"The Worm Will Turn"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The original worm was not of the kind that could be crushed to death when stepped on, but the Anglo-Saxon "wyrm," a serpent. Today's pithy equivalent of Cervantes' expression is "The worm will turn." At the end of Part I of Don Quixote (1605), appears the promise of a sequel. Before Cervantes published his sequel, an unknown writer of Tordesillas published from Tarragona a spurious second volume. The infuriated Cervantes hurried to complete his own book, published the next year with a preface declaring:

Bless me! reader, gentle or simple, or whatever you be, how impatiently by this time must you expect this Preface, supposing it to be nothing but revengeful invectives against the author of the second Don Quixote. But I must beg your pardon; for I shall say no more of him than every body says, that Tordesillas is the place where he was begotten, and Tarragona the place where he was born; and though it be universally said, that even a worm, when trod upon, will turn again, yet I'm resolved for once to cross that proverb. You perhaps now would have me call him coxcomb, fool, and madman; but I'm of another mind; and so let his folly be its own punishment.