The Tale of Custard the Dragon Class 10 by Ogden Nash | Poem 10|
Summary of The Tale of Custard the Dragon
This poem revolves around a little girl Belinda and her pets. She has four pets; a kitten, a mouse, a dog and a dragon in her home. All of them are considered bold and brave except the dragon. Everybody thinks he is a sheer coward and unable to deal with the situations. On the contrary, the dragon surprises everyone in the end when he manages to a kill a pirate who wanted to harm Belinda.
In the first two stanzas, the poet introduces all the pets of Belinda. Her pets include a kitten, a mouse, a dog and a dragon. The name of the kitten was Ink whereas the mouse, dog and dragon were known as Blink, Mustard and Custard. The dragon is considered as a coward by all of them for he remains meek and quiet all the time.
In the third stanza, the poet describes the physical appearance of Custard with big sharp teeth. He is so scary with spikes on its back. The poet uses Simile to compare his mouth to a fire place since it can produce fire from its mouth. Besides, his nose works as a chimney producing smoke. His toes are so sharp that can tear apart anyone as a dagger does.
In the fourth, fifth and sixth stanzas, the poet highlights the bravery of all of them except Custard. According to him, Belinda is as brave as a group of bears whereas Ink and Blink, though small in size, have enough power to chase the lion down the stairs. Mustard too has been compared to a tiger. On the contrary, Custard has been shown as a coward in this stanza. They all tickle the Custard and make fun of Custard’s cowardice calling him Percival. They all would laugh at him severely asking how old he was which made Custard look for a safe cage.
In seventh, eighth and ninth stanzas, the poet sheds light on an incident when a pirate breaks into their house with a thud sound. All of the pets and their owner Belinda get scared and alert on hearing such a nasty sound. The pirate has a pistol in both his hands and a big sharp blade in between his teeth. Besides, he has a black beard and one of his legs is made of wood. It seems as if he wants to harm Belinda and his pets. Belinda asks for help whereas all the pets run away from the spot and crouch down in their respective places one by one.
In the tenth and eleventh stanzas, the poet describes the bravery of Custard who without being feared faces the pirates and stands in front of him. He starts showing his rage through his nose and starts chasing the pirate. The pirate, being angry, drinks some wine from his bottle, that he had carried with him, fires two bullets at him but both of them miss Custard. Having survived, Custard attacks and swallows him completely without leaving a trace of him.
In twelfth and thirteen stanzas, Belinda along with all her pets start embracing him. They all are grateful to Custard for saving their life from such a ferocious pirate. On the contrary, they are least bothered about the pirate who has passed away without leaving any trace.
In the last stanza, it becomes absolutely clear that who is brave and who is not in reality. Mustard, Ink and Blink start making lame excuses of exhibiting their cowardice and running away from that pirate. According to them, they could have been two times or three times as brave as dragon. But, the most humble Custard respected their words and considered himself the most coward or all in order to wind up the conversation in the end.
Simile: Mouth like a fireplace, Belinda was as brave as a barrel of bears etc
Alliteration: And he held in his teeth
Questions/Answers of The Tale of Custard the Dragon
Question 1. Who are the characters in this poem? List them with their pet names. Answer: In this poem, the characters are a little girl and her pets: a little black kitten, a little grey mouse, a little yellow dog, a little pet dragon and a pirate.
Question 2. Why did Custard cry for a nice safe cage? Why is the dragon called “cowardly dragon”? Answer: Custard cried because he was not brave. He wanted a place to be safe, but it would always find something that scared him. He is called the cowardly dragon because he is the only one who is afraid of everything and wants to be safe. Belinda is as brave as a barrel of bears, Ink and Blink can chase lions, and Mustard is as brave as an angry tiger.
Question 3.“Belinda tickled him, she tickled him unmerciful…” Why? Answer: Belinda tickled the dragon a lot. Even though he was a dragon, it worked on him and showed his cowardice. Everyone laughed at him because of this.
Question 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? Answer: In the poem, ‘The Tale of Custard the Dragon’, the poet has employed many poetic devices. Some of these are…
1. Simile: mouth like a fireplace 2. Repetition: the repetitive use of the word ‘little’ in stanza 1.
Question 5. Read stanza three again to know how the poet describes the appearance of the dragon. Answer: Students are advised to do this question themselves.
Question 6. Can you find out the rhyme scheme of two or three stanzas of the poem? Answer: The rhyme scheme of the poem is ‘AABB’.
Question 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? Answer: Writers use words or phrases that are not direct, but give us an idea what they mean. These words are used to trigger our imagination. For example, in the poem “the brave little tailor” the phrases ‘mouth like a fireplace’, ‘chimney for a nose’, ‘brave as a barrel full of bears’, and others help paint the picture that the writer means.
Question 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. Answer: The Tale of Custard the Dragon is a funny poem. It rhymes which makes it easy to read. The poem uses wrong spelling so that the rhyming sounds right. Belinda and her pets are described in a way that is funny because they are brave and have been compared to a barrel full of bears, liquid substance. There are many creatures, like the kitten and the mouse, who are brave. They can scare a lion or a dog. The biggest of them all is the dragon. He has been shown as being very brave, but he might need to find safety from other animals by finding a cage for himself. This makes this poem funny because it shows that he is only brave when he needs to be.
Question 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. Answer: Students are advised to do this question themselves.