Dragons at Crumbling Castle And other tales

Terry Pratchett

Book - 2015

An illustrated collection of fourteen short stories featuring "dragons and wizards, councilors and mayors, an adventurous tortoise and a monster in a lake, along with plenty of pointy hats and a few magic spells" written when the author was a teenaged newspaper reporter.

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Boston ; New York : Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2015.
Main Author
Terry Pratchett (-)
Other Authors
Mark Beech, 1971- (illustrator)
First U.S. edition
Physical Description
xii, 336 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
  • Dragons at Crumbling Castle
  • Hercules the tortoise
  • The Great Speck
  • Hunt the Snorry
  • Tales of the Carpet People
  • Dok the Caveman
  • The Big Race
  • Another Tale of the Carpet People
  • The Great Egg-dancing Championship
  • Edwo, the boring knight
  • The 59A bus goes back in time
  • The Abominable Snowman
  • The Blackbury monster
  • Father Christmas goes to work.
Review by Booklist Review

As a junior reporter in his teens, Pratchett wrote children's stories that were published weekly in his local newspaper. Fourteen are collected here, two of which formed the basis of his first novel, The Carpet People (1971). Other notable tales in this volume include The Great Egg-Dancing Championship, about two rivals who discover that they are on the same side after all, and Dok the Caveman, in which a highly inventive fellow has trouble fitting in with his prehistoric tribe. The closing story, Father Christmas Goes to Work, follows the larger-than-life title character as he tries out a series of new jobs. It's a pleasure to read Pratchett's reflections in his introduction and to see his signature warmth, wit, and intelligence light up these simple stories. Appearing throughout the book, Beech's amusing ink-and-wash drawings perfectly capture the magic of the tales in a spirited style reminiscent of Quentin Blake's illustrations. A good choice for the chapter-book set, this is highly recommended for reading aloud to younger children as well. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Pratchett's vast, all-ages fan base will be intrigued by these early offerings, while their accessibility and skillful storytelling will pull in young newcomers to the masterful author's work.--Phelan, Carolyn Copyright 2014 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

This collection gathers 14 short stories written by the late fantasy author when he was a teenager. Dragons get ousted from their caves and take over a castle. The world's most boring knight wins half a kingdom and the princess's affection through sheer doggedness. A tortoise journeys far from home and discovers bravery and a new life. A champion "egg dancer" forfeits his win to catch some thieves. Fans of Sir Terry's later work will recognize the seeds of some of his Discworld characters and themes in these tales: wordplay, puns, silly jokes, wonderfully goofy names, characters with strong ethics, and wild ideas grounded in reality. In the audio edition, musical interludes and other sound effects help to divide some of the very short stories. Rind-Tutt's flexible voice and spot-on accents allow listeners to immediately grasp the nature of the characters. His Scotsmen are daring adventurers, his upper-crust ladies have hooting, high-pitched voices, and the heroes sound sturdy and forthright. Parrots, princesses, tortoises, and very proper butlers all come to life. Rind-Tutt's energetic performance is both goofy and warm, just perfect for Pratchett's sensibilities. Ages 9-12. A Clarion hardcover. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-7-This collection of short stories is eerily reminiscent of Roald Dahl's tales of humor and irony, while the illustrations are remarkably similar to Quentin Blake's. In Pratchett's tales, dragons invade a castle, having lost their caves to a stopped-up river; itty bitty people live, explore, and fight within the carpets; an odd caveman keeps inventing things that then cause disaster (a fire burning down the village); and a champion egg dancer catches a pair of thieves. The oddness of the stories makes them funny and unique. Many feature British terminology, which might confuse younger readers but adds to the flavor of the book. General themes include good overcoming evil, cheaters never prospering, and courage defeating danger. VERDICT Middle grade readers who enjoy Pratchett's other works or Dahl's tales are bound to enjoy this one.-Heidi Grange, Summit Elementary School, Smithfield, UT (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review

This collection of fantastical short stories, previously published serially in the 1960s, offers an uneven glimpse at Pratchett's literary evolution. Notable for their cleverness and whimsy but containing less heart and substance than Pratchett's beloved later work, these bite-size tales, accompanied by Quentin Blakeesque spot illustrations, are read-aloud ready. Dated caricatures among the cast may limit the overall appeal to Pratchett enthusiasts. (c) Copyright 2015. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Fourteen rollicking tales, most of which were written when the author was a teenager and published over 40 years ago in his local newspaper.Pratchett fans will particularly welcome first introductions to the town of Blackbury, which became the setting for several later novels, and intrepid Snibril, who, with his diminutive folk, went on to be cast in The Carpet People. The author admits to some minor editorial massaging, but these and all the rest feature characters heroic or hiss-worthy, pranks and battles aplenty, sly twists on familiar tropes and his trademark mix of silly humor and acute moral commentary. In the title tale, a lad makes peace between a town and a family of displaced dragons, and in another, rival rulers even smaller than Carpet People squabble over a newly discovered dust speck. Mishaps ensue when "Father Christmas Goes to Work" between holidays. All the stories come with sheaves of new illustrations depicting wide-eyed caricatures in comically stagey poses, drawn Quentin Blake-style in quick, sketchy pen strokes against swabs of monochrome wash. Juvenilia from a genius, showing bright signs of future masterworks. (introduction) (Short stories. 10-12) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Dragons at Crumbling Castle In the days of King Arthur there were no newspapers, only town criers, who went around shouting the news at the tops of their voices. King Arthur was sitting up in bed one Sunday, eating an egg, when the Sunday town crier trooped in. Actually, there were several of them, including a man to draw the pictures, a jester for the jokes, and a small man in tights and soccer cleats who was called the Sports Page. " DRAGONS INVADE CRUMBLING CASTLE ," shouted the News Crier (this was the headline), and then he said in a softer voice, "For full details hear page nine." King Arthur dropped his spoon in amazement. Dragons! All the knights were out on quests, except for Sir Lancelot--and he had gone to France for a vacation. The Ninth Page came panting up, coughed, and said: "Thousands flee for their lives as family of green dragons burns and rampages around Crumbling Castle. . . ." "What is King Arthur doing about this?" demanded the Editorial Crier pompously. "What do we pay our taxes for? The people of Camelot demand action. . . ." "Throw them out and give them fourpence each," said the king to the butler. "Then assemble the guard." *** Later that day, the king went out to the courtyard. "Now then, men," he said. "I want a volunteer . . ." Then he adjusted his spectacles. The only other person in the courtyard was a small boy in a suit of mail much too big for him. "Ralph reporting, Sire!" the lad said, and saluted. "Where's everyone else?" "Tom, John, Ron, Fred, Bill, and Jack are out sick," said Ralph, counting on his fingers. "And William, Bert, Joe, and Albert are on vacation. James is visiting his granny. Rupert has gone hunting. And Eric . . ." "Well then," said the king, "Ralph, how would you like to visit Crumbling Castle? Nice scenery, excellent food, only a few dragons to kill. Take my spare suit of armor--it's a bit roomy but quite thick." So Ralph got on his donkey and trotted across the drawbridge, whistling, and disappeared over the hills. When he was out of sight, he took off the armor and hid it behind a hedge, because it squeaked and was too hot, and put on his ordinary clothes. High on a wooded hill sat a mounted figure in coal-black armor. He watched the young boy pass by, then galloped down after him on his big black horse. "HALT IN THE NAME OF THE FRIDAY KNIGHT," he cried in a deep voice, raising his black sword. Ralph looked around. "Excuse me, sir," he said. "Is this the right road to Crumbling Castle?" "Well, yes, actually it is," said the knight, looking rather embarrassed, and then he remembered that he was really a big bad knight and continued in a hollow voice, "BUT YOU'LL HAVE TO FIGHT ME FIRST!" Ralph looked up in amazement as the black knight got off his horse and charged at him, waving his sword. "Yield!" the knight yelled. Then he got his foot stuck in a rabbit hole, and he tripped over in a great clatter, like an explosion in a tin factory. Bits of armor flew everywhere. There was silence for a moment, and then the helmet unscrewed itself, and Ralph saw that the Friday knight himself was a very small man indeed. Or, at least, he had a very small head. "Sorry," said the knight. "Can I try again?" "Certainly not!" said Ralph, and unsheathed his rusty sword. "I've won. You've fallen over first. I shall call you Fortnight, as my journey to Crumbling Castle and back should take no more than two weeks! You are my prisoner for that time, Sir Knight!" There was a great deal of clanking inside the armor, and then Fortnight climbed out through a trap door in the back. His ferocious black armor was three times as big as he was. So Ralph continued his journey to Crumbling Castle on his donkey, followed by Fortnight the Friday knight on his great black charger. After a while they became quite friendly, because Fortnight knew lots of jokes and could sing quite well. He'd belonged to a circus before he became a knight. *** The next day they found a wizard sitting on a milestone, reading a book. He had the normal wizard's uniform: long white beard, pointed hat, a sort of nightgown covered in signs and spells, and long floppy boots, which he had taken off, revealing red socks. "Excuse me, sir," said Ralph, because you have to be careful when talking to wizards. "Is this the way to Crumbling Castle?" "Thunder and lightning! Yes," said the wizard, closing his book with a snap. "Do you mind if I come too? I've got a few antidragon spells I'd like to try out." He said his name was Fossfiddle, and he was sitting by the road because his magic seven-league boots had broken down. He pointed out the pair of high brown boots by the milestone: magic boots are handy things--you can walk as far as you like in them without getting tired--but Fossfiddle's needed a bit of work done on them. So they gathered around, and since Fossfiddle knew a bit about magic and Fortnight knew a bit about boots and Ralph knew a bit about walking, they soon had the boots working again. Fossfiddle put them on and trotted along by Ralph's donkey. The land around them grew grimmer and grimmer, and black mountains loomed up on either side. Gray clouds covered the sun, and a cold wind sprang up. The three of them plodded on and came to a cave hidden in a clump of thornbushes. "We could do with a fire," said Ralph. "Nothing easier," said Fossfiddle. He muttered something and produced a funny-looking glass bulb, a small hat, a banana, and a brass candlestick. It wasn't that he was a bad wizard: he just got things mixed up. And if he had but known it, the funny-looking bulb was several centuries ahead of itself. After Fortnight had lit a fire, they settled down around it and Ralph and Fossfiddle dozed off. But Fortnight thought he could hear something. Crack! went a stick in the bushes. Something was sneaking toward them. Fortnight picked up his sword and crept toward the bushes. Something was moving in them, something with very large feet. The night was very dark, and somewhere an owl hooted. "Yield!" yelled Fortnight, and dashed into the bushes. This woke up Ralph and Fossfiddle, who heard a great cracking and bashing about. They got up and ran to Fornight's help. For five minutes there was no sound to be heard but swishings--and swear words when people trod on thorns. It was so dark, nobody knew if anything was sneaking up behind them, so they kept turning around and around just to make sure. "I'VE GOT IT!" shouted Fortnight, and jumped on something. "You've got me!" Fossfiddle's voice came from the leaf mold. While all this was going on, something very small crawled out of the bushes and began to warm its feet by the fire. Then it rummaged through the knapsacks and ate Fossfiddle's breakfast for tomorrow. "I heard something, I tell you," muttered Fortnight as the three of them came, scratched and bruised, out of the brambles. "Look, there it is!" "It's a dragon!" shouted Fossfiddle. "It's a very weeny one . . ." said Ralph. The dragon was about the size of a small kettle; it was green and had very large feet. It looked up at them, sniffed a bit, and began to cry. "Perhaps my breakfast didn't agree with it," muttered Fossfiddle, looking at his knapsack. "Well, what shall we do with it?" asked Ralph. "It doesn't look very dangerous, I must say." "Has it lost its mommy?" cooed Fortnight, getting down on his hands and knees and smiling at it. It backed away and breathed some smoke at him. Fortnight wasn't very good with children. Finally they made it a bed in a big saucepan, put the lid on, and went back to sleep. *** When they set off in the morning, Fossfiddle carried the saucepan on his back. After all, they couldn't just leave the dragon behind. A little while later the lid opened, and the dragon stared out. "This isn't dragon country," said Ralph. "I suppose it must have gotten lost." "It's the green variety. They grow to be thirty feet tall," said Fortnight, "and then they take to roaring and rampaging and walking on the grass and other lawlessness and wicked deeds." "What sort of deeds?" asked Ralph interestedly. "Oh--well, I don't know. Leaving faucets running and slamming doors, I suppose." That afternoon they came to Crumbling Castle. It was on a high hill all by itself and built of gray stone. In the valley below was a town, but most of it was burned down. There was no sign of anybody, not even a dragon. They plucked up the courage to knock at the big black door. Fortnight's knees were knocking, and since he was wearing armor, this made a terrible din. "There's no one in," he said quickly. "Let's go back!" The door wouldn't open, so Fossfiddle got out his spell book. " Hopscotchalorum, trempledingotramlines! " he chanted. "Open!" Instead, the door turned into pink meringue. Fossfiddle always got things wrong. "My word, what a tasty door," said Fortnight when they finally got through. They were in an empty courtyard. It seemed they were being watched. "I don't like this much," he added, looking around and drawing his sword. "I get the feeling that something is going to jump out on us." "That's very nice, I must say," said Fossfiddle, whose nerves were not as good as they had been. "It's all right," said Ralph. "Dragons are seldom bigger than the average house and not much hotter than the average furnace." He trod on Fossfiddle's cloak as the wizard tried to run away. "So come back." Just then they met a dragon. It looked quite like the one asleep in the saucepan in Fossfiddle's pack, except it was much, MUCH bigger. It crawled across the courtyard to them. "Morning," it said. Now, this placed our heroes in a bit of a quandary, as you can see. You can't go and kill something that's just said good morning to you. "Good morning," said Ralph, rather embarrassed. "I suppose we've come to the right place?" "Yes, this is Crumbling Castle. Have you come about all these people who've been bothering us?" "First we've heard of it," said Ralph. "We were told that you dragons were bothering people. Where is everyone, anyway?" The old dragon yawned. "Down at the dragon caves." Then he explained it all to them. Dragons were really quite peaceful, and these had been living in some caves down by the river, bothering no one except the fish, which they ate. But then the lord of the castle had built a dam downriver, and their caves had been flooded out. So the dragons had come to live in the castle, scaring everyone else away. They had burned a few houses down, but they always checked to make sure there was no one at home before they did so. While the old dragon was talking, other dragons came from various parts of the castle and sat around listening. "And now they've kidnapped the dragon prince," said the dragon. "Is he about twelve inches long, with large paws and a habit of biting?" said Fossfiddle suspiciously. "Because if he is, we found him yesterday. He'd just gotten lost." He held out the saucepan, and the little dragon hopped out. There had to be a lot of explaining. Fortnight went down to the river and found the lord hiding up a tree and brought him back. Most of the other castle people followed the lord. "I'm afraid there's no possibility of taking the dam down," said the lord, hiding behind Fortnight. "We built it to make a swimming pool." "You don't have to take it down," said Ralph. "All you need to do is build a few caves out of bricks or something." So they did. The three fighters pitched in and helped, and it wasn't long before they had a nice row of caves, with hot and cold running water and a bath in each one. The dragons took to them at once and agreed to leave the castle. "I suppose that's it then," said Ralph as they strolled away from the castle with all the dragons and people waving to them. "Good thing for the dragons there wasn't any fighting," said Fossfiddle, "or they might have found out a thing or two!" They had a good laugh about that and disappeared over the hill. Excerpted from Dragons at Crumbling Castle: And Other Tales by Terry Pratchett All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.