets like Mustard, Ink, Blink, etc., have been shown as courageous. The poet has presented all these things in a humorous vein. He also says that one must be strong from within so that one can have the strength of mind and self-confidence.
English The Tale of Custard the Dragon Textbook Questions and Answers
Thinking about the Poem
1. Who are the characters in this poem? List them with their pet names.
The characters in this poem are Belinda, a little black kitten, a little grey mouse, a little yellow dog, a little pet dragon and a pirate.
2. Why did Custard cry for a nice, safe cage? Why is the dragon called a “cowardly dragon”?
Custard cried for a nice, safe cage because it was a coward. It is called a ‘cowardly dragon’ because everybody else in the house was brave. Belinda was as brave as a barrel full of bears. Ink and Blink are described as so brave that they could chase lions down the stairs and Mustard was as brave as a tiger in rage. Compared to them, Custard is a coward because it cried asking for a nice and safe cage.
3. “Belinda tickled him, she tickled him unmerciful…” Why?
Belinda tickled the dragon unmercifully because it was very scared and cried for a safe cage. They all laughed at it as it was a coward.
4. The poet has employed many poetic devices in the poem. For example: “Clashed his tail like iron in a dungeon” – the poetic device here is a simile. Can you, with your partner, list some more such poetic devices used in the poem?
In the entire poem, the poet has made extensive use of similes. Apart from simile, another poetic device that has been used is repetition. For example, the repetitive use of the word Tittle’ in the first stanza to emphasise how everything from the house to Belinda to her pets were all little. Also, in the seventh stanza, the poet has made use of incorrect spelling as a poetic device to maintain the rhyme scheme of the poem. He has chosen to write ‘winda’ instead of‘window’ as ‘winda’ rhymes with ‘Belinda’, whereas ‘window’ does not. He has also used alliteration in the poem. For example, in the tenth stanza, ‘Custard’ has ‘clashed’ his tail with a ‘clatter’ and a ‘clank’. Similarly, in stanza eleven, the pirate ‘gaped’ at the dragon and ‘gulped’ some ‘grog’.
5. Read stanza three again to know how the poet describes the appearance of the dragon.
Do it yourself.
6. Can you find out the rhyme scheme of two or three stanzas of the poem?
The rhyme scheme of each stanza of this poem is aabb.
7. Writers use words to give us a picture or image without actually saying what they mean. Can you trace some images used in the poem?
Some such images used in the poem are ‘mouth like a fireplace’, ‘chimney for a nose’, ‘brave as a barrel full of bears’, ‘brave as a tiger in a rage’, ‘went at the pirate like a robin at a worm’, etc.
8. Do you find The Tale of Custard the Dragon to be a serious or a light-hearted poem? Give reasons to support your answer.
The Tale of Custard the Dragon is a light-hearted poem. It is almost a parody. The names of the pets of Belinda are all rhyming and funny. Belinda has been compared to a barrel full of bears. The kitten and mouse, both little, could chase lions down the stairs. The little yellow dog was as brave as a tiger, while the dragon was a coward and they all teased him. However, when the pirate came to their little house, all of them were engulfed in fear and had hid themselves. Ironically, the ‘cowardly’ dragon came to their rescue and jumped snorting like an engine. It clashed its tail and charged at the pirate like a robin at a worm and ate him up. Even as everybody became happy to see the bravery of the dragon, they again came back to glorify themselves that they could have been twice or thrice braver than the dragon. Finally, at the end of the poem, the situation again came back to the other pets being brave and the dragon being the coward.
9. This poem, in ballad form, tells a story. Have you come across any such modern song or lyric that tells a story? If you know one, tell it to the class. Collect such songs as a project.
Do it yourself.