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.

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 ƿilde geung siþe ƿas þe erfe of Lambton, þe sƿell holding and ƿelcum by þe side of þe sƿift-floƿing Ƿear. Not a Mass ƿould he hear in Bricgford Ceapel of a Sunday, but a-fiscing he ƿould go. And if he did not bring in anyþing, his curses coold be heard by þe folk as hy ƿent by to Bricgford.

Ƿell, one Sunday morning he ƿas fiscing as he ƿas ƿont, and not a fisc had risen to him, his bin ƿas bare of minnoƿ or ceub. And þe ƿorse his luck, þe ƿorse greƿ his speec, to þe onlookers ƿere scocked at his ƿords as hy ƿent to listen to þe Mass-preest.

At last geung Lambton felt a migty tug at his string. 'At last,' cƿoþ he, 'a bite ƿorþ hafing!' and he pulled and he pulled, to hƿat scould scoƿ abuf þe ƿater but a head lich an elf's, ƿiþ nine holes on eac side of its muþe. But still he pulled to he had brougt þe þing to land, hƿen it ƿent ute to be a Ƿorm of dreadful scape. If he had cursed before, his curses ƿere enuff to rear þe hair on geƿer head.

'Hƿat ails þee, my sun?' said a stefen by his side, 'and hƿat hast þu hooked, þat þu shooldst blacken þe Lord's Day ƿiþ suc fule speec?'

Looking abute, geung Lambton saƿ a ƿeerd old man standing by him.

'Hƿy, treƿly,' he said, 'I þink I hafe hooked þe defil himself. Look geƿ and see if geƿ knoƿ him.'

But þe neƿcummer scook his head, and said, 'It bodes no good to þee or þine to bring suc a knucker to score. Get þroƿ him not back into þe Ƿear; þu has hooked him, and þu must keep him,' and ƿiþ þat aƿay he ƿent, and ƿas seen no more.

Þe geung erfe of Lambton held up þe greƿsome þing, and nimbing it off his hook, þreƿ it into a ƿell nearby, and ever sinss þat day þat ƿell has gone by þe name of þe Ƿorm Ƿell.

For sum time noþing more ƿas seen or heard of þe Ƿorm, to one day it had utegroƿn þe breadþ of þe ƿell, and came forþ full-groƿn. So it came forþ from þe ƿell and benumb itself to þe Ƿear. And all day long it ƿould lie ƿunde abute a stone in þe middel of þe stream, hƿile at nigt it came forþ from þe ƿater and harried þe upland. It sucked þe kine's milk, ƿolfed þe lambs, ƿorried þe neats, and frigtened all þe ƿomen and maidens in þe neihberhood, and þen it ƿould ƿiþdraƿ for þe rest of þe nigt to þe hill, still clept þe Ƿorm Hill, on þe norþ side of þe Ƿear, abute a mile and a half from Lambton Hall.

Þis dreadful ordeal brougt geung Lambton, of Lambton Hall, to his ƿits. He numb upon himself þe oaþs of þe Rood, and left for þe Holy Land, in þe hope þat þe bane he had brougt upon his neihborhood ƿould ƿiþdraƿ. But þe grisly Ƿorm numb no heed, oþer þan þat it strode þe stream and came rigt up to Lambton Hall itself hƿere þe old lord lifed on all alone, his only son hafing gone to þe Holy Land. Hƿat to do? Þe Ƿorm ƿas coming nearer and nearer to þe Hall; ƿomen ƿere huling, men ƿere gaþering ƿeapons, dogs ƿere barking and horses neihing ƿiþ frigt. At last þe steƿard clept ute to þe milk-maids, 'Bring all geƿer milk hiþer', and hƿen hy did so, and had brougt all þe milk þat þe nine kine of þe byre had geelded, he geote it all into þe long stone troff before þe Hall.

Þe Ƿorm dreƿ nearer and nearer, to at last it came up to þe troff. But hƿen it sniffed þe milk, it ƿent aside to þe troff and sƿalloƿed all þe milk up, and þen sloƿly ƿent abute and forded þe Ƿear Ƿaterƿay, and ƿunde its breadþ þree times abute þe Ƿorm Hill for þe nigt.

Henssforþ þe Ƿorm ƿould ford þe stream efery day, and ƿoe betide þe Hall if þe troff filled þe milk of less þan nine kye. Þe Ƿorm ƿould hiss, and ƿould storm, and lasc its tail abute þe trees of þe yard, and in its ƿroþ it ƿould tear ute þe starkest oaks and þe tallest furroƿs. So it ƿent on for sefen years. Many sougt to slay þe Ƿorm, but all had trucked, and many a knigt had lost his life in figting ƿiþ þe knucker, hƿich sloƿly tread þe life ute of all þat came near it.

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

Þe Cilde sougt his faþer, and besougt his forgeafeness for þe curss he had brougt on þe Hall.

'Þy sin is forgeafen,' said his faþer; 'but go þu to þe Ƿise Ƿoman of Bricgford, and finde if augt can free us from þis knucker.'

To þe Ƿise Ƿoman ƿent þe Cilde, and asked her rede.

"Tis þy doing, O Cilde, for hƿic ƿe þole,' sce said; 'be it þine to free us.'

'I ƿould geafe my life,' said þe Cilde.

'Maybe þu ƿilt do so,' said sce. 'But hear me, and mark me ƿell. Þu, and þu alone, canst kill þe Ƿorm. But, to þis end, go þu to þe smiþe and hafe þy burn studded ƿiþ spear-heads. Þen go to þe Ƿorm's Stone in þe Ƿear, and stead þyself þere. Þen, hƿen þe Ƿorm comes to þe Stone at daƿn of day, ƿork þy deftness on him, and God ge'e þee a good freeing.'

'Þis I ƿill do,' said Cilde Lambton. 'But one þing more,' said þe Ƿise Ƿoman, going back to her hofe. 'If þu slay þe Ƿorm, sƿear þat þu ƿilt put to deaþ þe first þing þat meets þee as þu oferst eft þe þreshold of Lambton Hall. Do þis, and all ƿill be ƿell ƿiþ þee and þine. Fulfil not þy oaþ, and none of þe Lambtons, for lifetimes þree times þree, scall cƿeal in his bed. Sƿear, and truck not.'

Þe Cilde sƿore as þe Ƿise Ƿoman bid, and ƿent his ƿay to þe smiþe. Þere he had his burn studded ƿiþ spear-heads all over. Þen he gafe his biddings in Bricgford Ceapel, and at daƿn of day numb his stead on þe Ƿorm's Stone in þe Ƿear Ƿaterƿay.

As daƿn broke, þe Ƿorm unƿunde its snaky tƿine from abute þe hill, and came to its stone in þe stream. Hƿen it beheld þe Cilde ƿaylaying for it, it lasced þe ƿaters in its ƿroþ and ƿunde its ƿindes abute þe Cilde, and þen sougt to masc him to deaþ. But þe more it ƿunde, þe deeper dug þe spear-heads into its sides. Still it ƿunde and ƿunde, to all þe ƿater abute ƿas ruddied ƿiþ its blood. Þen þe Ƿorm unƿunde itself, and left þe Cilde free to ƿeeld his sƿord. He reared it, brougt it doƿn, and cut þe Ƿorm in tƿo. One half fell into þe stream, and ƿas borne sƿiftly aƿay. Ones more þe head and þe rest of þe body hemmed þe Cilde, but ƿiþ less strengþ, and þe spear-heads did her ƿork. At last þe Ƿorm unƿunde itself, snorted its last foam of blood and fire, and fell ƿiþering into þe stream, and ƿas nefer seen more.

Þe Cilde of Lambton sƿam ascore, and rearing his horn to his lips, bleƿ its din þrise. Þis ƿas þe beacon to þe Hall, hƿere þe drucges and þe old lord had scut hemselfes in to bid for þe Cilde's sye. Hƿen þe þird lude of þe horn ƿas heard, hy ƿere to free Boris, þe Cilde's dearest hunde. But suc ƿas her mirþ at learning of þe Cilde's sundeness and þe Ƿorm's oferþroƿ, þat hy forgot biddings, and hƿen þe Cilde reaced þe þreshold of þe Hall, his old faþer bolted ute to meet him, and ƿould have clasped him to his breast.

'Þe oaþ! þe oaþ!' yelled ute þe Cilde of Lambton, and bleƿ still anoþer blast upon his horn. Þis time þe drucges beþougt, and freed Boris, hƿo came leaping to his geung lord. Þe Cilde reared his scining sƿord, and sundered þe head of his troþful hunde.

But þe oaþ ƿas broken, and for nine lifetimes of men none of þe Lambtons cƿole in his bed. Þe last of þe Lambtons cƿole in his ƿain as he ƿas fording Bricgford Bricg, one hundred and þirty gears ago.