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Posts Tagged ‘Lambton Wyrm’

Previously, I related how Sir John Lambton unwittingly loosed a lindworm that ravaged his home.

As a returned Crusader, Sir John was not afraid of battle. But he remembered that he’d already thought he killed the creature once before, and so he sought aid. A wise woman lived in the village of Durham, not far away. Sir John told her why he must defeat the lindworm and asked for her advice. The wise woman told him to put spear blades on his armor and that he must face the wyrm in the River Wear. If he fought it on dry ground, he would surely lose.

But there was more. Because he had turned his back on this task as a young man, a curse had now grown up with it. To break the curse, Sir John had to slaughter the next living thing he saw after defeating the wyrm. If he failed to do this, the curse would fall upon him and his family. For nine generations, not one of them would die peacefully in bed.

Sir John returned home and explained the wise woman’s instructions. His father agreed to help fit the armor with spear heads, and they planned that , if Sir John defeated the wyrm, he would blow his horn three times. The father was then to release his favorite hound. Sir John planned to kill the hound and avert the curse.

When all was ready, Sir John went down to the River Wear. The lindworm was now wrapped around a rock at mid-stream.The moment it saw him, it attacked! They first fought on the bank, where the evil beast tried to catch him in its coils. Luckily, the sharp blades kept it from getting a grip. Sir John struck back, but soon discovered that any piece of the wyrm he lopped off would instantly re-attach itself and the wyrm was just as strong as ever!

Remembering the wise woman’s advice, Sir John backed into the river, where the current was strong. Now when he cut the beast, the pieces floated away and could not re-grow. Not long after, Sir John finished the lindworm off and sounded his horn three times. Alas, the father was so relieved to know his son was alive, he forgot about letting the hound go first. He rushed to the riverbank, where Sir John was aghast to see him. For in order to lift the lindworm’s curse, he would have to kill his own father!

As a loyal son, Sir John could not bring himself to do that. The two men returned home and killed the hound, but it was too late. Though the Lambton family eventually rebuilt their fortunes, the curse shadowed their descendants. For nine generations, no man of that family died peacefully in his own bed.

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Last time, I started the story of the Lambton Wyrm, one of the best known legends from England. I paused when Lambton, having fished a baby wyrm out of the River Wear, threw it into a well and left it to die.

A few years passed and the impulsive young John Lambton became a more responsible man. Eventually he decided to join the Crusades and make up for the incident with the wyrm, and other sins. His father, who was a knight and lord of the country around there, gave his blessing.

Sir John Lambton fought honorably in the Holy Land, but when he returned after seven years something was terribly wrong. The countryside was deolate, his proud castle home shabby and crumbling. Only a few sickly servants remained with his poor old father. When Sir John asked what had happened, he heard a tale of woe.

It began with a well near the River Wear. The water became foul, so that all who drank it fell ill. Then livestock started to vanish. The father investigated the well and found deep, slithering tracks around it. They led to a nearby hill. There the horrified father discovered a lindworm, so large that its coils passed seven times around the hilltop. Because his son was far away, the father called for aid. Many knights came to battle the dreaded wyrm, but none could defeat it. It often grew so angry that it pulled up a tree with its tail and flattened everything for miles.

This creature terrorized the land for months on end, snatching first the cattle and then young children. Peasants fled the area, and soon the lindworm came to the lord’s own castle. As a desperate measure, the father put out a trough of milk from nine good cows. This treat calmed the wyrm and it went back to its hilltop. However, the wyrm came to expect this bounty every day — and it was still growing!

As he heard all this, a great weight fell upon Sir John, for he knew where the lindworm came from. He had brought this vile creature into the world and he would have to deal with it, just as the old man foretold.

Come back Saturday to find out how he did!

PS — I’ve recently updated my book pages. Please take a look!

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A friend mentioned this legend in comments after I related the story of the Whitby Wyrm last Tuesday. I really thought I had already covered it, but a search of the archive didn’t turn it up. So here it is, and thanks to M. Q. Allen for the suggestion!

1,000 years ago, at the time of the Crusades, a young man named John Lambton lived in the Northeast of England. One fine Sunday morning, Lambton decided he would rather go fishing than go to church, so off he went to the banks of the River Wear. He met an old man who warned him about the danger to his soul if he didn’t go to church. Lambton scoffed at that.

He went on fishing, but caught nothing until the bells rang for the end of the church service. Only then did he pull up a strange and ugly creature with a limbless body like an eel or lamprey, but the head of a salamander. Even on the fisherman’s hook, it lashed its body and tried to bite.

“What devil is this?” cried Lambton.

The old man was passing by on his way back from church. When he saw what Lambton had caught, he gave a dire warning. “You have brought this vile creature into the world, and you must deal with it!”

“I’ll deal with it, all right,” Lambton cried, and he threw it down a well. “There! Let’s see it get out of that.”

He went on his way, expecting that the little wyrm would perish in the prison of the well. Do you think he was right? Check back on Tuesday for more of the legend!

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