The Laidly Worm of Spindleston Heugh
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In the Kingdom of Northumbria, a kind king in Bamburgh Castle takes a beautiful but cruel witch as his queen after his wife's death. The King's son, Childe Wynd, has gone across the sea but the witch turns his daughter, Princess Margaret, into a dragon.
The enchantment used is usually:
- I weird ye to be a Laidly Worm,
- 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.
Later in the story, the prince returns and, instead of fighting the dragon, kisses it, restoring the princess to her natural form. He then turns the witch-queen into a toad and becomes king.
In Joseph Jacob's version, the dragon Princess Margaret becomes is appeased by putting aside seven cows for her per day. The prince her brother hears of it and comes for her, despite his stepmother's attempt to keep him away, by magic and by force of arms.
There is no authoritative version of the ballad. Robert Lambe "discovered' it as fragments.[according to whom?] Lambe was an expert on the origins and meanings of ancient obscure words, and helped track down the meanings of some of the words found in the ballads in the "Reliques".
The Laidly Worm never made it into the "Reliques" but was reprinted in various other books after its discovery. Lambe sent the fragments to his friend Bishop Percy, another antiquarian. Percy had embarked on a British Empire-spanning project to collect all the oral and written lore and ballads, which he assembled into a volume called "Reliques of Ancient English Poetry".
After Richard the Lionheart was released in exchange for a hostage, the hostage took with him to Germany a copy of an Arthurian romance involving a snake maiden. In the 1190s Zatikhoeven rewrote this tale as "Lanzelet" and renamed the Irish lady Elidia.
If The Laidly Worm o' Spindleston Haugh is a ballad written by Duncan Frasier, Frasier may have heard "Lanzelet" or some daughter of the parent loathly lady narrative, such as Kempion.[original research?]
- Kemp Owyne - a Child Ballad version of the tale, in which Childe Wynd is replaced by Kemp Owyne
- Loathly lady
- The Laily Worm and the Machrel of the Sea
- Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, v 1, p 306, Dover Publications, New York 1965
- Hjálmþés saga ok Ölvis
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- Henderson, Joan. The Laidly Worm of Bamborough. 1991.