I came across this story while reading Pure Desire by Ted Roberts. It is a great illustration of how someone is enticed by sin and then is unable to break free from that sin through their own efforts. It is fairly long (about a 5 minute read), but it is really good so read it through to the end.
“The Prince and the Dragon – A Parable”
There was once a great and noble King whose land was terrorized by a wicked and crafty dragon. Like a massive bird of prey, the scaly beast delighted in ravaging villages with his fiery breath. Hapless victims ran from their burning homes, only to be snatched into the dragon’s jaws or talons.
The king led his sons and knights in many valiant battles against the serpent. Riding alone in the forest, one of the King’s sons heard his name purred soft and low. Lost in thoughts of restlessness and loneliness in his father’s house, the young prince thought for a moment that he was hearing things. He felt a strange hesitation in his heart. Again, his name was called. In the shadows of the ferns and trees, curled among the boulders, lay the dragon.
The heavy-lidded eyes of the creature fastened ablaze on the prince, and the reptilian mouth stretched into a seductive smile. “Don’t be alarmed,” said the dragon, as gray wisps of smoke rose lazily from his nostrils. “I am not what your father thinks of me.” “What are you, then?” demanded the prince, instinctively drawing his sword as he pulled in the reigns to keep his frightened horse from bolting. “I am more than what you’ve been told, my prince,” said the dragon unashamedly. “I am delight; I am pleasure.”
Noticing the prince’s hesitation, the serpent cried, “Ride on my back and you will experience what few can only imagine. What no King has yet experienced! Come now…believe me, I have no harmful intentions. Truly, I seek only a friend – someone to share my flights with me. I am lonely. You understand loneliness. Have you never dreamed of flying, my prince? Never longed to soar in the clouds? Never longed to take what isn’t yours?”
The prince felt intoxicated. Was it the smoke that seemed to curl its way toward him with every word? Or was it the words themselves? Visions of soaring high above the forested hills of his father’s kingdom drew the prince hesitantly from his horse. And the dragon was stunning – captivatingly beautiful. The prince had never seen emerald so green as the dragon’s coat. As he marveled at its strange beauty, his curiosity brought him closer. Knowingly, the dragon unfurled one great webbed wing brilliantly adorned in gemstones stolen from some kingdom past. “Come, my prince. Come ride with me.” In one fateful decision, the prince sheathed his sword and placed his hands and feet on the brilliant stones, climbing atop the emerald staircase to the serpent’s back. The dragon rose immediately to its feet. The prince had been deceived of its size, for now it seemed far more powerful and immense than many horses.
The creature snapped its great wings twice launching them both into the sky. The prince’s apprehension melted into exhilaration as he felt the awesome rule of the wind beneath him and the fragrant breeze on his face…. From then on, he met the dragon often, but secretly, for how could he tell his father or brothers or the knights that he had befriended the kingdom’s greatest enemy? Quickly, the prince began to feel separate – from everyone. The kingdom’s concerns were no longer his. Even when he wasn’t stealing away secretly to be with the dragon, he spent less time with those he loved.
More and more, he spent his time alone or with the creature. The skin on the prince’s legs began to callous from gripping the dragon’s ridged back. His hands grew rough and hardened. He began wearing gloves to hide the malady. After many nights of riding he discovered scales growing on the backs of his hands as well. With dread he realized his fate were he to continue, and so he resolved to return no more to the dragon.
But, after a fortnight, he again sought out the dragon, having been tortured with desire. And so, in this way, it transpired many times over. No matter what the determination, the prince eventually found himself pulled back, as if by the cords of an invisible web. The dragon’s charms, so gentle in the beginning, now held the prince more tightly than he had the will to resist. Silently, patiently, the serpent waited…always waited. One cold, moonless night their excursion became a foray against a sleeping village.
Torching the thatched roofs with fiery blasts from his nostrils, the dragon roared with delight when the terrified victims fled from their burning homes. Swooping in, the serpent belched again, and flames engulfed a cluster of screaming villagers. The prince closed his eyes tightly in an attempt to shut out the horror and the carnage, but he could not.
Sometimes, he even allowed himself to feel the old thrill. Then, in bitter remorse, his heart sinking in shame, he tried to hide himself. But the flames of the burning village lighted on his face. In the predawn hours, when the prince crept back from his dragon trysts, the road outside his father’s castle usually remained empty. But not tonight. Terrified refugees streamed into the protective walls of the castle.
The prince attempted to slip through the crowd to close himself in his chambers, but some of the survivors stared and pointed toward him. “He was there,” one woman cried out, “I saw him on the dragon’s back!” Others nodded their heads in riotous agreement. Some only stared in disbelief and growing recognition.
Horrified, the prince saw that his father, the King, was in the courtyard holding a bloodstained and seemingly dead child in his arms; his face mirrored the agony of the child’s mother. He looked up at the angry cries, and his eyes found the prince’s. The son fled, hoping to escape into the night, but the guards apprehended him as if he were a common thief. They brought him to the great hall where his father sat solemnly on his throne. People on every side railed against the prince.
“Banish him!” he heard one of his own brothers cry out violently. “Burn him alive!” other voices shouted. “Let him burn the way he burned our children and our homes!” As the King arose from his throne, bloodstains shone darkly on his royal robes, and the crowd fell silent in expectation of his decree. The prince, who could not bear to look into his father’s face, stared down at the flagstone floor. “Take off your gloves and your tunic,” the King commanded.
Was his shame not already enough? The prince had hoped for a quick death without further humiliation. Now, he resigned himself to his fate. He obeyed slowly, agonizingly, dreading to have his metamorphosis uncovered before the kingdom. Sounds of revulsion rippled through the crowd, and parents covered their children’s eyes at the sight of the prince’s thick, scaled skin and the ridge now growing upward along his spine. Horrible! He was…could it be? The thought was so ghastly many turned away in disgust.
But the King strode toward his son. The prince steeled himself. He fully expected a back-handed blow even though he had never been struck so by his father. Instead, his father pulled him to himself, embraced him, holding him tightly…and wept.
In shocked disbelief, the prince buried his face against his father’s shoulder in a way he hadn’t done for too long. Tears began to burn down his scorched cheeks. “Do you wish to be freed from the dragon, my son?” The prince answered in despair, “Father, I’ve wished it so many times! But there remains no hope for me.” “Not alone,” said the King. “You cannot win against the serpent alone.”
“I am no longer your son! I am half beast,” sobbed the prince bitterly. He began to convulse in such cruel remorse that even the villagers pitied him. But his father replied, “My blood still runs in your veins. My nobility has always been stamped deep within your soul.” With his face still hidden tearfully in his father’s embrace, the prince heard the King instruct the crowd, “The dragon is crafty. Some fall victim to his wiles, for he is a great deceiver. Some fall to his violence for he has only wickedness in his heart. There will be mercy for all who wish to be freed! Who else among you has ridden the dragon?”
The prince lifted his head to see someone emerge from the crowd. To his amazement, he recognized an older brother, one who had been lauded throughout the kingdom for his onslaughts against the dragon in battle and for his many good deeds. Others came. Some came weeping. Others hung their heads in shame.
The King embraced them all. “This is our most powerful weapon against the dragon,” he announced. “Truth. No more hidden flights. Alone we cannot resist him.”