Danish Folklore: Beware Ye the Lindworm

 

Dragons. Either love them or hate them, dragons have long inspired flights of imagination, a thirst of understanding the unkown, and at times, sheer unadulterated terror. Dragons do tend to do that to unsuspecting people.

If jolly old England has its fair share of the winged beasts, and Scadinavia has Jormungandr, the World Serpent writing in the great depths of an ocean encircling Midgard, Denmark has its own special flavor of dragon.

Meet the lindworm.

The lindworm, or lindorm, is a close cousin to the wyvern, and often graces many heraldry symbols. It is often depicted as a serpentine dragon with a long tail, mostly slithering along with vestigial claws or ambling about on two legs. It can also come winged or wingless, and always has a nasty, demanding temper. There are two interesting folk tales that feature this beast, with its human heroes making quick work of them either through brains or brawn. One of the best-known lindworm stories is “The Lindworm Prince”.

Once when the tales of old were still fresh as the morning, a queen consulted a witch, as she desired to have twins. She could have the twins she desired, so the witch told her, if she were to eat two onions. Alas, the queen had forgotten to skin the second onion, and thus she did birth two sons – one a healthy and beautiful boy, the second a half-human half-lindworm youngling. The boys did grow, and the first son did go seek a bride. However, his lindworm brother vehemently objected, and insisted he be found a bride before his brother be allowed to seek his. All the beautiful maidens far and wide were sent to him, but as soon as the women saw his fearsome visage, they did scream and rejected him. This angered him, and he gobbled up fair maiden, hair, clothes and all.

One by one, the women fell, and angrier and angrier the lindworm prince became, for no woman save his own mother would willing love such a beast as he.

One day, a lowly shepherd’s daughter came to the palace and bravely announced she sought the lindworm prince’s hand in marriage. This intrigued the serpentine youth, and at once ordered her to take off her dress. The court was shocked at such a brash order, but you see, the cunning shepherd’s daughter did come prepared. She wore every single dress and garment she had, and as she disrobed the first dress, she insisted that it would be but fair that the lindworm prince shed his own skin, too. This amused the prince greatly, for none in the court had dared challenge him until now, and he obliged this maiden by shedding his own skin.

Dress by dress the shepherd’s daughter disrobed, and skin by skin so did the prince shed. By the time the maiden stepped out of her last layer and lay bare as the day she was born, so did the lindowrm prince strip himself of his very last layer of skin. A pink-skinned handsome youth stood where the fearsome beast was, and thus he marveled at the maiden’s wisdom. So they were wed, and lived many happy years together as many happy tales do end.

photo credit: k_tjaaa via photopin cc

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