Gelert is a legendary dog that has remained in the hearts of the Welsh and many dog lovers alike for hundreds of years. Gelert was the pinnacle of man’s best friend and was supposedly the favourite hunting hound of Llewellyn, Prince of Gwynedd, the most powerful man in Wales at the start of the 13th century. The dog has deep ties with the village of Beddgelert, which in NorthWest Wales literally means ‘grave of Gelert’. This tale has been told many times, yet the meaningful insights traverse generations and the story of Gelert still touches the hearts of all those who hear it.
Llewellyn during his contests with the English had settled to make camp with a few followers in the valley. One day he departed with his men on an expedition, leaving his young infant son in a cradle in his tent, under the care of his hound Gelert. Unknowing of the desperate conflict to come. Below are excerpts of “Llewellyn and his Dog” by Hon. W. R. Spencer…
On return that evening, Llewellyn found the tent in tatters on the ground, and Gelert covered with blood, sitting beside it…
Llewellyn gazed with fierce surprise,
Unused such looks to meet,
His favourite checked his joyful guise,
And crouched and licked his feet.
Onward in haste Llewellyn passed —
And on went Gelert too —
And still, where’er his eyes were cast,
Fresh blood-gouts shocked his view!
O’erturned his infant’s bed he found,
The bloodstained covert rent,
And all around, the walls and ground,
With recent blood besprent.
He called his child — no voice replied;
He searched — with terror wild;
Blood! blood! he found on every side,
But nowhere found the child!
“Hell-hound! my child’s by thee devoured!”
The frantic father cried;
And, to the hilt, his vengeful sword
He plunged in Gelert’s side!
His suppliant looks, as prone he fell,
No pity could impart;
But still his Gelert’s dying yell,
Passed heavy o’er his heart.
Aroused by Gelert’s dying yell,
Some slumberer wakened nigh:
What words the parent’s joy can tell,
To hear his infant cry?
Llewellyn removing the canvas found the child in its cradle, quite uninjured. Now filled with conflicting emotions; joy for the preservation of his son, and grief for the fate of his dog, to whom he forthwith hastened.
Concealed beneath a tumbled heap,
His hurried search had missed,
All glowing from his rosy sleep
The cherub-boy he kissed.
Nor scathe had he, nor harm, nor dread —
But the same couch beneath
Lay a gaunt wolf, all torn and dead —
Tremendous still in death!
There the body of an enormous wolf, frightfully torn and mangled, lying near to the upturned cradle. Llewellyn quickly re-painted the scene with the rightful events that transpired. Whilst he was absent a wolf from the neighbouring mountains, in quest of prey, must have found its way into the tent, and was about to devour the child, when watchful and ever loyal Gelert interfered, and after a desperate conflict, in which the tent was torn down, succeeded in ending the true monster. Llewellyn turned to Gelert to discover that the poor animal was not quite dead but presently expired, in the act of licking his master’s hand. Llewellyn mourned over him as over a brother.
Ah! what was then Llewellyn’s pain,
For now the truth was clear;
The gallant hound the wolf had slain,
To save Llewellyn’s heir.
Vain, vain was all Llewellyn’s woe;
“Best of thy kind, adieu!
The frantic deed which laid thee low
This heart shall ever rue!”
And now a gallant tomb they raise,
With costly sculpture decked;
And marbles, storied with his praise,
Poor Gelert’s bones protect.
Llewellyn buried Gelert with funeral honours in the valley and erected a tomb over him as one would over a hero. From that time the valley was called Beth Gelert.
Here never could the spearman pass,
Or forester, unmoved;
Here oft the tear-besprinkled grass
Llewellyn’s sorrow proved.
And here he hung his horn and spear,
And there, as evening fell,
In fancy’s ear he oft would hear
Poor Gelert’s dying yell.
The popularity and impact of the characters and the happenings in this tale cover some very powerful emotions: -injustice, repentance and grief. These feelings are omnipresently identifiable, and are very likely to have been, or will be, experienced in our own lives. Our love affair with our canine counterparts has been unique throughout the centuries. It is an animal that we are particularly close with and welcome into our family with ease and admiration. They look to us with trust to treat them with kindness and fairness. A bond that is devout with symbiotic loyalty. This legend truly strikes at the sentimental heart of such a dog-loving nation.
If you fancy bringing your pup for an ultimate dog-walk in this mystical landscape, then why not pay our Brecon accommodation a visit? We can offer kennels free of charge to pamper any sized pooch. Book direct for our best rates or give us a call on 01874 730 371 to enquire.