Legend of the Lambton Worm

By the year 1000 ce, European lore had cemented the dragon into its favorite folk tales. One of the most famous was the Lambton worm. The Lambton Worm was a loathsome Dragon that surfaced in the River Wear, Durham, in the fourteenth century. According to legend, Lord John Lambton, a young nobleman of the Northumbria region of England was a rebellious character who missed church one Sunday to go fishing in the River Wear and caught an unidentifiable creature which looks like a small worm (some accounts said it's a small eel- or lamprey-like creature with nine holes on each side of its salamander-like head) while fishing. John declares that he has caught the devil and decides to dispose of his catch by discarding it down a nearby well. He then went off to fight in the Crusades as a penance for his rebellious early years and returned few years later to discover that the throwaway “worm” had grown into a monstrous, reptilian beast large enough to wrap itself around an entire hill. The creature grew in size and began to terrorize the locals, consuming livestock and killing any would-be slayers. The villagers had to pacify it by keeping a trough filled with milk for it to drink.
Illustration of Lambton Worm
by John Dickson Batten
from More English Fairy Tales

John decides to fight it, but first he seeks the guidance of a witch, Elspat of the Glen, near Durham how to defeat the creature and kill it. She tells him to protect his armour with spearheads and he must fight the worm in the River Wear. Immediately, after killing the creature he must then kill the first living thing he sees, or his family will be cursed for nine generations and will not die peacefully in their beds. Later he asked his father that, when he has killed the creature, he will sound his hunting horn three times. Then, his father must release his favorite hound so that it will run to John and then kill the dog to avoid the curse.

The next day, he visited a black smith and ordered an ingenious suit of armor equipped with curving, razor-sharp knives. After that he wearing his special armor and ready to kill the creature, first he lured the creature to the River Wear He must also fight it in the middle of the River Wear, where the current was strongest. This would wash away the segments of the worm’s body before they could rejoin and regenerate. He taunted the creature to charge him, and then turned so that it landed on the blades. John himself finally killed it thanks to the spikestudded coat of mail. The armor sliced the monster to ribbons and its reign of terror ended and John sounds his hunting horn three times. However, his father rushes out to congratulate his son and forgets to release the hound. Since John cannot bear to kill his father and so, after they meet, the hound is released and dutifully dispatched. But it is too late and nine generations of Lambtons are cursed so they shall not die peacefully in their beds.

A piece of the Lambton Worm’s hide and the milk trough were on exhibit at the Lambton Castle. However, the specimen was lost when the castle was demolished in the 18th century.

Mysterious Creatures: "A Guide to Cryptozoology" by George M. Eberhart;
Mysteries, Legends & Unexplained Phenomena: "Mythical Creatures" by Linda S. Godfrey;

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