The Story Finder

Voices in Fairy Tales

by Michelle Tocher

Story finder - Curly

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Shepherdess Who Marries the Lindworm

How could I marry the monstrous lindworm? He had already eaten his first two brides on their wedding nights!

But the king had given his orders. I ran into the woods, tearing myself apart on the thorns, desperate to avoid my fate. Why was I chosen? For my kindness and compassion? What a reward!

An old woman appeared to me from within the bole of a tree. She gave me precise instructions for what I must do on my wedding night.

And so I married that monster, and when I was alone with him in our bedchamber, he came slithering toward me, his forked tongue flashing. He hissed, “Fair maiden, shed your shift!”

Heart pounding, I said: “Prince Lindworm, cast your skin!”

“No one has dared tell me to do that before,” he roared.

“Well, I am telling you now!”

For a moment I thought he would swallow me whole, but instead he began to moan and groan, writhe and wriggle, and all at once, a long, strong snake-skin lay upon the floor beside him.

I took off my shift. It was the first of nine. For every shift I removed, he shed a skin, and he was helpless to prevent it.

Shepherdess who Marries the Lindworm, Prince Lindworm. Illustration by Kay Nielsen.

It is interesting that the shepherdess has to become exposed in order for the lindworm to shed his skins. What was the effect of that act on the lindworm? What does this scene suggest to you about how transformation happens in real life?