The Tale of Custard the Dragon
By Ogden Nash
Tale of Custard the Dragon’ is a humorous ballad composed by Ogden Nash, an
American poet who is known for his light verse.
The poem is humorous in tone and being a
ballad, it is lyrical in nature.
A Ballad is a story in form of poem or
song. It is meant to be narrated, sung as well as performed on stage.
The poem is composed in stanzas of four
lines each rhyming aabb. Lot of poetic repetition and beautiful use of poetic
devices make it a musical, rhythmic and lyrical in nature.
The poem conveys in a very light hearted
manner that ‘barking dogs seldom bite’ or ‘thundering clouds seldom bring rain’.
The message of the poem is that humble
and modest people don’t show but act on time.
The poem is a story of a little girl, Belinda who
lived in her little white house with her four pets. She had a kitten, a mouse,
a dog and a dragon. She also had little red wagon which is her car. The name of the kitten was Ink,
mouse was called Blink. The dog’s name was Mustard as it was as sharp as
mustard. The dragon was coward and shy, so Belinda called it Custard. Custard
had sharp teeth, spikes on its upper body and scales underneath the body and
sharp toes. The mouth of dragon was like a fireplace and its nose was like a
Belinda and her pets bragged highly about their
bravery. But, Custard didn’t consider himself brave and never boasted about his
power. He always cried for a nice safe place for himself. Belinda and her pets
made fun of dragon’s cowardly nature and sarcastically called him ‘Percival’.
The car would shake and the house would echo with their laughter.
One day they all heard an unpleasant sound. They
cried helplessly as they saw a pirate who entered through a window. The pirate
had pistols in both his hands and a bright knife held in his teeth. His beard
was black and one of his legs was wooden. It was clear he didn’t mean any good.
Seeing the pirate, Belinda was fearful and cried for
help. All ran away to hide themselves. However, Custard came forward and made
fearful sounds, twisted his body and attacked the pirate. The pirate was
surprised and terrified, so he drank little wine and fired two bullets but they
did not hit Custard. Finally, Custard tore him into pieces and ate him.
Belinda and the pets being happy hugged Custard and danced
around him joyfully. Not one of them was sad for the pirate. However, things didn’t change much even after
the incident. They continued speaking of their bravery and Custard remained as
humble and meek as ever. Belinda still lives in her white house with her pets.
wise Explanation :
The poem ‘The Tale of Custard the Dragon’ is a
ballad. It is a story of a little girl named Belinda who lived in her little
white house with her four pets. She had a little black kitten, a little grey
mouse, a little yellow dog and a dragon. She also had little red wagon which is
her car. They lived together like a happy family.
The name of black kitten was Ink and grey mouse was
named as Blink. The dog’s name was Mustard because it was as sharp as mustard.
The dragon was really and truly very coward and shy. Belinda called it ‘Custard’.
Describing the appearance of the dragon the poet
tells that Custard had big and sharp teeth. It had spikes on its upper body and
had scales underneath its body. The mouth of dragon was like a fireplace as it
was very hot. Its nose was like a chimney. Its toes were like knives as it had
sharp nails on its toes.
Belinda and her pets always brag highly about their
bravery. Belinda considers herself brave equal to many bears. Ink and Blink
thought that they were so strong and brave that they could chase the lions and
force them to run away. Mustard finds himself brave enough to defeat an angry
tiger. But Custard never considered himself brave and never boasted about his
power. On the contrary, he behaved as a coward. He always kept crying and
seeking a nice safe place for himself.
That’s why, Belinda used to tease and irritate the
dragon rudely. Her pets also made fun of dragon and sarcastically called him
‘Percival’ who was a brave knight in the army of King Arthur. Belinda and her
pets used to laugh at the dragon who was really and truly a coward. They used
to make fun of him mercilessly and loudly while sitting in the red wagon.
Belinda laughed so loudly that she would shake the
house and the whole house would echo with the laughter of the pets. Ink and
Mustard would ask the dragon about his age in order to make fun of him and the
dragon would seek a nice safe place to hide himself.
Suddenly, they all heard an unpleasant sound.
Mustard growled out of fear. They all looked around. Ink and Belinda uttered a
loud cry because they saw a pirate who entered the house through a window.
In this stanza the poet described the pirate making
a beautiful use of imagery. The pirate had pistols in both his hands. He was
holding a shining knife in his teeth. His beard was black and one of his legs
was made up of wood. It means leg was artificial. His appearance made it clear
that he didn’t mean any good. It was evident that he came to rob them.
Seeing the pirate, Belinda lost colour of her face
due to fear. She started crying for help. Mustard, being too much terrified,
ran away from the place. The kitten ran to the innermost part of the house and
mouse ran to the deepest hole to hide themselves.
When all of them ran away to save themselves,
Custard came forward showing lot of courage and made fearful sound like that of
an engine. It clashed its tail and made a loud sound as if he was hitting the
iron bars in a dungeon. The dragon made sounds, twisted its body in a circular
motion and attacked the pirate in the manner a robin jumps on the worm to eat
The pirate was little surprised and terrified, a
bit. He drank little wine from his pocket container to make himself energised.
Then, he fired two bullets but, they did not hit Custard. Finally, Custard tore
him into pieces and ate him.
Belinda was so happy and excited that she hugged
Custard. Mustard, being very pleased started licking him. Ink and Blink danced
around the dragon joyfully. Not one of them was sad for the pirate.
However, things didn’t change much even after the
incident. They started giving excuses for running away from the spot. Mustard
said that he would have also shown his bravery, if he hadn’t been confused and
dizzy. Similarly, Ink and Blink also gave excuses and spoke about their
bravery. They all continued speaking of bravery and Custard remained as humble,
meek and gentle as ever.
14 & 15
The last two stanzas are repeated to emphasise and
highlight that Belinda still lives in her white house with her pets joyfully
and noisily. All of them continued speaking high of their bravery and Custard
retained his meek and gentle nature.
words and terms
Wagon – car, vehicle
Realio trulio – really truly
Spikes – sharp pointed nails
Barrel – long, big container
Rage – anger
Tickled – teased, pinched to make fun
Percival – a knight in King Arthur’s army
Giggled – laughed heartily
Weeck – laugh of kitten
Nasty – unpleasant
Growled – angry sound of dog
Meowch – sound of cat
Winda – window
Cutlass – small sword, knife
Yelp – cry of dog
Strategically – creatively, in a planned way
Clashed – hit
Dungeon – prison
Squirm – moving in circular motion
Robin – crow
Gaped – looked in surprise
Gulped – drank
Grog – wine or rum
Flagon – container
Gobbled – ate, swallowed
Gyrate – dance
Glee – joy
Flustered – confused, dizzy
: Being a lyrical ballad it is full of poetic repetition and poetic devices
based on sound such as alliteration, assonance and consonance can be found in
almost all lines.
With a little black kitten and a little grey mouse – poetic repetition, assonance
And a little yellow
dog and a little red wagon – polysyndeton, poetic
And a realio, trulio, little pet
dragon – assonance, refrain, anaphora
And the little yellow dog
was sharp as Mustard – simile, anaphora
But the dragon was a coward, and she called him Custard – alliteration,
And spikes on top of him and
scales underneath – alliteration, ploysyndeton, imagery
Mouth like a fireplace,
chimney for a nose – simile, metaphor, imagery
Belinda was as brave as a barrel full of bears
– alliteration, simile, hyperbole
And Ink and Blink chased lions down the stairs – repetition, assonance,
Mustard was as brave as a tiger in a rage – simile, hyperbole,
Ink, Blink and Mustard, they rudely called him Percival – allusion, sarcasm
Belinda giggled till she shook the house – hyperbole, alliteration, assonance
And Blink said Week!
which is giggling for a mouse – onomatopoeia, assonance
When Custard cried for a nice safe cage – alliteration, refrain, assonance
And Mustard growled, and they all looked around – onomatopoeia, consonance
Meowch! cried Ink, and Ooh! cried Belinda – onomatopoeia, repetition
Pistol in his left hand,
pistol in his right – poetic repetition, imagery
And he held in his teeth a
cutlass bright – alliteration, imagery
His beard was black,
one leg was wood – imagery
and she cried, Help! Help – irony, repetition
But Mustard fled with
a terrified yelp
– irony, consonance, onomatopoeia
Ink trickled down to
the bottom of the
household – irony, assonance
And little mouse Blink was
strategically mouseholed – irony
But up jumped Custard, snorting like an engine – simile, onomatopoeia, consonance
Clashed his tail like irons in
a dungeon – simile, hyperbole, imagery
With a clatter and a clank
and a jangling squirm – onomatopoeia, assonance, poetic repetition
He went at the pirate like a
robin at a worm – simile, imagery
And gulped some grog from his pocket flagon –
Ink and Blink in glee did gyrate – alliteration, assonance, imagery
Important Question Answers
Q. What is a ballad?
Describe how the poem ‘A Tale of Custard the Dragon’ is a ballad.
Ans. Ballad is a
narrative of a tale, episode, incident or history in form of poem which is
meant to be sung and performed. ‘A Tale of Custard the Dragon’ is humorous and
light hearted through and through. It is purely musical with full of sound
words and the use of poetic devices such as alliteration, assonance, poetic
repetition, and refrain. The description of characters with their attitude and
manners brings out dramatic irony, conflicts, climax and anti climax of a
thrilling story. Episode of the pirate is narrated in a light hearted tone. The
exaggerated boasting by the pets, unchanged attitude of pets and Belinda even
at the end is quite humorous and ironical.