Today’s dragon topic is the Welsh Dragon, but before I talk about it, I want to give you a little bit of background.

One of the reasons that I haven’t been so active on this blog in the last little while is because of a family tragedy that has just happened – my Nana passed away. Whilst this is sad, it is not all that unexpected, and 86 is a good old age to get to, so it’s more in the way of something sad that has happened rather than an all consuming tragedy.

Yesterday I went to her funeral, and I learnt rather a bit more about my Nana that I knew before. For instance, her nickname was Titch, because at her tallest she was 4’11”, she was even more organised than I thought she was, as my dad showed us a notebook which contain every phone call she had made and received in a five year period (person, time and cost), and above all else, she was very very Welsh.

So, because I am currently thinking about my Nana a lot, and going back over my memories of her, I am also focusing on Wales a lot. Now, many of you may recognise the Welsh flag, but just in case you don’t:

Flag_of_Wales_2.svg

That’s right, the flag of Wales is a big red dragon.

It’s not the only reason I have become very interested in my heritage (turns out my Nana and Grandad (also deceased, but that happened when I was small) were both Welsh people, so by blood I’m half Welsh), but I like to see it as a happy coincidence that I am linked by blood to a big red dragon.

Y Ddraig Goch (“the red dragon” in Welsh) or Baner Cymru consists of the heraldic dragon of Wales upon a white and green background. The white and green background colours are the colours of the house tudor, and the dragon itseld is a symbol of Welsh heritage.

The flag first appeared like this on the battle of Bosworth Field, August 1485, where it was wielded by Henry Tudor when he defeated Richard III. The backgrounds colours were of course the colour of his House, but he choose the red dragon to sit on top of them as a symbol of his own Welsh heritage.

The red dragon has long been associated with Wales, but the exact time and manner that it appeared are something of a mystery. It is known that the Red Dragon was the sign of King Cadwaladr of Gwynedd (the majority of North Wales), but it is also have said to have been around before that, representing such legendary figures as King Arthur (of the round table) and ancient Celtic leaders. The first recorded use of the dragon to symbolise Wales is in Historia Brittonum around 829AD

The tales goes that the Red Dragon lived in Wale for many years, until an invading White Dragon came and the two dragon started a massive battle that lasted for ages. The blood and terrible shrieking of the dragons caused crops to wither and died, animals to perish, and women to miscarry. Lludd, King at that time, consults with his wise brother Lleyfelys, who tells him to dig a giant pit and fill it with mead, and the cover it with cloth. He does this, and the two dragons, exhausted by their fight, stop to drink from this pool, not realising it is mead not water. They both get drunk and fall unconscious, and fall into the pit, wrapped in the cloth. The King then covers up the pit, leaving to two dragons trapped there, in a place that comes to be called Snowdonia.

The_battle_between_red_and_white_dragonThe tale then moves on a few centuries. King Vortigern treis to build a castle at Dinas Emrys (the old name for Snowdonia) but every night the walls and foundations and demolished and destroyed, with no apparent cause. His advisers tell him that to stop this he must find a boy with no natural father, and sacrifice him. The King looks high and lows, and eventually finds such a boy (who would be destined to become the greatest and wisest wizard to ever live), but the boy knows of the plans the King has for him, and dismisses them. He instead tells the King about the two dragon living under the hill, and advises the King to free them. The King digs down into the hill, and uopn reaching the two dragon’s they burst forth from the mountain to continue their fight until the Red Dragon finally overcomes the White Dragon. The boy tells Vortigern that the white dragon symbolises the Saxons, and that the Red Dragon symbolises the people of Vortigen.

1024px-Welsh_Dragon_Memorial_Mametz_WoodSince Voritgen is generally accepted to have lived in the 5th century, then this story ties into the historical facts that these people are the group of British that the Saxons failed to subdue, and then went on to become the Welsh.

Oh, and the little boy? His name was Merlin. The Red Dragon was also a prophecy of the coming of King Arthur, who’s father was Uther Pendragon.

Either way, the Welsh flag has been around since the 15th century, although it’s use has fluctuated between now and then. It was officially recognised as the flag of Wales in 1959, the youngest flag of the British Isles, and is now used by businesses, sports teams, and other organisations that want to signify Welsh roots.

(Picture: Memorial Dragon at Mametz Wood)

I’ve decided to get in touch with my roots, so I’m going to do more research into the history of wales, and the red dragon, and I’m also trying to learn Welsh. So hwyl fawr am nawr!

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