The Tale of Custard the Dragon Notes Class 10: The Tale of Custard the Dragon by Odgen Nash is a whimsical fantasy poem in the form of ballad that describes a cowardly dragon’s transformation into a hero. In the poem, Ogden explores how a person’s true character is revealed during challenging situations.
Kitten—the young one of a cat; Wagon—(here) cart; Realio—really; Trulio—truly; Sharp—very active, of sharp mind; Coward—a person who lacks courage; Spikes—sharp nails; Scales—(here) layers; Underneath—below; Fireplace—hearth; Daggers—a sharp small sword; Barrel—a big box; Stairs—a set of steps leading from one floor to another; Chase—to follow someone; Cage—a place where birds and animals are kept in the zoo.
Tickled—moved fingers on the sensitive part to make laugh; Unmerciful—without kindness; Rudely—in a rude and unconcerned manner; Percival— (here) a hero; Cowardly—one who is easily frightened; Giggled—laughed rudely; Said weeck—(here) giggled like a mouse; Rudely—in an insulting manner; Nasty—bad, unpleasant; Growled—growled in anger; Meowch—cried like a cat; Pirate—a sea-robber; Winda— window, the passage in the wall for fresh air and sunlight; Cutlass—a dagger; Meant no good—his intention was not good; Paled—her complexion faded; Fled—ran away; Terrified—in terror, afraid; Yelp—cry; Trickle—to come or go slowly; Strategically—(here) as the situation demanded; Mouseholed—entered the hole; Snorting—making the sound of an engine; Clashed—struck; Dungeon—prison; Clatter and clank—making rattling sound; Jangle—making a harsh metallic sound; Squirm—wriggle; Robin—a sparrow; Worm— insect; Gape—watched intently; Gulped—drank down; Grog—(here) wine; Flagon—a container with narrow mouth; Fired—fired bullets; Gobbled—swallowed; Every bit—completely.
Embraced—held tightly in arms; Lick—licked with tongue; Mourned—expressed grief; Victim—prey; Glee—happiness; Gyrate—danced around, make round around in circular form; Presently—now; Flustered—became nervous; Quite—completely.
This poem is in the form of a light verse – a poem which uses humour to convey a message. Through the poem, the poet shows how a crisis can reveal the character of a person.
- While Nash uses a four-line rhyme scheme for all stanzas, he uses six lines for stanza thirteen.
- In the first stanza, the words ‘house’ and ‘mouse’ rhyme. So, do ‘wagon’ and ‘dragon’.
- So, the rhyme scheme of this stanza and the majority of the poem is aabb.
“Belinda lived in a little white house, a
With a little black kitten and a little grey mouse, a
And a little yellow dog and a little red wagon, b
And a realio, trulio, little pet dragon.” b
- Now, let’s look at the thirteenth stanza. The words ‘Mustard’, ‘flustered’, ‘Blink’, ‘think’, ‘agree’, and ‘me’ rhyme with each other.
- So, the rhyme scheme for this nineteenth stanza is aabbcc.
“But presently up spoke little dog Mustard, a
I’d have been twice as brave if I hadn’t
been flustered. a
And up spoke Ink and up spoke Blink, b
We’d have been three times as brave, we think, b
And Custard said, I quite agree c
That everybody is braver than me.” c
Belinda and Her Pets
- Belinda lived in a little white house.
- She lived with a little black kitten called Ink, a grey mouse called Blink, a brave yellow dog called Mustard, and a cowardly pet dragon called Custard.
- She also had a little red wagon.
Custard the Cowardly Dragon
- Custard had sharp teeth and spikes grew out of his back; his skin was covered with scales and he had long knife-like toes. He could also breathe fire.
- Belinda, Ink, Blink and Mustard, all considered themselves very brave. So, when Custard – a fierce-looking dragon – cried for a cage, they did not spare him.
- Belinda tickled him. Ink, Blink and Mustard rudely called him names. They all laughed at Custard the ‘cowardly dragon’.
- Belinda laughed so hard it shook the house. Blink giggled. Ink and Mustard rudely called Custard old.
The Arrival of the Pirate
- Suddenly, they heard a sound. Belinda cried out. There was a pirate climbing in the window!
- He had two pistols in his hand. Between his teeth, he held a sharp knife.
- He also had a black beard and a wooden leg. It was clear he was there to do them harm.
- Belinda cried out for help. All the animals except Custard fled.
Custard to the Rescue
- Custard sprang up to confront the pirate. The pirate gaped at Custard and took a sip from this bottle.
- Then, he fired two bullets at Custard. But the bullets did not harm Custard.
- He simply gobbled up every bit of the pirate.
- Now, Belinda hugged him. Mustard licked him affectionately.
- Ink and Blink danced around Custard. No one cried for the dead pirate.
- Then, Mustard said he could have been twice as brave if he hadn’t been surprised.
- Ink and Blink also said they could have been thrice as brave.
- Custard agreed and said that everyone was braver than him.
- Belinda still lives in her little white house with Ink, Blink, Mustard and Custard.
- She, Ink, Blink and Mustard still consider themselves brave. And Custard still cries for a nice safe cage.
Crisis Reveals Character fits the best for the theme of the poem ‘ The Tale of the Custard the Dragon’. The real character is revealed in the poem when the burglar enters the house.
- At the beginning of the poem, Nash describes Belinda as being as ‘brave as a barrel full of bears’.
- He also highlights the other animals’ brave exploits. Ink, the kitten, and Blink, the mouse could ‘chase lions’, while Mustard, the dog, was as brave as a furious tiger.
- They considered Custard a coward as he cried for a ‘nice’ and ‘safe’ cage.
- However, when the pirate threatened them, everyone except Custard fled in fear. Custard courageously faced the pirate and ‘gobbled’ or ate him up.
- In this way, when confronted with a crisis, the seemingly brave characters revealed their true cowardice.
- On the other hand, the outwardly cowardly dragon demonstrated his bravery and heroism by defeating the pirate and rescuing everyone.
The main characters in the poem are:
- Custard the Dragon
- Ink the Kitten
- Blink the Mouse
- Mustard the Dog
- The Pirate
Appeared intimidating: The spikes that grew out of Custard’s back along with his sharp teeth and knife-like toes gave him an intimidating appearance.
Craved peace and safety: Custard cried out for a ‘nice’ and ‘safe’ cage where he could hide out and live his life safely and peacefully.
Heroic: Custard heroically confronted the pirate and killed him, while the other characters cried and fled in fear.
Humble: Despite saving the other characters from the pirate, Custard humbly accepted that they were all braver than him.
Insensitive: Belinda, Ink, Blink, and Mustard insensitively teased Custard when he cried for a cage. Belinda tickled him, while Ink, Blink and Mustard rudely called him names.
Cowardly: These characters revealed their cowardice when the pirate arrived. Instead of facing the pirate, Belinda cried for help, while the three animals fled the room.
Evil: The pirate climbed into Belinda’s house through a window instead of knocking on the door. He also carried weapons such as pistols and a knife. These actions indicate that he had evil intentions.
A few key literary elements in the poem are:
- The poem is in the form of a ballad – a long poem usually set to music.
- Nash uses this form to narrate the tale of Custard the dragon and how he defeats a pirate.
- The phrases, ‘sharp as Mustard’, ‘mouth like a fireplace’, ‘as brave as a barrel full of bears’, ‘brave as a tiger in a cage’, ‘snorting like an engine’, and ‘clashed his tail like iron in a dungeon’ are examples of simile in the poem.
- Through this device, Nash creates humorous descriptions of the characters in the poem.
- The poet uses repetition at various points in the poem to create a rhythmical effect in the poem. He also uses it to build humour in the poem.
- For example, the word ‘little’ has been repeated multiple times in the first two stanzas.
- The word ‘weeck’ is an example of onomatopoeia in the poem. It mimics the sound of a rat’s giggle.
- Similarly, the words ‘clatter’, ‘clank’ and ‘jangling’ are examples of onomatopoeia in the poem.
- When a poet disregards the rules of language, he uses poetic license in his works.
- The words ‘realio’, ‘trulio’ and ‘weeck’ are made up words that Nash uses to impart humour to the poem. Through this, he practises poetic license.
- Also, he has changed window to ‘winda’ to maintain the rhyme scheme of the poem.
- The line ‘Belinda is as brave as a barrel full of bears’ is an example of alliteration in the poem.
- An allusion is an indirect reference to a person, place, thing, and idea.
- In the poem, the characters make fun of Custard by calling him ‘Percival’.
- Percival was one of King Arthur’s knights who was known for running away due to lack of courage.
- Thus, the characters call Custard ‘Percival’ because they consider him a coward.
- In the poem, Nash has used irony to show that while Belinda and her pets considered themselves brave, they ultimately ran from the pirate.
- Also, though Custard cried for a cage, in the end he bravely confronted the pirate.