Once upon a time a practical little girl lived in the forest with her grandmother. Every day she went walking in the forest alone, and every day her grandmother warned her to beware of dragons. The little girl thought her grandmother very silly, for she knew there was no such thing as a dragon.
One sunny morning, the girl finished carrying water from the well and firewood from the shed. She couldn't wait to go out to learn new things in the forest. (A less practical child might have called this playing.) Her grandmother stopped her with a look. "Don't forget," she said, "look out for dragons! Be very careful! This is just the sort of weather they like. If you see one, or even just a tail or a scale, run the other way!" The little girl rolled her eyes, but she did it privately into the corner so her grandmother could not see.
It was a lovely day indeed. The little girl observed a butterfly for a while, then she collected floral specimens. She found some birds that were building a nest and watched them at their work. She was startled from her examination by a low voice behind her. "Excuse me," said the voice, "but do you have a pin?"
The little girl was very practical. She always carried pins with her. "Why yes, of course!" she began to say as she turned around. She was very surprised to discover a dragon. She saw that she would need to revise her theory about their not existing immediately. It was green and yellow and scaled all over. It was not a very large dragon, but she might have been frightened, because of all her grandmother's warnings, except for one thing.
The dragon was wearing a ridiculous hat.
It was far too small, for one thing. It had clearly once belonged to a human, and human heads are nowhere near the size of dragon heads. It was only managing to stay on the dragon's head because it had been tied there with a dirty piece of string. The hat was striped. It was tall. It was velvet. It had a buckle on one side, and a bow on the other, and flowers all over. Quite simply, it was the silliest looking hat the little girl had seen in all her life.
She said the only thing she could think of to say. "A... pin?" "Yes," said the dragon in a rather embarassed tone. "I have this fetching new hat, only it has a bit of a... well, to be honest, it has a bit of a hole in one side. I'm ashamed to show you, but I suppose I must." The dragon turned its head slowly to the side, ducking as it did so. It blew steam out of its nose, which is a dragon's way of blushing. Indeed, there was a gaping hole in between the buckle and the bow, on the side the girl had not been able to see at first. "Well, but why use a pin," said the girl practically, "when I can simply sew it up for you? I'm sure that would last much longer." "Oh, WOULD you?" begged the dragon. "I can't go on this way. I've been so worried I haven't known what to do!" "Well, of course," said the little girl. She knew how to sew and didn't think it was practical to argue with a dragon, and she valued being practical more than anything else.
The dragon bent its head far down so that the little girl could reach the hat. Clearly it was unwilling to be parted from its treasure for even a moment. The little girl reasoned that her small needle was unlikely to be sharp enough to pierce the dragon's scales. She was happy to find she had a bit of thread that was close enough to the general color scheme to get lost in the gaudiness of the hat. She did a quick emergency repair on the hat. "There!" she said when she was finished. The dragon said, "Oh, you're done already? Oh, I can't thank you enough!" "It was my pleasure," said the little girl. Being rude to a dragon also seemed impractical. The dragon examined its reflection in the stream, pronounced itself delighted, and wandered off burbling with happiness.
The little girl thought nothing more about it and settled back into her observation of nestbuilding. Nothing more, that is, until she heard a very large tromping and clomping. Through the woods came the dragon she had met, followed by a whole herd of others! She saw immediately that they were all wearing hats, and those hats made the one she had fixed look brand-new by comparison. "This is she," said the first dragon, "And she is ever so obliging and talented with her needle!" There was nothing for it but to take out the needle and thread again, and do what she could to restore the hats of the rest of the horde. Dragons, you see, are very fond of bonnets, tophats, balaclavas, and any other kind of headgear you might imagine, but having no hands, they cannot make hats themselves. And claws are notoriously hard on hats, especially hats gotten secondhand.
Finally, it began to grow dark and she was running low on thread. "I'm very sorry, dragons, but I have to leave now," said the little girl. "If I am not home by dark, my grandmother will be very worried." A hue and cry arose from the dragons whose hats had not yet been repaired. "I'll come back tomorrow!" she hastily added, "Once my chores are done!" and the dragons subsided.
It seemed a very long walk back to the cabin. The little girl could not remember being more tired. Finally she saw the light, and then the yard, and then the house itself. She ran in the door and latched it tight behind her. "My, what a hurry you're in!" said her grandmother. "I hope you didn't meet a dragon!" "No, I didn't meet a dragon," sighed the little girl. "Well, thank heavens for that!" said her grandmother. "Actually," admitted the girl, "I met a whole family of dragons." "Oh, NO!" her grandmother exclaimed, with an expression of horror. "You must have spent all afternoon fixing their hats!"
The little girl grew up to be a purveyor of hats for dragons. The hats were fashionable, they were appropriately sized, and most important, they were very sturdy.