1 The legend
1.1 Origin of the worm 1.2 The worm's wrath 1.3 The vanquishing of the worm 1.4 The Lambton curse
2 The song 3 Comics and literature 4 Opera 5 Film 6 See also 7 References 8 External links
The legend The story revolves around John Lambton, an heir of the Lambton Estate, County Durham, and his battle with a giant worm (dragon) that had been terrorising the local villages. As with most myths, details of the story change with each telling. Origin of the worm The story states that the young John Lambton was a rebellious character who missed church one Sunday to go fishing in the River Wear. In many versions of the story, while walking to the river, or setting up his equipment, John receives warnings from an old man (or a witch – depending on who tells the story) that no good can come from missing church. John Lambton does not catch anything until the church service finishes, at which point he fishes out a small eel- or lamprey-like creature with nine holes on each side of its salamander-like head. Depending on the version of the story, the worm is no bigger than a thumb, or about 3 feet long. In some renditions it has legs, while in others it is said to more closely resemble a snake. At this point, the old man returns, although in some versions it is a different character. John declares that he has caught the devil and decides to dispose of his catch by discarding it down a nearby well. The old man then issues further warnings about the nature of the beast. John then forgets about the creature and eventually grows up. As a penance for his rebellious early years, he joins the Crusades. The worm's wrath
Worm Hill, Fatfield, Washington.
Eventually, the worm grows extremely large and the well becomes
poisonous. The villagers start to notice livestock going missing and
discover that the fully-grown worm has emerged from the well and
coiled itself around a local hill.
In some versions of the story, the hill is
1st generation: Robert Lambton, drowned at Newrig. 2nd: Sir William Lambton, a Colonel of Foot, killed at Marston Moor. 3rd: William Lambton, died in battle at Wakefield. 9th: Henry Lambton, died in his carriage crossing Lambton Bridge on 26 June 1761.
(General Lambton, Henry Lambton's brother, is said to have kept a horse whip by his bedside to ward off violent assaults. He died in his bed at an old age.)
The story was made into a song (Roud #2337), written in 1867 by C M
Leumane, which passed into oral tradition and has several slightly
different variants (most notably the use of "googly eyes" meaning
bulging and searching, a term formerly widely used on Wearside). The
dialect is most effective when sung in a regional
Northumbrian smallpipes, played in North East England.
Tune from Tyne Pantomine 1867 
One Sunda morn young Lambton went
A-fishing in the Wear;
An' catched a fish upon he's heuk (=caught) (=his hook)
He thowt leuk't vary queer. (=thought looked very strange)
But whatt'n a kind ov fish it was (=what kind of)
Young Lambton cudden't tell-
He waddn't fash te carry'd hyem, (=could not be bothered to carry it home)
So he hoyed it doon a well (=threw it down)
Whisht! lads, haad yor gobs, (=Be quiet, boys, shut your mouths)
An' aa'll tell ye aall an aaful story, (=I'll tell you all an awful)
Whisht! lads, haad yor gobs,
An' Aa'll tel ye 'boot the worm. (=about)
Noo Lambton felt inclined te gan (=go)
An' fight i' foreign wars.
He joined a troop ov Knights that cared
For nowther woonds nor scars, (=neither wounds)
An' off he went te Palestine
Where queer things him befel,
An varry seun forgat aboot (=very soon forgot about)
The queer worm i' tha well.
But the worm got fat an' grewed an' grewed,
An' grewed an aaful size;
He'd greet big teeth, a greet big gob,
An greet big goggly eyes.
An' when at neets he craaled aboot (=nights) (=crawled around)
Te pick up bits o' news,
If he felt dry upon the road,
He'd milk a dozen coos. (=cows)
This feorful worm would often feed (=fearful)
On caalves an' lambs an' sheep,
An' swally little bairns alive (=swallow) (=children)
When they laid doon te sleep.
An when he'd eaten aall he cud (=all he could)
An' he had had he's fill,
He craaled away an' lapped he's tail (=wrapped)
Ten times roond Pensha Hill.
The news ov this myest aaful worm (=most)
An' his queer gannins on (=goings-on)
Seun crossed the seas, gat te the ears (=soon) (=got to)
Ov brave an' bowld Sor John. (=bold)
So hyem he cam an' catched the beast, (=home he came and caught)
An' cut 'im in twe haalves, (=cut him in two-halves)
An' that seun stopped hes eatin' bairns
An' sheep an' lambs an' caalves.
So noo ye knaa hoo aall the foaks (=now you know how all the folk)
On byeth sides ov the Wear (=both)
Lost lots o' sheep an' lots o' sleep
An leeved i' mortal feor. (=And lived in mortal fear)
So let's hev one te brave Sor John (=let's drink to brave Sir John)
That kept the bairns frae harm, (=from)
Saved coos an' calves by myekin' haalves (=making halves)
O' the famis Lambton Worm. (=famous)
Noo lads, Aa’ll haad me gob, (=I'll hold my mouth. Stop speaking)
That’s aall Aa knaa aboot the story (=All I known about)
Of Sir John’s clivvor job (=clever)
Wi’ the aaful Lambton Worm.
Comics and literature
John Dickson Batten
Bram Stoker's 1911 novel The Lair of the White Worm, and Ian
Watson's 1988 novel The Fire Worm, draw heavily on the Lambton Worm
This myth, along with many others originating from the North East, is
retold in the graphic novel
Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot.
Jeff Smith's graphic novel Rose has the title character following the
same instructions to order to defeat a dragon.
Sockburn Worm The Laidly Worm of Spindleston Heugh Worm of Linton English folklore Jabberwocky Mongolian death worm
^ Melody taken from Tyneside Songs 1913 edition and reengraved in Lilypond. ^ "Project Gutenberg". Project Gutenberg. Retrieved 2016-02-18. ^ http://www.bryan-talbot.com/oldsite/alice/lambton_worm.html ^ More English Fairy Tales (1894), Jacobs, J.; Batten, J. D. (illustrations), London: D Nutt. 1922 p. 198-203 note: p. 242 ^ A Town Like Alice's (1997) Michael Bute Heritage Publications, Sunderland ^ Alice in Sunderland (2007) Brian Talbot Dark Horse publications.
Ghosts of the North Country, Henry Tegner. Butler Publishing, 1991. ISBN 0-946928-40-1 Folk Tales of the North Country, F Grice. (The Teaching of English Series) Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd, 1944
A version from More English Fairy Tales, 1894, as collected by Joseph
A version of the story by Philip Atkinson
A version of the story by Herrington Heritage
A version of the story by Claire Russell