The Tin Woodman of Oz
9. The Quarrelsome Dragons
The Green Monkey sank gently into the earth for a little way and then tumbled swiftly
through space, landing on a rocky floor with a thump that astonished him. Then he sat up,
found that no bones were broken, and gazed around him.
He seemed to be in a big underground cave, which was dimly lighted by dozens of big
round discs that looked like moons. They were not moons, however, as Woot discovered
when he had examined the place more carefully. They were eyes. The eyes were in the
heads of enormous beasts whose bodies trailed far behind them. Each beast was bigger
than an elephant, and three times as long, and there were a dozen or more of the creatures
scattered here and there about the cavern. On their bodies were big scales, as round as
pie-plates, which were beautifully tinted in shades of green, purple and orange. On the
ends of their long tails were clusters of jewels. Around the great, moon-like eyes were
circles of diamonds which sparkled in the subdued light that glowed from the eyes.
Woot saw that the creatures had wide mouths and rows of terrible teeth and, from tales he
had heard of such beings, he knew he had fallen into a cavern inhabited by the great
Dragons that had been driven from the surface of the earth and were only allowed to
come out once in a hundred years to search for food. Of course he had never seen
Dragons before, yet there was no mistaking them, for they were unlike any other living
Woot sat upon the floor where he had fallen, staring around, and the owners of the big
eyes returned his look, silently and motionless. Finally one of the Dragons which was
farthest away from him asked, in a deep, grave voice:
"What was that?"
And the greatest Dragon of all, who was just in front of the Green Monkey, answered in a
still deeper voice:
"It is some foolish animal from Outside."
"Is it good to eat?" inquired a smaller Dragon beside the great one. "I'm hungry."
"Hungry!" exclaimed all the Dragons, in a reproachful chorus; and then the great one said
chidingly: "Tut- tut, my son! You've no reason to be hungry at this time."
"Why not?" asked the little Dragon. "I haven't eaten anything in eleven years."
"Eleven years is nothing," remarked another Dragon, sleepily opening and closing his
eyes; "I haven't feasted for eighty-seven years, and I dare not get hungry for a dozen or so
years to come. Children who eat between meals should be broken of the habit."