Now and again, someone will see a Loch Ness Monster briefly on the shore - and, even, deep in the trees that surround the massive loch. In fact, Nessie expert Roland Watson compiled such a large body of land cases, he was able to write a book on the specific subject. This makes me believe that some of the stories of giant "worm"-like things seen on the land of the U.K. centuries ago are not legends. And, now,you'll see why: the River Wear is a sixty-mile-long body of water that dominates much of northern England and which, in medieval times, was said to have been the lair of a marauding, giant worm-like monster – one which provoked unrelenting terror across the land, devouring animals and people, and causing mayhem wherever it crawled and slithered – that is, until its reign of fear was brought to a fatal halt when a brave hero decided that the creature had to die. One person who dug deeply into the strange but engaging saga of the Lambton Worm was Joseph Jacobs, a noted Australian folklorist who, in the 1800s, focused much of his research and writings on the matter of strange creatures, fabulous beasts, and marauding monsters reported throughout the British Isles. And, it’s to Jacobs who we now turn, and his personal, 19th century account of this legendary monster of the deep:
"A wild young fellow was the heir of Lambton, the fine estate and hail 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 Mass-priest. 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."
The story continued: "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 Worm Well. 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 countryside. It sucked the cows' milk, devoured the lambs, worried the cattle, and frightened all the women and girls in 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."
There was more to come. Much more: “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 dairymaids, '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."
And, there is this, too, demonstrating that the locals wanted the beast gone, as in forever: “Henceforth the 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. At 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." One day, however, the huge worm was killed:
“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." I should stress, this is not the only such case in the U.K., and centuries ago. As you will see right now:
A tale that dates back to the 1100s, tells of a horrific, man-eating, giant, worm-like beast that terrified the good folk of Linton, Roxburghshire, which is located on the Southern Uplands of Scotland. Interestingly, and as will soon become apparent, the monster has parallels with a number of Scottish lake monsters, and particularly so Nessie of Loch Ness and Morag of Loch Morar. According to the old tales, the Linton Worm was somewhere between ten and twelve feet in length, which, if true, effectively rules out any known British animal – wild or domestic – as being the culprit. Rather oddly, so the old legend went, the huge worm had two homes. In part, it lived in the heart of Linton Loch – a small, boggy area and the ideal place for a monster to hide. Its other, dark abode was Linton Hill, which even today is referred to as Worm’s Den, such is the enduring nature of the legend. That the beast apparently had the ability to leave the water and slither across the landscape of Scotland brings to mind the small number of reports of both the aforementioned Morag and Nessie being seen on land.
By all accounts, the worm was a creature to be avoided at all costs: cows, sheep, pigs, vegetables, and even people, were all food for the monster. Quite naturally, the people of Linton were thrown into a collective state of fear when the slithering thing decided to target their little village. People became petrified to leave their homes, lest they became the victims of the marauding beast. Doors and windows remained locked. Farmers stayed home. That is, until a man named John de Somerville came upon the scene. When told of the nature of the monster that had brought terror to Linton, de Somerville – known as the “Laird of Lariston” - had a local blacksmith create for him a razor-sharp spear, which he, de Somerville, intended using to slay the mighty beast. Fortunately, he did exactly that, by setting the spear aflame and plunging it into the throat of the monster, after seeking it out at Worm’s Den. The beast fought back, its wormy form writhing and turning and twisting violently atop the hill, but it was to no avail. Exhausted, and on the verge of death, the beast retreated to its labyrinthine lair within Linton Hill. It was neither seen nor heard of again.
The Linton folk never forgot the valiant act of John de Somerville, and a sculpture commemorating de Somerville’s brave act was created in Linton Church, as William Henderson noted in his 1879 book, Notes on the folk-lore of the northern counties of England and the borders. He said: “The sculptured effigy of the monster, which may still be seen with the champion who slew it, at the south-western extremity of Linton church, differs from both accounts. A stone, evidently of great antiquity, is there built into the wall. It is covered with sculpture in low relief, and bears figures which, though defaced by time, can yet be made out pretty clearly. A knight on horseback, clad in a tunic or hauberk, with a round helmet, urges his horse against two large animals, the foreparts of which only are visible, and plunges his lance into the throat of one. Behind him is the outline of another creature, apparently of a lamb. The heads of the monsters are strong and powerful, but more like those of quadrupeds than of serpents. It is perplexing also to see two of them, but not the less does popular tradition connect the representation with the Linton Worm.”
Today, both church and effigy still remain intact – and still provoking wonder, and perhaps even a little fear, in those that visit the little village of Linton. And, there are other such examples in the U.K. This makes me think the massive worms of the U.K. centuries ago are the very same things that Roland chronicled so well just a few years ago.