Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

The term used most frequently in Nordic Fantasy for the Dragon (the Nordic for dragon is wyrm). Nordic dragons usually lack the ability to fly, and are thus closely allied to the Serpent, especially the sea-serpent. The name "worm" suggests a loathly beast, more disgusting and less fearsome than the dragon, which has an honourable ancestry. Fafnir, the dragon in the Volsunga Saga, is often referred to as a worm. In some stories, as in the Folktale of "The Lambton Worm" (14th century), the worm can reunite if cut in two. In that story a young squire, the heir of Lambton, catches a large worm (or eft) while fishing, but throws it back. Years later, when he returns from the Crusades, he finds the worm has grown to alarming proportions and is menacing the countryside. He wears an armour of spikes in order to trap it. This story bears some comparison with Farmer Giles of Ham (1949 chap) by J R R Tolkien. Robert E Howard used the term for his Nordic fantasy "The Valley of the Worm" (1934 WT). In The Lair of the White Worm (1911) Bram Stoker describes a disgusting worm that exists in a cave but has a symbiotic relationship with a woman. David H Keller used similar imagery for his horror story "The Worm" (1929 Amazing Stories). More recent examples include The Fire Worm (1988) by Ian Watson and Inside the Worm (1993) by Robert Swindells (1939-    ). [MA]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.