Mythical Beasts of wales
"Listen. Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony."
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Welcome to the beautiful, mysterious peaks and valleys of Wales. The land of King Arthur, Giants, Lake Maidens, and more dragons per square mile than anywhere else on the planet. You cannot move for the bloody things! Firstly, you've got to love anywhere with a dragon on their flag - "What you going for lads? A few panels of geometric colour with vague and stretched symbology, to represent some other abstract notion of your national identity?", "Well, no actually. We were thinking of a big f@%k off dragon". Aye, that'll do it.
When I made the initial "Mythical Beasts of the British and Irish Isles" map, I must confess I was a bit disappointed by Wales. I just couldn't seem to find much, especially anything that was tied to specific locations. Well, how wrong I was! Colour me ignorant, lazy, and naive; scratch a little bit deeper and, my word, Wales rewards. I apologise Wales, it was me, my bad.
I found so much! So much! A lot didn't make the final image because it battles for space with others. That is one of the biggest limitations of the maps, and sometimes you have to "kill your darlings". The page is a finite space and I inevitably find far more stories than can possibly fit when conducting research. I plot them onto a map, and then I have the arduous task of cutting down to 30-40, keeping an eye out for variety and distribution. As such, I don't get to tell you about pure gold such as vampiric chairs. One day, I hope to share a lot more of these tales - I'm working on it.
Something to talk about is the language used. I have made the unusual choice of having a mix of English and Welsh, which I'm sure will irk both sides, and what can I say, your tears sustain the beasts we use to power the presses. Pit fiends need hydration too. My word hasn't it been hot lately? Anyway, these maps have always to me been intended as a jump-off point into the broader world of mythology and folklore; giving you the big hits and then digging into those rare B-sides and demo tapes. I tend to go with the most commonly used name, as I want people to be able to find the stories as simply as possible.
This is the last of the deeper dives into the lands explored in the first map, and it has been a pleasure - though I confess, I am ready to venture further afield again, change up the colour palette and be surprised by new tales. I hope you stick with us for the journey.
As usual, a huge, massive, gargantuan thank you to those supporting the project - without you we couldn't keep doing it. It is that simple. Mwah x
The new map is available here - https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/PucaPrinthouse
All the best
Neil and Charley
Without further ado let's get into the beasts!
We get to start our exploration with a Welsh classic, up there with rarebit and bara brith. The wonderful Afanc is a good old-fashioned Frankenstein's monster of, well, a monster. In the same vein as the Cockatrice/Basalisc, or the equally preposterous but somehow real Platypus, the Afanc is described differently in various accounts, but all contain some mash-up of beaver and a crocodile. They are lake monsters with the ability to cause plagues, chew up people silly enough to wander into their lakes, or cause floods. Described sometimes as a demon with magical powers and the ability to speak in Welsh, which is pretty magical - please never ask me to attempt the same feat. So fair play to the Afanc, at least it's doing its bit to keep the culture alive.
In Llangernyw, there is an ancient Yew tree, potentially up to 5000 years old. Like most ancient things, it enjoys a game of bingo, a sherry of an eve, claiming to be too old to get behind modern parlance and playing host to a demon every Samhain. This demon is known as Angelystor, or the recording angel, it's confusing as to the nature of the entity, demon, spirit, or angel - it varies - but, regardless, every Samhain it appears and reads the names of those due to die. And as always happens to people who doubt its existence, they venture up to the Yew only to hear, you guessed it, their own name. There is nothing more certain in folklore than if you doubt, it will be you. Ahh sweet hubris.
A nature-loving water spirit inhabiting Bala Lake, they are small, slender, shy and rarely seen, rumoured to only appear once a year to bask and utilise moonlight to help them grow. They have been known to lure men to the lake with offers of gold and gems, only to then drown them. The best defence against the Asrai is sunlight or having a foul mouth. They cannot abide bad language, so if you are f@%"ed, then tell them to f$£k the s£!t off, and you should be f"%^ing grand. Sorted.
Barmouth Sea Serpent
Blah blah, I hate writing about sea serpents. They are usually all the same, but they make the list as they rarely compete for space with anything more interesting so why not include them? This is your bog standard, snake/eel-like sea serpent, except that it was a bit bigger and could travel fast. Apologies to the Barmouth Sea Serpent Appreciation Society. Anyway, next!
I really wanted to include this one, it is a great tale from the Mabinogion. It tells the tale of Llew, cursed three times by his mother. We won't get into it, let us just say she was totally right to be livid but it wasn't any fault of Llew, though he would take the focus of her revenge. What's the saying? "Hurt people hurt people". Regardless, the aspect we are interested in here is her third curse that Llew would not have a human wife.
Fortunately for Llew, he knew some chaps who took a lawyer-esque world view and they picked apart the language of the curse and, being resourceful chaps, made him a wife from the flowers of Broom, Meadowsweet and Oak. Fantastic, just what we all want to marry, a floral scarecrow. Fortunately for Llew, these guys were the magicians Gwydion and Math (Math incidentally being the #6 name to call your child should you wish them to have a terrible time at high school). Utilising their magic, they turned the pile of flowers and twigs into something far more comfortable to cuddle up with on an evening - the lovely Blodeuwedd, who was said to be "the most beautiful maiden in the land".
Leaving behind shallow concepts of the only criteria that seemed to matter for a wife in these tales, Llew is going to find out the hard way about going against curses and punching above your weight. Llew fell head over heels, Blodeuwedd did not. What followed is a tale of adultery, niche deaths, revenge and transforming into birds. I won't recount the entire tale as it would be far too long, but if you are interested there are plenty of versions out there to peruse.
Like the brownies' wildcard of a cousin, the Bwbach is a household spirit that could be useful or, if it felt slighted, would delight in wrecking up the joint. Make sure you feed your Bwbach daily; like most mythical creatures, a bowl of milk or cream is the go-to, there is no such thing as lactose-free in folklore so give them the full-fat stuff from an animal or you're likely to get your almond milk thrown back in your face and a house wrecking tantrum. Oh they have a lovely tendency to mess with the religious, especially clergy, and absolutely hate teetotallers - you will not find a Bwbach at a civil community gala. The best offering for a Bwbach is probably a White Russian.
The corpse candle is a familiar motif. Somewhat related to the will o' the wisp, but with a different purpose; whilst the wisps were said to lure people to death on the bogs, and guide people to treasure and other such goodies, the corpse candle was more related to death and funeral processions. It is said they traced the route from the home of someone about to die to their grave, or passed through the house of those about to die.
I find them kind of fascinating - if wisps are explained by marsh gases, could a corpse candle appearing in the house of someone about to die show that there was a gas leak and that this is probably what they died from? Old folk traditions that turn out centuries later to have some truth in science amaze me - how beliefs, the supernatural, and science can all lead to the same place. Deeply interesting stuff, stroke your beards at will gentlemen.
The corpse candle has been described in many forms, from just a floating blue light, a vision of the person about to die, the attendants at the funeral, or a floating skull with a candle. I obviously drew the skull version.
Born from a magic pig and with a body count to make Rambo blush (180 able warriors and counting) this isn't your average moggy. A very bad kitty from Arthurian tales popular in both Wales and France. Born from Henwen and then thrown into the sea, it swam the Menai strait to Anglesey where it was understandably a bit peeved and took out its hurt by plaguing the island and clawing up plenty of warriors before either Sir Kay or King Arthur turned up to put it out of everybody's misery.
Like a Kelpie with a bigger bag of tricks. Is this the most dangerous water horse? Probably! It has all the classic hallmarks of the deadly water horses, but what makes it more intense is it has found ways to escape the constraints of the lakes and has developed ways to kill on both land and in the air. Clever girl. The Ceffyl Dŵr can come onto land to trample people, or fly into the air before turning into mist, leaving the rider freefalling down to a rocky death, My guess is the Ceffyl Dŵr enjoys its dinner tenderised. This ability to turn to mist also allows it to shapeshift, and as usual, its prey is lusty men (easy pickings and a plentiful resource). It will transform into a beautiful maiden to entice them to their demise.
The Welsh equivalent of Knockers, inhabiting mines and guiding miners to rich seams by their distinctive knocking sounds. Described as tiny men in miners' outfits, they are said to be extremely hard-working, though never get to finish their task - I'm sure we can all relate. They are generally liked by miners, as not only will they lead them to the richest seams but also issue warnings of impending collapses by giving a different distinctive knock.
Cockatrice of castle Gwys
I found this one online, but finding any historic source was a deep dive. Eventually, I found it so I got to include a Cockatrice. I enjoy drawing them, they tend to have an extra pop of colour and this one even comes with the added bonus of being a bit "extra". Near castle Gwys (an area now known as Wiston) there was a Cockatrice, but with the added detail of being covered with eyes.
The tale goes that the notable family of the region had declared that the estates shall belong to anyone who can gaze upon the cockatrice without it seeing them - I mean it seems a risky and pointless gamble but hey ho. Inevitably, someone figures it out; they secrete themselves in a barrel and roll themselves down the hill past the cockatrice, then when past it they peep through the bunghole *snigger* and declare, '"Ha, ha! Bold cockatrice, I can see you but you cannot see me!" To which I imagine the cockatrice simply thought, "And?" After all, their usual fate was to get all stabbed up by some shiny fellow so I'm sure the cockatrice could not care less about local land ownership or being spied on by some daft dizzy git in a barrel.
At some point, I would like to look at how the land was acquired historically in the UK. I'm sure it would be a simultaneously depressing and hilarious document and provide a damn fine reason for land reform.
Annwn is the otherworld in Welsh mythology. The Cŵn Annwn are the spectral hounds of the otherworld, associated with the Welsh Wild Hunt. They are presided over by various people, most commonly associated with Gwyn Ap Nudd, and Arawn but also figures such as Mallt Y Nos who we will get to later.
They have stories placing them in a variety of locations, most commonly with Cader Idris but not exclusively, by any stretch. They are depicted as pure white dogs with red ears, white being representative of the supernatural, and red the colour of death in Celtic belief. They served various functions throughout history from running down wrongdoers, escorting souls to the otherworld or being a harbinger of impending death. It is said their bark becomes quieter the closer they get - this feature would be handy if it could be bred into your neighbour's yappy little git of a dog.
A miniature Welsh elf. Solitary creatures whose temperament varies from elf to elf, they can be incredibly helpful or quite malicious. They like eating mushrooms, especially "fairy butter" which can be found in limestone crevices and tree roots. They are ruled over by Queen Mab, who you may recall from Mercutio's fantastic monologue in Romeo and Juliet.
"O, then I see Queen Mab hath been with you.She is the fairies' midwife, and she comes in shape no bigger than an agate stone on the forefinger of an alderman,drawn with a team of little atomies over men's noses as they lie asleep; Her wagon spokes made of long spinners' legs, the cover, of the wings of grasshoppers; Her traces, of the smallest spider web;Her collars, of the moonshine's wat'ry beams; Her whip, of cricket's bone; the lash, of film;Her wagoner, a small grey-coated gnat, not half so big as a round little worm pricked from the lazy finger of a maid; Her chariot is an empty hazelnut, made by the joiner squirrel or old grub, time out o' mind the fairies' coachmakers.And in this state she gallops night by night through lovers' brains, and then they dream of love; O'er courtiers' knees, that dream on curtsies straight; O'er lawyers' fingers, who straight dream on fees;O'er ladies' lips, who straight on kisses dream, Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues, Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are. Sometimes she gallops o'er a courtier's nose, and then dreams he of smelling out a suit; And sometimes comes she with a tithe-pig's tail tickling a parson's nose as 'a lies asleep, then dreams he of another benefice. Sometimes she driveth o'er a soldier's neck, and then dreams he of cutting foreign throats, of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades, of healths five fathom deep; and then anon drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes, and being thus frighted, swears a prayer or two and sleeps again. This is that very Mab that plats the manes of horses in the night and bakes the elflocks in foul sluttish hairs, which once untangled much misfortune bodes. This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs, that presses them and learns them first to bear,making them women of good carriage.
This is she!"
Personifying plagues and illness is a common theme throughout world folklore. Here we have the Yellow Plague of the 540s. It was a horrendous creature, described in various ways - as a hag, a fluid-like cloud, and a basilisk - just seeing it was enough to spell your demise.
“A strange creature will come from the marsh of Rhianedd, to punish the crimes of Maelgwn Gwynedd; its hair, its teeth, and its eyes are yellow, and this will destroy Maelgwn Gwynedd”. This was the prophecy of Taliesin predicting the death of King Gwynedd and, true to word, he spotted the Fad Felen through the keyhole of a church and ultimately died.
Ok, ok, so first things first we have to address the elephant in the room. Gelert is fake news; the story was made up by a publican a couple of centuries ago to improve tourism and drive business to the bar. And well, I couldn't care less! The motif is one of my favourites (it features in other European mythologies), I think the structure and tale are about perfect for a little bit of local lore, and it has been so deeply embraced and kept alive in Snowdonia that if it wasn't real, well, it is now. Let's be honest, when dealing with mythology, we are dealing with tall tales - no chap ever took down a cockatrice or dragon - but hey, it's a good way to be gifted some titles/lands. If we were to discount every myth that started from someone making something up in a pub, the well would run pretty dry, pretty quick.
"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 the sword into the hound's 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 nearby 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." - Text from Gelert's grave
I'm not crying, you're crying!...... Shut up!
The forgetful lady of Glasryn lake. Grassi (Grace) used to keep the well at the house of Glasryn. One night, she forgot to place the trap door back over the well, and the waters overflowed and created Glasryn Lake. I am about 99% certain this is not how wells work, but anyway, the story diverges down one of two routes here. They both begin with the mortified Grassi heading to the highland around the newly formed lake and weeping with remorse. In one account, she becomes your stereotypical "White Lady" and haunts the area, you can hear her crying at 2 am, which is a departure from the more archetypal midnight - presumably, Grassi is as forgetful about setting her alarm as she is at covering wells. In the second iteration of the story, as the waters break forth, fairies seize her and turn her into a swan as punishment for 6 score years (that's 120 to anyone who isn't an old-timey stove pipe hat sort). After this, she died anyway and haunted the lake, so swan or no swan, we end at the same ghostly destination. Poor forgetful Grassi.
Gwiber translates literally as "viper" however that isn't what they are in Mythology. A gwiber is said to be the offspring of a standard issue viper that had drunk human milk that had either fallen to the ground or, more bizarrely, straight from a woman's breast, which doesn't bear thinking about. I say bizarre, however, this behaviour is somewhat normal in folklore and mythology despite reptiles not drinking milk and women, I imagine, not being too down to breastfeed venomous snakes. The end result of this unlikely series of events is the Gwiber, a giant venomous snake with wings that does what these things are oft inclined to do, generally, wreck up the town, destroy livestock, and reduce the local population before some saint or hero comes along to sort it all out.
Gwrach Y Rhibyn
The Gwrach Y Rhibyn is kind of like the Welsh Banshee with some key and grim differences. Like her Irish sister from another mister, the Gwrach Y Rhibyn will wail and shriek on the impending death of someone, but will handily give an insight into who this will be by crying out things along the lines of "My husband! My husband!" or "My baby! My poor little baby!" which - though useful in Ye Olde Welsh Village for knowing what size coffins to stock up on - is pretty vague, and a bit redundant for any built-up modern/urban conurbation. She is however more threatening than your run-of-the-mill harbinger as she enjoys drinking the blood of the vulnerable, namely the young and elderly. She is not keen on a fair fight as it is possible to fend her off with good old-fashioned brute force. Her appearance is also a bit grim; pale and gangly, with long arms, leathery wings, dark matted hair and a mouth of overgrown teeth stained black from old blood or one long hollow tooth which she will use as straw or proboscis for the slurping of blood. One star - would not recommend to a friend.
Gwyllion is a bit of a vague term, it can apply to many aspects of Welsh mythology, but its more common usage is to describe hag spirit, sometimes with ties to witchcraft. They haunt the lonely roads and cause travellers to go astray. They can be banished with the Welsh tradition of "exorcism by knife" - this is a tradition that has spread far and wide as people realised you can exorcise most things you don't like by brandishing a knife at them.
Maelor Gawr is a giant in Welsh mythology, who was captured and sentenced to death. He was given a final request and opted to be allowed to blow his horn 3 times. On the first blow, his hair and beard fell out. On the second blow, his finger and toenails fell off. On the third blow, the intensity was so great that the horn fell to pieces. Sounds unpleasant you say, why would that be your request? Well, Maelor Gawr had 3 sons; one was hunting in nearby woods and heard his father's horn. He set off to rescue his suffering father with such haste his poor dog couldn't keep up and was decapitated by its leash (this is another Mythical Beast story, the dog is said to haunt the area sans-head). He reached his father and attacked his captors, unfortunately, his haste and dog-killing were all in vain as he was also killed in the scuffle. In a move straight out of the house Lannister handbook, his other 2 sons were also slain that night, I assume whilst menacingly humming "the rains of Castamere".
Mallt Y Nos
"If there is no hunting in heaven, I would rather not go!" In a fitting punishment for denying your deity, Matilda of the Night is made to smoke the proverbial whole pack of cigarettes. Cursed to join the wild hunt, hunting forever through the night sky, ushering on the Cŵn Annwn, forever hunting down lost souls in need of urging along their way to Annwn. She cries out in sorrow. Be careful what you wish for.
Wales is full of tales of lonely farmers meeting beautiful otherworldy maidens at lakes, which had to have been a fantastic perk of the job, however, it usually didn't play out great in the long run. Instead of telling the tale of Nelferch, which would be quite long, let's talk about the formula that makes up the motif of the Welsh lake maidens. Usually, a lonely farmer spies a beautiful maiden at a lonely lake and, absolutely besotted, he tries to get their attention with some kind of offering - usually, bread and cheese - which she will rebuke in a Goldilocks fashion: "This bread is too hard," *brings unbaked bread* "This bread is too soft," *pops to Aldi for some part-baked rolls* job done. We all love a nice part baked roll, great with soup on a nice cold day.
Eventually the attractive, albeit slightly fussy maiden gives him the time of day and agrees to marry him. She joins his household, usually bringing some boon such as a stable of magical animals. At this point a pact is made, using the familiar "third time's a charm" model, and is normally that if they argue 3 times, or he carelessly strikes her 3 times, she must return to her world. Inevitably, this is broken fairly innocuously, like a playful flick on the shoulder whilst they are joking about - as previously established, lake maidens are a certain type of fussy. The maiden then leaves her husband and sometimes offspring, takes the magical cattle with her, and the family usually become destitute.
I think the moral is about marrying high-maintenance people because they are attractive. Or lightening up? Or maybe listening to your wife? Who can tell?
Originally, I was going to focus on the Aberbach mermaid, but the Pembrokeshire coast is absolutely brimming with mermaid mythology, so if you are a fan of mermaid folklore, do check out this region - nigh on every cove has its own tale to tell. Wales has a huge variety of mermaid folklore from the Asrai to more traditional mermaids, to Morgens. I thought for sure I would be using Mermaids under the name of Morgens for the Wales map, however, it isn't as simple as I believed it would be. Morgens are a bit more complex - they are associated with drowning men at sea in both Welsh and Breton folklore - but, on looking into it, the accounts I found associated them with Somerset. The folklore I found used the term "mermaid" and not "morgen" - there is a linguistic link to the Arthurian Morgen Le Fay and I wonder if it is one of those terms that has become popular due to its gothy/witchy vibe, rather than having much historical pedigree. I could be utterly wrong, but I swerved it as it seemed vague, as much as I would have really, really enjoyed illustrating a gothy mermaid. In the words of the Rolling Stones, "You can't always get what you want".
Wales is absolutely rammed full of Dragon mythology, which makes me very happy - to me, a dragon is the absolute king of mythical beasts. They have garnered our imagination all across the globe. The Priseli Dragon was an enormous Black Dragon that guarded a trove. It's black which is cool, it's hoarding treasure in that classic dragon way, so I was completely "in" on this one. Priseli seems to have kept its dragon lore alive and at the forefront of its local identity, with ceramics and stone carving traditions based on dragon mythology. I want some of those goodies!
Oh, you knew this was getting included! If we have a relative of our site's namesake the Púca, it is absolutely getting on the map. Like his Irish sibling, the Pwca is a mischievous creature known to lead travellers astray and commit all kinds of low-key mayhem. Unlike the Irish Púca, the Pwca sometimes takes up some more of the homesteading motifs of the Brownie. Indeed, Pwcas could attach themselves to a particular family to help on the farm in exchange for the usual offering of milk and, like these other creatures, if you forget their daily treat you will come to regret it. Revenge tactics vary from wrecking up the joint, a straight-up beating, being driven mad, or even being pelted with rocks. As a whole slew of rubbish employers found out during the pandemic, treat your staff with respect or you will come to regret it. Though I don't think I heard of any fast food employers getting pelted with bricks. Is that a good or a bad thing? You be the judge, the Pwca's views are clear.
The last dragon in Wales. One does not simply send a standard knight, monk, or terrestrial saint to vanquish such a beast. No, for a special dragon, you need something a bit fancier, how about an archangel? St Michael might be the one for this job, and indeed he was, though he only managed to entrap the beast. It is said to slumber below Radnor Forest encircled by churches dedicated to St Michael, acting as a kind of barrier. If any of these churches should fall, it is said the dragon will awake.
Roaring Bull of Bagbury
The story begins with a farmer (or squire) who was known far and wide to be an angry and unpleasant man, and who had done only 2 good deeds in his entire life. The story again varies here as to whether he died and his soul remained, or if he was cursed by a witch or someone in his employ - there was no shortage of people who wished the farmer ill. Regardless, the man/man's soul was doomed to wander the Earth as a monstrous bull, whose bellows could shake buildings and create more jobs to add to the never-ending DIY list. He haunted the country lanes with fiery eyes, his trademark foul temper and generally being as much of a git as he was in life. Fed up with all this carry-on, a service was held and they managed to shrink the bull down to that of a normal-sized bull. This did little to stop the bull from being a massive pain, so the service resumed and they finally shrunk it down enough to fit inside a snuff box. Prior to its tobacco-scented incarceration, he stated the desire to be buried beneath the nearby bridge so that "every mare with foal and every woman with child, would lose them." Understandably the locals weren't too keen, so he was flung into the Red Sea for 1000 years. Good riddance.
The Great Giant of Henllys
This is similar to the previous story; someone who is a massive arse dies and continues to be a massive arse but now with supernatural powers. Mint. This time, a lord changes into a demon to terrorise the long-suffering locals who were just celebrating his demise. Priests at the local church held a ritual to exorcise the demon, forming a circle in which they light candles and say prayers, the demon rails against this invisible barrier to no avail, transforming into a bull, a lion and a torrent of water. The priests one by one succumb to fear, except one who keeps his candle alive and manages to shrink the demon to a fly and trap him in a tobacco box and then throws it into the local lake. Sounds familiar.
Three sisters of Plynlimon
The tale of the three sisters of Plynlimon tells the story of the creation of the rivers Ystwyth, Wye and Severn. Three water spirits set off from Plynlimon to find the sea all taking different paths and forming the rivers as they went. I won't go into it, but I would recommend if you would like to know more check out the lovely website and animation that "Mid Wales My Way" have created.
If you are indeed wanting to marry Ysbaddaden's daughter you're going to have to grant him three favours. One of them will be chasing a magic pig all across Wales for his grooming kit. Yup, hipster pig had a magic comb and scissors in his mane, and later a razor, making this piggy a veritable coiffure Swiss Army knife. Don't ask where the shaving foam comes from.
In the 18th century, around the Wrexham area, there were accounts of a giant wolf-like beast that would attack stagecoaches, turning them over and attacking the horses. Later there were reports of carnage at nearby farms, with livestock killed and other farm animals mutilated. Locals attempted to hunt the beast down but all they found were paw prints, far too large to belong to a wolf.
Y Ddraig Goch
Well going out on a high note, we get to The Red Dragon. It is the national symbol of Wales, appearing on their flag, and well just about everything else you could stick a dragon on. I doth my cap. The Dragon symbol has been associated with Wales for centuries, though not always a red one - there have been times when a gold dragon, more akin to a wyvern was used. There are ties to Arthurian legend, the Romans and the subsequent power struggles between Wales and England. In fact, there was a white dragon that did battle with the Red Dragon, 0 points for figuring out this thinly veiled metaphor. They were subdued at Dimas Emrys when a pit was dug and filled with booze, they fought and drank there until they eventually fell asleep and were covered up with earth.
If you've been on the streets of any major UK city at 2 am on a Saturday night, you will have noticed this scenario being reenacted faithfully by men drinking gallons of beer before a scrap outside a kebab shop, later to be incarcerated and covered with a blanket. The "lads" are keeping the traditions alive, "We were just reenacting Arthurian legends officer," a likely story.
The story picks up at a later date when Vortigern wishes to build a fortress at Dimas Emrys. Well, he built it but things kept falling down, paintings askew on walls, ripples in the cup of mead and so forth. He asked Merlin why this was happening and he told him about the dragons, which is a fine example of why you shouldn't scrimp on the survey before committing to building a castle.
*Sucks teeth* "You've got dragons mate. Yeah riddled it is, lousy with the things."
"Can you sort it?"
"Not gonna be cheap mate, I'll be honest with you. Gonna have to contract in, need specific machinery, gonna take time, risk assessments... Did the guy who sold you the place not tell you about them?"
"Cowboys, bloody cowboys."
Through tradies or other means, the dragons were released, and they promptly went back to kicking the seven bells out of each other until the red one was victorious. A nation is born. Fascinatingly enough, when excavations were undertaken at Dimas Emrys, they found signs of an underground lake and a ruined fortress dating back to the time of Vortigern. Maybe there's more to these myths than meets the eye.
Thank you for joining us on our journey through the mythical beasts of Wales.