Monday, July 16, 2007

Die Vurm

Gathering dust for a hundred years; a source for De Vermis Mysteriis
A University of Alberta paleontologist has helped discover the existence of a 95 million-year-old snakelike marine animal, a finding that provides not only the earliest example of limbloss in lizards but the first example of limbloss in an aquatic lizard.

The fossil was originally collected during the 19th Century from a limestone quarry in Slovenia. It then sat at the Natural History Museum in Trieste, Italy for almost 100 years before Caldwell and a colleague found it in 1996 during a trip to Europe. He later connected with Alessandro Palci, then a graduate student in Italy whom he helped supervise, and they worked on the fossil together.

The researchers soon realized the lizard's front limbs were not formed during development. "There was a moment when I said, 'I think we stumbled on a new fossil illustrating some portion of the aquatic process of losing limbs,'" said Caldwell. "There are lots of living lizards that love to lose their forelimbs and then their rearlimbs, but we didn't know it was being done 100 million years ago and we didn't know that it was happening among groups of marine lizards."

Ancient giant serpents were known as worms (vurms, wurms),in Europe. Giant serpents or legless lizards may have existed into the modern age. They are not to be confused with Dragons, which are a different kind of beastie, though they commonly are.

If huge giant things roaming the Scottish hills were not enough, we have also had to contend with huge dragon things too. If you had been around in the 12th century you could have visited the Linton Worm who lived in a hollow outside Jedburgh on Linton Hill in the Scottish Borders (still called Worms Den to this day). The dragon terrorised the country, eating cattle and generally making a nuisance of himself. He was finally dispatched at the point of a peat-coated lance by a courageous - some would say reckless - lad called Sommerville of Larison. There have been no more dragon-sightings since.

Like the Lambton worm which was featured in Bram Stokers Lair of the White Worm. Which was made into a passable bit of gothic horror blasphemy by over the top art house director Ken Russell.

The Nordic saga of the Giant worm plays a role in the popular revolutionary imagination of Wagners Ring Cycle.

Now the Giants have the Hoard and Ring safe-kept by a monstrous Worm in the Gnita- (Neid-) Haide [the Grove of Grudge]. Through the Ring the Nibelungs remain in thraldom, Alberich and all. But the Giants do not understand to use their might; their dullard minds are satisfied with having bound the Nibelungen. So the Worm lies on the Hoard since untold ages, in inert dreadfulness: before the lustre of the new race of Gods the Giants' race fades down and stiffens into impotence; wretched and tricksy, the Nibelungen go their way of fruitless labour. Alberich broods without cease on the means of gaining back the Ring.
In the period around this first prose résumé and the first libretto sketches for the Ring, the years 1848 and 1849, Wagner also wrote several important texts which may shed light on his intentions with the tetralogy. Among them are «Die Wibelungen. Weltgeschichte aus der Sage» (The Wibelungen. World History as told in Saga), which includes several sections on the Nibelungs, «Die Revolution» (The Revolution), «Die Kunst und die Revolution» (Art and Revolution) and «Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft» (The Art-work of the Future), all written in 1849 These works are very likely to have been influenced by the philosopher Feuerbach, whom Wagner is known to have read at that time, and with whose writings stylistically common traits have been found at least in The Wibelungen, by the anarchist Proudhon, whom he probably also read (certainly in Paris in 1849), as well as by the ideas of the socialist thinkers Max Stirner, Mikhael Bakunin and Karl Marx.

A Brief Introduction to Norse Myth

When Ragnarok would come,
the winter would last for three years and would be
extremely bitter. The two giant wolves, Skoll and Hati,
would devour the Sun and Moon whilst starts would fall
from the heavens. The giant worm Nidhogg, which was
gnawing on the roots of the Yggdrasil for the longest of
times, would finally succeed. The root Nidhogg succeeded
in gnawing through was the root that supported Niflheim.
Loki, who had been confined for causing Balder's death
escaped his imprisonment. Loki would rally with the
frost giants and his offspring and would lead them
against the Sons of Mankind and the Gods. Fenrir would
escape the magical Fetter, the Midgard Serpent,
Jormungand, would slither out of the ocean. The Frost
Giants and Mountain Giants would leave their home in
Jotunheim, sailing on a ship known as Naglfar, whilst
their cousins the fire giants would leave their realm
of Fire, Muspelheim.

And Australia has recorded the largest earth worm ever, 13 feet long.

Of course worms are not legless serpents, nor some strange creature out of Tremors. Or out of the sewer in a town in Georgia.

Employees at the Huddle House had been having problems with the restaurant’s drainage line clogging up and when plumbers came by to check on the problem they found that some unknown species of animal had apparently crawled through the city sewer lines toward the Huddle House until it became lodged in the line just short of the outside clean-out plug. When a worker spotted the plug, he grabbed it and began pulling it out. And he pulled and he pulled and he pulled until an eight foot long, white, skinless, eyeless snake-like creature emerged. At first glance, it appeared to be a long grease clog. But closer inspection revealed that its composition was of a meat-like consistency. And it had the makings of a mouth. But, apparently, had no skeletal structure.

Or in the Gobi Desert.
The first time you hear about the Mongolian Death Worm you assume it has to be a joke; it sounds too much like the monster from a B-movie or an especially dire comic book to be true. A five-foot (1.5m) long worm dwelling in the vast and inhospitable expanses of the Gobi Desert, the creature is known to Mongolia’s nomadic tribesmen as the allghoi khorkhoi (sometimes given as allerghoi horhai or olgoj chorchoj) or ‘intestine worm’ for its resemblance to a sort of living cow’s intestine. Apparently red in colour, sometimes described as having darker spots or blotches, and sometimes said to bear spiked projections at both ends, the khorkhoi is reputedly just as dangerous as its alarming appearance would suggest, squirting a lethal corrosive venom at its prey and capable of killing by discharging a deadly electric shock, even at a distance of some feet.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are offering a free documentary, watchable on their website, on the hunt for the fabled "Mongolian Death Worm". In 2005, respected writer-researcher Richard Freeman led a four man team from the CFZ to Mongolia in search of the notorious worm; a fabled reptilian beast said to spit venom and kill its victims with electric blasts. The investigation is documented in "The Lair of the Red Worm", which can be viewed in two parts - Part One and Part Two.
And in this day and age of modern virtual myths you can play a Giant Worm in a PC Game.

Giant worms fascinate us.
We loved them in Beetlejuice, we thought they were cool in Dune, and we loved watching them be blown away in Tremors. I've seen giant worms pop up as enemies in games before, most recently in Lost Planet. Death Worm may be the first game, indie or otherwise, that lets us play as the giant beasts though.



Snakes Alive

Nessies Relative

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