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Literature / Prince Lindworm

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"Prince Lindworm" is a 19th century Norwegian Fairy Tale. As is common in these tales, the story begins with a husband and wife (in this case, a king and queen) who are unable to conceive a child. One variant can be read here.

In the tale of "Prince Lindworm" (also "King Lindworm"), from Scandinavian folklore, a hideous lindworm is born, as one of twins, to a queen, who, in an effort to overcome her childless situation, has followed the advice of an old crone, who tells her to eat two onions. She did not peel the first onion, causing the first twin to be a lindworm. The second twin boy is perfect in every way.

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When he grows up and sets off to find a bride, the lindworm insists that a bride be found for him before his younger brother can marry. The lindworm sets two conditions for the bride he must marry: she must be a virgin and love him willingly. But none of the the chosen maidens fill these conditions, and as a result he kills each new bride they bring him, this creates a slight problem for the kingdom until a shepherd's daughter who spoke to the same crone is brought to marry him.

When the wedding-day arrived, the girl was fetched in the Royal chariot with the six white horses, and taken to the castle to be decked as a bride. And she asked for ten snow-white shifts to be brought her, and the tub of lye, and the tub of milk, and as many whips as a boy could carry in his arms. The ladies and courtiers in the castle thought, of course, that this was some bit of peasant superstition, all rubbish and nonsense. But the King said, “Let her have whatever she asks for.” She was then arrayed in the most wonderful robes, and looked the loveliest of brides.

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She was led to the hall where the wedding ceremony was to take place, and she saw the Lindworm for the first time as he came in and stood by her side. So they were married, and a great wedding-feast was held, a banquet fit for the son of a king.

When the feast was over, the bridegroom and bride were conducted to their apartment, with music, and torches, and a great procession. Once in the room, the lindworm tells her to take off her dress, but she insists he shed a skin for each dress she removes. And so this went on until nine Lindworm skins were lying on the floor, each of them covered with a snow-white shift. And there was nothing left of the Lindworm but a huge thick mass, most horrible to see. Then the girl seized the whips, dipped them in the lye, and whipped him as hard as ever she could. Next, she bathed him all over in the fresh milk. Lastly, she dragged him on to the bed and put her arms round him. And she fell fast asleep that very moment.

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Next morning very early, the King and the courtiers came and peeped in through the keyhole. They wanted to know what had become of the girl, but none of them dared enter the room. However, in the end, growing bolder, they opened the door a tiny bit. And there they saw the girl, all fresh and rosy, and beside her lay the loveliest youth in the world.

Some versions of the story include two roses instead of onions, sometimes the peasant girl is a princess, or omit the lindworm's twin, and the gender of the soothsayer varies. The extended Princess variant can be read here.

The tale contains the following tropes:

  • Beast and Beauty: The Lindworm and the miller's daughter.
  • Dragons Prefer Princesses: Subverted. The dragon prefers maidens, but not necessarily princesses. Makes a little bit more sense than most versions, considering said dragon is actually a young prince.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The Lindworm.
    • Though in most variants he merely kills the women presented rather than eat them.
  • Karma Houdini: The Lindworm never faces any consequence for killing and eating two princesses.
    • Although it is mentioned that he asked for maidens, i.e. virgins so its possible that the two women sent prior weren't virgins. Also none of the maidens came willingly, however, and so none was accepted by the monster. The miller's daughter however, did go willingly. It's also possible that the curse forces the lindworm to kill against his will.
    • Also it's mentioned that as soon as the Lindorm is born, he is hurled by his Queen Mother through the window into the dense forest surrounding the palace, as his birth as a Lindworm is karma for the Queen not following the careful instructions of the old woman/fairy.
  • No Name Given: All the characters are nameless, as is common in Fairy Tales.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The Lindworm is a talking serpent that sheds its skin like a snake.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: One Indian version reverses this, though; the prince is cursed to become a monstrous fish and the girl is helped by talking snakes.
  • Virgin Power: The miller's daughter has it down.
  • Whip It Good: In some variations, the miller's daughter lashes the Lindworm with a switch, and soaks him in lye and milk, before carrying him to bed.
  • Wicked Stepmother: In some versions, especially those found in Asia, the heroine is sold to the lindworm by her stepmother, usually in the hope that he will eat her. When she learns that she accidentally married off her stepdaughter to a king, she either kills herself or plots revenge.
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