Gelert

A Four-Footed Welsh Hero

famous dogs Gelert

If you visit Wales, you may come to the village of Beddgelert. Not far from the shores of the Glaslyn is a stone grave. The grave is devoted to the memory of Gelert and is inscribed with both Welsh and English text that tells the story of this Welsh hero.

Gelert was a hunting hound who belonged to the Welsh Prince Llywelyn the Great (Llywelyn ap Iorwerth). In the 13th century, Wales was an independent country, struggling to remain free of English rule. Prince Llywelyn used a combination of force and diplomacy to keep his beloved Wales free of England’s rule.

During one diplomatic exchange, King John of England gave the Welsh Prince a beautiful hunting hound. Prince Llywelyn was immediately taken with the dog, which he named Gelert. Gelert soon became a firm favourite, and accompanied the Prince on many hunts through the countryside of Caernarvonshire.

One day, Llywelyn was preparing to leave for a hunt. His horse was saddled and his Princess was already mounted and waiting. The hounds were all there milling around the horses – but Gelert was missing from the pack. Llywelyn blew his hunting horn, but Gelert did not appear. Regretfully, Llywelyn left for the hunt without his favourite dog.

When the hunting party returned to the palace, Llywelyn went inside to see his baby boy. He entered the nursery, only to find it in chaos. The curtains were torn, the cradle upturned, and blood spattered the floor. There was no sign of the baby. Gelert stood there, muzzle dripping with blood, wagging his tail as he saw his master.

Enraged, Llewelyn drew his sword and struck down Gelert. The hound yelped in agony, and fell to the floor, dead. As Llewelyn stood in that room of death, he heard a faint cry. The noise came from a dark corner of the room, under the upturned cradle. Llewelyn lifted the cradle, and there was his son. As Llewelyn hugged his unharmed son, he saw a dark shape lying in the corner. A dead wolf lay there, monstrously huge, and covered in bite wounds.

Llewelyn realised his terrible mistake. Gelert was innocent. The hound had fought to defend the baby from the wolf’s attack. His muzzle was bloody from his long battle with the wolf. He had killed his favourite and most faithful dog.

It is said that from that day, Llewelyn never smiled. The Prince took the body of his beloved dog and buried him by the river, with the proper ceremony that befitted the heroic animal. The supposed site of the grave is marked with a stone cairn, where visitors can come to honour the brave dog’s memory.

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