The þing - Stoorwurm

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The Inspiration - The Story
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Story of Assipattle and the Stoor Worm

There was once, a long, long time ago, a farmer who lived in a fine farm called Leegarth. It lay in a lovely green valley surrounded by hills, and a crystal clear stream danced for joy as it ran past the house. The farmer was not a wealthy man, and he and his wife and seven sons worked hard to put bread on the table.
Well, that’s not strictly true, you see the man and his wife and the six oldest sons worked hard, but the youngest son did nothing but lie by the side of the fire raking through the ashes. His clothes were covered with ashes, and when he did venture outside, the ash blew from him like smoke from a bonfire. His family called him Assipattle, the ash raker, and his mother and father would look on him with sad eyes and shake their heads, but his older brothers hated him for his laziness, and they would kick him as they went out the door to their work. But Assipattle didn’t mind, because he was a dreamer and he had the heart of a poet. He told great stories in which he was the hero who killed dragons and carried off fair maidens, but this only made his brothers hate him even more.
One day a terrible thing happened – the Stoor Worm arrived at the coast of the land where Assipattle lived. This was the most evil of all the monsters that plagued mankind; a huge sea serpent that was so big that he had curled himself right around the world. Whenever he moved he caused tidal waves and earthquakes, and his foul breath was poisonous, killing every living thing that it touched. He could sweep whole towns into his great mouth with his huge forked tongue, and eat all the people that were in them just as easily as it is for us to blink an eye. What was worse, the Stoor Worm had started to yawn, which did not mean that he was tired; it meant that he was hungry and needed to be fed.
The king who lived in the great castle on top of the hill gathered together all his wisest advisers to try to find out what could be done to save the kingdom from destruction. Not one of them had any idea as to what could be done, but one of them suggested that they seek the advice of the old wizard who lived on the slopes of the mountain. The king sent his heralds to fetch the old wizard, who eventually arrived to offer the king his help. He was a very old man, yet he was still tall for his years. He wore a long robe of powder blue cloth and in his hand he held a staff. His long hair was as white as a snowdrift, and his beard hung down to his knees. The king asked him what should be done to save his kingdom from the destruction of the Stoor Worm, and the wizard thought for a long time, stroking his great white whiskers as he pondered the situation. He then spoke in a deep, clear voice.
‘Your majesty, the Stoor Worm has grown old, and he has in his time been all around the world eating all sorts of exotic people, but now in his old age he has developed a… sweet tooth. I believe that if you were to feed him seven young maidens for his breakfast every Saturday morning, then the Stoor Worm would spare your kingdom.'
It was agreed that this should be done, and every Saturday morning seven young maidens were bound hand and foot and placed on a flat rock in front of the Stoor Worm’s head. When the first rays of the morning sun touched the Stoor Worm’s eyes it yawned seven great yawns, then it thrust out its long tongue and ate the first thing it touched. It picked up the seven maidens one-by-one between the forks of its tongue and popped them into its mouth like juicy sweet berries.
One Saturday morning Assipattle and his family went to see the Stoor Worm eat his terrible breakfast. The old man went grey with horror as he watched the kingdom’s finest girls being eaten.
‘There will soon be no more girls left in the kingdom,’ he wailed, ‘and who will be left to marry my sons? If they don’t find wives and have children, then who will look after us in our old age?’
‘Don’t worry father,’ said Assipattle, ‘I will fight and kill the Stoor Worm.’
His brothers laughed when they heard this, and they drove him away by throwing stones and earth at him.
Later that evening Assipattle’s mother sent him to the barn to tell his brothers that their supper was ready. They were threshing corn on the barn floor when Assipattle appeared, and they set on him and held him down while they piled straw on top of him. They sat on his head, and would have smothered him if their father had not caught them in the act and stopped them. He was annoyed, and as they ate their supper he was still scolding his sons for their behaviour. Assipattle, still with straw in his hair, calmly said,
‘Oh, it’s alright father, I would have given them a good thrashing if you had not stopped them when you did.’
His brothers laughed, and the oldest one said, ‘Then why didn’t you then?’
‘Oh, I’m saving my strength,’ said Assipattle.
‘Saving your strength?’ said his oldest brother, ‘What are you saving your strength for?’
‘For when I fight the Stoor Worm,’ said Assipattle.
‘Boy,’ said his father gravely, ‘you’ll fight the Stoor Worm when I make spoons from the horns of the moon.’
Time passed, and the people grew angry at the loss of their daughters. The king once more called on the wizard to attend the court in order to find a solution to the problem of the Stoor Worm for once and for all.

The wizard grew pale when he heard this, and he said, ‘Well, your majesty, there is one way of ridding the land of the Stoor Worm, but it is too great a price to pay.’
‘We have no option, wizard,’ shouted the king, ‘what is this price that we have to pay to be rid of this monster for all time?’
‘Well,’ stuttered the wizard, ‘as you insist, it is this. You must give the Stoor Worm the loveliest maiden in the entire kingdom. You must feed the Stoor Worm your daughter, the princess Gem-de-lovely.’
A gasp rose from the king’s councillors, then their voices burst forth with angry words of protest. How could he even say such a thing? The princess was the king’s only child, and with her the whole race of the old kings would die out forever. No, this could never be done!
‘Silence!’ shouted the king, ‘It is a hard thing that you ask me to do, wizard, but it is fitting, in a way. My daughter is indeed the last of the race of kings who are descended from the great god Odin himself; but it is fitting that my daughter should die so that her people can live.’
The king slumped back down on his throne, then he looked up and said, ‘But yet, I will crave one last indulgence. Send out a proclamation throughout the kingdom saying that if any brave knight can fight and kill the Stoor Worm, then he can have as his reward my magic sword Sikkersnapper, which was a gift to my ancestors from the god Odin. My kingdom shall also be his, and my daughter’s hand in marriage.’
The proclamation went throughout the kingdom like wildfire, and thirty-six brave knights rode into town to fight the Stoor Worm. The first twelve took one look at the Stoor Worm and rode straight through the town and out the other side and ran away home. The second twelve fainted with fright at the sight of the monster, and had to be carried home on stretchers. The third twelve just skulked around the king’s castle until they found his wine cellar, then drowned their sorrows in the king’s finest wine. The old king looked at them with disgust, as the blood of an older and nobler race ran through his veins. He ordered his men to prepare a boat and to bring him his magic sword Sikkersnapper; he would fight the Stoor Worm himself. The news spread throughout the kingdom that the king was to fight the Stoor Worm the next morning at dawn. It even reached Leegarth, where Assipattle was still lying by the fire, raking among the ashes as usual. His parents were in bed talking, and he listened to their conversation with interest.
‘So, the king’s going to fight the Stoor Worm at dawn,’ said his father, ‘we should go to see that. We can take my horse Teetgong; he’s the fastest horse in the land you know.’
‘Yes,’ snorted his wife, ‘I know that.’
The old man was not always the most sensitive of men, but he knew that something was annoying his wife, and he summoned up his courage to ask her what it was.
‘Is there something bothering you, my sweet?’ ‘
‘Yes, there is!’ she replied.
‘Well, my dear,’ said the old man, his voice trembling, ‘what is it?’
‘You are keeping secrets from me, that’s what the trouble is!’ said the old woman scornfully.
‘Oh… well… why… I mean… no, I’m not,’ said the old man, ‘what secrets do I have from you?’
The old woman said, ‘Your horse, Teetgong.’
‘Fastest horse in the land’ said the old man proudly.
‘Yes,’ said the old woman, ‘but what I want to know is what makes it run so fast.’
‘Oh, but dear, you don’t need to know that.’
‘Why?’ snorted the old woman.
‘Well, because it’s, you know… a secret.’
‘I thought as much,’ snorted the old woman, ‘and if you’ve got one secret from me, then you may have others!’
‘Oh, I have no secrets,’ protested the old man, ‘you’re making a fuss out of nothing.’
They argued for a while before the old man finally gave up and told his wife the secret.
‘When I want Teetgong to stand as still as a statue I give it a pat on the left shoulder. When I want him to run fast I give him a pat on the right shoulder, but if I want him to run as fast as the wind I blow through a goose’s thrapple (windpipe). When he hears that sound he's off like lightening; I keep a thrapple in my coat pocket in case of emergencies.’
Happy at last, the old couple were soon snoring.
Assipattle had been listening to all of this, and when he was sure that his parents were asleep he crept over to his father’s coat and took the goose’s thrapple from the pocket and slipped outside. He headed for the stable and opened the door as quietly as he could. When the horse Teetgong saw him he knew that this was not his master, and he started to kick and to rear up, but Assipattle gave him a pat on the left shoulder and he stood as still as a statue. He climbed up on the horse’s back and gave him a pat on the right shoulder and Teetgong set off with a loud neigh. The noise woke the old man and his sons, and they ran outside and took horses and followed Teetgong, shouting ‘Stop! Thief!’
Assipattle’s father had no idea it was his son who was the thief, and soon his horse was catching up with him.
The old man shouted as loud as he could, ‘Hi, Hi Ho! Teetgong Whoa!’
Teetgong stopped dead in his tracks, but Assipattle pulled the goose’s thrapple from his pocket and blew through it. When Teetgong heard the sound it made he pricked up his ears, neighed loudly and set off as fast as an arrow from a bow; it was all that Assipattle could do to breathe as the horse ran so fast. When the old man and his sons saw this they stopped and turned their horses for home, as they knew there was no way they could catch up with Teetgong.
Assipattle rode through the night until he came to the top of the cliffs that slope down to the sandy shore of a large bay. There in the bay was a huge black island, but this was no island at all, it was the Stoor Worm’s head. Assipattle rode down to the bay and quietly slipped into an old cottage that stood close to the shore. In it was an old woman asleep in her bed with a great grey cat curled up at her feet. The fire had been rested for the night with damp peats, as it was considered bad luck to let your fire go out, and bad luck to lend fire to a neighbour, in case the luck of the house should leave with it. (It was also before matches were invented!) The fire smouldered in the damp peats, which had been cut from the hill and dried that summer. Assipattle took a small iron pot from beside the fire and he picked up a glowing peat and put it into the pot before slipping quietly outside and heading for the shore. There he saw the king’s boat, ready for him to sail for battle with the Stoor Worm. There was a guard on board, and he was shuffling about and flapping his arms to keep warm.
‘Hello,’ shouted Assipattle to him, ‘I was just going to build a small fire to boil some limpets for my breakfast. Would you like to come and warm yourself by my fire?’
‘I had better not,’ replied the guard, ‘because if they find out I’ve left my post, I’ll be beaten.’
‘You had better stay where you are then,’ replied Assipattle as he started to dig a shallow hole in which to light his fire.
Suddenly Assipattle started to jump around wildly shouting;
‘Gold! Gold! I’ve found gold! Look how it shines, like the mid-day sun. Gold!’
As soon as the guard heard this he jumped from the boat and pushed Assipattle away and started to dig in the dirt like a dog. Assipattle picked up his pot with the peat in it and ran to the boat, casting off the rope and hoisting the sail. He looked around in time to see the king and his men arrive, and he saw them dancing with rage on the shore.
Assipattle sailed the boat close to the Stoor Worm’s mouth, just as the first rays of the rising sun kissed the monster’s eyes and it started to wake up and it yawned the first of its seven great yawns. Assipattle positioned the boat next to the great mouth so that when it yawned again the boat was swept right into the monster’s mouth and down its huge throat. Down, down, deeper and deeper into the Stoor Worm went Assipattle and his boat, right down deep inside the Stoor Worm.
Now the inside of the Stoor Worm was like one great huge tunnel, but every now and then there were other smaller tunnels leading this way and that, and some water gurgled down this tunnel, and some down that one, until the water got shallower and shallower and the boat grounded. The inside of the Stoor Worm glowed with a green phosphorescent light, so Assipattle could see what he was doing. He picked up the pot with the burning peat in it and he ran and he ran until he found what he was looking for; the Stoor Worm’s liver! Now, you know how much oil there is in fish livers, so imagine how much oil there would be in the Stoor Worm’s liver. Assipattle took out his knife and he cut a hole in the liver, then he dropped the burning peat into the hole. He blew and he blew and he better blew until he thought his head was going to burst, but eventually the oil in the liver caught fire and started to burn fiercely. Assipattle ran back to the boat as fast as his legs would carry him.
Now the king was having a bad day. Not only did he have to get up really early to fight the Stoor Worm and face certain death, but he arrived at the bay just it time to see some idiot steal his boat and sail off to be swallowed by the Stoor Worm. Things just couldn’t get any worse, he thought, as he paced to-and-fro on the beach. Suddenly, one of his men said,
‘Your Majesty, I’ve never seen the Stoor Worm do that before.’
‘Do what?’ said the king angrily.
‘Well,’ said the man, ‘he’s sort of… smoking.’
‘Smoking!’ bellowed the king.
‘Yes, see for yourself,’ said the man.
Sure enough, when the king looked he saw that thick, black smoke was billowing out of the Stoor Worm’s mouth and nose. The Stoor Worm was feeling very ill, in fact it felt very sick indeed and it retched up all the water that was inside of it. A huge tidal wave of water flowed from the Stoor Worm’s mouth, and there on top of it was Assipattle in the boat. The king and his men, the old woman and her cat from the cottage (who had gone out to see what all the noise was about) and all the horses ran up the hillside to safety as the wave crashed on the shore below. Assipattle and the boat was cast up high and dry among them, and they stood together to watch the death of the Stoor Worm.
As it died the Stoor Worm thrust out its huge tongue into the sky so high that it caught hold of the moon. They said that it would have pulled the moon from the sky, but the fork of the Stoor Worm’s tongue slipped over the horn of the moon and it fell back to earth with a great crash. The tongue cut a huge hole in the face of the earth, and water flowed into this hole which cut off the lands of Norway and Sweden from Denmark. There it remains to this day, only we now call it the Baltic Sea and the two great bays at either end are the forks of the Stoor Worm’s tongue. As it died the Stoor Worm raised its huge head, and when it fell back to earth with a resounding crash, some of its teeth were knocked out and landed in the sea. These teeth remain there to this day, but now we call them the Orkney Islands. It raised its head again, and once more it fell back to earth, casting more of its teeth into the sea, creating the Shetland Islands. A third time the great head rose, and more teeth were cast into the sea, forming the Faroe Islands. Then the Stoor Worm curled itself up into a tight lump and died, and there it remains to this day, only now we call it Iceland. The hot water that boils out of the ground and the fires that leap from the mountains there are caused by the liver of the Stoor Worm, which is still burning.
The king was delighted, and he took Assipattle in his arms and he called him his son.
He strapped the magic sword Sikkersnapper to Assipattle’s side, and he said, ‘My boy, my sword and my kingdom are yours, as is my daughter’s hand in marriage, if she will have you.’
The Princess Gem-de-lovely stepped forward and looked into the eyes of this strange young man who had saved the world from the evil Stoor Worm, and love flowered in her heart. Assipattle also fell in love with the beautiful princess, and they were soon married to the great joy of everyone. They lived in happiness and prosperity, and if they are not dead then they are living yet.

Unknown copy.jpegRecycling bottle tops and then creating the mural with them.

Bottle tops were sorted then laid out on a template before being fastened in to place on plywood.