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Lambton Worm

The Lambton worm now became the terror of the whole country side. Herbert Cole, from Fairy gold, by Ernest Rhys, London, New York, early 20th  century (illustrations dated 1906, book reprinted in 1919, 1922). Lambton Worm
The Lambton worm now became the terror of the whole country side. Herbert Cole, from Fairy gold, by Ernest Rhys, London, New York, early 20th century (illustrations dated 1906, book reprinted in 1919, 1922).

The Lambton Worm is a legend from the North East of England, adapted from written and oral tradition into pantomime and song formats.

The legend

The story revolves around John Lambton, heir of the Lambton Estate, County Durham, and his battle with a giant worm which had been terrorising the local villages.

Origin of the worm

The story states that the young John Lambton was a rebellious character who missed church one Sunday to go fishing in the River Wear. In many versions of the story, while walking to the river, or setting up his equipment, John receives warnings from an old man that no good can come from missing church.

John Lambton does not catch anything until the time the church service finishes, at which point he fishes out a small eel like creature with nine holes on each side of its salamander-like head no bigger than a thumb.

At this point the old man returns, John declares that he has caught the devil and decides to dispose of his catch by discarding it down a nearby well. The old man then issues further warnings about the nature of the beast.

John then forgets about the creature and eventually grows up. As a penance for his rebellious early years he joins the crusades.

The worm’s wrath

Eventually the worm grows extremely large and the well becomes poisonous. The villagers start to notice livestock going missing and discover that the fully-grown worm has emerged from the well and coiled itself around a local hill.

The worm is large enough to wrap itself round the hill three times, in others it is nine. It is said that one can still see the marks of the worm on Worm Hill.

The worm terrorises the nearby villages, eating sheep, preventing cows from producing milk and snatching away small children. It then heads towards Lambton Castle where the Lord (John Lambton’s aged father) manages to sedate the creature in what becomes a daily ritual of offering the worm milk of nine good cows, twenty gallons, or a filled wooden/stone trough.

A number of brave villagers try to kill the beast but are quickly dispatched. When a chunk is cut off the worm it simply reattaches the missing piece. Visiting knights also try to assault the beast but none survives. When annoyed the worm would uproot trees by coiling its tail around them. It then created devastation by waving around the uprooted trees like a club.

The vanquishing of the worm

After seven years John Lambton returns from the crusade to find his father’s estates almost destitute because of the worm. John decides to fight it but first seeks the guidance of a wise woman or witch near Durham.

The witch hardens John’s resolve to kill the beast by explaining his responsibility for the worm. She tells him to cover his armour in spearheads and fight the worm in the River Wear, where it now spends its days wrapped around a great rock. The witch also tells John that after killing the worm he must then kill the first living thing he sees, or else his family will be cursed for nine generations and will not die in their beds.

John prepares his armour according to the witch’s instructions and arranges with his father that when he has killed the worm he will sound his hunting horn three times. On this signal his father is to release his favourite hound so that it will run to John, who can then kill the dog and thus avoid the curse.

John Lambton then fights the worm by the river. The worm tries to crush him, wrapping him in its coils, but it cuts itself on his armour’s spikes. As pieces of the worm are chopped off they are washed away by the river, preventing the worm from healing itself. Eventually the worm is dead and John sounds his hunting horn three times.

The Lambton curse

Unfortunately, John’s father is so excited that the beast is dead that he forgets to release the hound and rushes out to congratulate his son. John cannot bear to kill his father and so, after they meet, the hound is released and dutifully dispatched. But it is too late and nine generations of Lambtons are cursed so they shall not die peacefully in their beds.

This curse seems to have held true for at least three generations, possibly helping to contribute to the popularity of the story.

  • 1st generation: Robert Lambton, drowned at Newrig.
  • 2nd: Sir William Lambton, a Colonel of Foot, killed at Marston Moor.
  • 3rd: William Lambton, died in battle at Wakefield.
  • 9th: Henry Lambton, died in his carriage crossing Lambton Bridge on June 26th 1761.

(General Lambton, Henry Lambton’s brother, is said to have kept a horse whip by his bedside to ward off violent assaults. He died in his bed at an old age.)

Used with Permission from Darknecromancer of the Wizards Community forums.

On this Thread

As you pass through the forest all the water apears fetid and unlivable. Plants have withered and died, and a sickening stench fills the air. a slimy trail leads to the demon-beast, wraped lazily around a hill.

The Lambton Worm was a serpent-dragon caught by an impious fisherman. At first the hapless man thought it to be some sort of giant leech, but after looking into its cold, cruel eyes he decided to throw it down a well. From that point after he lived a changed man, but the spawn of his wickedness flourished and grew. It terrorized the town, killing anything it could find, twisting the landscape and making it unlivable. Knight after knight went to slay it, but no matter how many times they cut into it, the severed pieces reformed.

Hearing tales of a demon-serpent in his old town, a changed Lambton went into battle with a suit of spiked armor, taking the battle to a submerged worm. The tighter the serpent squeezed, the more the spikes cut into its flesh. Before it could regenerate, its severed parts were carried away by the current, supposidly never to be seen again. In a campaign, Lambton worms would be the spawn on the original, or even its severed parts grown into new creatures.

Large Dragon (Aquatic)
Hit Dice10d12+40 (105 hp)
Initiative+1 (+1 Dexterity)
Speed30 ft. (6 squares), Swim 20 ft. (4 squares)
Armor Class19 (-1 size, +1 Dexterity, +9 natural), touch 10, flat-footed 18
Base Attack/Grapple+10/+20
AttackBite +15 melee (1d8 +6)
Full Attack Bite +15 melee (1d8 +6)
Space/Reach 10 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks Constrict, improved grab

Special Qualities

Damage reduction 15/+1, Darkvision 60ft., defoliate, dragon traits, Low-Light Vision, regeneration, Scent, amphibious
SavesFort +11, Ref +8, Will +8
AbilitiesStrength 22, Dexterity 13, Constitution 18, Intelligence 8, Wisdom 13, Charisma 10
SkillsHide +12, Intimidate +10, Listen +11, Move Silently +11, Spot +11, Swim +16


Cleave, Dodge, Mobility, Spring Attack
EnvironmentWarm aquatic and hills
Challenge Rating8
AlignmentAlways chaotic evil
Advancement11-20 HD (Large); 21-30 HD (Huge)


Lambton worms are no geniuses’, they bite and try to squeeze the life out of anything fool enough to challenge them.

Constrict (Ex) Anything at least one size-catagory smaller than the Worm that is grappled automatically takes 1d8+9 points of damage as logn as it maintains a grapple.

Improved Grab (Ex) If a Lambton Worm can hit an opponent with its bite attack, it may automatically initiate a grapple as a free action.

Defoliate (Ex) The area surrounding a Lambton Worm is incapable of supporting life. this affects an area equal to 100ft times the creature’s HD.

Regeneration (Ex) Lambton Worms can re-attach any severed part of its body instantly by pressing the two stumps together.

Amphibious (Ex) Lambton Worms spend most of their time in the water but and survive on land indefinitely.

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