Linton Worm

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The Linton Worm is a mythical beast referred to in a Scottish borders legend dating back to the 12th century.


Description

A 12th century writer believed it to be "In length three Scots yards and bigger than an ordinary man’s leg - in form and callour to our common muir edders."


Story

The myth is similar to that of the more famous Lambton Worm.

The monster lived in a hollow on the northeast side of Linton Hill, a spot still known as the "Worm’s Den", in Roxburghshire on the Scottish borders. Emerging from its lair at dusk and dawn to ravage the countryside, eating crops, livestock and people, it proved invulnerable to the weapons ranged against it. The surrounding area became ruined by the beast's predations.

A local laird, John de Somerville came to the nearby village of Jedburgh and heard the lurid tales of the locals. Observing the beast himself he saw that the creature would open its mouth wide to swallow anything in its path but when faced with something too large to eat would remain still, with its mouth open. Sensing an opportunity he went to a local blacksmith and had him forge an iron covered spear with wheel at its tip which could impale a hunk of peat tipped in tar and brimstone. He practiced riding with the burning spear to accustom his horse to the smoke.

He approached the worm's hideout with his servant at dawn. He knew that sitting on his horse he would prove too large for the creature to swallow. As if at a joust, he attacked it, plunging his burning lance into the monster's gaping mouth and down its throat, mortally wounding it.

The writhing death throes of the Linton Worm supposedly created the curious topography of the hills of the region, an area that came to be known as "wormington". The animal retreated to its lair to die, its thrashing tail bringing down the mountain around it and burying it forever.

The legend states that his heroism was memorialized with a carved stone at Linton Kirk. He was made Royal Falconer, knighted and made "First Barrone" of Linton. The crest of the Somervilles was a wyvern (heraldic dragon) perched on a wheel.


See also