Scottish myths 7



The Linton Worm (Roxburghshire, borders)

The surroundings of where the Worm of Linton's had made its lair
are nevertheless pleasant. There's the sparkling stream of Kale flowing into the plain below the Cheviot hills before it runs on to join the Teviot. There are the noble woods of Clifton. There's the emplacement from where once rose the Tower of Linton, bastion of the Somervilles. Built on the huge mound of sand of Linton Hill, there's the old village Church where one can see above its door the 'Somerville Stone', a carved typanum of the Linton Worm and its slayer.

This worm or dragon 'some three Scots yards long... in form and callour to our common muir adders', had made its lair a mile south-east from Linton Church. It would often leave its den, 'the worm's hole', to slaughter sheep and terrorise the local people. They refused to go anywhere near its hole and were often too afraid to go to Church.

It's breath was lethally toxic, making it additionally difficult and dangerous for the rare, brave contenders to attempt killing it. Generous rewards were offered to those willing to try, but all in vain, such was the haunting terror the Linton Worm and it's fatal, fetid breath inspired. At times the creature caused so much panic that the villagers, even as far as Jedburgh, thought of leaving their homes.

Eventually however, John Somerville, the Laird of Lariston, decided that something must be done. After spying on the creature, he agreed with the villagers that no ordinary arm can do away with it. He devised a method by using a very stout lance on which point he securely bound a quantity of peat which he covered with pitch, 'brimstone and rosett'. On the chosen day, before sunrise, mounted on his brave destrier, he approached the dragon's lair. He carefully lit the peat. He was naturally apprehensive because he knew he would only have one chance. With this in mind he shouted out taunts and insults that soon produced the most fierce reaction from the worm. It rushed forth snarling, its huge mouth gaping, emitting its pestilent breath.

Somerville spurred his horse and charged. With all his force he then thrust the burning lance down the throat to the stomach of the evil creature. The lance broke as his horse reared, but the wound was fatal enough to soon cause the dragon's death. 
It was in fact the aroma of the burning peat which had neutralised the toxic breath of the Linton Worm. This possibly saved Somerville and gave him his unique opportunity.

Whilst the Worm was in its death throes, it's said that the creature contracted its folds with such violence that the sides of Wormington Hill are still marked with the spiral impressions it made.

For his great courage, and for ridding Linton of its deadly dragon, Somerville was held to great acclaim. Vast territories in the region were donated to him, he was knighted by King William, appointed Royal Falconer and made First Baron of Linton.

'The wode Laird of Lariestoun
Slew the wode worm of Wormiestoune,
And wan all Lintoan paroschine.' 
(c.1680)


Scottish myths 8
Scottish myths 6
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Retelling © Mirino. Top image of Linton Church (treated frame from a video). Lower image Linton Church (treated image from Linton, Roxburghshire, Scotland). Sources- 
The Linton Dragon Slayer. Le Worme de Linton. With many thanks. September, 2011

2 comments:

rob said...

Counteracted by the Law of Retaliation ... ;-)
Nice story.

Mirino said...

Thank you. They are always welcome, certainly from you!