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The Legend of Gelert the Faithful Hound

Wed 19th May 2021

The Hound Gelert is a Welsh folk tale about a legendary hound from the village of Beddgelert (meaning "Gelert's Grave") in Gwynedd, north-west Wales.   

In the legend, Prince Llywelyn Prince of Wales was a great huntsman who married the daughter of King John of England and his father-in-law gifted him a beautiful hound named Gelert.  Gelert was a fine hunting-dog who had a very gentle nature and endeared himself to Prince Llyselyn and his family. The favoured dog inside the castle, some huntsman thought he was perhaps a little too cared-for and therefore not much use hunting outside. Prince Llywelyn didn't agree for he knew his trusted friend was a fine hunter.

One day, the Prince decided to go on one of his regular hunting ventures and called for his dogs and huntsmen. When the hunting-horn was blown, Gelert was nowhere to be seen. He tried again, but still Gelert did not come. The morning was getting on so the Prince decided to prepare for the hunt, leaving Gelert behind. Unbeknownst to the Prince, Gelert was in fact inside the castle resting peacefully beside Prince Llyselyn's son who was asleep in the cradle.

When the prince returned from the day's hunting, he found an overturned empty cradle and blood scarily everywhere - Gelert too had blood stains around his mouth. Instantly believing the dog had attacked his son, he drew his sword in vain and killed the dog.

Illustration of the legend of Gelert - U.S. work that in the public domain
Illustration of the legend of Gelert - U.S. work that in the public domain

Not a second later he heard the soft cry of his baby boy and discovered him safe behind the cot with the biggest wolf he had ever seen lying dead beside it. The brave and protective Gelert had saved the life of Prince Llywelyn's only son. The Prince quickly realised he had drawn a wrong conclusion and was instantly filled with guilt and remorse. Trying to make amends, he buried Gelert with great ceremony outside the castle walls, in a shady spot under a tree which is now marked by a stone monument - Gelert's Grave.

Gelert's grave at Beddgelert - image care of Raymond Knapman Creative Commons 2.0 license
Gelert's grave at Beddgelert - image care of Raymond Knapman Creative Commons 2.0 license

In Beddgelert there is an enclosure, shaded by a lone tree and inside the protected enclosure are two slate plaques that share the Gelert Dog's brave story - one in English and one in Welsh.

The Welsh have a proverb: "Before avenge first know the cause" and it was Prince Llywelyn who first made this saying popular; while the story of him and his brave hound gave rise to another saying: "As sorry as the man who killed his greyhound".

Gelert’s Grave plaques - image care of Robert Brook public domain.
Gelert’s Grave plaques - image care of Robert Brook public domain.

 

By Kirsten Jakubenko

 

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