The Lambton Worm
wild young fellow was the heir of Lambton, the fine estate and hall 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 haul in anything, his curses could be heard by the folk as they
went by to Brugeford.
Well, one Sunday morning he was fishing as
usual, and not a salmon had risen to him, his basket was bare of roach
or dace. And the worse his luck, the worse grew his language, till the
passers-by were horrified at his words as they went to listen to the
At last young Lambton felt a mighty tug at his
line. "At last," quoth he, "a bite worth having!" and he pulled and he
pulled, till what should appear above the water but a head like an
elf's, with nine holes on each side of its mouth. But still he pulled
till he had got the thing to land, when it turned out to be a Worm of
hideous shape. If he had cursed before, his curses were enough to raise
the hair on your head.
"What ails thee, my son?" said a voice by
his side, "and what hast thou caught, that thou shouldst stain the
Lord's Day with such foul language?"
Looking round, young Lambton saw a strange old man standing by him.
"Why, truly," he said, "I think I have caught the devil himself. Look you and see if you know him."
the stranger shook his head, and said, "It bodes no good to thee or
thine to bring such a monster to shore. Yet cast him not back into the
Wear; thou has caught him, and thou must keep him," and with that away
he turned, and was seen no more.
The young heir of Lambton took
up the gruesome thing, and, taking it off his hook, cast it into a well
close by, and ever since that day that well has gone by the name of the
For some time nothing more was seen or heard of the
Worm, till one day it had outgrown the size of the well, and came forth
full-grown. So it came forth from the well and betook itself to the
Wear. And all day long it would lie coiled round a rock in the middle
of the stream, while at night it came forth from the river and harried
the country side. It sucked the cows' milk, devoured the lambs, worried
the cattle, and frightened all the women and girls of the district, and
then it would retire for the rest of the night to the hill, still
called the Worm Hill, on the north side of the Wear, about a mile and a
half from Lambton Hall.
This terrible visitation brought young
Lambton, of Lambton Hall, to his senses. He took upon himself the vows
of the Cross, and departed for the Holy Land, in the hope that the
scourge he had brought upon his district would disappear. But the
grisly Worm took no heed, except that it crossed the river 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 closer and closer to the Hall; women were shrieking, men were
gathering weapons, dogs were barking and horses neighing with terror.
At last the steward called out to the dairy maids, "Bring all your milk
hither," and when they did so, and had brought all the milk that the
nine kye of the byre had yielded, he poured it all into the long stone
trough in front of the Hall.
The Worm drew nearer and nearer,
till at last it came up to the trough. But when it sniffed the milk, it
turned aside to the trough and swallowed all the milk up, and then
slowly turned round and crossed the river Wear, and coiled its bulk
three times round the Worm Hill for the night.
Worm would cross the river every day, and woe betide the Hall if the
trough contained the milk of less than nine kye. The Worm would hiss,
and would rave, and lash its tail round the trees of the park, and in
its fury it would uproot the stoutest oaks and the loftiest firs. So it
went on for seven years. Many tried to destroy the Worm, but all had
failed, and many a knight had lost his life in fighting with the
monster, which slowly crushed the life out of all that came near it.
last the Childe of Lambton came home to his father's Hall, after seven
long years spent in meditation and repentance on holy soil. Sad and
desolate he found his folk: the lands untilled, the farms deserted,
half the trees of the park uprooted, for none would stay to tend the
nine kye that the monster needed for his food each day.
The Childe sought his father, and begged his forgiveness for the curse he had brought on the Hall.
sin is pardoned," said his father; "but go thou to the Wise Woman of
Brugeford, and find if aught can free us from this monster."
To the Wise Woman went the Childe, and asked her advice.
"'T is thy fault, O Childe, for which we suffer," she said; "be it thine to release us."
"I would give my life," said the Childe.
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
smithy and have thy armour studded with spear-heads. Then go to the
Worm's Rock in the Wear, and station thyself there. Then, when the Worm
comes to the Rock at dawn of day, try thy prowess on him, and God gi'e
thee a good deliverance."
"This I will do," said Childe Lambton.
one thing more," said the Wise Woman, going back to her cell. "If thou
slay the Worm, swear that thou wilt put to death the first thing that
meets thee as thou crossest again the threshold of Lambton Hall. Do
this, and all will be well with thee and thine. Fulfil not thou vow,
and none of the Lambtons, for generations three times three, shall die
in his bed. Swear, and fail not."
The Childe swore as the Wise
Woman bid, and went his way to the smithy. There he had his armour
studded with spear-heads all over. Then he passed his vigils in
Brugeford Chapel, and at dawn of day took his post on the Worm's Rock
in the River Wear.
As dawn broke, the Worm uncoiled its snaky
twine from around the hill, and came to its rock in the river. When it
perceived the Childe waiting for it, it lashed the waters in its fury
and wound its coils round the Childe, and then attempted to crush him
to death. But the more it pressed, the deeper dug the spear-heads into
its sides. Still it pressed and pressed, till all the water around was
crimsoned with its blood. Then the Worm unwound itself, and left the
Childe free to use his sword. He raised it, brought it down, and cut
the Worm in two. One half fell into the river, and was carried swiftly
away. Once more the head and the remainder of the body encircled the
Childe, but with less force, and the spear-heads did their work. At
last the Worm uncoiled itself, snorted its last foam of blood and fire,
and rolled dying into the river, and was never seen more.
THE LAMBTON WORM
Childe of Lambton swam ashore, and raising his bugle to his lips,
sounded its note thrice. This was the signal to the Hall, where the
servants and the old lord had shut themselves in to pray for the
Childe's success. When the third sound of the bugle was heard, they
were to release Boris, the Childe's favourite hound. But such was their
joy at learning of the Childe's safety and the Worm's defeat, that they
forgot orders, and when the Childe reached the threshold of the Hall
his old father rushed out to meet him, and would have clasped him to
"The vow! the vow!" cried out the Childe of Lambton,
and blew still another blast upon his horn. This time the servants
remembered, and released Boris, who came bounding to his young master.
The Childe raised his shining sword, and severed the head of his
But the vow was broken, and for nine generations
of men none of the Lambtons died in his bed. The last of the Lambtons
died in his carriage as he was crossing Brugeford Bridge, one hundred
and thirty years ago.
|All English Fairy Tales
THE STORY OF THE THREE LITTLE PIGS
JACK AND THE BEANSTALK
JACK THE GIANT-KILLER
THE PIED PIPER OF FRANCHVILLE
THE STORY OF THE THREE BEARS
TOM TIT TOT
THE THREE SILLIES
THE OLD WOMAN AND HER PIG
HOW JACK WENT TO SEEK HIS FORTUNE
NIX NOUGHT NOTHING
MOUSE AND MOUSER
CAP O' RUSHES
THE MASTER AND HIS PUPIL
TITTY MOUSE ND TATTY MOUSE
JACK AND HIS GOLDEN SNUFF-BOX
THE RED ETTIN
MASTER OF ALL MASTERS.
THE GOLDEN ARM
THE HISTORY OF TOM THUMB
EARL MAR'S DAUGHTER
WHITTINGTON AND HIS CAT
THE STRANGE VISITOR
THE LAIDLY WORM OF SPINDLESTON HEUGH
THE CAT AND THE MOUSE.
THE FISH AND THE RING.
THE MAGPIE'S NEST
THE CAULD LAD OF HILTON
THE ASS, THE TABLE, AND THE STICK
THE WELL OF THE WORLD'S END.
THE THREE HEADS OF THE WELL