The Tale of Custard the Dragon

by Frederic Ogden Nash

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Introduction to Poem

"The Tale of Custard the Dragon" is an amusing poem written in the form of a ballad. A ballad is a narrative poem in short stanzas usually caught be having four lines. Ballads narrate tales of heroism and courage. This poem also reveals the heroism of a dragon, but it is written in a light pale and vein to show that appearances are deceptive. In its humorous treatment of the subject, the poem resembles a parody.

This hard fact has been brought forth in the poem through the narrative in which Belinda and her pets Ink, a kitten, Blink, a grey mouse and Mustard, a yellow dog have a poor opinion of Custard, the dragon, who is ridiculed as a coward. However, the true characters of Belinda and all her pets prove to be contrary to their claims when they have to face a pirate carrying two pistols and a sword. It is only Custard, the dragon who gives a fierce fight to the pirate and rescues the so-called brave Belinda and her pets.

The poem conveys the message that we must not judge people from their appearances or from their own claims because appearances usually prove to be deceptive and claims prove to be false. A true evaluation of a person can be made only in times of adversity, another message the poem gives is that those who are really brave, need not boast of their bravery. Their mettle is proved only when they encounter a dangerous situation.

Custard is the central character of the story narrated in this ballad. The views and activities of the rest of the characters of the story are related to those of the dragon through contrast. Hence, the poem has appropriately been titled "The Tale of Custard the Dragon". The title also gives a clue that the poem is full of wit and humour because the name Custard is quite funny for a ferocious animal like a dragon. There is also a hint that it is going to be a narrative poem, a 'tale' which is usually a ballad.

Summary in English

The Tale of Custard the Dragon' is a comical poem written by Ogden Nash. A young lady name Belinda lived in a little white house with her four pets. They were Ink-a little black kitten, Blink-a little grey mouse, Mustard-a yellow dog and Custard-a little pet dragon. Ink, Blink and Mustard boasted of their bravery. They often made fun of custard for his cowardice.

One day a pirate breaks into Belinda's house. He had pistols in his both hands. Ink, Blink and Mustard run away in fear and hide themselves. But custard faces the pirate bravely and kills him. Belinda was very much happy with Custard. She embraced him. The other pets also danced with joy. But soon after they were again boasting of their bravery. Belinda was again taken in by them. She showered all her care for Ink, Blink and Mustard and leaving Custard crying for a nice safe cage.

Summary in Hindi

The Tale of Custard the Dragon Ogden Nash द्वारा लिखित एक हास्य कविता है। बेलिंडा नाम की एक नवयुवती अपने चार पालतू जानवरों के साथ एक छोटे-से सफेद घर में रहती थी। वे थे इक-एक छोटा काले रंग का बिल्ली का बच्चा, क्लिंक- एक छोटा स्लेटी रंग का चूहा, मस्टर्ड-एक पीले रंग का कुत्ता और कस्टर्ड एक छोटा पालतू अजगर इंक, ब्लिंक और मस्टर्ड हमेशा अपनी बहादुरी की शेखी मारते रहते थे। वे कस्टर्ड का उसकी कायरता के लिए प्रायः मजाक उड़ाया करते थे।

एक दिन एक डाकू बेलिंडा के घर में घुस जाता है। उसके दोनों हाथों में पिस्तीलें थीं। इंक, ब्लिंक और मस्टर्ड डरकर भाग जाते हैं और स्वयं को छुपा लेते हैं। लेकिन कस्टर्ड बहादुरी के साथ डाकू का सामना करता है और उसे मार देता है। बेलिंडा फस्टर्ड से बहुत अधिक खुश थी। उसने उसे गले से लगा लिया। दूसरे जानवरों ने भी खुशी के मारे नृत्य किया। लेकिन उसके शीघ्र बाद की पुनः अपनी बहादुरी की शेखी मारने लगे। बेलिंडा फिर से उनकी बातों में आ गई। वह अपना सारा प्यार इंक, ब्लिंक और मस्टर्ड को देने लगी और उसने कस्टर्ड को एक सुंदर सुरक्षित पिंजरे की माँग के साथ छोड़ दिया।

Stanza wise Explanation of the poem with Literary Devices

Enjoy Full Explanation of the Poen on Youtube

Stanza 1:

Belinda lived in a little white house,
With a little black kitten and a little grey mouse,
And a little yellow dog and a little red wagon,
And a realio, trulio, little pet dragon.

This opening stanza introduces the characters in the poem. Belinda, the owner of a small, white house had four pets. Among these pets were a small black kitten, a small mouse of grey colour, a small yellow dog and a real, true dragon. Belinda also had a small wagon of red colour. The words 'realio' and 'trulio' for 'really' and 'truly' prepare the reader for an element of humour in the poem.

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Poetic Devices:

1. Alliteration
Alliteration is the occurrence of the same sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words. It creates a musical effect and enhances the pleasure of reading a literary work.
Examples:
Belinda lived in a little white house
Here 'l' sound has been repeated.

2. Repetition
Poets often repeat single words or phrases, lines, and sometimes, even whole stanzas at intervals to create a musical effect; to emphasize the lines musical and lyrical. It is done so as to draw the readers' attention or to lend unity to a piece.
Examples:
The word 'little' has been used six times in this stanza.

3. Anaphora
Anaphora is a literary device in which the writer repeats the same beginning of a clause or a sentence, chiefly with the purpose of emphasis on the repeated element, but also to create rhythm in the writing.
Examples:
In this stanza, lines 3 and 4 begin with 'And'.

4. Poetic Licence
Poetic license is a convention that allows a poet to take liberty with language by changing the spellings or violating grammatical rule with the purpose of creating rhymes, lyricism, rhythm, emphasis of humour.
Examples:
And a realio, trulio, little pet dragon
Here for 'really', the word coined is 'realio' and 'trulio' is for 'truly'.

Stanza 2:

Now the name of the little black kitten was Ink,
And the little grey mouse, she called him Blink,
And the little yellow dog was sharp as Mustard,
But the dragon was a coward, and she called him Custard.

Introducing the characters further, the poet tells that the little, black kitten was named Ink and the tiny mouse was given the name Blink. The little dog of yellow colour was sharp and was, therefore, called Mustard (which is known for its sharp, pungent taste), and the dragon who was a timid, weak creature, was called Custard. Because of his cowardice.

Poetic Devices:

1. Simile
A simile is a figure of speech that makes a comparison, showing similarities between two different things. Unlike a metaphor, a simile draws resemblance with the help of words 'like' or 'as'. Therefore, it is a direct comparison.
Examples:
And the little yellow dog was sharp as Mustard
Here poet compares Belinda's dog with Mustard because of its sharpness as Mustard seeds have sharp, pungent taste,

2. Repetition
Poets often repeat single words or phrases, lines, and sometimes, even whole stanzas at intervals to create a musical effect; to emphasize the lines musical and lyrical. It is done so as to draw the readers' attention or to lend unity to a piece.
Examples:
The word 'little' has been used three times in this stanza. The word 'little' has been used six times in this stanza to emphasize that the white house of Belinda and all its inmates were small in size. It also makes the lines musical and lyrical.

3. Anaphora
Anaphora is a literary device in which the writer repeats the same beginning of a clause or a sentence, chiefly with the purpose of emphasis on the repeated element, but also to create rhythm in the writing.
Examples:
In this stanza, lines 2 and 3 begin with 'And the little...'

Stanza 3:

Custard the dragon had big sharp teeth,
And spikes on top of him and scales underneath,
Mouth like a fireplace, chimney for a nose,
And realio, trulio daggers on his toes.

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The poet, in this stanza, gives a description of the appearance of Custard, the dragon. His looks, like those of any dragon, were fierce as he had big teeth which were not only big, but also sharp. On the top of his body, there were spikes and under him there were scales. The poet uses similes to describe the fierce appearance of the dragon. His fiery red mouth appeared to be breathing out fire like a furnace, and the nose was big and sharp like a chimney. His nails on the toes were sharp like daggers. The poet has coined words ‘realio’ and ‘trulio’ for ‘really’ and ‘truly’ to give a comic effect to the poem.

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Poetic Devices:

1. Simile
A simile is a figure of speech that makes a comparison, showing similarities between two different things. Unlike a metaphor, a simile draws resemblance with the help of words 'like' or 'as'. Therefore, it is a direct comparison.
Examples:
Mouth like a fireplace
Here the mouth of Custard, the dragon is compared to a furnace.

2. Metaphor
A metaphor is a figure of speech that is used to make a comparison between two things that aren't alike but do have something in common. Unlike a simile, where two things are compared directly using 'like' or 'as', a metaphor's comparison is more indirect, usually made by stating 'something is something else'.
A metaphor is very expressive; it is not meant to be taken 'literally'.
Examples:
Chimney for a nose
Here the poet compares the dragon's nose with a chimney because it jutted out sharply like a chimney. No word of comparison 'like' or 'as' has been used.
And realio, trulio, daggers on his toes
Here the poet compares the sharp nails on the toes of the dragon to daggers without using 'like' or 'as'.

Stanza 4:

Belinda was as brave as a barrel full of bears,
And Ink and Blink chased lions down the stairs,
Mustard was as brave as a tiger in a rage,
But Custard cried for a nice safe cage.

The poet, in this stanza, describes certain characteristics of the inmates of the white house. Belinda, the owner of the house was so brave that her bravery matched that of a large number of bears put together in a barrel. In an alliterative way, the poet says that Belinda was as brave as a barrel full of bears. Both the cat ‘Ink’ and the mouse ‘Blink’ were brave enough not to feel afraid of a lion. They could give a chase to lions. The dog, Mustard, for his bravery was comparable to a tiger in anger. But the dragon, Custard was a weak, timid and comfort-loving creature who always demanded a nice, safe and secure cage. Both the bravery of the cat and the mouse and the cowardice of the dragon are exaggerated for the sake of humour.

Poetic Devices:

1. Alliteration
Alliteration is the occurrence of the same sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words. It creates a musical effect and enhances the pleasure of reading a literary work.
Examples:
Belinda was as brave as a barrel full of bears
Here, 'b' sound has been repeatedly used.

2. Simile
A simile is a figure of speech that makes a comparison, showing similarities between two different things. Unlike a metaphor, a simile draws resemblance with the help of words 'like' or 'as'. Therefore, it is a direct comparison.
Examples:
Belinda was as brave as a barrel full of bears
Belinda's bravery is compared to that of a group of bears.
Mustard was as brave as a tiger in a rage

Here the bravery of Mustard, the dog is compared to the bravery or ferociousness of a tiger in anger.

3. Exaggeration
Exaggeration is a statement that makes something worse, or better than it really is. It is used to create humour or to emphasise something.
Overstatement is another word that means almost the same thing.
Examples:
And Ink and Blink chased lions down the stairs
Here the bravery of Mustard, the dog is compared to the bravery or ferociousness of a tiger in anger.

4. Transferred Epithet
Transferred Epithet is a poetic device in which an adjective is used with the noun which it normally qualifies but with some other noun.
Examples:
But Custard cried for a nice safe cage
Here it is not the cage that is to be safe but the dragon. The adjective 'safe' is transferred from the dragon to the 'cage'.

Stanza 5:

Belinda tickled him, she tickled him unmerciful,
Ink, Blink and Mustard, they rudely called him Percival,
They all sat laughing in the little red wagon
At the realio, trulio, cowardly dragon.

Belinda who had a bad opinion about the dragon, Custard and considered him to be a coward, used to tickle him too much. So much tickling verged on cruelty. The other pets – the cat, the mouse and the dog used to make fun of him jokingly calling him Percival, the legendary brave knight among the Round Table Knights of King Arthur. Belinda and the three pets used to sit in the red wagon that Belinda owned. They used to laugh at Custard, the dragon, for being so afraid all the time.

Poetic Devices:

1. Repetition
Poets often repeat single words or phrases, lines, and sometimes, even whole stanzas at intervals to create a musical effect; to emphasize the lines musical and lyrical. It is done so as to draw the readers' attention or to lend unity to a piece.
Examples:
Belinda tickled him, she tickled him unmerciful.
Here the repetition of 'tickled' shows the repeated action of tickling.

2. Allusion
Allusion means an indirect reference or suggestion. It is a figure of speech in which a passing but significant reference is made to a well-known person, place, thing or idea of a historical, mythological, cultural, literary or political significance. It does not describe in detail the person or thing it refers to.
Examples:
Ink, Blink and Mustard, they rudely called him Percival
Here is a reference to the legendary knight Percival, one of the knights of King Arthur, who was renowned for his strength and fighting prowess. The poet alludes to Percival to mock at the cowardly demand of the dragon for a nice, safe cage. The contrast makes the poem humorous.

Stanza 6:

Belinda giggled till she shook the house,
And Blink said Weeck! Which is giggling for a mouse,
Ink and Mustard rudely asked his age,
When Custard cried for a nice safe cage.

Belinda used to laugh so loudly at the cowardice of the dragon, Custard that her laughter shook the whole house. Blink, the mouse also laughed at him. When Custard demanded a comfortable and safe cage to live in, Ink and Mustard made fun of him by asking him how old he was that he was scared of every little thing, meaning thereby that he behaved like a baby. The poet exaggerates the impact of the loud laughter of Belinda to create humour.

Poetic Devices:

1. Onomatopoeia
Onomatopoeia (sometimes called echoism) is a figure of speech in which words imitate the sound or sounds they describe. In other words, the sound an onomatopoeic word produces, is the meaning it intends to convey. 'Bang', 'pop', 'hiss' etc are some onomatopoeic words.
Examples:
And Blink said Weeck!
Here the poet uses the word 'weeck' to describe the sound the mouse makes while giggling.

2. Exaggeration
Exaggeration is a statement that makes something worse, or better than it really is. It is used to create humour or to emphasise something.
Overstatement is another word that means almost the same thing.
Examples:
Belinda giggled till she shook the house
Here the giggling of Belinda is shown to shake the house which is an overstatement or an exaggeration.

Stanza 7:

Suddenly, suddenly they heard a nasty sound,
And Mustard growled, and they all looked around.
Meowch! Cried Ink, and ooh! Cried Belinda,
For there was a pirate, climbing in the winda.

One day, all the inmates of the white house heard an evil, frightening sound at which Mustard, the dog sensing trouble stared growling. The cat, Ink mewed and Belinda cried out of fear. In fact, all of them were terrified to see a pirate climbing into the house through a window. The stanza shows that the brags of bravery by Belinda, Ink, Blink and Mustard proved to be hollow when face to face with the pirate.

...

Poetic Devices:

1. Repetition
Poets often repeat single words or phrases, lines, and sometimes, even whole stanzas at intervals to create a musical effect; to emphasize the lines musical and lyrical. It is done so as to draw the readers' attention or to lend unity to a piece.
Examples:
Suddenly, suddenly they heard a nasty sound
The word 'suddenly' has been repeated to emphasize that the sound heard by everyone was sudden and unexpected.

2. Onomatopoeia
Onomatopoeia (sometimes called echoism) is a figure of speech in which words imitate the sound or sounds they describe. In other words, the sound an onomatopoeic word produces, is the meaning it intends to convey. 'Bang', 'pop', 'hiss' etc are some onomatopoeic words.
Examples:
Meowich! cried Ink
'Meowich' gives the sense of mewing of a cat.
With a clatter and a clank and a jangling squirm
The words 'clatter', 'clank' and 'jangling' give the impression of a metallic object hitting the floor or another object.

3. Poetic Licence
Poetic license is a convention that allows a poet to take liberty with language by changing the spellings or violating grammatical rule with the purpose of creating rhymes, lyricism, rhythm, emphasis of humour.
Examples:
For there was a pirate, climbing in the winda.
Here the spellings of 'widow' have been changed to 'winda' to make it rhyme with 'Belinda'.

Stanza 8:

Pistol in his left hand, pistol in his right,
And he held in his teeth a cutlass bright,
His beard was black, one leg was wood;
It was clear that the pirate meant no good.

This stanza shows that the pirate had a very fierce and frightening appearance. He carried a pistol in each hand and a small shining sword between his teeth. He supported a black beard and was crippled, for one of his legs was wooden. His sinister appearance indicated that he had evil intentions.

Poetic Devices:

1. Alliteration
Alliteration is the occurrence of the same sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words. It creates a musical effect and enhances the pleasure of reading a literary work.
Examples:
And he held in his teeth a cutlass bright
Here we find the repetition of 'h' sound.

2. Repetition
Poets often repeat single words or phrases, lines, and sometimes, even whole stanzas at intervals to create a musical effect; to emphasize the lines musical and lyrical. It is done so as to draw the readers' attention or to lend unity to a piece.
Examples:
Pistol in his left hand, pistol in his right.
Here, the repetition of 'pistol' emphasizes that the pirate was well armed. The repetition lends a rhythm and musicality to the line.

Stanza 9:

Belinda paled, and she cried Help! Help!
But Mustard fled with a terrified yelp,
Ink trickled down to the bottom of the household,
And little mouse Blink strategically mouseholed.

At the terrifying sight of the pirate, Belinda was so much frightened that she cried for help. But Mustard, instead of coming to her help, ran away crying with fear. Ink also failed to show any bravery, as he fled to hide himself in the basement of the house. Blink too proved to be a coward and found a shelter in a hole instead of chasing the pirate. The stanza shows that the cat, the mouse and the dog, who always boasted of their bravery, were actually timid and weak.

Poetic Devices:

Transferred Epithet
Transferred Epithet is a poetic device in which an adjective is used with the noun which it normally qualifies but with some other noun.
Examples:
But Mustard fled with a terrified yelp
Here it is Mustard, the dog who is terrified at the sight of the pirate, not the yelp. The epithet 'terrified' has been transferred from Mustard to 'yelp'.

Stanza 10:

But up jumped Custard, snorting like an engine,
Clashed his tail like irons in a dungeon,
With a clatter and a clank and a jangling squirm,
He went at the pirate like a robin at a worm.

This stanza, full of poetic devices, shows that very contrary to his reputation as a coward, Custard, the dragon faced the wicked-looking pirate very bravely. He snorted loudly producing a loud sound like that of an engine. He struck the floor with his tail producing a sound like that of iron chains hitting against each other in a prison. Making sharp loud ringing sounds, he twisted his body in order to attack the pirate just as a robin bird pounces upon a worm. The poet has used a simile in the first, second and fourth lines and onomatopoeia in the third line.

...

Poetic Devices:

1. Alliteration
Alliteration is the occurrence of the same sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words. It creates a musical effect and enhances the pleasure of reading a literary work.
Examples:
With a clatter and a clank
Here there is repetition of 'k' and 'l' sounds.

2. Simile
A simile is a figure of speech that makes a comparison, showing similarities between two different things. Unlike a metaphor, a simile draws resemblance with the help of words 'like' or 'as'. Therefore, it is a direct comparison.
Examples:
Snorting like an engine
The loud snorting of Custard is compared to the sound of an engine.
Clashed his tail like irons in a dungeon
The tail of the dragon is compared to the chains in prison.
He went at the pirate like a robin at a worm
The attack of Custard on the pirate is compared to that of the bird 'robin' on a worm.

3. Onomatopoeia
Onomatopoeia (sometimes called echoism) is a figure of speech in which words imitate the sound or sounds they describe. In other words, the sound an onomatopoeic word produces, is the meaning it intends to convey. 'Bang', 'pop', 'hiss' etc are some onomatopoeic words.
Examples:
With a clatter and a clank and a jangling squirm.
The words 'clatter', 'clank' and 'jangling' give the impression of a metallic object hitting the floor or another object.

Stanza 11:

The pirate gaped at Belinda’s dragon,
And gulped some grog from his pocket flagon,
He fired two bullets, but they didn’t hit,
And Custard gobbled him, every bit.

When Custard, the dragon charged at the pirate, the latter stared at him and was so stricken with fear that he took out the bottle of drink from his pocket to consume some of it to overcome his fear. He shot two bullets at the dragon but was so nervous and afraid that his bullets missed the aim. The dragon mustered all his courage, killed him and ate up every part of the pirate’s body. Thus, he turned out to be the bravest of all the pets, proving that appearances are deceptive.

Poetic Devices:

Alliteration
Alliteration is the occurrence of the same sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words. It creates a musical effect and enhances the pleasure of reading a literary work.
Examples:
He gulped some grog from his pocket flagon
Here 'g' sound has been repeated in this line.

Stanza 12:

Belinda embraced him, Mustard licked him,
No one mourned for his pirate victim.
Ink and Blink in glee did gyrate
Around the dragon that ate the pirate.

Belinda realized that the dragon was the most courageous of his pets and had encountered the pirate fearlessly saving Belinda and her pets. She hugged him out of love and gratitude. The dog, Mustard appreciated his bravery by licking him. Nobody lamented the death of the pirate who had fallen a victim to the fierceness of the dragon. The cat and the mouse were so delighted that they ran around the dragon in circles, who was busy eating the flesh of the pirate.

Stanza 13:

But presently up spoke little dog Mustard,
I’d have been twice as brave if I hadn’t been flustered.
And up spoke Ink and up spoke Blink,
We’d have been three times as brave, we think,
And Custard said, I quite agree
That everybody is braver than me.

The dog, the cat, and the mouse of Belinda, even after their cowardly behaviour, kept bragging about their bravery. The dog, Mustard said that he would have shown bravery, twice that of Custard if he had not been agitated. The cat and the mouse too remarked that they would have shown thrice the bravery of the dragon. But Custard, who had proved himself to be the bravest through his fearless deed, refrained from boasting and modestly remarked that all the others in the group were braver than him.

Stanza 14:

...


Belinda still lives in her little white house,
With her little black kitten and her little grey mouse,
And her little yellow dog and her little red wagon,
And her realio, trulio little pet dragon.

...


After the incident of the pirate breaking into the house and being killed by the dragon, Belinda still lives in the white house with her pets as she lived earlier. There is the black kitten, Ink, the grey mouse, Blink, the yellow dog Mustard and her really truly pet dragon, Custard. Belinda still has the red wagon. The stanza is a repetition of the opening stanza and its gives unity to the poem. It also shows that life for Belinda and her pets has returned to normalcy after the pirate incident.

Poetic Devices:

1. Repetition
Poets often repeat single words or phrases, lines, and sometimes, even whole stanzas at intervals to create a musical effect; to emphasize the lines musical and lyrical. It is done so as to draw the readers' attention or to lend unity to a piece.
Examples:
The word 'little' has been used six times in this stanza to emphasize that the white house of Belinda and all its inmates were small in size. It also makes the lines musical and lyrical.

Stanza 10:

Belinda is as brave as a barrel full of bears,
And Ink and Blink chase lions down the stairs,
Mustard is as brave as a tiger in a rage,
But Custard keeps crying for a nice safe cage.

Repeating the fourth stanza, here the poet satirically remarks that Belinda has the bravery equal to that of a number of bears. Ink and Blink are considered to be brave enough to be able to give a chase to the lions down the stairs. Mustard’s bravery may be compared to that of an angry tiger. And Custard, the dragon still longs for the comfort of a nice safe cage. Here, the satire is obvious as the cat, the mouse and the dog have cut a sorry figure at the critical hour when their help is needed. But Custard, considered to be timid hearted like a baby, has displayed exemplary bravery and saved the life of all the inmates by killing the pirate. The stanza shows that Belinda, the cat, the mouse and the dog are incorrigible braggarts. The dragon, on the other hand, is modest. After the pirate incident, the remarks about Belinda and her pets are ironical.

Poetic Devices:

1. Repetition
Poets often repeat single words or phrases, lines, and sometimes, even whole stanzas at intervals to create a musical effect; to emphasize the lines musical and lyrical. It is done so as to draw the readers' attention or to lend unity to a piece.
Examples:
In this stanza 'as brave as' is used twice to mock at the false bravery of Belinda and Mustard.

Exercises

Comprehension of Stanzas

STANZA 1

Belinda lived in a little white house,
With a little black kitten and a little grey mouse,
And a little yellow dog and a little red wagon,
And a realio, trulio, little pet dragon.

Questions

1. Where did Belinda live?
A. Belinda lived in a little white house.
2 What was the colour of the kitten?
A. The kitten was of black colour.
3 Apart from the kittén which other animals were living with her?
A. The other animals were: a mouse, a dog and a dragon.
4 Give a pair of rhyming words.
A. The rhyming words are: house-mouse wagon-dragon
5 What is the rhyme scheme of this stanza?
A. The rhyme scheme of this stanza is 'aabb'.

STANZA 3

Custard the dragon had big sharp teeth,
And spikes on top of him and scales underneath,
Mouth like a fireplace, chimney for a nose,
And realio, trulio daggers on his toes.

Questions

1. What was on top of the dragon's body?
A. The dragon had spikes on top of his body.
2 How does the poet describe the dragon's mouth and nose?
A. The poet describes his mouth like a fireplace and nose is a chimney.
3 What did the dragon have on his toes?
A. He had daggers on his toes.
4 What sort of teeth did he have?
A. He had big sharp teeth.
5 Write a pair of rhyming words.
A. The rhyming words are teeth-underneath, nose-toes.

STANZA 4

Belinda was as brave as a barrel full of bears,
And Ink and Blink chased lions down the stairs,
Mustard was as brave as a tiger in a rage,
But Custard cried for a nice safe cage.

Questions

1. How is Belinda described in the stanza?
A. Belinda was as brave as a barrel full of bears.
2. How did Ink and Blink show their strength?
A. Ink and Blink showed their strength by chasing lions down the stairs.
3. How did Mustard show his bravery?
A. Mustard showed his bravery in anger.
4. What did Custard cry for?
A. Custard cried for a nice safe cage.
5. Name the poem and the poet.
A. Poem: 'The Tale of Custard the Dragon', Poet: Ogden Nash.

STANZA 6

Belinda giggled till she shook the house,
And Blink said Weeck! which is giggling for a mouse,
Ink and Mustard rudely asked his age,
When Custard cried for a nice safe cage.

Questions

1. How long did Belinda laugh?
A. Belinda laughed till she shook the house.
2. Which kind of giggling sound does a mouse produce?
A. It is 'Weeck'.
3. How did Ink and Mustard ask the mouse his age?
A. They asked his age rudely.
4. What did custard cry for?
A. Custard cried for a nice safe cage.
5. Name the poem and the poet.
A. Poem: 'The Tale of Custard the Dragon', Poet: Ogden Nash.

STANZA 7

Suddenly, suddenly they heard a nasty sound,
And Mustard growled, and they all looked around.
Meowch! cried Ink, and ooh! cried Belinda,
For there was a pirate, climbing in the winda.

Questions

1. What did they suddenly hear?
A. They suddenly heard a nasty sound.
2. What did Mustard do?
A. Mustard growled.
3. What did they see in the window?
A. They saw a pirate in the window.
4. Whose nasty sound was it?
A. It was the pirate's nasty sound.
5. What was the pirate doing?
A. The pirate was climbing in the window.

STANZA 9

Belinda paled, and she cried Help! Help!
But Mustard fled with a terrified yelp.
Ink trickled down to the bottom of the household,
And little mouse Blink strategically mouseholed.

Questions

1. Why did Belinda cry for help?
A. Belinda cried for help to see the pirate.
2. What did Mustard do when it heard the cry of Belinda?
A. Mustard ran with a fearful bark.
3. How did Ink behave?
A. Ink trickled down to the bottom of the house hold.
4. Where did the mouse slip away?
A. The mouse slept away in to this hole.
5. Name the poem and its poet.
A. Poem: The Tale of Custard the Dragon Poet : Ogden Nash

STANZA 10

But up jumped Custard, snorting like an engine,
Clashed his tail like irons in a dungeon,
With a clatter and a clank and a jangling squirm,
He went at the pirate like a robin at a worm.

Questions

1. Upon whom did Custard jump?
A. Custard jumped on the pirate.
2. How did he clash his tail?
A He clashed his tail with clattering, clanking and jangling sounds.
3. What did he look like when he clashed with the pirate?
A He looked like a robin falling on a worm.
4. How did custard snort?
A. He snorted like an engine.
5. Write a pair of rhyming words.
A. The rhyming words are engine-dungeon, squirm-worm.

STANZA 12

Belinda embraced him, Mustard licked him,
No one mourned for his pirate victim.
Ink and Blink in glee did gyrate
Around the dragon that ate the pirate.

Questions

1. Who did Belinda embrace and why?
A. Belinda embraced custard because he killed the pirate.
2. What did Ink, Blink and Mustard do?
A. Ink and Blink did a dance and mustard licked custard.
3. What was the reason of their glee?
A. The pirate was killed.
4. Name the poem and its poet.
A. Poem: The Tale of Custard the Dragon, Poet: Ogden Nash
5. What does 'mourned' and 'gyrate' means?
A. (i) mourned: feel sad, (ii) Gyrate: Dance

STANZA 13

But presently up spoke little dog Mustard,
I'd have been twice as brave if I hadn't been flustered.
And up spoke Ink and up spoke Blink,
We'd have been three times as brave, we think,
And Custard said, I quite agree.
That everyone is braver than me.

Questions

1. What did Mustard say after the event?
A. Mustard said that he would have been twice brave if he had not become nervous.
2. What did Ink and Blink speak about the situation?
A. They said that they had been three times as brave.
3. What was Custard's reaction?
A. Custard agreed that everyone was braver than him.
4. Was Custard brave?
A. No, Custard was not brave.
5. What is the rhyme scheme of this stanza?
A. The rhyme scheme of this stanza is 'aabbcc.

Question and Answers

See Video Of Exercises of the Poem

Q1. Who are the characters in this poem? List them with their pet names?
Ans. Belinda and her four pets are the five main characters in the poem. Her black kitten was called Ink and the grey mouse was named Blink. The dog was called Mustard due to his sharpness and the dragon, who was considered to be cowardly, was called Custard. Another character is the pirate who appears for a short time but is significant because an encounter with the pirate brings forth the central idea of the poem - appearances are deceptive.

Q2. Why did Custard cry for a nice safe cage? Why is the dragon called "cowardly dragon?
Ans: Custard was coward. That is why he was called "cowardly dragon". All other animals laughed at him. He did not like that. So, he cried for a nice safe cage.

Q3. "Belinda tickled him, she tickled him unmerciful" Why?
Ans. Belinda tickled Custard to tease him for his cowardice.

Q4. 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?
Ans. Similes use in the poem:
1. Belinda was as brave as a barrel full of bears -And the little yellow dog was sharp as Mustard.
2. Belinda is as brave as a barrel full of bears.
3. Snorting like an engine.
4. He went at the pirate like a robin at a worm

Q5. Read stanza three again to know how the poet describes the appearance of the dragon.
Ans. In stanza three of the poem the poet describes the physical side of the dragon. By stating his 'big sharp teeth', 'spikes' and 'scales', the poet makes him fearful.

Q6. 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?
Ans. Some of the images used in the poem are:
Mouth like a fireplace.
Chimney for a nose
His beard was long, one leg was wood.
Daggers on his toes

Q7. Do you find The Tale of Custard the Dragon to be a serious or a light-hearted poem? Give reasons to support your answer.
Ans. It is a light-hearted poem. The animals have been treated as human beings. There is irony in the poem. The animals who boast of their power, prove to be cowards. But the dragon whom everyone calls cowardly, fights bravely and kills the pirate.

Q8. Where did Belinda live? What was the name of her little black kitten?
Or
Where did Belinda live and which animals lived with her?

Ans. Belinda lived in a little white house. She had four pets -Ink, Blink, Mustard and Custard. Ink was a little black kitten. Blink was a little grey mouse. Mustard was a little yellow dog. And Custard was a little pet dragon.

Q9. Who were Ink, Blink, Mustard and Custard?
Ans. Ink, Blink, Mustard and Custard were Belinda's four little pets. Ink was a black kitten. Blink was a grey mouse. Mustard was a yellow dog. And Custard was a little dragon.

Q10. Who was Custard and how did he look?
Ans. Custard was Belinda's little pet dragon. He had big sharp teeth. He had spikes on his head. He had scales on the underside of his body. His mouth looked like a fireplace and his nose looked like a chimney. And on his toes, he had daggers.

Q11. Why did Belinda tickle Custard so severely?
Ans. Belinda had four pets a kitten, a mouse, a dog and a little dragon (Custard). She gave all her care to the first three. But she kept Custard in neglect and would tease him, because she thought he was a coward.

Q12. How did the pirate look?
Ans. The pirate looked very terrible. He had two pistols, one in each hand. Between his teeth, he was holding a cutlass. He had a black beard and one of his legs was of wood. It was clear from his looks that he meant no good.

Q13. How was the pirate killed?
Ans. On seeing the pirate, all other pets of Belinda ran away in fear. Only Custard the dragon had the courage to fight the pirate. He at once sprang upon the pirate. The pirate fired two bullets, but they did not hit the dragon. Custard caught hold of the pirate and ate up every bit of him.

Q14. How did Belinda and her pets behave after the pirate had been killed?
Ans. Belinda embraced the dragon and Mustard licked him. Ink and Blink danced round him. But then soon. Mustard claimed that if he had not been confused, he would have been twice as brave as Custard. Ink and Blink said that they would have been thrice as brave. At this, Custard humbly agreed that everybody was braver than him.

Q15. How does the poet describe Belinda and her animals' bravery? How was Custard different from them?
Ans. Belinda always claimed herself to be brave. Her three pets Ink, Blink and Mustard also made tall claims of their bravery. But on seeing the pirate, Belinda grew pale with fear and started crying for help, while the three pets ran away in fear. It was only Custard that fought with the pirate bravely and killed him.

Q16. What kind of a poem is 'The Tale of Custard the Dragon'? Briefly summarize it.
Ans. This poem is a ballad. A lady named Belinda has four pets - Ink, Blink. Mustard and Custard. Blink and Mustard make tall claims of their bravery. But Custard is content to remain in his cage. All the three animals call Custard a coward. Belinda, too, keeps Custard in neglect. One day, a pirate breaks into the house. All other pets of Belinda run away in fear. Only Custard fights the pirate bravely and kills him. Belinda embraces Custard the dragon. Ink, Blink and Mustard dance in joy. But soon, all become their usual selves and Custard is left crying for a nice safe cage.

Q17. What is the central idea of the poem, "The Tale of Custard the Dragon"?
Ans. The central idea of the poem is that our judgments should be based on the real deeds of people, not on their self-recommendations. Appearances may be deceptive and claims may be hollow. Moreover, people with true virtues need not indulge in false pretences; their brave acts speak volumes about their characters.

Q18. How can "The Tale of Custard the Dragon" be considered as a ballad?
Ans. A ballad is a narrative poem relating the adventures and brave deeds of the protagonist in a simple language. It is usually written in short four-line stanzas. "The Tale of Custard the Dragon" falls in the category of the parody of a ballad as it narrates the brave fight of the dragon against a pirate in a humorous manner. It has four-lined stanzas and simple language. But there is a twist as the protagonist is not a brave human being but an animal - a dragon.

Q19. Do you find ‘The Tale of Custard the Dragon’ to be a serious or a light-hearted poem? Give reasons to support your answer.
Ans. ‘The Tale of Custard the Dragon’ is a very light and funny poem meant to be enjoyed by everyone. The way the poem has been written with a fix rhyme scheme, makes it very easy and enjoyable to read. All the characters have names which are rhyming with each other. The poet has even used wrong spelling to maintain the rhyme scheme. The features of Belinda and her pets described in the poem make it quite funny. Belinda’s bravery has been compared to a barrel full of bears. All the tiny creatures such as the kitten and the mouse have been shown so brave that they can scare a lion and the dog’s bravery is like a tiger’s rage. The biggest of them all, the dragon is the only one, who has been shown as a coward and soft being, who looks for a cage for himself, which is very ironic, hence making the poem funny. They all are defined to be very brave except the dragon. But in reality, the dragon proves to be the real hero. At the end they pose before each other what they are not. When the danger comes, they run off. Again, when they come together, they pretend of their bravery.

See Video for MCQs of the Poem


Multiple Choice Questions:
Q1. Where did Belinda live?
1. in a red house
2 in a white house
3 in a small but Am
4 in a mud house

Q2. Who lived with Belinda?
1. her father
2 her mother
3 her pets
4 all of the above

Q3. The colour of their wagon was:
1. red
2 white
3 green
4 yellow

Q4. The name of the little black kitten was:
1. Ink
2 Blink
3 Mustard
4 Custard

Q5. Who was Blink?
1. kitten
2 mouse
3 dog
4 dragon

Q6. Which of the following boasted to be brave?
1. Ink
2 Blink
3 Mustard
4 all of the above

Q7. The name of the yellow little dog was:
1. Ink
2 Blink
3 Mustard
4 Custard

Q8. The name of the dragon was:
1. Ink
2 Blink
3 Mustard
4 Custard

Q9. Why did other animals make fun of the dragon?
1. for his cowardice
2 for his small size
3 for his big mouth
4 all of the above

Q10. Who attacked Belinda’s house?
1. a soldier
2 a pirate
3 an army
4 a lion

Q11. Who killed the pirate?
1. Belinda
2 Ink and Blink
3 Mustard
4 Custard

Q12. What did Custard long for?
1. a nice safe cage
2 a nice forest
3 a pirate
4 Belinda’s love

Match your answers with our Answer Key:
1B 2C 3A 4A 5B 6D
7C 8D 9A 10B 11D 12A


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