The Legend of The Lindworm

--Informant Info--
Nationality: British European
Age: 79
Occupation: Retired
Residence: Sherman Oaks, California
Date of Performance/Collection: March 21, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Performed Piece:
Once upon a time in a far off kingdom there ruled a king and queen, who were plagued by a terrible sadness. They mourned the fact that they could not have a child. One day the queen went for a walk in her garden. There she sat and cried. A witch appeared before her, hearing her sobs and asked ‘why are you crying, my dear?’ the queen explained that she was sad that she will never be able to have a child and the kingdom would be left without an heir. The witch then told her, ‘come back this evening and place the smallest teacup you own upside down at the bottom of the garden. The next morning, before anyone else wakes up, return to the cup. Underneath you will find two roses, a red one and a white one. If you eat the red one you will have a boy and if you eat the white one you will have a girl.’ And with that the witch disappeared. 

The queen did as she was told and when she returned to the bottom of the garden she did indeed find two roses. ‘If I have the red one, I will have a strong boy but one day he may go off to war and die. But if I have the white one, I may be with my daughter for her youth but I know she will one day have to marry someone and I will never see her again.’ Eventually she decided to eat the white one, but the flower was so sweet that she ate the red one too to combat the taste. The queen instantly became pregnant and went back to the castle to tell her husband the good news.

A few months later the queen went into labor and, to the shock and horror of the many handmaids present, gave birth to a scaly Lindworm. It hissed at the queen and slithered out the window. But the queen gave birth to a second child, a perfectly healthy baby boy. That night the queen and her maids agreed to not tell a soul about the first child. Years later and the boy grew into a young prince and eventually told his father that he wanted to find a wife. His father agreed and sent his son to a neighboring kingdom. 

However, on the ride there, the prince’s path was blocked by a large Lindworm. It hissed at the prince ‘a bride for me before a bride for you.’ The prince was confused so told his entourage to take a different path, but his path was blocked by the Lindworm again as it repeated its message ‘A bride for me before a bride for you.’ The prince tried a third time with the same result, and so returned to the castle to tell his parents of the strange beast. The queen went pale and explained to her son that the Lindworm was indeed his older sibling and in common practice the eldest must marry first. So the king sent a letter to a nearby kingdom, asking for it to send a princess to marry one of his children.A princess arrived and was horrified to see her groom to be: the Lindworm, but it was too late. The morning after the ceremony, the maids went to check on the Lindworm and his bride. They found the Lindworm but the bride was nowhere to be seen. He had eaten her.

The young prince set off later that day to find himself a wife only to find the Lindworm on the road again, hissing ‘a bride for me before a bride for you.’ The prince rode home immediately and told his father. The king sent another letter to a different kingdom and the Lindworm was married again. The next morning came with the same results as last time, the Lindworm had eaten his bride again. The prince set off as early as he could but the Lindworm still stood before him hissing ‘a bride for me before a bride for you.’ The prince rode home again and told the king, but the king shook his head explaining a war has been started between two kingdoms over the princesses. While thinking of what to do the king went walking and eventually stopped by the home of his swine herder, where he saw the man’s daughter. He asked the swine herder to give his daughter to marry the Lindworm. While the man objected he eventually relented. His daughter was horrified and ran to the nearby woods and cried. A witch appeared before her and asked “why are you crying, my dear?’ The girl explains her situation to the witch and tells her “tonight before you enter the bedchamber, wear 12 shiffs, bring a tub of lye and milk, and as many switches as you can carry. By this method you will rid yourself of the Lindworm.’

So on the night of the wedding, the Lindworm said to the girl ‘fair maiden, shed a shiff.’ and the girl responds ‘Lindworm, shed a skin.’ The Lindworm is taken aback, ‘no one has ever asked that of me.’ ‘Well I ask this of you now,’ says the girl. The Lindworm sheds his skin and the girl sheds a shiff, but before anything else happens the girl scrubs the Lindworm’s raw skin with the lye and milk. After she finishes bathing it, the Lindworm asks her to shed another shiff and the process repeats late into the night.

In the morning the maids come to check on the couple and when they look inside, they find the girl, unharmed, in the arms of a handsome prince. The kingdom celebrates and has the wedding anew for the happy couple.

Background: My informant learned this story from a children’s book that she used to read to her children and grandchildren, however she does not remember the title of the book.

Context: My informant and I were discussing my childhood with her and how I used to love a few specific stories. This was one of them and she tells it how she remembers.

Thoughts: I wonder if she is still telling the story as it was originally written, or if she changed it through re-remembering and re-telling it. I remember phrases repeating only three time instead of 12, and the reason why the Queen ate both flowers being a bit more selfish, like she wanted both a son and a daughter.