Once upon a time, a farmer called Stan Bolovan lived with his wife, Alina. She cried all day long, but wouldn’t tell her husband why she was weeping.
One day, Stan said, “Dear wife, I can’t stand it any longer. We have the best cow in the village, a hive full of bees, and an orchard full of trees. Why are you crying?”
“We have all that, but we don’t have children!” sobbed Alina.
Now Stan felt sad too. The next morning, he set off to see the sorcerer who lived on the hill, and he begged, “Please, wise sorcerer, give my wife and me some children!”
“Are you sure you can feed and clothe them?” asked the sorcerer.
“Yes,” said Stan, “and love and care for them too!” The sorcerer nodded and Stan journeyed home with hope in his heart.
As he neared his farm, Stan was surprised to hear a great deal of noise. He soon saw that there were children everywhere – in his garden, in the barnyard and in his house.
Stan realised that these were the children he had wished for. “There are so many of them!” he cried.
But his wife just smiled and said, “I counted one hundred in all!”
In the coming weeks, Stan and Alina were happy, but it was hard to feed so many hungry mouths. The cow ran out of milk, the hive was empty of honey and the fruit trees were bare, but the children still cried, “I’m hungry!”
“It’s no good, dear wife. I have to find us some food or money.”
So Stan said farewell to his family. He walked across the valley and over the mountain. When it grew dark, in a field full of sheep, he curled up under a tree to sleep. But at midnight, he was woken by an odd noise. A big dragon swooped down and flew away with twenty of the plumpest sheep.
The next morning, Stan reported what had happened to the shepherd, who was very cross. Thinking of his family, Stan said, “What will you give me if I can get rid of the dragon for you?”
“A third of my herd,” answered the shepherd, and they made a deal.
That night, when the dragon swooped down again, Stan leapt out and cried, “Stop where you are, dragon! I am Stan Bolovan and I can crush rocks with my bare hands. If you take any more sheep, I’ll crush you too!”
The dragon cowered and said nervously, “Do we have to fight?”
“Fight!” said Stan, laughing. “Why bother? I’ll slay you with one breath.”
The dragon began to tremble.
“Now,’ said Stan, “how will you repay me for the stolen sheep?”
“Work for my mother for three days,” said the dragon, “and she will pay you seven sacks of gold every day.”
This was a much better offer than a third of a sheep herd, so Stan followed the dragon to his lair.
The dragon’s mother was waiting for them when they arrived. She was as old as time itself and her eyes shone like lamps. When she saw Stan, angry flames shot out of her nostrils.
Stan tried not to show his fear as the dragon told his mother about their deal. Luckily, she liked the idea of having a servant, so she agreed.
The next day, the dragon’s mother said to Stan and her son, “Let’s see how strong you both are. How far can you throw this club?” She passed a heavy iron club to her son.
The dragon lifted it like a feather, whirled it round his head and flung it.
The club landed three miles away! “Beat that,” said the dragon to Stan.
Stan’s heart sank – even he and all his children couldn’t lift such a huge club. He walked with the dragon to fetch the club and, once there, Stan stopped and stood thinking.
“Why have you stopped?” asked the dragon. “It’s your turn to throw.”
“I was thinking it’s a pity that this club will cause you so much trouble.”
“Why?” asked the dragon.
“Because I am so incredibly strong! When I throw it, you will lose and your mother will be angry with you. I say we enjoy one last feast first,” said Stan, so they sat and dined together.
By the time they had finished, the moon had risen.
“Ready to throw?” asked the dragon.
“No, I’m waiting for the moon to move.”
“Why?” asked the dragon.
“The moon is in my way. If I throw the club now, it might land on it or hit it.”
The dragon felt uneasy. He didn’t want to lose his mother’s favourite club. “I tell you what, I’ll throw the club instead of you, but don’t let my mother know,” he said.
Stan protested, but the dragon offered Stan seven extra sacks of gold to leave the club alone. So the dragon threw it and they walked home.
The next day, the dragon’s mother handed each of them six enormously heavy jugs. “I’m thirsty. Take it in turns to fill all twelve of these jugs at the brook and bring them back to me.”
Stan and the dragon set off for the brook. The dragon easily filled all twelve jugs, but Stan had barely coped with carrying six empty jugs. There was no way he could carry twelve full ones, so he took out his knife and started to dig by the brook.
“What are you doing?” asked the dragon. “It’s your turn to fill the jugs.”
“I thought I’d just dig up the whole brook and carry it back to your lair,” said Stan. “It’s easier.”
The dragon panicked. “But you’ll flood us! I tell you what, if you stop digging, I’ll fill and carry the jugs.”
But Stan carried on digging and didn’t stop until the dragon bribed him with another seven sacks of gold coins.
On the third day, the dragon’s mother said, “Go into the forest and bring me some trees for firewood.”
Stan and the dragon set off and, in no time, the dragon had pulled up more trees than Stan could ever manage.
Stan came up with a plan. He picked up a long vine and climbed to the top of the tallest tree he could find.
He tied the vine around it and the surrounding treetops too.
“What are you doing?” asked the dragon. “It’s your turn to pull up trees.”
“Why pull up one tree, when I can pull up the whole forest at the same time?”
“You can’t pull up the whole forest!” cried the dragon. “I tell you what, come down and I’ll pull up the trees and carry them all home for you.”
But Stan carried on tying the trees until the dragon offered him another seven sacks of gold to stop.
That night, lying in bed, Stan heard the dragon and his mother whispering to each other.
“I don’t care how strong he is,” hissed the mother, “he’s not getting my gold. While he’s sleeping, strike him over the head with the iron club.”
Quick as a flash, Stan sneaked out of the lair and dragged a pig’s trough under his bed covers, then he crawled under the bed to hide.
In the middle of the night, the dragon crept in and struck what he thought was Stan’s head with the club. Stan gave a groan from under the bed and the dragon tiptoed out again.
In the morning, the dragon and his mother were shocked to see Stan was alive. He rubbed his head. “I think a gnat bit me. I feel a bit sore,” he said.
The dragons looked at each other in alarm. They were terrified by Stan’s strength and wanted to get rid of him as soon as possible. They piled up sack after sack of gold beside him, but Stan had a problem – there was no way he could carry them!
“What are you doing?” asked the dragons. “Just take the gold! Go!”
“I was thinking how embarrassed I’ll be when people see me carrying so little,” said Stan. “They’ll think I’m as weak as a dragon! Perhaps I should stay longer and earn more gold.”
“No!” shrieked the dragons. “We’ll give you seven more sacks to leave now and one more to never return.”
“Very well,” said Stan. “I’ll leave now if you agree to carry the sacks for me and leave the shepherd’s field alone.”
The dragons made a promise and the dragon’s son hoisted Stan and all the heavy sacks onto his back. He soared into the sky and flew over the mountain and across the valley. As they neared Stan’s home, Stan heard his children playing in the distance.
He didn’t want the dragon to see where his home was, so he said, “I must warn you, I have one hundred children, each as strong as I am. I fear they might try to fight you.”
The dragon’s jaw dropped in horror. One hundred children like Stan! He landed, flung the sacks down and took flight again as fast as he could.
That was the last Stan Bolovan ever saw of the dragon. Thanks to Stan’s cunning, his family had full bellies for the rest of their lives.