Have you made the acquaintance of Herb, our friendly and peace-loving vegetarian dragon? If not, you have a treat in store.

Herb is not like the other dragons in the Forest of Nogard. They devour whatever meat they can lay their teeth on, and they’re particularly partial to juicy young princesses. Herb is different. He spends his days tending his vegetable plot. So he is taken aback when he finds himself captured and thrown into prison by the local knights, who are determined to execute him as an example to other dragons. Meathook, a meat-eating dragon with a particularly menacing disposition, sets out to corrupt Herb, offering to get him out of prison if he’ll change his ways and tuck into a joint of lamb. Principled to the last, Herb resists. Luckily, his execution is halted by the intervention of his friend Marigold, who realises that the knights have captured the wrong dragon. After this, Herb brokers a peace-keeping agreement with the knights and peace comes to the Forest.

It’s not difficult to see the life lesson in this story: stand up for what you believe in and, if you are lucky, the tide will turn in your favour. Herb has to put his life on the line, which is more than I have ever done, but whenever I read this story, I am transported back to all kinds of struggles I had as a child. I remember having been mocked for being left-handed (though at least I was not forced to become right-handed in the way previous generations of children were). It is not easy for any child or adult to be different, whether by nature or by choice, but in my case, peer pressure felt a lot worse when I was little than it has since I became an adult. It can be easy for me to forget, living in the comfort and relative security of a liberal democracy, what a privilege it is to have the freedom to be different, not to have to conform. May it be so for others too. As Paul McCartney comments, ‘Herb’s story tells the tale of the future’.

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