Beddgelert: Gelert's Grave

Mark Wilson

West Bromwich, United Kingdom

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Gelert is the name of a legendary dog associated with the village of Beddgelert (whose name means “Gelert’s Grave”) in Gwynedd, northwest Wales. The story of Gelert is a variation on the well-worn “Faithful Hound” folk-tale motif, here, the dog is alleged to have belonged to Prince of Gwynedd, Llywelyn, and to have been a gift from King John of England. Legend has it that, Llywelyn returned from hunting to find his son’s cradle overturned, the baby missing and the dog with blood around its mouth. Thinking that Gelert had savaged the child, Llywelyn drew his sword and killed the dog, which let out a final dying yelp. He then heard the cries of his son and finds him unharmed under the cradle, along with a dead wolf which had attacked the child and been killed by Gelert. Llywelyn is then overcome with remorse and he buries the dog with great ceremony, yet he still could hear the dying yelp. After that day Llywelyn never smiled again.

The tree that is the focal point of the picture is the location of Gelert’s grave, which is now a popular tourist attraction in the village. The stunning backdrop is part of the Snowdonia National Park.

In the centre of the panorama is the village church of St. Mary’s, which stands on the site of a Celtic community which was founded in the sixth century, which was endowed by Llywelyn the Great. The original building was badly damaged by fire, in the13th century but the present building still retains some original medieval features, including the transept arches and the stonework around the three lancet windows. The church was heavily restored in the early Victorian period.

The village is also linked with the Rupert Bear stories, as Alfred Bestall wrote and illustrated some of the stories whilst he lived in the village.

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