Chinese dragons are made up of the parts of other animals, and this tale’s eponymous water dragon has a snake’s skin, a fish’s scales, an eagle’s claws and a deer’s antlers.
His origin is the subject of this bilingual tale about a boy who finds a magical red stone that creates endless rice and coins. Generous Ah Bao shares with his neighbors, but unfortunately the stone also dries up all sources of water. When the boy dreams about a water dragon, he sets out to find him. He first meets a giant snake trapped by a rock and helps him by removing it. The snake thanks him by giving him a piece of skin and warning him about a greedy red monster. The boy then meets a carp, a deer and an eagle and does good deeds for them, in turn receiving a body part from each and the same warning. He finally meets the monster and bravely escapes, but he turns into the dragon himself, sending water down to the thirsty earth. Graceful watercolors in a traditional Chinese style with an autumnal palette suitably accompany the tale. The book was originally published in China, and no sources are given for the tale.
Although flatly ending with “That’s the legend told of the kind Water Dragon…” the story nonetheless has the satisfying elements of an entertaining and adventurous folktale. (Folktale. 6-9)