Monster Month: Indus Worm

Indus Worm

Here we are at the final day of monsters.  I remember stumbling onto this guy years ago, but promptly forgot.  For any fans of modern fiction, the Indus Worm might make you think of the Graboids from ‘Tremors’ or the sandworms from ‘Dune’ or ‘Beetlejuice’.  Odd combo there.  So, what is the mythological version?

These white worms live in the Indus River and appear in ancient Greek writings.  They are also called the skolex and horrible Indian Worm.  They are said to be the only creature inhabiting the muddy depths of the river.  Obviously, they resemble a worm and were originally said to be around 10 feet long.  That size has been altered depending on what the tale needs them to do.  Indus Worms have an upper and lower tooth, which are square and are 15 inches long.  Some versions smell of the rotting flesh they’re digesting.  Finally, they are too thick for a child to hug and their skin is two fingers thick.

You can tell from the picture that the Indus Worm is carnivorous.  By day, they stay in the water and burrow through the mud.  Maybe their white skin made them susceptible to getting burned in the sun.  It was at night that they would be dangerous.  They would attack from below and could grab even animals as big as cows and camels.  So, a human would be a snack.  They don’t devour prey right away.  Instead, they drag them underground to eat when they get hungry.  Some stories do have them grabbing animals that are drinking from the river . . . Huh.

The Indus Worm is prized for the oil it produces, which is so rare that only the king of India is allowed to have it.  The oil is very flammable and can consume wood and animals with ease.  This made it perfect as a siege weapon.  You can only put out Indus Worm fires by throwing clay and garbage over the flames.  That makes it very dangerous, especially during a battle where you won’t have time to get those things.  The oil was kept in clay pots and thrown into cities like grenades.

So, how do you get the oil?  You capture the worm on a chain using either a lamb or a kid (baby goat!) as bait.  They you kill it, which makes sense.  After that, you hang the Indus Worm corpse for 30 days and keep basins underneath to catch the oil.  You get 5 points of oil per body.  Doesn’t really sound like a lot from a large beast, but this may only be for the smaller, original versions.

Now, there is a real creature that could explain the Indus Worm.  You may have picked up on the hint as well.  A predator that lunges out of the river to drag prey away.  That would be a crocodile.  Oil was extracted from crocodiles to use on burns and food because it has more fat than fish oil.  What about the white skin?  That comes from one report and albinism has been recorded in crocodilian species.  They are rare, but someone could see one lurking in the muddy waters and think it’s a worm instead of a reptile.

And there you have the last of our monsters.  Hope you enjoyed it.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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14 Responses to Monster Month: Indus Worm

  1. I did enjoy the series, Charles. You finished with a frightening one too.


  2. L. Marie says:

    Wow! Thanks for all of the research you did!

    When I read about the oil produced by these creatures, I wondered if Frank Herbert got the idea for his sandworms from the indus worm. But I read somewhere online that he based his worms on dragon mythology.


  3. V.M.Sang says:

    What a fun lot of monsters you’ve given us, Charles. I really enjoyed this series.


  4. I wonder who was the lucky soul that had to go catch giant worms as.their day job!


  5. noelleg44 says:

    I enjoyed your monsters, Charles. This one is particularly scary to me!


  6. Before I even started reading the image made me think of Beetlejuice. Really enjoyed this series and am glad it will return.


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