Jamie And The Biggest, First, And Father Of All Sea Serpents

The Orkney Islands Of Scandinavia

        Jamie lived on a farm not far from the sea, with his mother, father, and six brothers.  Because he was the youngest and smallest, everyone called him Little Jamie.   They made him do the boring work no one else would do, like looking after the geese.

        One day, news reached the farm that the biggest, first, and father of all sea serpents, Master Stoorworm, had come swimming from the depths of the ocean and parked himself, head to shore and tall to sea, in the next bay along the coast.

        Master Stoorworm was immense. His head stuck out of the sea, big as a mountain. His two eyes were like round shiny lakes.  And his body was so long that, stretched out, it could have reached across the Atlantic Ocean. Right from Europe to the shores of North America.

        The monster's appetite was enormous.  But he ate only breakfast.  As soon as the morning sun touched his eyes, he opened his wide mouth and yawned. "Ahhhhh ... " he sucked in fresh air, and "Hooooo... " he blasted out his vile breath.  It smelled like rotten fish, a deadly sort of smell.

         Six times Master Stoorworm yawned.  The seventh time he opened his mouth, he flicked out his stretchy forked tongue, scooped up an enormous breakfast, and flung it into his mouth.  This tongue was so powerful it could knock down a house and grab the people inside.  It could sweep up half a     dozen cows or a boat full of fishermen.  But most frightening his tongue was so long it was not possible to guess where the monster would strike next.  No one was safe.

        When Jamie's mother heard about Master Stoorworm, she said, Something must be done!"

        "Someone," said his father, "will have to kill him,"

        "I'll fight him, said Jamie, who was toasting his toes by the fire.  "I'm not scared."

        His six brothers laughed out loud and started to tease.  "Little Jamie!" they shouted.  "Our little brother! The big hero!"

        Now, King Harald, the ruler of that country, was an old man with a wise head on his shoulders.  He called a meeting of The Thing, which was a special council that met to make laws and govern.  And the king told the council that a brave champion must be found to kill Master Stoorworm.

        This announcement set off a babble of voices.

        "He can't be killed!" said one. "Waste of time trying.

        "Somehow we must keep him happy. said another.

        "We could feed him tasty morsels," said a third.  "Seven lovely maidens, tied up on the rocks every morning ... or maybe a princess.  Then the monster would leave the rest of us in peace.

        "Walt!".said the king. "Wait seven more days.  A champion may be found.  And if he does kill Master Stoorworm, he can marry my only child, Princess Gem - de - Lovely, and inherit my kingdom.  He shall also have my precious sword, Sicker Snapper, which was given to me by the god Odin himself.

        News of the king's prize - a princess, a kingdom, and a sword - spread throughout the land and beyond.  And so, seven days later, about midday, a large crowd gathered by the seashore to see if a hero could be found.  Jamie and his family were there, along with the king, his lovely daughter, all the members of The Thing, and thirty - six tough - looking champion fighters.

        Some of the champions had plans, and some had not the least idea what they were going to do.  But they all swaggered about, looking brave - until Master Stoorworm opened his mouth and yawned a sleepy, after - breakfast   yawn. "Ahhhhh...

        Whew!  The smell of his breath was vile.  Twelve champions fainted on the spot, twelve got sick, and the last twelve clamped their fingers over their noses and ran.

        "I see there are no champions left!" said King Harald.  "So, tomorrow, before Master Stoorworm wakes, I shall come myself and fight him."

        "You are too old, my lord," said his chief steward.  "Your fighting days are over."

        The king drew out his precious sword, Sicker Snapper.  "On this sword, I tell you all that I will die myself before my daughter or any other maiden is offered to the monster."  He turned to his chief steward and said, "Prepare a boat with two stout oars, mast up, and sail ready to hoist.  Order the boatman to guard it till I come tomorrow before sunrise."

        On their way home Jamie said, "I'd fight Master Stoorworm.  Really 1 would.  I'm not scared."

        His brothers laughed.  "Little Jamie!  The big hero! they shouted, and, catching hold of him, rolled him on the ground in a rough - and - tumble way - six against one - until their father stopped them.

        When Jamie got to his feet, he stuck his chin in the air.  "I could have beaten the lot of you!" he said.  "But I am saving my strength - for Master Stoorworm!"

        That night Jamie lay quietly in his bed, thinking over his plans.  He was going to fight Master Stoorworm.

        As soon as everyone else was fast asleep, he crept outside, mounted his father's horse, and galloped off.  The moon was full and the sky starry bright, so Jamie easily found the path that led to the seashore.

        When he came to a small, one - room cottage, he jumped off the horse, tethered him to the gatepost, and opened the door.  Jamie's old granny lay in bed, snoring.  The peat fire was banked up, and on the floor beside it stood an iron pot.  Jamie bent over, picked up a glowing piece of peat from the fire, and placed it in the pot.  Then he crept out as softly as he had come.  His granny heard nothing.  Only the gray cat at the bottom of her bed looked up and stretched.

        King Harald's boat was ready, mast up and afloat in the shallow water. The boatman sat in it, swinging fits arms across his chest to warm himself

        Jamie called out, "It's a rare nippy morning!  Why don't you take a run on the shore and warm yourself?"

        "Leave the boat?  I wouldn't dare!"  the boatman called back.  "The chief steward would have me beaten black and blue if anything happened to the king's boat today!"

    Jamie put down the iron pot and began poking around in a rock pool, as if he were collecting shellfish.  Suddenly he jumped up and yelled out: "Gold!   Gold!  Yes!  It's bright as the sun!  It must be gold!"

        This was too much for the boatman.  Quick as he could, he was out of the boat, across the sands, and down on his knees by the rock pool, looking for gold.  And Jamie?  He picked up the pot with the live peat in it, skipped lightly across the sands, and untied the boat rope.  Then he jumped aboard, grabbed hold of an oar, and pushed off.

        By the time the boatman looked up, Jamie was out at sea with sail up, the boat flying.  The boatman was furious.  He waved his arms and yelled the angriest, rudest words he could think of.  But there was nothing he could do.

        When King Harald, his chief steward, the princess, and their servants arrived, they too were furious.  And when a whole crowd of curious folk gathered, including Jamie's family, they were not pleased, either.  But what could they do?  Nothing but wait and watch.  Meanwhile, Jamie pointed the   small boat toward Master Stoorworm's mountainous head and sailed on.  When he came close, he jammed the boat up against the monster's mouth, took down the sail, and pulled in the oars.  After that, he waited.  The sun, round and red, rose slowly above a distant valley.  lts bright rays struck Master Stoorworm's two big eyes and woke him up.  He stretched his wide mouth open and began the first of the seven yawns that he yawned each morning before breakfast.

         Now, as Master Stoorworm breathed in, a flood of seawater swept into his mouth and down his throat.  Jamie and the boat were sucked in with it. On and on, faster and faster, they were carried down the monster's throat, which was softly lit, here and there, by a silvery, phosphorescent light.

         At last the water became shallower, and the boat came to rest.  Jamie lifted the iron pot, jumped out of the boat, and ran until he came to the monster's liver.  He pulled a knife out of his pocket and cut a hole in the oily liver.  Then he stuffed the glowing peat into the hole.  He blew and blew until he thought his lips would crack.  But, finally, the peat burst into flame, the oil in the liver hissed and sputtered, there was a flash, and Master Stoorworm's liver was ablaze.

        Jamie ran back to the boat as fast as he could.  He jumped in and held tight - just in time, too.  When Master Stoorworm felt the fierce heat of the fire inside him, he twisted and turned and thrashed about with such violence that he threw up.  The entire contents of the monster's enormous stomach shot up his throat in a torrent, catching hold of the boat and sweeping it along, up and out of his mouth, across the sea, till it landed, high and dry, on a sand dune.

        No one even noticed Jamie!  The king and everyone else who had come to watch - and that included Jamie's granny and the gray cat who had looked up and stretched-all ran off to the top of the nearest hill.

        Jamie was out of the boat in a moment and soon chasing them, trying to escape the huge waves that were crashing ashore as Master Stoorworm thrashed and thundered and writhed.

        By now the monster was more to be pitied than feared.  Black clouds of smoke were belching out of his mouth and nostrilw as the fire inside him grew fiercer.  He tossed to and He flung out his forked tongue and stretched it, up and toward the cool sky.  He tossed his head, and his tongue down so hard it made a huge dent in the earth.  The sea rushed in, and that dent became the crooked straits that now separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden.

        Master Stoorworm drew in his tongue and this time flung his whole head up and up toward the cool sky.  He twisted and turned, and his head came down so hard and fast that some of his teeth fell out and landed in the sea.  And they became the scattered islands that are now called the Orkney Islands.

        Again his head rose.  He tossed it up and up, and when it came down this time, even more teeth fell out.  And they became the Shetland Islands.

        A third time the great head rose up, and when it came down this time, all the rest of his teeth fell out.  And they became the Faroe Islands.

        After that Master Stoorworm coiled himself around and around into a great lump and died.  This lump became Iceland, and the fire that Jamie lit with the burning peat still burns beneath that land.  Even today, there are mountains in Iceland that spew out fire.

        When everyone was absolutely certain Master Stoorworm was dead, King Harald could scarcely contain himself.  He threw his arms around Jamie and called him his son.  He took off his royal cloak and put it on Jamie and gave him his precious sword, Sicker Snapper.  And then the king took hold of the princess's hand and put it in Jamie's.

        Of course, a wedding followed - and such a wedding!  The feasting and dancing lasted for nine whole weeks.  Everyone was happy because Master Stoorworm was dead and they could now live in peace.  And everyone, Jamie's brothers included, agreed that Jamie was their champion - a big hero!

From: Mystical Birds And Beasts From Many Lands
By: Margaret Mayo
Illustration: Jay Ray