Welcome to Day 9 of Here be Dragons.
Today a dragon tale of magic, courage, and love.
Many years ago in Sweden, a queen who longed to bear children but had not been able to conceive met with a wise woman and begged her advice. The wise woman told her to go home and eat two fresh onions as soon as she got to the palace. If the queen did so she would give birth to two fine sons.
Overjoyed things might be this simple the queen raced away from her seat at the hearth, and ignoring the calls from the wise woman, she jumped on her horse. Her retinue following the frantic gallop, the queen headed back to the castle, where as soon as she arrived she called for whole onions from the kitchen and devoured two in indecent haste. She ate the first without even peeling it, the taste proved disgusting, so she took the time to peel the second onion and though she wept at the strong smell she ate every tiny piece.
A short time after eating the onions the queen found herself with child. The pregnancy went well and at last her labour began. Even in the pain of childbirth the queen retained her joy in her expectation of two beautiful bonny boys.
The whole court waited for news of the birth. The king and his advisors listened out eagerly for the wails of newborn infants. But instead of the expected cries a screech filled with horror echoed off the castle walls.
In the birth chamber the royal midwife held a child, but it wasn’t human. The first of the boys was a lindworm; an ugly snakelike dragon that the midwife set down as soon as she could.
The queen struggled up from where she lay, labouring to birth the next of the infants. She hauled the lindworm up in her hands, staggered across the room, and threw it through the window into the forest that surrounded the castle.
When the queen lay back down on the bed her next child arrived and both the queen and midwife said prayers of thanks for the well made and beautiful golden haired boy.
The years passed and the prince grew into a handsome and spirited youth. The time came when his thoughts turned to marriage. While he debated the merits of several princesses who had been offered as his bride he rode out into the forest where he met a hideous creature.
Tall as an oak the beast rose before him, green scaled with eyes like amber fire the lindworm stared into the prince’s eyes. Though it made no sound the prince heard the worms words clear in his mind. “You will never marry until I, your elder brother, sleep with a willing and loving bride at my side.”
All the young prince’s hopes for a future wife were crushed by the evil words. Distraught the prince watched the creature slither away. He returned to the palace with the wretched news of the dragon, and his parents and counsellors made plans.
A succession of pretty village wenches were selected and offered to the lindworm, but all to no avail. None of the girls were willing and not one disguised their reluctance to be given to such a creature as the worm. He sent each one of them away.
Another maiden was sought and fetched from a distant village. On her journey to the castle she met with a wise woman in the forest; the very woman who had advised the queen so long ago. In a whispered conversation the wise woman explained to the girl if she had courage when she faced the dragon great happiness would be hers. She must meet the worm dressed in as many shifts and gowns as she could bear and show no fear. The lindworm would accept her and the girl must get his solemn vow that for every gown she took off it would shed a layer of its skin.
Full of hope the girl journeyed on to the palace where her demand for more clothes was met. Dressed in as many gowns as she could fasten, the resolute maiden allowed herself to be taken out and left in a forest glade.
The sun set and even in the cool of night the maiden sweated under the weight of so much fabric. But she held in her worst fears as gleaming in the starlight the worm slithered across the forest clearing and rose up before her. She concentrated only on the creature’s amber eyes as the lindworm instructed her to take off her gown.
“Willingly I will do so, but when I do I must have your word you will cast off away a layer of your skin.”
The worm nodded and watched intently as the girl unlaced the first gown. When her dress lay at her feet she stared back at the worm and true to his word a fine web of his skin slid from him.
Again and again the girl stripped off a gown and the worm peeled off another layer of skin, until the girl had but one thin shift left. Her fingers trembled as she undid the ties at her neck and pulled off the garment so she stood naked before her monstrous dragon mate. His eyes shining golden bright, the worm approached. The maiden stood steady, tensed fearful, but also desiring what was to come, for the wise woman had promised there would be great happiness and love.
Slowly, more gentle than her imaginings the worm took her into his scaly coils. They weren’t cold or slimy as the girl had thought they would be. He curled warm and soft against her. He embraced and caressed her as he pulled her down to the ground. He stroked over her with skin so fragile it appeared transparent in the moonlight. The last layer of his scales peeled in patches. A thick green mist blocked her vision and all she knew was the tender caresses of the dragon. She relaxed at his touch.
The first sunrays of a new day lit up the forest glade as the mist dissolved. The girl peered about her and discovered she lay not in the coils of the dragon but in the arms of the most handsome man she’d ever seen. The wise woman was proved right. The maiden’s courage and trust broke the evil spell holding the elder prince in the form of the lindworm. The girl kissed him, and when he asked for all she could give she promised she was more than willing to be his bride. Their marriage took place within days.
As the old queen walked back to her apartment after the elaborate ceremony, still thanking God she had lived to see her eldest son alive and wedded, she felt a light tap on her shoulder. The wise woman who’d helped her so long ago stood smiling. “Your majesty, if only you’d stayed to hear me out and not rushed away that day, you could have been spared much. I would have told you to make sure to peel both onions before eating them.”
I fell in love with this version of the story of the Lindworm Prince when I discovered it. I hope you enjoy it too.
Thanks for reading.
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