It was when walking alongside the river we passed the grave of Gelert from where the village begets its name and I was reminded of one of my favourite, though saddest stories from Welsh history. Here is the tale as I remember it....
It was many years ago back in ages dark when Llywelyn, Prince of North Wales made his abode within the stronghold of Snowdonia and out of reach of Saxons and their greedy laws. Within his realm Llywelyn was considered a just Prince and was loved by his loyal people. He would treat his subjects with fairness whether they be a lord or a pauper and each would always remark upon his easy going way with folk and how a smile always lit up the Prince's handsome face.
When roaming his lands, whether it be hunting wild boar or attending his royal duties, Llywelyn would always be accompanied by his great hound, Gelert. Oh Gelert what shall I tell thee about this hound that was loved by all but never with as much passion as with what the Prince adored him. Gelert, just calling him a hound pays him no justice at all for he was the mightiest of all dogs, as tall as a small horse, as brave as anything that walked the earth, as gentle as a new born lamb and whom loved his master with every fibre of his soul. Oh Gelert if only your line had continued to this day what fine hounds would walk the earth.
In due course Llywelyn fell in love with a beautiful woman as is the way of things and not long after they were married she gave birth to the Prince's son. Oh the celebrations were fine and long lasting with the grog overflowing and plenty of suckling pig to be had by all. And when I say all that is exactly what I mean for both Lord and pauper were welcomed at the feasting and it went on for many a day. After such a feasting the Prince's head was a tad delicate, as it should be, and with his loyalist of friends they decided that hunting some wild boar that had been tearing up some pasture in the next valley would clear their heads no end. But being mindful of his newborn son Llywelyn left Gelert behind to help settle his wife's nerves and probably keep his own mind at ease whilst upon the hunt.
So the Prince's retinue headed off on the hunt leaving his home virtually unguarded with just a elderly woman to care for the child and of course Gelert for after all what harm could befall with the mighty hound and the mountains guarding his stronghold?
What harm indeed, the hunt went all day and it was the late hours of the evening as darkness cloaked the valley when the tired hunters and their retinue returned. As Llywelyn entered the Great Hall he was greeted by his faithful hound Gelert, but instead of joy Llywelyn felt the icy fingers of dread claw at his soul. For as Gelert bounded and leapt at his beloved master blood still dripped from his maw and his passing steps were witnessed by bloody prints on the cold stone floor. With panic setting in Llywelyn rushed to his child's room only to find the rendered body of the elderly woman strewn in corridor outside, without pausing Llywelyn flew into his son's room to be greeted by the horrific sight of blood strewn walls and furniture clawed and broken with the child's crib upturned and still dripping in scarlet red blood. Maddened at the sight before him Llywelyn drew his sword and smote Gelert, whom had faithfully followed him to the room, with one blow. As the sword struck Gelert's heart he let out one mournful howl that echoed through walls and reverberated off the surrounding mountains.
As Llywelyn hung his head in grief and the last crie of Gelert faded away there came an answer of a child's cry from under the debris of the room. Leaping up Llywelyn cast aside the broken furniture in desperation and there, totally unharmed, his son lay smiling up at him. But his son was not alone for laying aside of him was the body of the largest black Wolf that had been seen in living memory. Too late Llywelyn realised what had happened and that his brave Gelert had killed a Wolf so big as to dwarf himself in defence of Llywelyn's first born son. Filled with remorse Llywelyn carried his ever faithful hound's still warm body to where the Prince's ancestors lay and afforded him a burial reserved for the highest of royalty. From that day forth Prince Llywelyn never smiled either on his face nor in his heart and his realm was a far sadder place in which to live.
A fairytale? Perhaps but I think not as this tale is part of my heritage amongst many others. Like life, not all tales have a happy ending even when the hero does his duty.
Til the next time take good care of yourselves,
John the sage ;-)