The Lambton Worm

From The Anglish Wiki
A drawing of The Childe fighting The Lambton Worm, drawn by John D. Batten for Jacob's gathering of More English Fairy Tales.

Foreword

This is an Anglish wending of the folk tale, The Lambton Worm, first written by William Henderson for Notes on the Folk-lore of the Northern Counties of England and the Borders (pp. 287-89.) and later gathered together in More English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs, and English Fairy and Other Folk Tales by Edwin Sidney Hartland. Went by Wordwork. See the wender's leaf for more on the wordings.

The magic-e which follows twain clepers like the "nde" in "finde" and "lde" in "Childe" has been kept.

English Spelling

A wilde young sithe was the erve of Lambton, the swell holding and welcome by the side of the swift-flowing Wear. Not a Mass would he hear in Brugeford Chapel of a Sunday, but a-fishing he would go. And if he did not bring in anything, his curses could be heard by the folk as hy went by to Brugeford.

Well, one Sunday morning he was fishing as he was wont, and not a fish had risen to him, his bin was bare of minnow or chub. And the worse his luck, the worse grew his speech, to the onlookers were shocked at his words as hy went to listen to the Mass-prést.

At last young Lambton felt a mighty tug at his string. 'At last,' quoth he, 'a bite worth having!' and he pulled and he pulled, to what should show above the water but a head lich an elf's, with nine holes on each side of its mouth. But still he pulled to he had brought the thing to land, when it went out to be a Worm of dreadful shape. If he had cursed} before, his curses were enough to rear the hair on your head.

'What ails thee, my son?' said a steven by his side, 'and what hast thou hooked, that thou shouldst blacken the Lord's Day with such foul speech?'

Looking about, young Lambton saw a weird old man standing by him.

'Why, truly,' he said, 'I think I have hooked the devil himself. Look you and see if you know him.'

But the newcomer shook his head, and said, 'It bodes no good to thee or thine to bring such a knucker to shore. Yet throw him not back into the Wear; thou has hooked him, and thou must keep him,' and with that away he went, and was seen no more.

The young erve of Lambton held up the gruesome thing, and nimbing it off his hook, threw it into a well nearby, and ever since that day that well has gone by the name of the Worm Well.

For some time nothing more was seen or heard of the Worm, to one day it had outgrown the breadth of the well, and came forth full-grown. So it came forth from the well and benumb itself to the Wear. And all day long it would lie wound about a stone in the middle of the stream, while at night it came forth from the water and harried the upland. It sucked the kine's milk, wolved the lambs, worried the neats, and frightened all the women and maidens in the neighborhood, and then it would withdraw for the rest of the night to the hill, still clept the Worm Hill, on the north side of the Wear, about a mile and a half from Lambton Hall.

This dreadful ordeal brought young Lambton, of Lambton Hall, to his wits. He numb upon himself the oaths of the Rood, and left for the Holy Land, in the hope that the bane he had brought upon his neighborhood would withdraw. But the grisly Worm numb no heed, other than that it strode the stream and came right up to Lambton Hall itself where the old lord lived on all alone, his only son having gone to the Holy Land. What to do? The Worm was coming nearer and nearer to the Hall; women were howling, men were gathering weapons, dogs were barking and horses neighing with fright. At last the steward clept out to the milk-maids, 'Bring all your milk hither', and when hy did so, and had brought all the milk that the nine kine of the byre had yielded, he love it all into the long stone trough before the Hall.

The Worm drew nearer and nearer, to at last it came up to the trough. But when it sniffed the milk, it went aside to the trough and swallowed all the milk up, and then slowly went about and forded the Wear Waterway, and wound its breadth three times about the Worm Hill for the night.

Henceforth the Worm would ford the stream every day, and woe betide the Hall if the trough filled the milk of less than nine kye. The Worm would hiss, and would storm, and lash its tail about the trees of the yard, and in its wroth it would tear out the starkest oaks and the tallest furrows. So it went on for seven years. Many sought to slay the Worm, but all had trucked, and many a knight had lost his life in fighting with the knucker, which slowly tread the life out of all that came near it.

At last the Childe of Lambton came home to his father's Hall, after seven long years spent in mindfulness and sorriness on holy earth. Sad and dreary he found his folk: the lands untilled, the fields forlorn, half the trees of the yard upset, for none would linger to keep the nine kye that the knucker needed for his food each day.

The Childe sought his father, and besought his forgiveness for the curse he had brought on the Hall.

'Thy sin is forgiven,' said his father; 'but go thou to the Wise Woman of Brugeford, and find if aught can free us from this knucker.'

To the Wise Woman went the Childe, and asked her rede.

"Tis thy doing, O Childe, for which we thole,' she said; 'be it thine to free us.'

'I would give my life,' said the Childe.

'Maybe thou wilt do so,' said she. 'But hear me, and mark me well. Thou, and thou alone, canst kill the Worm. But, to this end, go thou to the smithe and have thy byrnie studded with spear-heads. Then go to the Worm's Stone in the Wear, and stead thyself there. Then, when the Worm comes to the Stone at dawn of day, work thy deftness on him, and God gi'e thee a good freeing.'

'This I will do,' said Childe Lambton.

'But one thing more,' said the Wise Woman, going back to her hove. 'If thou slay the Worm, swear that thou wilt put to death the first thing that meets thee as thou overst eft the threshold of Lambton Hall. Do this, and all will be well with thee and thine. Fulfil not thy oath, and none of the Lambtons, for lifetimes three times three, shall queal in his bed. Swear, and lose not.'

The Childe swore as the Wise Woman bid, and went his way to the smithe. There he had his byrnie studded with spear-heads all over. Then he gave his biddings in Brugeford Chapel, and at dawn of day numb his stead on the Worm's Stone in the Wear Waterway.

As dawn broke, the Worm unwound its snaky twine from about the hill, and came to its stone in the stream. When it beheld the Childe waylaying for it, it lashed the waters in its wroth and wound its windes about the Childe, and then sought to mash him to death. But the more it wound, the deeper dug the spear-heads into its sides. Still it wound and wound, to all the water about was ruddied with its blood. Then the Worm unwound itself, and left the Childe free to wield his sword. He reared it, brought it down, and cut the Worm in two. One half fell into the stream, and was borne swiftly away. Once more the head and the rest of the body hemmed the Childe, but with less strength, and the spear-heads did her work. At last the Worm unwound itself, snorted its last foam of blood and fire, and fell withering into the stream, and was never seen more.

The Childe of Lambton swam ashore, and raising his horn to his lips, blew its din thrice. This was the beacon to the Hall, where the drudges and the old lord had shut hemselves in to bid for the Childe's sye. When the third loud of the horn was heard, hy were to free Boris, the Childe's dearest hound. But such was her mirth at learning of the Childe's soundness and the Worm's overthrow, that hy forgot biddings, and when the Childe reached the threshold of the Hall, his old father bolted out to meet him, and would have clasped him to his breast.

'The oath! the oath!' yelled out the Childe of Lambton, and blew still another blast upon his horn. This time the drudges bethought, and freed Boris, who came leaping to his young lord. The Childe reared his shining sword, and sundered the head of his trothful hound.

But the oath was broken, and for nine lifetimes of men none of the Lambtons quole in his bed. The last of the Lambtons quole in his wain as he was fording Brugeford Bridge, one hundred and thirty years ago.

Anglish Spelling

A wilde yung sithe was the erfe of Lambton, the swell holding and welcum by the side of the swift-flowing Wear. Not a Mass would he hear in Bricgford Ceapel of a Sunday, but a-fiscing he would go. And if he did not bring in anything, his curses coold be heard by the folk as hy went by to Bricgford.

Well, one Sunday morning he was fiscing as he was wont, and not a fisc had risen to him, his bin was bare of minnow or ceub. And the worse his luck, the worse grew his speec, to the onlookers were scocked at his words as hy went to listen to the Mass-preest.

At last yung Lambton felt a migty tug at his string. 'At last,' cwoth he, 'a bite worth hafing!' and he pulled and he pulled, to hwat scould scow abuf the water but a head lich an elf's, with nine holes on eac side of its muthe. But still he pulled to he had brougt the thing to land, hwen it went ute to be a Worm of dreadful scape. If he had cursed before, his curses were enuff to rear the hair on yewer head.

'Hwat ails thee, my sun?' said a stefen by his side, 'and hwat hast thu hooked, that thu shooldst blacken the Lord's Day with suc fule speec?'

Looking abute, yung Lambton saw a weerd old man standing by him.

'Hwy, trewly,' he said, 'I think I hafe hooked the defil himself. Look yew and see if yew know him.'

But the newcummer scook his head, and said, 'It bodes no good to thee or thine to bring suc a knucker to score. Yet throw him not back into the Wear; thu has hooked him, and thu must keep him,' and with that away he went, and was seen no more.

The yung erfe of Lambton held up the grewsome thing, and nimbing it off his hook, threw it into a well nearby, and ever sinss that day that well has gone by the name of the Worm Well.

For sum time nothing more was seen or heard of the Worm, to one day it had utegrown the breadth of the well, and came forth full-grown. So it came forth from the well and benumb itself to the Wear. And all day long it would lie wunde abute a stone in the middel of the stream, hwile at nigt it came forth from the water and harried the upland. It sucked the kine's milk, wolfed the lambs, worried the neats, and frigtened all the women and maidens in the neihberhood, and then it would withdraw for the rest of the nigt to the hill, still clept the Worm Hill, on the north side of the Wear, abute a mile and a half from Lambton Hall.

This dreadful ordeal brougt yung Lambton, of Lambton Hall, to his wits. He numb upon himself the oaths of the Rood, and left for the Holy Land, in the hope that the bane he had brougt upon his neihborhood would withdraw. But the grisly Worm numb no heed, other than that it strode the stream and came rigt up to Lambton Hall itself hwere the old lord lifed on all alone, his only son hafing gone to the Holy Land. Hwat to do? The Worm was coming nearer and nearer to the Hall; women were huling, men were gathering weapons, dogs were barking and horses neihing with frigt. At last the steward clept ute to the milk-maids, 'Bring all yewer milk hither', and hwen hy did so, and had brougt all the milk that the nine kine of the byre had yeelded, he yote it all into the long stone troff before the Hall.

The Worm drew nearer and nearer, to at last it came up to the troff. But hwen it sniffed the milk, it went aside to the troff and swallowed all the milk up, and then slowly went abute and forded the Wear Waterway, and wunde its breadth three times abute the Worm Hill for the nigt.

Henssforth the Worm would ford the stream efery day, and woe betide the Hall if the troff filled the milk of less than nine kye. The Worm would hiss, and would storm, and lasc its tail abute the trees of the yard, and in its wroth it would tear ute the starkest oaks and the tallest furrows. So it went on for sefen years. Many sougt to slay the Worm, but all had trucked, and many a knigt had lost his life in figting with the knucker, hwich slowly tread the life ute of all that came near it.

At last the Cilde of Lambton came home to his father's Hall, after sefen long years spent in mindfulness and sorriness on holy earth. Sad and dreary he funde his folk: the lands untilled, the feelds forlorn, half the trees of the yard upset, for none would linger to keep the nine kye that the knucker needed for his food eac day.

The Cilde sougt his father, and besougt his foryeafeness for the curss he had brougt on the Hall.

'Thy sin is foryeafen,' said his father; 'but go thu to the Wise Woman of Bricgford, and finde if augt can free us from this knucker.'

To the Wise Woman went the Cilde, and asked her rede.

"Tis thy doing, O Cilde, for hwic we thole,' sce said; 'be it thine to free us.'

'I would yeafe my life,' said the Cilde.

'Maybe thu wilt do so,' said sce. 'But hear me, and mark me well. Thu, and thu alone, canst kill the Worm. But, to this end, go thu to the smithe and hafe thy byrnee studded with spear-heads. Then go to the Worm's Stone in the Wear, and stead thyself there. Then, hwen the Worm comes to the Stone at dawn of day, work thy deftness on him, and God yi'e thee a good freeing.'

'This I will do,' said Cilde Lambton. 'But one thing more,' said the Wise Woman, going back to her hofe. 'If thu slay the Worm, swear that thu wilt put to death the first thing that meets thee as thu oferst eft the threshold of Lambton Hall. Do this, and all will be well with thee and thine. Fulfil not thy oath, and none of the Lambtons, for lifetimes three times three, scall cweal in his bed. Swear, and truck not.'

The Cilde swore as the Wise Woman bid, and went his way to the smithe. There he had his byrnee studded with spear-heads all over. Then he gafe his biddings in Bricgford Ceapel, and at dawn of day numb his stead on the Worm's Stone in the Wear Waterway.

As dawn broke, the Worm unwunde its snaky twine from abute the hill, and came to its stone in the stream. Hwen it beheld the Cilde waylaying for it, it lasced the waters in its wroth and wunde its windes abute the Cilde, and then sougt to masc him to death. But the more it wunde, the deeper dug the spear-heads into its sides. Still it wunde and wunde, to all the water abute was ruddied with its blood. Then the Worm unwunde itself, and left the Cilde free to weeld his sword. He reared it, brougt it down, and cut the Worm in two. One half fell into the stream, and was borne swiftly away. Ones more the head and the rest of the body hemmed the Cilde, but with less strength, and the spear-heads did her work. At last the Worm unwunde itself, snorted its last foam of blood and fire, and fell withering into the stream, and was nefer seen more.

The Cilde of Lambton swam ascore, and rearing his horn to his lips, blew its din thrise. This was the beacon to the Hall, hwere the drucges and the old lord had scut hemselfes in to bid for the Cilde's sye. Hwen the third lude of the horn was heard, hy were to free Boris, the Cilde's dearest hunde. But suc was her mirth at learning of the Cilde's sundeness and the Worm's oferthrow, that hy forgot biddings, and hwen the Cilde reaced the threshold of the Hall, his old father bolted ute to meet him, and would have clasped him to his breast.

'The oath! the oath!' yelled ute the Cilde of Lambton, and blew still another blast upon his horn. This time the drucges bethougt, and freed Boris, hwo came leaping to his yung lord. The Cilde reared his scining sword, and sundered the head of his trothful hunde.

But the oath was broken, and for nine lifetimes of men none of the Lambtons cwole in his bed. The last of the Lambtons cwole in his wain as he was fording Bricgford Bridge, one hundred and thirty years ago.