The Brave Dog Gelert by Jeannette Marks 1908
"A pious monument I'll rear
In memory of the brave;
And passers-by will drop a tear
On faithful Gelert's grave."
WHEN we came first to the little Welsh town where I am living, I was delighted to find that it is the centre of a story about a dog, indeed, that the whole village was named after a dog. People came from all over Great Britain on account of that dog, and in whatever part of the world you find a Welshman—Australia, America, Africa—ask him and he will tell you about the brave greyhound Gelert. On a holiday here, there are streams of people flocking to the place where the dog is supposed to be buried. The children look on in quiet wonder at the stone that covers a noble fellow who suffered a sad end because his master did not think twice before he struck once. It is sufficient that this dog did the courageous deed recorded in history, but after all there is a lesson of another kind, too, coming from it. If Prince Llewelyn could have stayed his sword hand one minute, Gelert might have lived to a good old doghood, and reaped the honors he amply deserved. There are adages never too old for use, sayings that would save many a dog a blow: "Haste makes waste. Before revenge first know the cause." It is supposed, too, that the history of Gelert gave rise to the following expressions: "As sorry as the man who killed his greyhound," and "A hasty Is not a prudent act, but like the man who killed his greyhound."
Beddgelert, the village where the dog lies, is very beautiful. It Is situated at the Junction of three valleys and three famous streams run through its midst. One stream, the Colwyn, comes from the direction of Carnarvon, the ancient Roman city of Segontium. There is good fishing in this small river, and sometimes-a good flood. Last summer we had such a flood here that I saw an old man almost drowned in front of my house on the very street we walk on every day, and cows and sheep, poor things! were tumbled down the roaring stream as if they were nothing but pebbles, and the bridge was destroyed. A flood similar to this, occurring some hundred years ago, landed a ten-pound salmon in the church pulpit. The second stream, the Gwynen, comes from Lake Gwynant, in the direction of a Roman road of which parts are still distinct—a road leading to the Welsh town of Caerhun, or the ancient Roman city Canovium. The third river and valley is that of the Glaslyn, which leads to the sea by Port-Madoc. Every one of these roads is filled with legend and history, the hill top on which Merlin Ambrosius worked his enchantments, the valley by Snowdon, where King Arthur fought a battle, the cave in which Owen Glendower hid for so many weeks.
Dedicated to my best friend: Teddy Schmitz. I miss you buddy.
Besides legendary and historical interests there are archaeological interests in such abundance, one scarcely knows what to inspect first. My readers will know that this big, word means the study of ancient objects, especially monuments and buildings. There are cairns and cromlechs (Druidical stones), near Beddgelert, some wonderful steps made up over a mountain by men, the Goidels, long before the Romans came to Great Britain in 55 B.C. And there are more castles in Little Wales than in all the rest of the kingdom put together.
Now the curious fact about all these things is that the brave dog Gelert is of more interest to the pilgrims coming here than the surrounding castles, stones, steps, and the legends about kings and giants. Someone said to a gentleman that he ought to see Beddgelert, It was a very beautiful place. "Well," he replied, "as far as the beauty of the place is concerned, I am not so anxious, but I should like to see that poor dog's grave."
The man who owned this dog was Llewelyn, a prince of the twelfth century, sometimes called Llewelyn the Great, a man noted for his valor and his great feats of strength. His name means the lion-like foe. Every summer he and the members of his family and suite came to this wonderful valley and had their home near the Priory; some say on the very place where Ty Isaaf stands. It is often called Prince Llewelyn's house, but if there are any stones standing there now that belonged to Llewelyn's palace they are but few. There are still portions of the wall of the church that date from the twelfth century. While the Prince and his family were here they hunted the roe, the fox and the hare, of which in those days there were a great quantity. Now one never sees deer; occasionally a poor rabbit scuttles across the road in terror of its life and the motor cars; and if the gentry in this vicinity hear of a fox upon the hills, they put on brown suits and go out with a pack of hounds thirty strong, and a whipper in to manage the hounds, and there is the greatest barking and baying all over the hills.
But in olden days men had to hunt for their food, just as men do up in the Maine woods, or in distant parts of Canada, or in the wild Middle West. One day Prince Llewelyn went out to hunt; he looked everywhere for his dog Gelert, of whom he was most fond, but the dog was nowhere to be seen. While they were gone and still wondering what had happened to Gelert, the nurse decided that she would visit Ogof Dhu which was on the side of Moel Hebog. No doubt she took a servant with her. As Prince Llewelyn was returning home with his retinue of ladles and gentlemen, his huntsmen and his grayhounds, the dog Gelert ran to the palace door, making all sorts of glad dog noises and wagging his tail and twisting his long shaggy body. But his mouth was covered with blood. The Princess screamed and fell to the ground, and Llewelyn ran into the nursery. The cradle was overturned, the floor was covered with blood, and the child was not to be seen. The Prince turned to poor Gelert, who was joyously wagging his tail and whimpering; with one thrust of his sword Llewelyn drove it through the dog. The yell of poor Gelert roused the baby, who began to cry. A monk turned over the cradle and found the child beneath it. The baby was unhurt in any way, but lying beside it was a great wolf Gelert had fought with and killed, so that the ravenous creature might not touch the sleeping child. Gelert was dead! "Reflect twice before striking once." All the unhappy Prince could do now for his faithful dog was to have it buried with honor in a green place near the palace. Over him the huntsmen blew their horns, not in merry notes, but In dirges, and a large stone was placed on the grave. And after this the whole parish was called Bedd Gelert, which is literally translated the Grave of Gelert.
PRINCE LLEWELYN AND GELERT, article in Harper's Round Table 1898
IN the early days Irish wolf-dogs—sort of tall greyhounds—were the most highly valued of all dogs, and no one but Princes and chiefs were allowed to keep them. The Welsh laws of the ninth century provided heavy penalties for killing or maiming animals of this breed, so great was the esteem in which they were held.
In the year 1205 King John gave to Prince Llewelyn, as a mark of his high regard, a beautiful Irish wolf-dog named Gelert. This dog became a great favorite with his master, and accompanied him everywhere. But one day he was missing from the chase, and Llewelyn, very angry, returned home to find out what was the matter. He was met at the door of the chamber of his child by Gelert, who came fawning up to him, his jaws dripping with blood. Hastily entering the room Llewern found the bed overturned, the coverings splashed with blood, and no trace of the body of his son. He called wildly, but received no answer. Rashly concluding that Gelert had torn his beloved boy to pieces, he turned, and in his anguish thrust his sword through the poor dog’s body, and Gelert fell dead at his feet. At the same moment he heard a cry from the adjoining room. Hurrying thither he found his child lying in a corner, unharmed, while near him lay the mangled body of a huge mountain Wolf. The overturned bed, the blood on the coverings, and on the jaws of the dog—in a flash their meaning was clear to the unhappy Prince. He had slain the defender and preserver of his child.