Here is a story from the Yellow Fairy Book by Andrew Lang. It was written over 100 years ago and is now in the public domain.
What I wonder is where Andrew Lang found this story. It has the flavor of an ancient tale from an Eastern culture. If anyone knows the origin of the tale, please leave a comment with the information. Thanks.
The Dragon and His Grandmother
There was once a great war, and the King had a great many soldiers, but he gave them so little pay that they could not live upon it. Then three of them took counsel together and determined to desert.
One of them said to the others, ‘If we are caught, we shall be hanged on the gallows; how shall we set about it?’ The other said, ‘Do you see that large cornfield there? If we were to hide ourselves in that, no one could find us. The army cannot come into it, and to-morrow it is to march on.’
They crept into the corn, but the army did not march on, but remained encamped close around them. They sat for two days and two nights in the corn, and grew so hungry that they nearly died; but if they were to venture out, it was certain death.
They said at last, ‘What use was it our deserting? We must perish here miserably.’
Whilst they were speaking a fiery dragon came flying through the air. It hovered near them, and asked why they were hidden there.
They answered, ‘We are three soldiers, and have deserted because our pay was so small. Now if we remain here we shall die of hunger, and if we move out we shall be strung up on the gallows.’
‘If you will serve me for seven years,’ said the dragon, I will lead you through the midst of the army so that no one shall catch you.’ ‘We have no choice, and must take your offer,’ said they. Then the dragon seized them in his claws, took them through the air over the army, and set them down on the earth a long way from it.
He gave them a little whip, saying, ‘Whip and slash with this, and as much money as you want will jump up before you. You can then live as great lords, keep horses, and drive about in carriages. But after seven years you are mine.’
Then he put a book before them, which he made all three of them sign. ‘I will then give you a riddle,’ he said; ‘if you guess it, you shall be free and out of my power.’
The dragon then flew away, and they journeyed on with their little whip. They had as much money as they wanted, wore grand clothes, and made their way into the world. Wherever they went they lived in merrymaking and splendour, drove about with horses and carriages, ate and drank, but did nothing wrong.
The time passed quickly away, and when the seven years were nearly ended two of them grew terribly anxious and frightened, but the third made light of it, saying, ‘Don’t be afraid, brothers, I wasn’t born yesterday; I will guess the riddle.’
—End of Part 1 of the “Dragon and His Grandmother” Watch for Part 2 coming soon!—