Posted in Ivan's Adventures

Happy St George’s Day! (The Legend of the Lambton Worm)

Hi everyone! You’ve seen a lot of Ivan’s escapades recently, but we could hardly let the Feast of Saint George go by without celebrating it, could we?

Now, you’re all on a solemn oath not to tell Ivan about why we celebrate Saint George just yet, OK? I’m trusting you on this! He’s got hold of the idea that Saint George is the dragon and this is hilarious and adorable! His excitement at the idea of a whole day dedicated to dragons is very sweet to behold.

Ivan’s only a young dragon after all. Saint Patrick was bad enough and all he did was throw all the serpents out of Ireland!

That said, enjoy Ivan hoarding up all the red-and-white books he can find and sit back for a good old English dragon story to celebrate the day!

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The Legend of the Lambton Worm

There are some myths which we tell our children, and they are epic and full of great lessons and would make for a really good Hollywood blockbuster (if they haven’t already.)

And then there are the ones which I refuse to believe only I hear and think ‘this absolutely made the front page of the medieval local newspapers.’

The legend of the Lambton Worm is one such story, and incidentally is another contender for that animated children’s TV series I want the BBC to start making pronto! Everything about it is kind of amazing and cool, but is simultaneously one man’s utter idiocy made manifest.

Our story begins with one John Lambton, a young lad who decided to skip going to church one Sunday in favour of going fishing. As he snuck off to the river, he was hailed by an elderly lady, the local wise woman. She frowned sternly at John, telling him solemnly that “nothing good can come of fishing on the Sabbath.” John only laughed at her, and continued on his way.

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There is an old saying in fishing circles that “there’s a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore like an idiot,” and apparently John Lambton combined both perfectly. He caught absolutely nothing the whole time church was in session, but once the church service was ended he finally got a bite. To his disappointment, John had not caught himself a good-sized fish however, but a teeny tiny worm of some kind. He didn’t know what it was and thought to take it home with him to ask his father.

It was only as he had walked halfway back to his home that he realised the flaw in his brilliant plan; his father would surely want to know where John had found this creature, and John would have to explain his choice to go fishing instead of going to church. Recognising that his father would take something of a dim view of this mischief, John resolved the problem by simply chucking the worm into a nearby well.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, John Lambton grows up and goes off to fight in the Crusades for seven long years and in his absence all matter of evil was wrought on those he left behind.

Because the teeny tiny worm that John threw into the well began to grow. And grow. And grow and grow and grow. The well became poisoned in the end and the Worm began to venture outside of it to feast on the sheep and cattle in the surrounding fields. And still it grew!

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Penshaw Monument on Penshaw Hill – note the ridges all around the hillside from the Lambton Worm’s coils squeezing it tightly in its sleep.

Soon the local farmers and villages began to notice that they had far fewer animals than they ought, and to their horror they found the great Worm, having totally out-grown the well by now, had coiled itself around Penshaw Hill to sleep through the daytime. Having eaten so many sheep and cows, the Worm began to raid the villages too, taking and eating small children. And yet it was so big by now that there was nothing anyone could do to stop it or keep it out!

They turned to the aged Lord Lambton for help. He was far too old to fight the creature, but he was a wise man who had seen much of the world. Lord Lambton finally succeeded in minimising the danger by drugging the Worm daily with the milk of nine cows, enough to fill up a huge stone trough. The Worm was so full after such a rich drink that it was no longer inclined to hunt and eat livestock or children anymore. But things could not go on like this forever…

Thankfully it was at this point that young John Lambton, older and perhaps just a little bit wiser returned home from the Crusades. He was, as you may expect, surprised at the devastation he returned to. The people around Lambton were too tired and plagued by misfortune to greet him with much enthusiasm.

His father, Lord Lambton, explained to John what had befallen the place in his absence, and John, realising the connection between the little worm he had discarded on the estate many years before and the monster which terrorised them now, was sufficiently repentant to declare that he would kill the Lambton Worm.

 

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“Meanwhile,young Lambton had repented of his youthful imprudences,and knowing that the growth of the worm was the outcome of his Sabbath-breaking, he determined on slaying the fierce monster. Consequently, after consulting a wise woman, he armed himself in a coat of mail studded with razor blades, and went down to the river side in search of the serpent, which he found coiled round a tree.” North Country Sketches, Notes, Essays and reviews, 1893

In a turn of events which at the very least illustrates John Lambton having acquired something in the way of good sense in his travels, John did not go crashing down to Penshaw Hill to slay the beast (or, more likely, be eaten by it!) No, instead John went very humbly and politely to speak with the wise woman whose wisdom he had spurned once before.

She was not pleased to see him, and told him in no uncertain terms of the pain he had brought to people he was beholden to. She did not mince her words in the slightest as she expounded her opinion on his foolish actions and lack of forethought in taking a creature from its proper home and depositing it without thought in a land it was not suited to. Away from the sea, to which it was doubtless swimming from its spawning grounds, the Worm had been forced to turn to other sources of food, and now it must be killed for this.

John’s guilt and embarrassment at her words may be imagined.

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Illustration of the legend of the Lambton Worm, English fairy and other folk tales, by Edwin Sidney Hartland, 1890

Having thoroughly scolded John for his youthful mistakes, the wise woman sat him down at last and told him what to do. He must have fixed to his armour, she said, as many blades and razors as he could she said, for the creature seemed to kill its prey by crushing them to death between its massive coils. The blades would protect against this.

John stood up to leave, much relieved to have both good advice and a ready escape from the wise woman’s words. To his dismay she curtly told him to sit himself back down, for she had not yet finished. As punishment for his thoughtless actions which had harmed farmers, bereaved families and would now lead to the death of a creature entirely out of its natural place in the world, when once John Lambton had killed the Worm, he must then kill the first thing to meet him on his return home. If he failed, she warned, then a full nine generations of his family would not die in their beds…

John tried to protest, but the wise woman would hear none of it and at last John was obliged to take his leave and explain to his father what must be done to free the land of the Lambton Worm… and why the price was being exacted.

The two men hatched a plan between them in the hopes of minimising the damage. Once John had slain the beast, he would blow three blasts on his hunting horn. His father, Lord Lambton, would then release John’s beloved hunting hound which would run to greet him and though John would be deeply grieved to lose his old friend, his father declared that it would be the least to be paid for all that had occurred.

Off John Lambton went in his bladed armour, off to seek and kill the Lambton Worm. His found it at last, down by the river where the whole nightmare had begun. The Worm tried to coil itself around John, but it only succeeded in cutting itself to shreds on his armour and John’s sword finished the job. As the Lambton Worm lay dying, John gave the agreed upon three blasts with his horn.

But Justice is not evaded so easily, now is it?

For John’s father, Lord Lambton had spent a very long and worried day wondering what the fate of his son should be, especially so soon after returning from war. Yes, he was angry with the lad’s poor decisions, but a father’s love cannot be shaken by youthful misdeeds, and he was at his wits’ ends as the sun began to sink in the sky. Finally he heard the three blows from his son’s hunting horn and in his relief and excitement he entirely forgot to release the hunting hound, and ran to greet his son instead!

Oh the despair John Lambton felt as his father embraced him on his return! He tried to avert the disaster by running to kill his hound as soon as possible, but it was too late, and he certainly could not bring himself to slay his father!

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And so the Lambton Curse was cast, and the Lambton worm was avenged.

Ah, but perhaps you do not believe in curses, hmm? Well, records are not so easy to come by, I’ll grant you, but this much is certainly known. For Robert Lambton, he drowned in the river at Newrig, and Sir William Lambton was killed in the first battle of the English Civil War at Marston Moor. And William Lambton, his son, died in battle at Wakefield in that same war, so he did.

It is commonly agreed upon that the last Lambton to die from the Curse was Henry Lambton, who died in his carriage while crossing the Lambton Bridge on 26 June 1761. And even those who lived did not escape entirely sane – Henry’s brother, General Lambton, kept a horse whip by his bedside the whole of his life in the hopes of warding off an untimely demise. Perhaps it worked after all, for the General did indeed manage to die in his bed, of old age…

As always, the lesson is clearly to listen when wise ladies tell you to stop doing something foolish and to leave strange mythical creatures where you found them instead of bringing them home!

Hope you enjoyed the retelling, and see you next time!

New to this blog? Check out some of my other series down here:

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Posted in Ivan's Adventures

A Spirit of Springtime

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My parents had a firm policy, when I was growing up, that if there was something I might be scared of, they would try to show me that this thing could be fun, or useful, or at least mostly harmless, so I wouldn’t be afraid of it anymore.

As the guradian of a very tiny dragon, I naturally felt that Ivan and I would need to work on his concerns about how huge flowers could be. Sounds reasonable, right?

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Ivan, that’s not how it works! I can see you!

*Sigh…* I may live to regret this.

Because now, bolsted by your very kind comments on his efforts to take over the Easter Bunny’s job of distributing colourful eggs, Ivan appears to be doing his level best to get into every patch of spring flowers imaginable! As any of you with small children may be able to advise me on, it’s a litle disconcerting when you take your eyes of your tiny creature for two seconds and turn around and he’s disappeared!

Fortunately I think Ivans skills at playing hide-and-seek are… limited. For a while he seemed to think it was all about putting something between yourself and your

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You’re pretty, Ivan, but I’m not sure you’ll enjoy being a flower…

persuer. Which would be absolutely correct in theory, but lacks somethign in practice when that ‘something’ is far smaller than you are.

Sadly for me, practice clearly makes perfect and oh boy!

I know dragons are always meant to be fast, but I swear I have no idea how he manages to hide so well and so quickly!

Anyway… Funny thing.

I’ve been trying to find a good story to share about dragons and spring, or dragons and flowers for weeks, and there doesn’t seem to be any! This is actually a bit of a shock to me, because I thought that there were dragons for everything. I suppose we all learn something new every day, but this makes me a little sad…

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I love the little side-eye look there of ‘Do you think I’ve been spotted? No? Maybe I’m still hidden?’ Oh Ivan, you are not a flower…

I sort of expected that European dragons probably wouldn’t have much to do with nature and flowers, as they tend to be forces of destruction or obstacles for heroes to overcome in legend and folklore.

The closest dragons seem to get to being connected to nature in a positive way is that the seven sacred rowan trees of Celtic mythology were once thought to be guarded by fierce dragons to keep them from harm. Which I suppose ties in with dragons hoarding and guarding things?

But I couldn’t seem to find anything flowers-related in Asian mythology either, and dragons in Asian culture seem to have a much more positive connotation of wisdom and generosity.

If anyone does know of some good stories with dragons and flowers, please can you let me know in the comments? I’d like to add a new dragon story to my collection, and I have a very small dragon who needs to be raised in the traditions of his ancestors!

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Now you have found me, human, I shall pose as Master over all the Flowers!

Check out the further escapades of Ivan here, in The Many Adventures of Ivan the Wyvern.

 

Posted in Ivan's Adventures

The Trouble with Being Tiny

Being small can have many benefits when you’re a dragon. You can get into more mischief – Ivan come down from there! Again! – and the benefit of looking so small and cute is that you of course get out of trouble so much more easily too.

20180314_164344But it is not always so helpful. For example Ivan, like many dragons, has a great love of daffodils in honour of his Welsh cousins. Kind friends of Ivan may remember his earnest search in the snow for a single daffodil to celebrate St David’s Day a month or so ago.

Well now that the snow no longer comes down (understatement!) Ivan can enjoy daffodils that haven’t been squished by the snow… And it seems that they were rather bigger than he had expected! Look at that expression of consternation on realising that the flower alone is bigger than your head! I did try to reassure him that the daffodil wouldn’t eat him, but I’m not sure I was very convincing around my peals of laughter!20180314_164316

On a side note, I think I may have the only dragon in history who was genuinely scared of flowers for a few days…

Oh, the mighty hunter…

No one tell the other dragons, OK? They’ll laugh at him!

Anyway, all was not lost! For after everything calmed down I explained that there were in fact20180314_164256 miniture daffodils he could play with! After a wary approach I think these have met with far greater approval all round!

Phew! For such a nature-loving dragon, Ivan sure had me worried for a second there! We’ll leave him playing with flowers that are a bit more his size, I think…

Join us next time for more dragon-related shenanigans! And if you’re new to Ivan the tiniest and cutest dragon, check out some of his other hijinks here.

 

 

Posted in Ivan's Adventures

Greetings from the Easter Dragon!

The Beginning of a beautiful hoard
Hmmm… These things look interesting… I could get behind collecting these!

The problem with having a dragon assistant continue to surprise me! Apparently dragons think that this time of the year is some huge Egg Festival, which dragon are very in favour of as you can imagine!

Ivan has been trying to amass himself a nice respectable hoard of eggs, especially these colourful ones which appeal to Ivan’s love of multi-coloured things to pile up and be proud of.

I’ve been trying to explain the point of Easter Eggs, but we got stuck on the idea of the Easter Bunny. At first there was much consternation that a rabbit would have anything to do with eggs at all. In Ivan’s view, rabbits do not lay eggs and should leave this sort of thing to the professionals. Then again, I explained that the Easter Bunny’s job is to go around the place and distribute the eggs to others, especially children and Ivan looked so utterly shocked and betrayed! To give eggs away? I think this many be a dragon thing…

King of the Egg Hoard
When your pile of eggs is bigger than you are, is it too much, maybe? Naaaaaah!

As you can see, there is nothing more dragon-ly than sitting on top of your pile of eggs and hugs another egg close to your chest so no one can take it away from you.

The fun fact I learned while trying to explain why we have an Easter Bunny, not an Easter Dragon, is that this character is a lot older than I expected.

I assumed that he was a fairly new character, maybe the product of the Chocolate Wars, as an advertising gimmick that stuck around longer than expected. But no! The first mention of his legend as a rabbit that distributes multicoloured eggs to children (and fun-loving grown-ups!) comes from a 16 page medical essay, written by Dr Johannes Richier, published in 1682!

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The aftermath of an egg thief! I’ve never seen anyone look so upset over eggs before…

Apparently the good doctor was raising concerns that children who found these colourful eggs would eat them without the proper seasoning of salt and butter, and give themselves tummy ache.

Naturally I am taking no chances with this! I don’t know if dragons eating Easter Eggs will suffer from the same fate, but have you seen a dragon suffering from tummy ache? It’s not a pretty picture when you mix it with these fire-breathing little critters!

I do admit that it was extra hard to do when he retaliated with those big sorrowful eyes. Just look at him! And that was after I confiscated just the one egg! Honestly, Ivan!

Still I shall remain strong, and hope that he will forgive me in time…

Happy Easter to all of you! The season of Spring and Rebirth is finally upon us and I can only hope for great and glorious things in the year ahead!

 

 

 

 

Posted in Ivan's Adventures

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

I know Saturday isn’t usually a posting day, but Ivan was really keen to celebrate St Patrick’s Day with you all! In honour of the occasion, I’ve allowed him to hoard my green folio books to get into the spirit. Especially since dragons do not wear clothes, and I’d hate for him to be caught without something green!

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Some say that books are a treasure that far out-paces gold, and so Ivan is pretty satisfied by his verdant hoard, which he has piled up high. It is the best way of arranging a hoard, Ivan has heard, and as I have no better information than a dragon, I shall have to believe him about it.

Truth be told, dragons often have mixed feelings about Saint Patrick, given how he drove their cousins and ancestors out of Ireland back in the day. To this day, Ireland has no serpents, either snakes or their relatives the dragons.

Nevertheless, Ivan is always fascinated by tales of his ancestors, regardless of how those stories tend to end, and so in honour of the day and of the dragons, I wanted to share with you all the story of Lig-na-Paiste, the Last Dragon of Ireland.

In Medieval Irish, Paiste translates to mean ‘pest’ or ‘beast’ but you can be well-assured that Lig-na-Paiste was far more than that! No, Lig-na-Paiste was a Go Hard or Go Home dragon; huge in size, some say eleven feet long with the horns of a ram and long fangs. His scales were the size of dinner plates, and he was seemingly so extra that he both breathed fire and produced a potent venom.

Lig-na-Paiste was ancient, a survivor from the times when the greatest and most terrible dragons were common-place all around the world. He was a cunning old beast, and when Saint Patrick was touring around Ireland and banishing the serpents forever, Lig-na-Paiste hid himself away, curled up in a small pool near the source of the Owenreach River in the Banagher Forest, so that Saint Patrick could not find him.

Years passed and Saint Patrick grew old and finally died, and Lig-na-Paiste thought that it was safe to come out again and cause trouble. He was hungry from hiding away for so long and he quickly gobbled up many of the local herds of cattle. The people were terrified, but they soon heard tale of another holy man, Saint Murrough. Perhaps this man could help save them from the Lig-na-Paiste?

Saint Murrough was a wise man as well as a holy one, and made careful preparations before tackling such  powerful creature. He fasted for nine days and nine nights, and he took with him three wooden rods. Then he travelled to Lough Foyle, where Lig-na-Paiste had been sighted.

When Lig-na-Paiste caught sight of Saint Murrough, he laughed to himself, for he was so old that he remembered a time when dragons were appeased by sacrifice so that they might not need to go raiding livestock themselves. He called out and ask Saint Murrough if he had come as a sacrifice, and Saint Murrough did not answer, but only continued to walk quietly forwards.

Finally the two met face to face, and Saint Murrough asked if first, before Lig-na-Paiste began to eat him, the holy man might place the three wooden rods upon Lig-na-Paiste’s huge back?

The dragon did not wish to seem unfeeling, and assuming that this was some new religious practice he was unfamiliar with, said that he did not think that it would cause him any great inconvenience to allow the request. The saint came forward and placed the rods on the dragon’s back, but no sooner had the third rod but put into place, they sprang o life and wrapped themselves around the dragon’s body, trapping his arms and legs so that the beast could no longer move at all!

Then Saint Murrough began to pray fervently, as he had never prayed before in all of his holy life. He asked God that the wooden rods should become as hard and as strong as iron, stronger even, and that Lig-na-Paiste should never be able to escape them.

The dragon raged, and declared that he had been tricked by the man, but the saint would not free him. For Lig-na-Paiste was as cruel and deceptive a creature as had ever been seen, and so he could not be trusted to keep his word about better behaviour in future.

The Lig-na-Paiste continued to struggle, but Saint Murrough said that though the dragon’s strength be great indeed, the strength of the Lord was greater yet.

Finally Saint Murrough banished Lig-na-Paiste down into the waters of Lough Foyle, where he remains to this day. Some say that they can still see the waves on the surface of Lough Foyle moving in strange ways, with unusual tides and currents, and they know that this is caused by Lig-na-Paiste moving around and struggling against his magic bonds.

But he will never be free, not until Judgement Days comes to the world, and by that time, I suppose that it will not matter much that he is freed…

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Sadly no books directly from Ireland, but fun all the same!

Thank you to Sophie, who told me the story of Lig-na-Paiste when I asked for a good Irish story and dragons! I hope I retold it well enough!

If you’d like to see more pictures of Ivan the Wyvern as he gets used to his new home, check out the rest of the series here.

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