In which this story used to have a Dragon in it. It doesn't now.
I learned this story from teller Dan Keding, but I have really mucked around with it in retelling. His version featured a dimwitted dragon. I've never known a dimwitted dragon, so I changed things to make more sense.
The Old Woman and the Ogre (Romany)
A long time ago, there was an old woman who had many children. She lived with them deep in the middle of the forest, sheltered in a small hovel, nothing more than a hole in the ground with a roof of branches.
One day the poor old woman made herself a honey cake and then set off to make her fortune.
She walked all morning until she came to a well. Beside the well, there was a large stone that served as a table for travelers. The old woman sat next to the stone and placed her honey cake on it, thinking she would eat the cake after she had rested a bit. Soon, she was fast asleep. While she slept the birds came down and gobbled up her honey cake, and when she woke the flies were finishing the crumbs. “Leave me nothing,” she cried when she saw the flies. Quickly, she brought her hand down on the stone killing fifty flies with one blow.
Proud of this feat, she took a burnt stick and wrote on the stone table: “Fifty souls, one blow”. Then, still tired and hungry, she put her head down and slept again.
While the old woman slept, an ogre came to the well for a drink. When he saw the woman sleeping there, the ogre crept closer. Reading the stone, the ogre stepped back in fright.
Feeling the ground shake, the old woman woke up and saw the ogre. She was frightened, so she and the ogre just sat there, staring at each other. Each one was so afraid of the other that together they swore an oath. They would be friends no matter what happened, and neither one would harm the other.
The ogre invited the old woman to his palace to dine with him and his wife. As the old woman walked down the forest path, the ogre followed. Each time the ogre exhaled, his breath pushed the old woman forward, and each time the ogre inhaled he pulled the old woman backward. The ogre was perplexed by this behavior.
“Why do you walk running forward and then running backward?”
The old woman replied, “When I think I might kill you, I run backward, but when I remember our oath, I run forward. Perhaps you should walk in front, so I can keep my eyes on you and remember my promise.”
The ogre was afraid that the old woman might forget the oath, so he replied, “I will gladly walk in front of you.”
When they got to the ogre’s palace, the ogre’s wife wanted to make tea for their guest. The ogre asked the old woman to go down to the well, and bring back some water for the tea.
The old woman took one look at the ogre-sized bucket and knew she couldn’t lift it.
She asked the ogre for a shovel. “Why do you need a shovel to bring back the water?” asked the ogre.
“I’m going to dig around the well and bring the whole thing back to you on my back. Then you won’t have to go to the well for several days.”
The ogre was shocked. “No, that won’t do at all. When the well is dry, we’ll all die of thirst.”
“I’m sorry. Its either the whole well or nothing,” said the old woman.
“I will fetch the water myself,” said the ogre. “Why don’t you go into the forest and bring back a nice oak tree for the fire.”
The old woman walked into the forest and made a bark rope, and twined it around and around a grove of trees.
The ogre came looking for his guest and found her tying the grove together. “What are you doing?” the ogre asked.
“I’m not going to waste my time with just one tree, so I decided I’d bring this entire grove to the palace. This way you will have firewood for weeks.”
“No, please leave my forest as it is.”
“All or none,” said the old woman, so the ogre pulled a tree up by its roots and brought it back to the palace himself.
After dinner, the ogre asked, “Shouldn’t you be on your way home now?”
“I came out to seek my fortune, and I must have a fortune to take home with me.”
The ogre went to his treasure room and came back with an enormous sack filled with gold and jewels. “Here, take this to your family,” he said.
The old woman knew she could never lift that big sack of treasure. “It would be rude for you not to take this to my family yourself.”
So the ogre hoisted the sack onto his back and they walked off to the old woman’s home.
When they got to the hovel, the woman asked the ogre to wait outside. She went in, and gave each of the children a knife and fork and told them what to do.
Then, she called to the ogre, “Come in, my friend.”
Just as the ogre was about to open the door and walk in, all of the children ran out waving their knives and forks and screaming, “Hurray! Mother has brought us an ogre for our supper. Let’s kill him and eat him up.”
The ogre threw down the sack of treasure and ran for his life, swearing never to come near the old woman’s home again. When he got to his palace, he barred the door and refused to go outside for a week.
The old woman took the ogre’s money and bought a fine new house, a farm, and new clothes for everyone, and they never were poor again.