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  • Once upon a time, a dragon tyrannized the kingdom.

  • Covered with thick black scales, its eyes glowed with hate ,…

  • and from its terrible jaws flowed evil-smelling slime.

  • Some tried to fight the dragon

  • priests and magicians called down curses to no avail.

  • Warriors, armed with the best weapons, attacked, only to be incinerated.

  • The dragon’s claws, jaws, and fire were so effective, …

  • its scaly armor so hard, as to make it invincible.

  • The dragon demanded from humankind a tribute: …

  • ten thousand men and women, randomly chosen, …

  • to be delivered every evening to the foot of the mountain to be eaten.

  • The king and the kingdom, their weapons useless, …

  • had no choice but to pay the grisly tribute, ….

  • to suffer the misery, to feed the insatiable hunger.

  • And humans, ever adaptable, came to accept the dragon-tyrant as a fact of life; …

  • knowing, even embracing, that everyone’s final moments would be in its maw.

  • How could the world be otherwise?

  • The kingdom began to teach its children that the dragon had its place

  • in the natural order and, the very meaning of being human to end up

  • in the dragon’s stomach, their shorter lives motivating them to lead good lives.

  • And the dragon was helping the kingdom by keeping the population

  • from growing too fast.

  • Learning this, attacks on the dragon ceased.

  • But the kingdom still grew, slowly, and with it so did the dragon, …

  • becoming as big as the mountain on which it lived, its appetite increasing.

  • The logistics of collecting and transporting so many every day

  • to the mountain came to occupy the king’s mind more than the deaths and the dragon itself.

  • The king had to hire registrars to keep track of who would be sent.

  • There were people-collectors dispatched to fetch the designated victims.

  • There were clerks who administered the pensions to be paid to decimated families.

  • And there were comforters who would travel with the doomed

  • on their way to the dragon, trying to ease the anguish.

  • And there were dragonologists who studied how these logistic processes could be made more efficient.

  • Steam engines were invented and a railway constructed leading to the dragon’s abode.

  • Trains arrived at the mountain terminal crammed with people and return empty.

  • Some dragonologists also studied the dragon’s behavior and collected samples

  • its shed scales, the slime, the excrement speckled with fragments of human bone.

  • The more the beast was understood, the more its invincibility confirmed.

  • But. . . humanity is a curious species.

  • Every once in a while, someone gets a good idea.

  • Others copy the idea, adding to it their own improvements.

  • Over time, many wondrous tools and systems are developed.

  • Some of these tools make it easier to generate new ideas.

  • Thus, the great wheel of invention, …

  • which in the older ages turned imperceptibly slow, …

  • began to accelerate and humans did what would have seemed magic before, …

  • communicating instantly across great distance, building machines that could fly,

  • and many other astonishing things.

  • A few dragonologists argued it might be time argued for a new attack

  • one had invented a material so sharp it could pierce a dragon’s scale.

  • It would not be easy but if a huge projectile could be made out of this material

  • and launched with sufficient force and sufficient precision it might penetrate the dragon’s armor.

  • However, it would be difficult and expensive and time-consuming to do.

  • The dragonologists explained their proposal to anyone who would listen.

  • But the people were skeptical; they had been taught the dragon-tyrant was invincible and the sacrifices it demanded a fact of life.

  • Yet when they learnt about the new material and the idea for a projectile, many became intrigued.

  • When the king read about the plans, he decided to hold an open hearing

  • it took place on the last and darkest day of the year, in the largest hall of the royal castle.

  • People packed in to every last seat and crowded the aisles.

  • The king's advisor spoke first: telling the people it was best they accept the inevitability of the dragon

  • and the dragon-administration department provided many jobs

  • that would be lost were the dragon slaughtered and, in any case, …

  • the kingdom's coffers were empty after building the new railway.

  • Next the leading dragonologist explained how the proposed device would work, …

  • how the requisite amount of new invented material could be manufactured.

  • Given the requested amount of funding, it may be possible to complete the work in fifteen to twenty years.

  • With greater funding, maybe twelve. However, there could be no guarantee.

  • Last to speak was the king’s advisor for morality:

  • "Let us grant" he said "The project is technologically possible, though it hasn’t been proven to me. …

  • Presumably, you think you've got the right not to be chewed up.

  • How willful, how presumptuous, how vain. The shortness of human life is a blessing.

  • Getting rid of the dragon, which might seem such a convenient thing to do, would undermine our dignity.

  • This preoccupation with killing the dragon will deflect us from realizing more fully

  • the aspirations to which our lives naturally point, from living well rather than merely staying alive.

  • The nature of the dragon is to eat, and our own nature, my friends, is nobly fulfilled only by getting eaten.

  • The dragon is necessary. The dragon is good."

  • The great hall was silent.

  • Then a small child yelled out from the audience: "The dragon is bad!"

  • The child’s parents turned red and hushed, but the child said again:

  • "The dragon is bad -- it kills people... it ate my Granny... I want my Granny back."

  • The hall was silent again -- then a woman stood: “The dragon killed my parents.”

  • And man followed and stood: “The dragon killed my wife and my daughter.”

  • More and more people stood -- the simple fact that the dragon killed everyone, the loss of it, the weight of it, crashing over the hall.

  • The way out from under remote, yet maybe possible.

  • The king, looking at the first child to speak, announced: "Let us kill the dragon".

  • The next morning, a billion people woke to realize they or those they loved might be sent to the dragon before the projectile launched.

  • Whereas before, active support for the anti-dragon cause had been limited, …

  • it now became the number one priority and concern on everyone’s mind.

  • Mass rallies raised money for the projectile project and urged the king to increase support, …

  • which he did, passing extra appropriations bills and selling his summer castle, announcing:

  • "I believe that this kingdom should commit itself to achieving the goal, …

  • before the decade is out, of freeing the world from the ancient scourge of the dragon."

  • Thus started a great technological race against time.

  • To make the dragon-killing weapon required solutions to a thousand technical problems, …

  • each of which required dozens of time-consuming steps and missteps.

  • Test-missiles were fired but fell dead to the ground or flew off in the wrong direction.

  • Terrible accidents happened.

  • But there was now a seriousness of purpose, and the work continued.

  • But despite almost unlimited funding and round-the-clock work by technicians, the king’s deadline could not be met.

  • The task was hard.

  • The decade concluded and the dragon still livedstill ate.

  • But the effort was getting closer.

  • A year later the first prototype missile successfully launched.

  • The construction of the final projectile eventually set to complete and launch on New Year’s Eve, …

  • twelve years after the project’s inauguration.

  • The last day of the year was cold and overcast, but still and cleargood launch conditions.

  • As the sun set, technicians scuttled around making the final adjustments and checks.

  • The king and his advisors observed from a platform close to the launch pad.

  • Further away, behind a fence, the public assembled to witness the great event.

  • A large clock counted down: ten minutes to go -- the dark slumped profile of the dragon beyond, eating.

  • From the crowd, someone jumped the fence and ran to the platform where the king sat.

  • He arrived, accompanied by security, in a frenzied state, his nose bleeding.

  • He shouted: "The last train! Stop the last train!"

  • The young man was a junior clerk in the ministry of transportation.

  • He had discovered that his father was on the last train to the mountain.

  • The king had ordered the trains to continue to the very end, …

  • fearing any disruption might cause the dragon to stir and the missile to miss.

  • The young man begged the king to issue a recall-order for the last train, …

  • due to arrive at the mountain terminal five minutes before time zero.

  • "I cannot do it," said the king, "I cannot take the risk it will alert the dragon“.

  • The clouds above their head let loose the rain.

  • “I am so sorryThe king continued, “had we started but one day earlier your father would not have to die.”

  • Looking at the crowd, thinking of all the losses that they and he, had endured.

  • This project should have been started years earlier than we did.

  • So many need not have been killed by the dragon, had we but awoken from our acceptance of its horror sooner.”

  • The young man's wailing ceased.

  • The king looked up at the countdown clock: five seconds remaining.

  • Four.

  • Three.

  • Two.

  • One.

  • Zero.

  • A ball of fire enveloped the launch pad and the missile shot out.

  • The masses, the king, the low and the high, the young and the old

  • ... that white flame, shooting into the dark embodied the human spirit, its fear and its hope.

  • It struck the heart of evil.

  • The silhouette on the horizon tumbled and fell.

  • Thousands of voices of joy rose from the masses, joined seconds later by a deafening drawn-out thud from the collapsing monster.

  • After all this time, humanity was at last free from the dragon.

  • The joy cry resolved into a jubilating chant:

  • "Long live the king! Long live us all!"

  • The royal entourage, huddling in the downpour, accumulated around their monarch.

  • So much had changed in the last hour.

  • The right to an open future had been regained, a primordial fear abolished, and many long-held assumptions overturned.

  • What do we do now?" they asked.

  • "We have come a long way. . ." said the king, "yet now we are like children again.

  • The future lies open before us.

  • We shall go and try to do better than we have done in the past, for we have time now

  • time to get things right, time to grow up, time to learn from our mistakes.

  • Let all the bells in the kingdom ring until midnight, in remembrance of our dead.

  • Then after, we will celebrate and begin the process of building a better world. . . for we have time now.

  • [Music and crackling sounds]

Once upon a time, a dragon tyrannized the kingdom.

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B1 中級

龍虎寓話 (The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant)

  • 6 1
    林宜悉 に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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