research on Welsh dragons on our Earth and their legends
|Research of Dragons; Welsh Dragons:
The image of a dragon that most have is of creatures with a rough scaly skin like a leather hide couch, bat-like webbed wings and vicious claws. Such was the dragon of Wales who fought a lengthy battle with his foe and is now remembered by Welsh on their national flag. The Welsh Dragon was associated with Wales in the Historia Brittonum. This ancient text, purportedly written around 830 by the monk Nennius, is the earliest known history of the Britons, and neighbouring Wales. In the Historia a struggle is described between two dragons, deep underground beneath the hill of Dinas Emrys in Wales which prevented King Vortigern from building a castle in Britain.
1. King Vortigern, The legend of Vortigern tells of the King attempting to escape from Anglo Saxon invaders by fleeing to Wales. He found the mysterious hill of Dinas Emrys and decided to build a castle there. His men set to work building the towers of the stronghold, only to find them collapsed the next day. This went on for weeks, until Vortigern was told the answer to the mystery would be found by a young boy who had no father.
2. Merlin, Vortigern sent his men out far and wide to find such a child, and they eventually returned with a boy called Myrddin Emrys – or Merlin. Vortigern believed that he was meant to kill the child to stop the towers falling, but Merlin stopped him by explaining that the reason that the towers would not stay upright was that there was a battle raging beneath them between two dragons in a pool. One was White, the dragon of the Saxons, and it was currently winning the battle. The other was Red, the British Red Dragon. This was clearly a metaphor for the Adventus Saxonum the date of the arrival of the Saxons in Britain(around 449). There is one native dragon who inhabited the hill firstand a different, foreign breed of dragon who was fighting it for supremacy.
3. Lludd and Llefelys. How the dragons came to be hiding out beneath the hill in Wales is told in the prose poem Lludd and Llefelys, which was written in 12th or 13th Century. This tells a wonderful story about a time when Lludd ruled Britain (c 100 BCE) and came across a problem he could not solve. It surrounded a terrifying scream which appeared from nowhere every May Eve. It cause chaos, as no-one knew where it emanated from, and rumours spread that it was causing infertility and strife throughout the country. At his wits end Lludd asked his brother Llfelys, the King of Gaul, who told him that the noise was caused due to a battle between two dragons. One was native and the other foreign. When the native dragon was losing the battle it would scream. Find the dragons and the problem would be solved.
4. Find The Dragons, People at that time believed that dragons changed form, and one form they took was of swine. Lludd captured the fighting dragons while they were in their swine guise by using a cauldron of beer. Having captured the dragons Lludd decided to bury them at Dinas Emrys, deep underground so that the screams could not be heard.
5. The Welsh Flag, The Red Dragon which appears on the Welsh flag was granted official status in 1959, although it has been used to represent Wales on various insignia many years prior to this. In 1400 Owain Glyndwr raised the dragon standard during his uprising against the occupation of Wales by the English King. Ironically, however, a mere fifteen years later the English King Henry V himself flew the Red Dragon standard at the Battle of Agincourt against the French. This was partly because they used a large number of Welsh longbowmen for the battle – which Shakespeare alludes to in his play Henry V. When Henry Tudor won the Battle of Bosworth Field, taking the English throne from Richard III, he carried the Red Dragon standard in state to St Paul’s Cathedral. Shortly afterwards the Tudor livery of green and red was added to the background of the flag, and thus it remains to this day.
The dragon which watched the golden apples of Hesperides, and the Payshthamore, or great worm, which in Ireland guards the riches of O’Rourke, is the same malarious creature which St. Samson drove out of Wales. According to the monkish legend this pestiferous beast was of vast size, and by its deadly breath had destroyed two cities. It lay hid in a cave near the river. Thither went St. Samson accompanied only by a boy, and tied a linen girdle about the creature’s neck, and drew it out and threw it headlong from a certain high eminence into the sea. This dreadful dragon became mild and gentle when addressed by the saint. . . . The mysterious beast of the boy Taliesin’s song in the marvelous legend of Gwion Bach, told in the The Mabinogion, is a dragon worthy to be classed with the gigantic conceptions of primeval imagination, which sought by these prodigious figures to explain all the phenomena of nature. “A noxious creature from the ramparts of Santanas,” sings Taliesin, “with jaws as wide as mountains; in the hair of its two paws there is the load of 900 wagons, and in the nape of its neck three springs arise, through which the sea-roughs swim.”
Cuchulain, the supreme Irish hero, who had to undergo Herculean tests of fortitude, was once attacked by such a beast of magic, which flew on horrible wings from a lake. Cuchulain sprang up to inect it, giving his wonderful hero-leap, thrust his arm into the dragon’s mouth and down its throat and tore out its heart. With figures from such legends as these Spenser embellished his Faery Queene, picturing an
“. . . ugly monster plaine,
Half like a serpent horribly displaide
But th’ other half did woman’s shape retaine,
Most lothsom, filthie, foule, and full of vile disdaine.”
A very ancient fragment of the Celtic myth still remembered among Scottish Gaels is the tale of Froach and the Rowan Tree, preserved in the Book of Linsmore, a Gaelic text of the sixteenth century. There was a king in the land whose wife was named Meve, and they had a marriageable daughter, the princess. The rowan (our mountain ash) stood among the ancient Celts as ‘the tree of life’ because wondrous medicinal virtues were believed to reside in its red berries; and the lesson of the tale exhibits the sin and dire consequences of disturbing its growth. The king with Queen Meve and their daughter lived near a lake in the midst of which was an island on which stood a rowan-tree guarded by a dragon, as is told in Henderson’s translation in verse of the old ‘grete’:
A rowan tree grew on Loch Meve–
Southwards is seen the shore–
Every fourth and every month
Ripe fruit the rowan bore:
Fruit more sweet than honeycomb,
Its clusters virtues strong,
Its berries red could one but taste
Hunger they stand off long.
Its berries’ juice and fruit when red
For you would life prolong:
From dread disease it gave relief
If what is told be our belief.
Yet though it proved a means of life
Peril lay closely nigh;
Coiled by its root a dragon lay,
Forbidding passing by.
In the neighbourhood dwelt a young nobleman named Froach, the suitor of the king’s daughter, who tells him that her mother, the queen, is ill, and that her only cure is in the berries of the rowan growing on the island as gathered by Froach’s hands. Froach protested a little at the extreme peril of the task given him, but bravely agreed to try, and stripping off his clothes plunged in. Swimming to the island he gathered and brought back a goodly quantity of the ripe berries, unnoticed by the dragon. But Meve declared that they were useless–to cure her she must have a branch of the tree bearing fruit.
Froach gave consent; no fear he knew
But swam the lake once more;
But hero never yet did pass
The fate for him in store.
The rowan by the top he seized,
From root he pulled the tree;
And the monster of the lake perceived
As Froach from the land made free.
The dragon then attacked the hero, who had no weapon, “and shore away his arm.” The princess seeing his plight, ran into the water and gave the man a sword, with which he ultimately killed the brute; but his wounds were fatal, and he reached the shore only to deliver the tree and the dragon’s head to the women, and to die at their feet. In another version, however, Froach is nursed in the palace to recovery, outwits a rival, and obtains the princess despite Queen Meve’s ill will.
Very similar and more famous is the romance of Tristan and Iseult, which was written out by Gottfried Strasburger, a German poet who lived early in the thirteenth century. In Ireland, his poem tells us, was once a dreadful dragon wasting the land. The king swore a solemn oath that he would give his daughter, Princess Iseult, to whatever man should slay it. Many knights tried the feat, but lost their lives: always with the candidate rode the seneschal of the palace, but always at sight of the beast he ran away to safety. At last the knight Tristan offered himself, and rode toward the dragon’s den, accompanied by the seneschal, who turned back the moment danger appeared, but Tristan rode on steadily. “Ere long he saw the monster coming towards him breathing out smoke and flame from its open jaws. The knight laid his spear in rest and rode so swiftly, and smote so strongly that the spear . . . pierced through the throat into the dragon’s heart.” The beast was not yet quite killed, however, and fled with Tristan’s spear sticking in its vitals. The knight followed fast, overtook the brute, and a long and terrific fight ensued, “so fierce that the shield he held in his hand was burnt well-nigh to a coal” by the flames from the dragon’s nostrils. Struggling painfully back to the king’s city, the exhausted hero fell into a pond and would have drowned had not Iseult and her mother come by and dragged him out. Then the cowardly seneschat asserted he had done the glorious deed, whereupon Tristan shows the tongue of the dragon as evidence of his own claim to the reward. This is an example of the many mediaeval stories of later birth (progeny of Perseus), in which some untoward circumstance prevents the hero establishing his claim before an impostor has run before him to the court, yet wins in the end by means of concealed evidence.
When St. Patrick ordered the serpents of Ireland into the sea one of the older reptiles refused to obey; but the saint overmastered it by stratagem. He made a box and invited the serpent to enter in, pretending it would be a nice place for it to sleep in. The serpent said the box was too small, but St. Patrick maintained it was quite large enough. So high at length rose the argument that the serpent got into the box to prove it too small; whereupon St. Patrick clapped down the lid and threw the box into the sea.
The castle of Bamburgh, where lived the kings of Northumberland, of an austere appearance, was perched on a granite headland at the end of a vast strand, a small village nested against its sides. During a certain time, these already lugubrious places were transformed into a source of pain and desolation. That occurred with the second marriage of a sovereign which lived at this time.
This king was widowed and an extremely old man, and he had two children. His son, Childe Wynde, was waging war far way when they celebrated the new weddings. Her daughter, the young and charming Margaret, made good greeting to her future mother-in-law.
The new lady of the manor, of a cold beauty and haughty ways, was also, said people, of a cruel nature. At the time of the banquet, her distant attitude caused the surprise of the courtiers. When the songs succeeded the drinkings, the general favour went to Margaret, and comparisons were established between her and the married, unfavorable to the last one.
The night came, whereas everyone rested in the castle, the queen put herself at work. Weighed down by the good expensive meat and the generous wine, the king whirred. She threaded in the court lit by the moon and traced on the ground mysterious symbols by murmuring incantations.
A little later, Margaret woke up, with an odd taste in the mouth, the limbs strangely heavy. A terrible hunger tortured her. Something shone in the dim light. It was a clawed paw, covered with shinning scales which shone under the moon. The young girl had a shiver of horror because the paw made a jump in her direction. She pushed a raucous cry which did not have anything human and rolled to the bottom of her bed. Then the large tail, with which she was equipped from now on, was agitated furiously, crashing in to pieces in it passage all the furniture of the room. At the end, the dragon newly born, exhausted because of so many emotions, collapsed on the ground and fell asleep.
The following day, in the bright morning, the castle was filled of cries and lamentations. Pushed by the hunger, the dragon which Margaret had become had slipped to the bottom of the stairways and had penetrated in the court, where arrived the odor of a herd of sheep feeding in the vicinity. Descending the hill, it had precipitated and made devastations. At satisfied present, it was held rolled up around a rocky outcrop called Spindlestone Heugh to enjoy the tepidity of the morning sun.
The people were terrified. They took counsel from wizards; they denounced the criminal action of the new queen and indicated the means of breaking the enchantement. "If you want to see Margaret taking again his real appearance and the queen to receive a right punishment, send someone to seek Childe Wynde beyond the seas," advised the wizards.
Thus this was made, although the king, decreased by the age, had refused to believe the wickedness of his wife. The dragon remained, it presence frightening and mephitic, but it ceased devastating the herds in exchange of a daily ration of milk. It is all they could do, because nobody knew how to extract the sould of Margaret to his prison of scales.
Overseas, the news came in Childe Wynde. He brings together his companions and set sail towards England, on board a ship out of wood of sorb, well-known for its resistance to the powers of evil. But an adversary caused by the capacity magic of the queen awaited the warriors. When they were in the sight of the crenelated ramparts of the castle, an terrifying spectacle was offered to their eyes. A whole band of sprites danced on the peak of the waves, formless shades almost invisible if were not for their dazzling teeth and their blazing eyes. They made circle, such as bats, around the mainmast but the skittle of sapwood fills its goal and they could not damage the ship. At the end, exhausted, the sprites regained the trough of the waves and, tossed like bung, saw the ship gain the shore.
But the queen, alone in her room, she was conceiving other magic spells. The dragon unrolled its rings and slipped towards the strand, feeling reluctant to oppose to the vessel of which it recognized the flags, but unable to resist its impulse. It thrown itself to water and, with powerful beats of its tail, went ahead of the ship. It gave face against prow. There was a great cracking and the oarsman fell from their banks. Two times, Childe Wynde and its crew began again to sail and twice still the dragon made blocade. At the end, Childe Wynde managed to gain without encumbers a small split rather far away from the castle. He approached on a pebble beach and jumped to ground with his archers. Suddenly, a company of gulls spouts out close to the dunes and a thick fog wrapped the men. A scaly muzzle bored the fog, and they saw shining an eye of the size and the color of a lemon, covered with a heavy twinkling eyelid.
Childe Wynde held up his sword, ignoring that this monstrous body was used as prison to her sister, and his companions tightened their arc. Then the dragon opened the mouth and pushed a great cry. Within the tumult, Childe Wynde distinctly heard the voice of Margaret who indicated him the way on how to saves her.
The knight made move back his men, shelter his sword and, kneeling in front of the animal of which the breath burned his cheeks and his eyes, twice he kissed the poisonous scales very close to the hooks. The sharp blades lacerated his mouth, but he gave the final kiss and the dragon started to decay. Its glance darkened and its body fades like a dead leaft. There remained soon only the yellow envelope and emptied which, after, disappeared. Instead, hold was held thin naked girl, the smooth and soft skin like the one of a new-born baby. It was Margaret. Childe Wynde hastened to protect her from the marine breeze by covering her with his coat. Then, accompanied by the men-at-arms, the brother and the sister moved to the castle.
The joy was quite complete when they arrived, but the young man wanted to finish his task. He went in the room of the queen witch, whose magic capacities had disappeared as soon as the sapwood skittle had touched the strand. He found her packed on herself in a corner of the room. Her eyes shone of fear when she saw him taking out of his pocket a branch of the same sorb which had been used for the built of the ship, and she was packed even more still without uttering a sound. Then the rod touched her and she pushed a long howl which was completed in a raucous croaking. The queen had lost her human appearance and instead of her was standing, tiny and very wrinkled, a toad.
Childe Wynde moved back, seized of dislike, then he started to laughing. Like escaping the mockery, the toad leaped out of the room, tumble down awkwardly the stairway of the keep and went to take refuge in some hole of the wet cave. They never see her again. Only a weak painful croaking spouted out sometimes from the underground galleries.