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The Legend of Gelert

Throughout history, there have been tales, both real and legendary, of heroic dogs who have sacrificed their lives for their human companions. Perhaps none is more famous or tragic than that of Gelert, the Irish Wolfhound.

Here's the story, as it is inscribed on the dog's tombstone:

In the 13th century Llywelyn, prince of North Wales, had a palace at Beddgelert. One day he went hunting without Gelert, "The Faithful Hound", who was unaccountably absent. On Llywelyn's return the truant, stained and smeared with blood, joyfully sprang to meet his master. The prince alarmed hastened to find his son, and saw the infant's cot empty, the bedclothes and floor covered with blood. The frantic father plunged his sword into the hounds side, thinking it had killed his heir. The dog's dying yell was answered by a child's cry. Llywelyn searched and discovered his boy unharmed, but near by lay the body of a mighty wolf which Gelert had slain. The prince filled with remorse is said never to have smiled again. He buried Gelert here. The spot is called BEDDGELERT.

The story is most likely completely fictional, probably originating in the 19th century by local traders attempting to attract tourists to their village. Similar stories of faithful hounds sacrificing their lives are common in the folk literature of various countries. Still, it is a wonderful tale which has recently been retold in the highly-recommended children's book The Mightiest Heart, written by Lynn Cullen and illustrated by Laurel Long. For an excerpt and review of the book, click here.

For more information on the legend, check out the following links:

The Story of Beddgelert, Real Tragedy or Urban Myth?
The Tale of Bedd Gelert
The Legend of Gelert


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