Tag Archives: Lindorm

Mythological Beasts And Spirits: Sea Serpent

In an earlier post from this category of Mythological Beasts and Spirits, I mentioned that the Lindorm was sometimes described as a sea serpent, sometimes not. Sea serpents appear in multiple myths and legends. The Midgard Serpent in Norse mythology might be regarded as a sea serpent since Thor went fishing for it in one account within The Prose Edda. This concept for a monster is evidently very resonant in the human mind, and I wanted to develop it for my fabricated myth, The Fear of a Farmer.

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From The Fear of a Farmer (Copyright: 2017 Robert Lambert Jones III).

The following image is apparently taken from a book, and its caption indicates that this sketch by W. D. Munro was of an alleged sea serpent that washed ashore in Hungary Bay, Bermuda, in 1860. From the appearance of the creature, it is obviously an oarfish.

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The following illustration is by Tamplier Painter and takes an approach common to modern fantasy art: the employment of frills and fins. The profile of the head resembles that of a Tyrannosaurus rex.

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Older illustrations often did little more than depict sea serpents as over-sized snakes with minimal embellishment.

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Sea_serpent_Cape_Ann

For the picture at the top of this post, I chose to use a similar approach by eliminating fins and other appendages. That made coming up with an interesting head shape important. You’ll be the judge as to whether or not I succeeded. I combined the features of a T. rex (mainly the line of the upper jaw), an alligator (eyes, ¬†snout, and hinge of lower jaw), certain snakes ( body and enlarged ear opening), and some lizards (dewlap or throat pouch). To these, I added a bulging pate and rather prominent ridges above the eyes, ears, and nostrils. I’m a biologist as well as a monster aficionado from way back, so this was a fun project for my inner ten-year-old. Below is the initial profile of the head on which I have based all of my other drawings of the sea serpent in my story.

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From The Fear of a Farmer (Copyright: 2017 Robert Lambert Jones III).

I’ll end this with a painting by Edward Burne-Jones depicting a story from Greek mythology. It shows Perseus rescuing Andromeda from Cetus, the sea serpent to which she was being sacrificed… by her parents!

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The Doom Fulfilled by Edward Burne-Jones

Next week, I will cover one more creature whose description defies illustration. Nonetheless, that has not dissuaded some artists (or me) from trying.

Mythological Beasts And Spirits: Lindorm

The term, Lindorm, is both Danish and Swedish. Depending on its use, it can be synonymous with Lindworm, used in reference to any giant serpent, or used to represent a sea serpent.

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I’m sure there’s a plausible answer, but I wonder how cultures from cold, northern climates developed mythologies with huge, reptilian monsters.

There is an interesting folktale called Prince Lindorm (also King Lindorm, Prince Lindworm, and King Lindworm) that has been called Danish, Norwegian, or Swedish. Let’s just say it’s Scandinavian. This tale has generated a bit of modern fan art. It has also been portrayed by professional illustrators. I especially like the older examples. I’m not entirely certain as to who did the following illustration. Owing to its similarity to the next one, I’m inclined to attribute it (tentatively) to Henry Justice Ford, but I could be wrong.

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You can find various versions of this tale in their entirety and for free by typing in the title on a word search. I won’t provide links due to their number. One element they all seem to have in common is the one shown above. A prince under a curse exists as a Lindorm and demands a bride. A number don’t make the cut and are messily dismembered. Finally, one tries a different approach. Wearing multiple gowns, she insists first that the snake shed his skin when he orders her to undress. He does so, and she removes one gown. This process is repeated until the Lindorm is an almost shapeless mass. The maiden then scrubs away the offending flesh to reveal a handsome prince.

The theme of serpents and maidens is VERY old  and rather widespread in mythology and in folktales. Here is an image which I can attribute to Henry Justice Ford:

The Beautiful Woman Soothes The Serpent King (1900) by Henry Justice Ford.
The Beautiful Woman Soothes The Serpent King (1900) by Henry Justice Ford.

I know it’s not the same thing, but I can’t help but notice the similarity of these images to the Genesis account of the serpent tempting Eve in the Garden of Eden (one version of how all the trouble started, but keep in mind that Adam was also described as culpable in that account). This has been represented so many times that I suffered from choice anxiety when choosing images for this post. I opted for variety, including selections from William Blake…

(c) Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation. Eve Tempted by the Serpent by William Blake.
(c) Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation.
Eve Tempted by the Serpent by William Blake.

… to this interesting, more cartoonish, and different cultural perspective by David-Dennis…

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…to this oddly chimeric take by Jon Roddam Spencer Stanhope…

Eve Tempted by the Serpent (c. 1877) by Jon Roddam Spencer Stanhope.
Eve Tempted by the Serpent (c. 1877) by Jon Roddam Spencer Stanhope.

… and a similar but older adaptation by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

From the Sistine Chapel ceiling (1508-1512) by Michelangelo.
From the Sistine Chapel ceiling (1508-1512) by Michelangelo.

This seems like as good a place as any to stop (or would it be better to say begin?).

p.s. For moral purposes, let me say that Eve is portrayed without clothing in all of these examples because, well… she was.

Next week: something else suitably scaly.