Assipattle and the Mester Stoor worm
One day, a terrible evil reached the shores of the kingdom: The Mester Stoor Worm, king of all sea monsters.
Words by Rosie Young
Illustration by Linley Barba
Long ago in an ancient kingdom lived a farm boy named Assipattle. His six brothers spent their days working the farm with their father, but Assipattle merely lay in the ashes by the peat fire, his head full of stories and sagas in which he envisioned himself the hero. His family mocked his stories and loathed him for his laziness, but Assipattle only continued to lie by the fire, unperturbed by the thick ash covering him. Only his sister was kind to him, but she soon left to work in the royal palace, and Assipattle was alone.
One day, a terrible evil reached the shores of the kingdom: The Mester Stoor Worm, king of all sea monsters. Ships crumpled before the lash of his tail and with one sweep of his tongue, he could level cities and devour nations, but worst of all his breath was a poison deadly to all living things. He laid his great head in the shallows and opened his maw.
At a loss for what to do, the King took his wife’s advice sought the guidance of spayman, a wizard, who told him that in order to appease the Stoor Worm, the people must feed it seven maidens at dawn every Saturday.
And so it was done, and the Stoor Worm’s wrath was kept at bay. Yet he did not leave, and the people quickly grew resistant to giving up any more of their daughters. The King sought the wisdom of the spayman a second time, and the spayman told him that in order to truly appease the Stoor Worm, the King would need to feed it the loveliest maiden in the land: his own daughter, the Princess Gemdelovely.
Heart heavy, the King agreed, but was given a few weeks grace to prepare himself. The King used the time to scour the land for a hero who might save his daughter from this terrible fate, promising that such a man would be given the Kingdom, the King’s legendary sword Sickersnapper which had once belonged to Odin, and the Princess’s hand in marriage.
Far away on a distant farm, the news reached Assipattle, and he knew at once what he must do. Assipattle’s father owned the swiftest horse in the land, Teetgong, and he had once overheard his father telling his mother that in order to attain the horse’s full speed, the rider must blow through a goose’s thrapple. So Assipattle took a smouldering clod of peat from his fire, carried in a bucket, stole the goose’s thrapple from his father’s coat pocket, and was off into the night on Teetgong’s back.
Two claps on the shoulder and Teetgong was flying across the land, but Assipattle took the goose’s thrapple and blew, and with another burst of speed they were swifter than the wind. The air whipped the ash from Assipattle’s clothes and it streamed behind them in sooty grey banners. Despite this, Assipattle did not reach the Stoor Worm until the dawn of the last day.
By now the king had grown desperate and had come to the shore with his great sword, planning to face the monster himself. As the sun rose, the Stoor Worm began to yawn, water rushing into its mouth, and before the King or his attendants could react, Assipattle had leapt into a little boat and and pushed out onto the water. The currents dragged Assipattle and the boat straight into the stoorworm’s cavernous mouth, and then down, down into the dark of its belly.
The boat grounded, and Assipattle knew he had but little time before the Stoor Worm yawned again. He jumped from the boat and, peat in hand, ran faster than he’d ever run in his life. On and on he went, until at last he reached the Stoor Worm’s liver, larger than a mountain and oilier than all the fish in the sea. With a large knife he sliced open the creature’s liver and shoved the smouldering peat inside. Then he blew, blew, and blew on the peat, and finally it took light. With a spit and a crackle, the monster’s liver caught fire, and soon the blaze spread.
Assipattle ran back to his boat and just as he clambered inside, the Stoor Worm gave a huge retch. In one motion Assipattle and his boat were thrown out into the open air on a tide of brine. The Stoor Worm screamed and writhed in agony, smoke billowing from it’s mouth. Its tongue caught on the horns of the moon but slipped and fell, cleaving Norway and Sweden from Finland. It tossed and thrashed and with each throw of aguish teeth fell from its mouth, the first became the Orkney Isles, the second the Shetland Isles, and the last the Faroe Isles. Then, finally, the Mester Stoor Worm coiled its body up into a tight knot and breathed its last breath. It’s body became what would one day be Iceland, and it is said the volcanos and hot springs of that land are evidence that deep below the surface the Stoor Worm is still burning.
And as for Assipattle, the king named him his heir, and all rejoiced. It was discovered the Queen had taken the spayman as her lover, and this was the only reason she had urged her husband to heed his cruel advice. For this she was banished, and Assipattle took the spayman’s life with Sickersnapper as penance for the evil he had sewn.
A week later Assipattle was married to Princess Gemdelovely in a celebration the likes of which the Kingdom had never seen, and would never see again. He was reunited with his sister who became the Princess’s lady in waiting, and he even found it in his heart to forgive his cruel brothers. Each night Gemdelovely would rest her head on Assipattle’s chest and listen to his soft voice weave legends and folktales into being. Assipattle grew into a wise and noble king, and they were happy until the end of their days.