The Laidly Worm of Spindleston Heuff — 2010

Prince Child-Wynd and his sister Margaret, whom he has released from the dragon skin that imprisoned her.

Prince Childe Wynd and his sister Margaret, whom he has released from the dragon skin that imprisoned her.

Once upon a time, in Bamborough Castle in North of England, there lived a king, a queen, and their two children:  a son named Childe Wynd and a daughter named Margaret.  Childe Wynd grew up and went over the sea to seek his fortune, while Princess Margaret stayed behind in the castle.  While Childe Wynd was away, the good queen died.  The king mourned her for a year and a day, but then while hunting he met and fell in love with a bewitching beauty.  He sent word home to his daughter that he was bringing home a new queen, and that Margaret was to prepare the castle for her arrival.  When the queen and her entourage arrived, Margaret bowed low and presented her with the keys to castle.  The queen’s retainers began to murmur with amazement at the beauty of the princess, inciting a deadly jealousy in the heart of their mistress.  Soon after moving into the castle, the queen descended to the dungeon, and cast on Margaret this spell:

I weird ye to be a Laidly Wyrm,
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 Margaret went to bed that night a beautiful maiden, and awoke a hideous, serpentine dragon.  Her maids, coming to dress her the next morning fled in terror when they saw her.  She herself was terrified when she caught a glimpse of her own shape in a glass, and slunk off to Spindleston Heugh, a crag down by the sea.

Hunger, though, drove her to raid the nearby farms for fruit, fowl, and an occasional lamb.  The country-folk, alarmed, sought the advice of a warlock to learn how to drive the wyrm away.  The warlock consulted his books, and his stars, and finally announced that the wyrm was actually the Princess Margaret, who had recently disappeared.  He said that she was troubling the farms out of hunger only, and would live by the Heugh in peace if she were given the milk of seven cows every day.

 

The dragon is fed on the milk of seven cows.

The dragon is fed on the milk of seven cows.

Childe Wynd, across the sea, hears confused rumors about his mother’s death, his sister’s disappearance, and the arrival of a dangerous wyrm.  He collected a crew of men-at-arms, built a ship, and came sailing home to destroy the wyrm.   The evil queen tries to stop him, but his ship has a keel of wood from the magical Rowan tree, and she is powerless against it.  Childe Wind lands in a hidden cove near Spindleston Heugh and advances, sword held high.  As he prepares to strike the wyrm, he is amazed to hear it say, in his sister’s voice,

 

Oh, sheathe your sword, unbend your bow / And give me kisses three / For though I am a poisonous wyrm / I’ll do not harm to thee.

Childe Wynd lowers his sword, but is too wary to sheathe it:  he knows dragons to be subtle and devious, and he suspects this is a stratagem to take him unawares.  As he is hesitating, Margaret’s voice again implores him again:

Oh, sheathe your sword, unbend your bow / And give me kisses three / If I’m not won ere set of sun / Won never shall I be.

This time, a small tear from the wyrm’s eye melts Childe Wynd’s heart, and he chanced kissing the wyrm.  It squirmed a bit, and then its skin began to split as though it was molting.  The wyrm-skin fell away, and there was Margaret!  Wrapping herself in the wyrm’s shed skin, she and Childe Wynd hied themselves back to the castle to confront their wicked step mother.  Margaret touched her with a twig from the magic rowan tree.

The princess, released from her enchantment, touches the evil queen with a rowan twig

The princess, released from her enchantment, touches the evil queen with a rowan twig

The queen shuddered, and then shivered, and then began to shrivel.  She shriveled down into a toad, and – eluding Childe Wynd’s grasp – leaped from the castle window down toward the moat and out of the story.  Childe Wynd was acclaimed as king, and everyone lived happily ever after.

 

The evil queen, transformed into a toad, eludes the prince and leaps from the castle

The evil queen, transformed into a toad, eludes the prince and leaps from the castle

My inspirations for the prince and princess were my son Jesse and my daughter Julia.

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