Select the desired text size
This story is suitable for children age 6 to 8 approx.
Laidly worm of Spindleston Heugh.
From English Fairy Tales, by Joseph Jacobs (coll. & ed.)
Start of Story
n Bamborough Castle once lived a king who had a fair wife and two
children, a son named Childe Wynd and a daughter named Margaret.
Childe Wynd went forth to seek his fortune, and soon after he had gone
the queen his mother died. The king mourned her long and faithfully,
but one day while he was hunting he came across a lady of great
beauty, and became so much in love with her that he determined to
marry her. So he sent word home that he was going to bring a new queen
to Bamborough Castle.
Princess Margaret was not very glad to hear of her mother's place
being taken, but she did not repine but did her father's bidding. And
at the appointed day came down to the castle gate with the keys all
ready to hand over to her stepmother. Soon the procession drew near,
and the new queen came towards Princess Margaret who bowed low and
handed her the keys of the castle. She stood there with blushing
cheeks and eye on ground, and said: "O welcome, father dear, to your
halls and bowers, and welcome to you my new mother, for all that's
here is yours," and again she offered the keys.
One of the king's
knights who had escorted the new queen, cried out in admiration:
"Surely this northern Princess is the loveliest of her kind." At that
the new queen flushed up and cried out: "At least your courtesy might
have excepted me," and then she muttered below her breath: "I'll soon
put an end to her beauty."
That same night the queen, who was a noted witch, stole down to a
lonely dungeon wherein she did her magic and with spells three times
three, and with passes nine times nine she cast Princess Margaret
under her spell. And this was her spell:
I weird ye to be a Laidly Worm,
And borrowed shall ye never be,
Until Childe Wynd, the King's own son
Come to the Heugh and thrice kiss thee;
Until the world comes to an end,
Borrowed shall ye never be.
So Lady Margaret went to bed a beauteous maiden, and rose up a Laidly
Worm. And when her maidens came in to dress her in the morning they
found coiled up on the bed a dreadful dragon, which uncoiled itself
and came towards them. But they ran away shrieking, and the Laidly
Worm crawled and crept, and crept and crawled till it reached the
Heugh or rock of the Spindlestone, round which it coiled itself, and
lay there basking with its terrible snout in the air.
Soon the country round about had reason to know of the Laidly Worm of
Spindleston Heugh. For hunger drove the monster out from its cave and
it used to devour everything it could come across. So at last they
went to a mighty warlock and asked him what they should do. Then he
consulted his works and his familiar, and told them: "The Laidly Worm
is really the Princess Margaret and it is hunger that drives her forth
to do such deeds. Put aside for her seven kine, and each day as the
sun goes down, carry every drop of milk they yield to the stone trough
at the foot of the Heugh, and the Laidly Worm will trouble the country
no longer. But if ye would that she be borrowed to her natural shape,
and that she who bespelled her be rightly punished, send over the seas
for her brother, Childe Wynd."
All was done as the warlock advised, the Laidly Worm lived on the milk
of the seven kine, and the country was troubled no longer. But when
Childe Wynd heard the news, he swore a mighty oath to rescue his
sister and revenge her on her cruel stepmother. And three-and-thirty
of his men took the oath with him. Then they set to work and built a
long ship, and its keel they made of the rowan tree. And when all was
ready, they out with their oars and pulled sheer for Bamborough Keep.