“We’ve got this database of monsters and creatures in our past. A lot of their stories are fascinating, it’s a shame that they’re not used more in modern culture,” remarked comic artist Hugleikur Dagsson in an interview this summer. This prompted the Grapevine to draft Dagsson to illustrate a series of articles on these monsters of yore.
For the eighth instalment in the series, Dagsson’s unique talent brings us one of Iceland’s most celebrated and feared monsters: Lagarfljótsormurinn, the Worm of Lagarfljót.
As anyone who has visited the East of Iceland will attest, the Lagarfljót is a scary piece of glacial river, well befitting for hosting a monster of Lagarfljótsormurinn’s infamy and purported magnitude. The river itself runs 140 km long, from the glacier Eyjabakkajökull, merging with the North-Atlantic on the Northeast side of the country, and is all foggy and muddled on account of the glacial flour the river carries from its source to the ocean. Before joining the Atlantic, the powerful stream enjoys a veritable stint as a placid, 53 km2 and up to 112 metre deep lake – Lögurinn – which is where our beast of the month is reported to reside.
Those who’ve stood on the lake’s shores will agree that it is indeed a nice place for a gargantuan monster worm, one where it can go relatively unnoticed for as long as it wishes on account of the lake’s great depths, its fogginess and the fact that it is really, really cold. Even still, there are countless recorded Lagarfljótsormur sightings going as far back as 1345 and as recent as last month.
As for the worm and how it got there, the story goes that a young girl from the Lagarfljót area received from her mother a fine golden ring. When asked how to best keep it, the mother responded that she should place the ring in a chest underneath a worm, something which would cause the gold to grow as the worm did. When checking on her stash shortly after, the girl saw that the worm had grown to such a gargantuan size that the chest could barely fit it. Growing frightened, she tossed the chest, gold and all, into Lagarfljót.
The worm apparently took a liking to the cold, cold lake, stayed there and kept on growing. After a while, it started making a name for itself, wreaking havoc on the entire region, spewing poisonous bile on passers-by, killing men and sheep that ventured close to the lake and generally being a big nuisance. The local farmers wouldn’t have it, so they summoned the help of two Finnish Saami shamans help put an end to the worm. Their mission was simple enough: to kill the beast and retrieve the gold. They fought the thing for a long time, but ultimately failed in their quest. However, they did manage to neutralize the risk it posed by tying the worm’s head and tail to the bottom where it would remain harmless for the rest of eternity. Its midsection was still free to flex and roam and bulge above the surface from time to time, and that’s apparently what people have been seeing every now and then since 1345.