In the 15th century, that’s more than 500 years ago, tales of mystery and magic were told. This oral, medieval tradition of Welsh storytelling has been put to print and is known as ‘The Mabinogion’.
One of its stories tells of a plague that bewitched the island of Britain. It was described as a terrifying scream heard across the land every Mayday eve. The people were so afraid that, and to quote the Mabinogion, ‘The men would lose their strength, the women the fruit of their wombs, young folk their senses, and all trees left barren.’
The ruler at that time, much troubled by this terror, consulted his wise brother who told him that the screams were made by two dragons fighting. To locate the dragons he would have to find the exact centre of his kingdom and dig a pit there with a tub of wine set in it. When the dragons next clash and eventually grew tired from the combat, they would fall into the vat, drink the wine and fall asleep. They must then be captured and buried under a mountain of rocks. As long as they remain in their prison of stones, no further harm will fall on this island.
On the next Mayday all this was done, the two dragons captured and taken to their prison of stones, a mound of rocks in North Wales, now known as Dinas Emrys. Dinas means fortification and Emrys the name of a local warrior prince who rallied the British resistance to a foreign invasion.
The whole area is full of folklore; Emrys apparently was acquainted with a magician Merlin who, according to legend, buried his treasure in a gold chalice on the hill. Another legend is that of Beddgelert only a few miles away. This story I will tell in my next post.
Meanwhile, the two dragons remain imprisoned under the rocks of Dinas Emrys and will remain there forevermore… We hope!