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The way to love your parents is to become a better person.
By saying yes to her adventure, Minli sets in motion a transformation that will bring her more than just fortune; it will bring her growth and health, and it will honor the legacy of her parents. This is her fate.
The path to transcend involves working along side your 'dragon friend.'
This story could be treated as an Eastern mystic allegory. By saying yes to the dragon, as Joseph Campbell might say, one can attain the extra powers needed to succeed in climbing the ladder to the higher realm. In this case, those powers include the power to fly.
The way to get what you want from the Old Man is by doing the work to get it.
By saying, "There is an old man who can give you whatever you want, as long as you can reach him," is a little bit like a bait-and-switch, because what you're aiming to do is borrow power from the 'Old Man upstairs,' so to speak, but the act of reaching him means that you will have to find that power already within yourself, just to get to where you can ask him for something.
Another key detail is that when Minli finally gets her audience with the Old Man upstairs, she asks for him to bless her friend instead of herself, and that final test is an indication of her selflessness, and her great reward is the product of her willingness to view others as more valuable than herself.
The true reward is fruitful labor, not endless wealth.
When Minli finally delivers her family to their blessed fate, notice that they are not rewarded with endless money. They are rewarded with a better return on their time and work. Instead of working fruitlessly, they will now work fruitfully. But they still have to work, because work is a necessary part of the good life.
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The buffalo boy had told Minli that only members of the imperial family were allowed to wear a gold dragon on their garments. When Minli reached for the beggars sleeve, she caught sight of the golden dragon that was hidden by his sleeve. That was...