Stoor Worm — Orkney’s Dragon

Stoor Worm

Wherever you are in the world, serpents and dragons are a common threat in folklore — a strange coincidence that makes you wonder if these mythical creatures actually existed. The Orkney Islands have their very own dragon that’s featured in many local folk tales and stories, the Stoor Worm. Now, the word worm is more often used to describe sea serpents, like the world serpent Jörmungandr in Norse Mythology.

The Stoor worm is a similar behemoth of epic proportions, with amazing tales of this genre. If you want to hear a story from the islands of Orkney, Shetland and beyond, then you’ve come to the right place. Here’s everything you need to know about the Stoor Worm, including its description and common attributes and stories that have involved



The appearance of the Stoor worm is sourced from the folklorist Jennifer Westwood. She describes the worm’s head as ‘like a great mountain’, its breath was putrid, contaminating plants and destroying animals and humans with each exhalation. This is backed up by Traill Dennison Walter, who reported that the Stoor Worm’s length was ‘beyond telling, and reached thousands and thousands of miles in the sea’.

This makes the Stoor Worm very similar to the World Serpent from Norse mythology, which is further emphasized by the fact that each time the beast yawned, there were giant sea swells and earthquakes. This usually meant that the great Stoor Worm was hungry rather than tired, which doesn’t bode well for the Norse heroes who have to combat the creature.

Unsurprisingly, the Scottish and Norse islands were absolutely terrified of the Stoor Worm. Traill transcribes the Worm as ‘the worst of the nine fearful curses that plague mankind.’ Worse still, Traill describes that there was more than one Stoor Worms within the mythology, which acted as the progeny of the Orcadian behemoth.


Continuing the parallels of Norse mythology, the name Stoor Worm likely originates from the Old Norse word “Storðar-gandr”, which was also used as the name for Jormungandr. Stoor was later adopted by the Scots to describe a violent conflict or bad weather. Later, it was used to describe a large sea dragon or serpent.

The later versions of Stoor merged with Mester, the Scottish terms for master merged with sea serpent to form Mester Stoor Worm which means ‘master and father of all stoorworms’. Serpent and dragon are used interchangeably, where a worm could be an animal of serpent shape.

Stories of the Stoor Worm

There are many sea serpent stories that are told in Scottish and Norse mythology, but the Stoor Worm has a special one involving many Norse heroes. The main story involves the king of the sea worms, deemed Mester Stoor Worm. This is that story:

Story of the Mester Stoor Worm

The most famous story surrounding this mythical serpent-like creature is the Mester Stoor Worm. As the legend goes, the Stoor Worm was so large that wrapped itself around the entire world. In mythology, the Stoor Worm is one of the nine fearful curses that plague mankind that could crush castles and level massive cities wherever its forked tongue falls or maw moves.

The terror is set up as a behemoth challenge for mankind to face, with ships cracking like eggshells before it. The Stoor Worm was larger than any mountain, and its eyes were like dark lochs. The creature was always hungry and would demand that people feed it whenever the Stoor Worm’s head rested upon the earth.

The Mester Stoor Worm eventually developed a taste for people. On the seventh day of each week, it’s written that the Stoor Worm would yawn nine times at sunrise. This signalled that the townsfolk would need to gather up seven virgins to feed to the massive sea dragon.

While this went on for a time, soon, people would begin to grow tired of sacrificing their daughters to the Stoor Worm. They aimed to find an alternative solution to their problem and consulted with a wizard to help them achieve their goals.

The Wizard Provides a Solution

Wizards are an age-old source of solutions and strife in mythologies all over Europe. In this case, the wizard offered a unique solution to the Stoor Worm problem: feed it to the king’s daughter, Princess Gem de Lovely. After the Stoor Worm ate the daughter, the serpent would leave and trouble the townsfolk no longer.

Obviously, the king wasn’t thrilled with this news. His princess was the only daughter he had, and he loved her very deeply. The king argued with the townsfolk and wizard that there must be another solution. He received an ultimatum: find another solution within ten weeks or feed his daughter to the Stoor Worm.

The king set out immediately, sending couriers across his country for a hero who was capable of killing the Stoor Worm once and for all. He offered up his kingdom to anyone who could succeed, a great reward for a great task. To offer even more incentive, the king also offered up a mighty sword that he had inherited from the Allfather – Odin’s magic sword, Sikkersnapper.

Many heroes were attracted to the offer but would often flee as soon as they saw the Stoor Worm. Out of the hundreds that arrived, only 12 would stay to face the monstrous sea serpent. Unfortunately, they were killed shortly after trying to fell the mythical creature.

All hope seemed lost, that is until Assipattle arrived.

Assipattle and the Stoor Worm

In all accounts, he wasn’t much of a hero. Assipattle, the youngest son of a youngest son lived on a farm. He wasn’t much of a farmhand though, and would frequently sit around at their home’s hearth and make up stories and poems. He stayed so long by the hearth that he would become covered in peat ash, which gave him the name ‘Cinder Lad’.

Assipattle’s father and brothers would work hard on their farm and laugh greatly when Assipattle made up stories where he was a renowned hero of legend. They would scorn him for being so lazy and chastised his made-up stories. When Assipattle heard the king’s offer of country and sword, he saw a chance to validate his dreamings and prove his siblings wrong.

He left the farm, taking with him a small boat and a bucket filled with smouldering peat from his home’s hearth. When he arrived at the Stoor Worm, he waited until the cover of darkness and snuck up to the sleeping behemoth. Unfortunately, this was the seventh day of the week, and the Stoor Worm began to yawn and suck Assipattle, his boat, and bucket down the throat of the serpent.

The Stoor Worm is Slain

In the deep, dark and cavernous stomach of the Stoor Worm, Assipattle wasn’t in a great situation, all things considered. He wasn’t deterred, however, and began exploring the recesses of the serpent’s body. Around one corner, Assipattle found the great dragon worm’s liver and drew his knife to stab the Stoor Worm’s liver.

Assipattle then gouged the hole with the smouldering peat that he had brought with him, and the liver began to burn incessantly. The worm dragon started to tremble, and Assipattle saw this as a sign to sprint back to his boat and wait for the opportune moment. The dragon shook and gagged before the Stoor Worm’s mouth spewed Assipattle and his boat out. Luckily, Assipattle lands safely among the waters and begins to watch the dragon slowly burn from the inside out.

The sight was terrifying! Black smoke billows out from the sea serpent’s nostrils, and the stoor worm’s writhing agonies shoot the world as it goes through its final death throes. The creature’s teeth fall out from its dripping mount, and it’s said that they formed the Orkney Isles, Shetland Isles, and the Faroe Islands. The creature finally curls and crashes into the earth, where a tide rushes in that forms the Baltic Sea, and the body forms the island of Iceland.

Assipattle had his happy ending. He was married to the princess, won a kingdom and sword, and the townsfolk celebrated for the Stoor Worm was finally dead.

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