The Lindworm (cognate with Old Norse linnormr 'ensnaring snake', Norwegian linnorm 'dragon', Swedish lindorm, Danish lindorm 'serpent', German Lindwurm 'dragon') is either a legendary dragon-like creature or serpent monster. In British heraldry, lindworm is a technical term for a wingless serpentine monster with two clawed arms in the upper body. In Norwegian heraldry a lindorm is the same as the wyvern in British heraldry.[1]

Upplands Runinskrift 871.jpg
Also known as a "snake" (ormr) or "dragon" (dreki), lindworms were popular motifs on runestones in 11th century Sweden. This runestone is identified as U 871.
GroupingMythical creature
Other name(s)White worm or whiteworm
RegionNorthern Europe
Lindworm carving at Urnes Stave Church
Lindworm in the arms of the small Bavarian town of Wurmannsquick
Lindwurm Fountain in Klagenfurt
Winged lindworm which is more so a wyvern in the arms of the city of Klagenfurt


A lindworm's appearance varies across countries and the stories in which they appear. The most common depiction of lindworm is a wingless creature with a serpentine body, a dragon-like head, scaled or reptilian skin and two clawed arms in the upper body. The most common depiction of them implies that such lindworms do not walk on their two limbs like a wyvern, but move like a mole lizard: they slither like a snake but they also use their arms to move themselves.[2]

The head of the 16th century lindworm statue at Lindwurm Fountain in Klagenfurt is modeled on the skull of a woolly rhinoceros found in a nearby quarry in 1335. It has been cited as the earliest reconstruction of an extinct animal.[3][4][5]


In modern Scandinavian languages, the cognate lindorm can refer to any 'serpent' or monstrous snake, but in Norwegian heraldry, it is also a technical term for a 'sea serpent' (sjøorm), although it may also stand for a 'lindworm' in British heraldry.[6]

In talesEdit

In Norse mythology, the dwarf Fafnir from Völsunga saga is turned into a lindworm. The lindworm originates from Norse mythology and lindworms such as Fafnir. Later in the High Middle Ages, the lindworm myth spread throughout Europe, mostly north western Europe. Fafnir appears in the German Nibelungenlied as a lindwurm that lived near Worms. Some depictions of lindworms feature a lindworm with poisonous breath like Fafnir, while others don't.[7]

In Grímnismál, Odin tells of several lindworms gnawing on Yggdrasil from below, "more than a unlearned fool would know". Odin names these lindworms (using the word "ormr" meaning snake and serpent) as Níðhöggr, Grábakr, Grafvölluðr (meaning he who digs deep beneath), Ofnir, Svafnir, Grafvitni (grave-wolf) and his sons Góinn and Móinn.[8][9] Grafvitni is used as a kenning for "serpent" in Krákumál.[10]

Saxo Grammaticus begins his story of Ragnar Loðbrók, a semi-legendary king of Denmark and Sweden, by telling that a certain Þóra Borgarhjörtr receives a baby lindworm (lyngormr) as a gift from her father Herrauðr, the Earl of Götaland. As the lindworm grows, it eventually takes Þóra hostage, demanding to be supplied with no less than one ox a day, until she is freed by a young man in fur-trousers named Ragnar, who thus obtains the byname of Loðbrók ("hairy britches") and becomes Þóra's husband.[11]

An Austrian tale from the 13th century tells of a lindworm that lived near Klagenfurt. Flooding threatened travelers along the river, and the presence of a dragon was blamed, when it was actually a lindworm. The story tells that a Duke offered a reward for anyone who could capture it; so some young men tied a bull to a chain, and when the lindworm swallowed the bull, it was hooked like a fish and killed.[12]

The shed skin of a lindworm was believed to greatly increase a person's knowledge about nature and medicine.[13]

A serpentine monster with the head of a "salamander" features in the legend of the Lambton Worm, a serpent caught in the River Wear and dropped in a well, which after 3–4 years terrorized the countryside of Durham while the nobleman who caught it was at the Crusades. Upon return, he received spiked armour and instructions to kill the serpent, but thereafter to kill the next living thing he saw. His father arranged that after the lindworm was killed, a dog would be released and the son would kill that; but instead of releasing the dog the father ran to his son, and so incurred a malediction by the son's refusal of patricide. Bram Stoker used this legend in his short story Lair of the White Worm.[14]

The sighting of a "whiteworm" once was thought to be an exceptional sign of good luck.[13]

The knucker or the Tatzelwurm is a wingless biped, and often identified as a lindworm. In legends, lindworms are often very large and eat cattle and bodies, sometimes invading churchyards and eating the dead from cemeteries.[15]

In the 19th-century tale of "Prince Lindworm" (also "King Lindworm") from Scandinavian folklore, a "half-man half-snake" 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 is perfect in every way. 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.[16] The tale of Prince Lindworm is part of a multiverse of tales in which a maiden is bethroted or wooed by a prince enchanted to be a snake or other serpentine creature (ATU 433B, "The Prince as Serpent"; "King Lindworm").[17][18]

Because none of the chosen maidens are pleased by him, he eats each until a shepherd's daughter who spoke to the same crone is brought to marry him, wearing every dress she owns. The lindworm tells her to take off her dress, but she insists he shed a skin for each dress she removes. Eventually his human form is revealed beneath the last skin. Some versions of the story omit the lindworm's twin, and the gender of the soothsayer varies. A similar tale occurs in the 1952 novel The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis.[19]

Late belief in lindorm in SwedenEdit

The belief in the reality of a lindorm, a giant limbless serpent, persisted well into the 19th century in some parts. The Swedish folklorist Gunnar Olof Hyltén-Cavallius (1818–1889) collected in the mid 19th century stories of legendary creatures in Sweden. He met several people in Småland, Sweden that said they had encountered giant snakes, sometimes equipped with a long mane. He gathered around 50 eyewitness reports, and in 1884 he set up a big reward for a captured specimen, dead or alive.[20] Hyltén-Cavallius was ridiculed by Swedish scholars, and since nobody ever managed to claim the reward it resulted in a cryptozoological defeat. Rumours about lindworms as actual animals in Småland rapidly died out.[21][22]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "lindworm". About All About Dragons. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
  2. ^ "lindworm". Nordisk familjebok. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
  3. ^ Mayor, Adrienne (2000). The first fossil hunters: paleontology in Greek and Roman times. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-08977-9.
  4. ^ Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London. Academic Press. 147-148. 1887.
  5. ^ "Lindwurm Fountain". Tourism Information Klagenfurt am Wörthersee. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  6. ^ "Sjøormer i Norge". Archived from the original on October 11, 2007. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  7. ^ "Fafner". Nordisk familjebok. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  8. ^ "76 (Salmonsens konversationsleksikon / Anden Udgave / Bind X: Gradischa—Hasselgren)".
  9. ^ "Sången om Grimner (Eddan, De nordiska guda- och hjältesångerna)". 22 January 2018.
  10. ^ Stein, Sadie (May 22, 2015). "The Lindworm". Paris Review. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
  11. ^ "Ragnar Lodbrok". Store norske leksikon. 2019-05-02. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  12. ^ J. Rappold, Sagen aus Kärnten (1887).
  13. ^ a b "645-646 (Nordisk familjebok / Uggleupplagan. 16. Lee – Luvua)". 22 January 2018.
  14. ^ "The Lambton Worm". Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  15. ^ "Tatzelwurms". Astonishing Legends. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  16. ^ "Prince Lindworm•". European folktales. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
  17. ^ Jan M. Ziolkowski. 2010. “Straparola and the Fairy Tale: Between Literary and Oral Traditions.” Journal of American Folklore 123 (490). p. 383. doi:10.1353/jaf.2010.0002
  18. ^ Thompson, Stith. The Folktale. University of California Press. 1977. p. 101. ISBN 0-520-03537-2
  19. ^ Stein, Sadie (May 22, 2015). "The Lindworm". Paris Review. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  20. ^ G. O. Hyltén-Cavallius, Om draken eller lindormen, mémoire till k. Vetenskaps-akademien, 1884.
  21. ^ Meurger, Michel (1996). "The Lindorms of Småland". Arv – Nordic Yearbook of Folklore. 52: 87–9.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  22. ^ 1925-, Sjögren, Bengt (1980). Berömda vidunder. [Laholm]: Settern. ISBN 9175860236. OCLC 35325410.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)

External linksEdit