The Story Of Gelert, And Why You Should[n’t] Believe It


You know I love stories, and here’s one from back home.

There is an awesome story about Gelert (which, I admit, upsets me sometimes, but more about that, later). The story is set in a small village in North Wales called Beddgelert – which literally means Gelert’s Grave. It’s a place I love to visit, it’s very picturesque with a river running through it, and there, nearby, under the shade of a large tree (or two), and attended to by the National Trust, is Gelert’s grave.

The story goes like this: Gelert’s grave, it is said, is  the grave of a brave hound which was commanded by his owner, Llewelyn, to guard his new-born baby son, who was asleep in his cradle. Llewelyn left for an hour or so.

However, a hungry wolf came by, but Gelert, the hound, was alert. Gelert attacked the wolf and fought almost to the death, overturning the cradle in the battle, but killing the wolf in a bloody battle

Llewelyn returned home a little later, to find the cradle upturned and a lot of blood on the floor, and he saw his faithful hound nearby.

In a fit of rage, suspecting the hound had killed his baby son, he killed his hound, Gelert, with a hefty stroke of his sword. Llewelyn looked around. It was only then that he saw the dead wolf. He then heard his baby son cry from under the cradle.

Overcome with regret at his error, and wracked with guilt and sorrow, he lovingly buried his faithful, loyal hound, Gelert, in a grave. He had a stone placed on the grave to remember him. And, Gelert’s grave can still be seen today.

However, the story is complete fiction!

Apparently, the story was ‘invented’ some 150 years as a way of attracting more tourists to the area, and it worked. And, even today, the National Trust, promote this fiction, by attending the grave and by having put a huge plaque on it to explain the story to visitors.

But, there’s more.

It’s a quant story, and okay, one of fiction, and there’s nothing wrong with fiction….except, that Gelert existed. But he wasn’t a dog. And, that’s what annoys me, sometimes.

Visitors to the grave think that there is a dog in the grave, but it’s the remains of a faithful human being who is ‘sleeping’ there, and onlookers don’t know it. A human in the grave, a dog in the minds of visitors. So sad that a person should be ‘misrepresented’.

You see, Gelert was, infact, a Celt, a local, a friendly hermit, a monk, who, in the seventh century, lived in a nearby cave. It is said he knew God and healed many using local herbs. Some describe his as a Druid, too. And, close to that cave, is a well, known today as the Holy Well of St Celer (or Geler(t) which is (still) said to have healing properties. Gelert died on 29 June (although the year is unknown) though some say he was martyred. His feast day is: 29 June.

So, now you know – and I guess that’s sufficient, that you and I know who Gelert really was. And, maybe at this time of the year – when we remember the ancestors – we can remember Gelert as a faithful monk, not as a dog, but as a human being who lived and breathed, loved God, and assisted locals using herbal medicine, and passed-on.  And, maybe we can give thanks for his life to the Source of All?

I guess the moral of the story – well, one of them – and one that is pertinent to today’s political climate and with (mis)information abounding on the internet, is to ‘question everything’.

8 thoughts on “The Story Of Gelert, And Why You Should[n’t] Believe It

  1. I’ve visited Beddgelert numerous times, and I love the place. There’s a real peaceful atmosphere there. I knew the story, and it always upset me, but I had no idea there was a person called St Gelert. I wonder how he ended up being remembered more as the name of a (fictional) dog? The next time I go there, I will make sure to remember the real Gelert.

    Liked by 1 person

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