I've talked before about the transforming power of love, and specifically about the transforming power of love in "Prince Lindworm." But that was a 20+ page academic essay, and who wants to read a 20+ page academic essay? (Although, if you do, it's here.) So let's talk about it again, in a more casual setting.
We've gone over the bizarro transformation sequence before, but let's run through it again for anyone who's new here: Girl forced to marry snake monster with history of eating wives. Girl wears 10 shifts under her wedding dress. Lindworm asks girl to take off shift, girl demands lindworm take off skin first. Lindworm complies, repeat 10 times. Girl whips nasty mass of skinless lindworm with whips dipped in lye. Girl dunks nasty mass of skinless, whipped lindworm in tub of milk. Girl embraces nasty mass of sticky, skinless, whipped lindworm. Lindworm turns into hot guy.
Now, the majority of the transformation process is extremely violent. It also sort of matches up with the Catholic sacrament of penance, which is consistent with the whole story being a Christian allegory, which you can read about here. And transformation through violence is certainly an established pattern in folklore, as we see most prominently in The Frog King, but also in more minor forms in a number of stories from throughout Europe. Which I will talk about more in a future blog.
But today we're going to focus on that last step. On that embrace.
There are a few things to keep in mind here. Firstly, hugging a dragon-thing that wants to eat you? Really gross and unpleasant. Secondly, hugging any sort of creature that has, through various abuses, become a quivering mass of exposed muscle and veins, likely bleeding profusely? Really, really gross and unpleasant. Thirdly, is "embrace" a euphemism? Maybe. Let's not dwell on the logistics of that. Fourthly, this girl is the lindworm's third bride, which probably means she's the third shot at transformation. An old woman in the forest told her what to do; there's no reason to believe she didn't give the same instructions to the two brides the lindworm ate, even if the text doesn't spell this out; there's a strong tradition in folklore of three people speaking to a mysterious old woman, and the first two ignoring her and dying.
So, my theory: the first two girls may have ignored the instructions entirely, but even if they didn't, they wouldn't have been able to complete the last step. Because it's the last step that makes our heroine remarkable. The last step is a kindness. To take up in your arms a disgusting, suffering thing, which would have destroyed you given the chance, to provide comfort - that takes a special kind of person.
A lot of weird, creepy things went into making the lindworm a man. But ultimately, the thing that changed him was one moment of kindness.
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