The Red Book Of Animal Stories - online children's book

Stories of Animals, Fantastic and Mundane, Edited By Andrew Lang

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Beowulf was a wise King, and had ruled his country well for fifty years, during which nothing had happened to mar the happiness of him or his subjects. But now trouble was about to arise. Hidden away in a mound of earth was a vast store of treasure, gold, silver, jewels of great price, and this hoard for three hundred years had been guarded by a monstrous Fire Drake. One night, while this dragon slept, a man succeeded in entering the storehouse, from which he stole a cup and many valuable jewels. When the serpent awoke its rage knew no bounds ; it came forth from its cave, endeavouring to track the man, whose footsteps it could see on the shore, but without success. So it waited till evening, vowing that many should pay dearly for that drinking-cup. Then again it came forth, wandered all over the country at night, setting every house it could see on fire, for its scorching breath and the brands it carried with it were irresistible. Beowulf's own home, in common with others, was destroyed, whereupon he bethought him of vengeance, remembering how of old he had been successful in quite as dangerous undertakings, and how he had outlived every quarrel, every perilous enterprise. Knowing well that no ordinary defence would avail him anything against the Fire Drake, he had fashioned for himself a curious battle shield, all of iron. Choosing eleven companions, he wrent to look for the dragon ; the way
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