In the mid-eighteenth century Erik Pontoppidan, the bishop of Bergen, Norway, and author of Forsog paa Norges naturalige Historie, remarked on a belief held by residents of the Nordic coast. Sea serpents, he wrote, “they are not generated in the sea, but on land, and when they are grown so big that they cannot move about on the rocks, they then go into the sea, and afterwards attain their full growth.” Many farmers, he went on, had seen land snakes of “several fathoms length.” They called these “the Lindormen/Lindorms, or great snake.” Similar creatures also lived in the freshwater lakes of Scandinavia, according to popular lore. In modern Scandinavian languages, the cognate lindorm can refer to any 'serpent' or monstrous snake, but in Norwegian heraldry, it is also a technical term for a 'sea serpent' (sjøorm), although it may also stand for a 'lindworm' in British heraldry. Generally, the word lindworm stood for the Latin word draco (whence Norse dreki), thus could refer to any draconic creature, from a real life constrictor snake to a legendary dragon. In European mythology and folklore, creatures identified as a 'lindworm' may be winged or wingless, plus quadrapedal, bipedal or limbless.

In many descriptions, the lindworm is wingless, with a poisonous bite, like a poisonous snake or Komodo dragon. The dragon Fáfnir from the Norse Völsunga saga appears in the German Nibelungenlied as a lindwurm that lived near Worms. A German tale from the 13th century tells of a lindworm that lived near Klagenfurt. Flooding threatened travelers along the river, and the presence of a dragon was blamed. The story tells that a Duke offered a reward for anyone who could capture it, so some young men tied a bull to a chain, and when the lindworm swallowed the bull, it was hooked like a fish and killed. The head of a 1590 lindworm statue in Klagenfurt is modeled on the skull of a wooly rhinoceros found in a nearby quarry in 1335. It has been cited as the earliest reconstruction of an extinct animal.

Such creatures, or at any rate beliefs in such creatures, persisted well into the nineteenth century. They figured not only in legends but also in a body of firsthand reports. In 1885 the Swedish scientist and folklorist Gunnar Olof Hylten-Cavallius, author of (in English translation) On the Dragon, Also Called the Lindorm, published forty-eight verbatim accounts, half of them involving multiple witnesses, and offered this summary: In Varend [in southern Sweden] — and probably in other parts of Sweden as well — a species of giant snakes, called dragons or lindorms, continues to exist.

Usually the lindorm is about 10 feet long but specimens of 18 or 20 feet have been observed. His body is as thick as a man’s thigh; his color is black with a yellow-flamed belly. Old specimens wear on their necks an integument of long hair or scales, frequently likened to a horse’s mane.He has a flat, round or squared head, a divided tongue, and a mouthfull of white, shining teeth. His eyes are large and saucer-shaped with a frightfully wild and sparkling stare.His tail is short and stubby and the general shape of the creature is heavy and unwieldy.

Hylten-Cavallius’s reports indicated that the lindorm (sometimes spelled lindwurm) was powerful and ill-tempered. “When alarmed,” he wrote, “he gives off a loud hissing sound and contracts his body until it lies in billows; then he raises himself on his tail four or six feet up and pounces upon his prey.” The creature had large, protruding, hypnotic eyes and a head variously described as catlike or horselike, with a mane. It was most likely to be encountered in wild, unpopulated areas such as marshes, swamps, caves, and lakes. Such encounters usually traumatized witnesses, often making them physically ill or afflicting them with nightmares for years afterwards. Lindorms,which could be slain only with great difficulty, gave off an appalling stench in death.

Convinced that these were reports of real animals — the witnesses included a member of the Swedish parliament and other presumably reliable individuals — Hylten-Cavallius distributed a poster that offered a reward for a lindorm’s remains. From his perspective this was a perfectly reasonable approach with a good chance of success; after all, twelve of his reports concerned the killings of such creatures. But no takers stepped forward.

“There is no truly satisfactory explanation for these 19th-Century lindorm reports,” a modern Swedish writer, Sven Rosen, observed before suggesting they may arise from “hallucinations such as those caused by epileptic fits.” He added, “One major problem with this psychological explanation” is the multiple-witness accounts. “Many of the 31 additional cases with which I am familiar also had multiple witnesses. One can speak of ‘collective hallucination’ without effectively explaining anything.”

To folklorist Michel Meurger, the nineteenth-century lindorm reports were part of the “process of the naturalization of dragons,” blending “archaic and modern elements. The traditional attributes of the monster are preserved, but the creature is now conceived more as a snake than as a supernatural creature.” In his view witnesses may have been “projecting traditional fabulous creatures onto local animals [such as grass snakes] perceived as monsters under specific sighting conditions.”

Sources :
Unexplained! : Strange Sightings, Incredible Occurences & Puzzling Physical Phenomena by Jerome Clark;

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