Appreciate a Dragon Day
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
“People who deny the existence of dragons are often eaten by dragons. From within.”
~ Ursula K. Le Guin, The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader and the Imagination
Scottish folklore has several dragon-like creatures, some of which take the form of malevolent serpents, which make them difficult to appreciate. One such is the Linton Worm said to be "in length three Scots yards and bigger than an ordinary man’s leg." The Linton Worm was said to emerge from its lair at dusk and dawn to ravage the countryside, eating crops, livestock and people, proving invulnerable to the weapons ranged against it. Finally defeated by the Laird of Lariston, its writhing death throes supposedly created the curious topography of the hills of the region at Linton in Roxburghshire on the Scottish borders!
The word dragon entered the English language in the early 13th century from Old French which in turn comes from Latin draconem meaning "huge serpent" or "dragon." The term "dragon"referred to any great serpent, not necessarily mythological, up through the 18th century.
Scottish folklore has several dragon-like creatures.
The Linton Worm, from Scottish borders legends, dates back to the 12th century, said to live in a hollow on the Northeast side of Linton Hill, still known as "Worm's Den." It is chronicled as "In length three Scots yards and bigger than an ordinary man’s leg – in form and callour to our common muir edders."
The Linton Worm was said to emerge from its lair at dusk and dawn to ravage the countryside, eating crops, livestock and people, proving invulnerable to the weapons ranged against it.
In the legend, news of the fearsome worm reached the ears of (William or John) de Somerville, the Laird of Lariston. He travelled to the nearby village of Jedburgh observing the beast himself, saw that the creature would open its mouth wide to swallow anything in its path but when faced with something too large to eat would remain still, with its mouth open. Sensing an opportunity he went to a local blacksmith and had him forge an iron covered spear with wheel at its tip which could impale a hunk of peat tipped in tar and brimstone.
De Somerville approached the worm's hideout with his servant at dawn. He knew that sitting on his horse he would prove too large for the creature to swallow. As if at a joust he attacked it, plunging his burning lance into the monster's gaping mouth and down its throat, mortally wounding it.
The writhing death throes of the Linton Worm supposedly created the curious topography of the hills of the region, an area that came to be known as "Wormington". For this deed, Somerville was knighted and made "First Barrone" of Linton. The crest of the Somervilles contains a wyvern (heraldic dragon) perched on a wheel.
For more on the Linton Dragon legend, click the Worm Dragon below.