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Legend Of Gelert The Dog

The Welsh legend of Gelert the dog is famous throughout Wales. Every schoolchild must have heard it several times, although in Wales, the story is known simply as Beddgelert ('bedd' meaning 'grave', so 'Gelert's Grave' or 'The Grave of Gelert'). How far the story has travelled outside Wales, I do not know, so I will recount it for you now.

Legend Of Gelert The Dog

Legend Of Gelert The DogThe story goes that Prince Llewellyn ap Iorwerth of North Wales had a fine baby whom he worshipped as his son and heir. The baby's mother had died in childbirth, so Prince Llewellyn loved his son all the more because he reminded him of his wife, with whom he could never have another child.

He also had a dog, named Gelert that he had had for years and they were very close too. Gelert always accompanied his master on his hunting expeditions, for he was a huge, fearless hound, completely unafraid of the wolves which still abounded in the locality of Snowdonia in the Thirteenth Century at the time of this story.

One day, the Prince wanted to go hunting, but could not find Gelert, so he left him behind and departed with his friends and their dogs. When he returned, Llewellyn went straight to see his son, but he was heart-stricken to find the cot empty and the bed clothes strewn about the floor soaked in blood.

Prince Llewellyn went out of his mind with grief at the thought of what could have happened to his son. Suddenly, Gelert appeared before him, thumping his tail on the floor in greeting at seeing his master. However, when he saw that Gelert was also covered in blood, he assumed that Gelert had killed his son and plunged his sword into the dog's side.

Gelert let out a loud cry of pain and fell over dying from the mortal blow. However, Gelert's cries were answered by the distant sound of a baby. Prince Llewellyn left his dog to find and assist his son. He was outside, behind a bush. He too was smeared with blood, but it was not his own, for lying nearby was the dead body of a great wolf, which had obviously been killed in a fierce dog fight.

Prince Llewellyn realised the awful truth, picked up his child and rushed inside to do what he could for Gelert, but it was too late. He had to watch his faithful hound take its last gasping breaths before it died.

The Prince was mortified that he had jumped to the wrong conclusion. Gelert had obviously saved his son's life and not killed him out of jealousy as he has suspected. Llewellyn is said to have been so plagued by remorse at the death of his faithful dog that he never ever smiled again, not even when his son said his name for the first time or when he watched him at play.

Prince Llewellyn gave Gelert the best funeral and grave that was possible in the area in those days as a mark of respect and the grave site can still be seen in the village of Beddgelert mountains of Snowdonia to this day.


by +Owen Jones