NIA JONES tells us about the sad story of Gelert, the faithful hound.
Beddgelert is a small village in the area of Snowdonia in Gwynedd, it stands at the confluence of the Rivers Glaslyn and Colwyn. Beddgelert means “Gelert’s Grave” and the town’s namesake is reputedly inspired by a legendary hound.
During the early 13th century Gwynedd was ruled by Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, Prince of Wales and Joan, Princess of Wales, and later Lady of Snowdon, the daughter of England’s King John. Their union produced a son, Dafydd ap Llywelyn and a daughter Elen Ferch Llywelyn.
On the occasion of Prince Llewellyn’s marriage to Joan, King John gifted him his best hunting dog. The Prince was a keen hunter and owned a many hunting lodges.
The hound became known as Gelert and never left the Prince’s side as his favourite and most faithful companion. The dog was treated more like his offspring, at the sound of the hunting horn Gelert was always the first to obey his master.
The hills of Carnarvonshire were over-run with wolves and foxes killing the young spring lambs, and Gelert never failed in catching them.
During the hunting season the Prince left his lodge for Aber with his huntsmen, leaving a few servants and Gelert to guard his infant son, Dafydd. Gelert remained alongside the sleeping child’s cradle while the servants busied themselves with preparations for the Prince’s return.
Some time later Gelert heard an unfamiliar sound; sniffing the air he sensed a predator had entered the royal lodge. A growling wolf made its way up to the sleeping infant’s room – hunting for its next meal.
Gelert stood to attention ready to defend the sleeping baby from the bloodthirsty wolf. A savage struggle ensued, killing the intruder took every ounce of Gelert’s strength and determination. In the tussle, the room had become a blood -soaked mess and the child in his cot had been overturned. With a final bite to the neck the wolf was dead, Gelert collapsed injured, bleeding and exhausted to the floor.
The Prince returned to witness the disarray, the overturned cradle with its bloodied bedclothes, he looked for baby Dafydd but found no sign of him and his favourite hound was drenched in blood. A red mist came upon Prince Llewellyn’s eyes and he immediately accused Gelert of killing Dafydd, unable to contain his rage the Prince drew his sword and plunged it straight through Gelert’s heart.
As the hound howled his last and died, a baby began to cry from under the cradle, Llewellyn discovered his son unharmed, the body of the slain wolf nearby. Prince Llewellyn dropped to his knees next to his faithful dog, filled with remorse and grief for his terrible mistake he cradled Gelert in his arms, sobbing over the loss of his companion by his own angry hand.
Gelert was mourned by everybody in the kingdom, he was given a state funeral with full honours and buried in a meadow, the Prince planted a tree and marked his grave with a stone cairn. He then named a village Beddgelert in memory of the the hound’s burial site. After losing his beloved hound, it was said that the Prince never smiled again.
NIA JONES is Spooky Isles Assistant Editor and Wales Correspondent. She is a playwright and writer who has written for many different publications including The Guardian Community Film Blog, The New Empress magazine, The Best You.co and Inside Media Track. Follow her on Twitter @niaserenwib Read her previous articles on Spooky Isles here