Y Ddraig Goch – Another Different Tale

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In his delighful Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, Philip Pullman says that, unlike “literary” works where the author’s text – the words as set down upon the page – are the heart of the thing, “a fairy tale is not a text of that sort.” A fairy tale is shaped with each telling by each teller.

It’s a transcription made on one or more occasions of the words spoken by one of many people who have told this tale….The fairy tale is in a perpetual state of becoming and alteration. To keep to one version or one translation alone is to put a robin redbreast in a cage. (Which ‘puts all Heaven in a Rage’ [Wm. Blake])

Being a storyteller, I wholeheartedly agree, especially when it comes to Dragon tales.

Yesterday, I presented the ‘traditional’ lore surrounding Cymu’s Y Ddraig Goch. Today, I offer a more whimsical version I cobbled together a few years back. I hope you enjoy.

A Lost Dragon Found:
The Red Dragon of Wales

As everyone knows, Dragons come in a rainbow of colours: green, gold, black, and blue. Their scales sparkle like emeralds and shimmer like embers on the hearth. And when they wish to hide, they can blend into the background like nobody’s business. Get a bunch of Dragonkeepers together and they will each have their own opinion about which shade is the most common or handsome or prized. One thing most people agree on is that one of the rarest—and most famous—Dragons in the world is the Red Dragon of Wales. Or, as the Welsh call him, Y Draig Goch. This noble creature is so famous he even has his profile on the flag of his homeland.

But how did this wonderful creature come into being? Where was he born and how was he tended?

There are many stories about the Red Dragon, about his origins and what he means to the people of Wales. Some include wizards and great kings and fierce battles between nations. Proper Dragon stuff, for sure. However, the tale I like best I heard from an elegant green Dragon from the Enchantments of Anglesey in northern Wales. Her name was Cymcaille, and this is what she told me:

Long, long ago, when Stonehenge still had that new temple smell and London was barely a pit stop for invading Romans, there was a village in Wales in the lush, green valley of the Glaslyn River, a village so small it didn’t have a name. The people who lived there were strong and wise. They fished the river and hunted the woods; they tended their sheep and cattle and fields. They feasted when there was plenty and shared when there was little. And like one big family, everyone, from young child to grey-haired elder, worked hard and played hard when their chores were done.

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Glaslyn River, Cymru

Now, the clan chief had two children, a daughter, Efa, who was ten, and her eight-year-old brother, Brychan. Every morning these two woke up just looking for trouble. They would hurry through their daily tasks, eager to run off to the woods or down to the river. One day in late summer, with chores done and lessons learned, Efa and Brychan headed out to pick blackberries. The berries were so big and juicy that more went into their stomachs than their basket, and, by late afternoon, they were purple-fingered and full, with nothing to show for their labours. Not wanting to go home empty handed, they walked along the river, hoping to find a fish or two tangled in the nets stretched across the shallows. But the fish were too clever and refused to get caught that day. Just about ready to give up, Efa and Brychan rounded the bend in the river and there, in the last net, saw the strangest thing they’d ever seen: a great round egg, all midnight blue with specks of silver.

“Let’s smash it,” Brychan said grabbing a stick thick as his arm. “I want to see what’s inside!”

“No!” Efa said. She stood between her brother and their find. “No, I have a better idea: we’ll hatch it.”

Brychan thought about it for a moment, then smiled. What a great idea! Besides, his sister was older than him and would squash him in a second if he crossed her. With his big stick, they dug a hole in the sunny side of the bank. Then, working together, they freed the egg from the net, rolled it to the hole, and buried it where it would stay warm and out of harm’s way.

“This is our secret,” Efa warned her brother. “Don’t breathe a word to anyone.”

“Not even Mother and Father?”

“Especially them. Come on, it’s getting late!” And they ran back to the village, arriving just in time for supper.

Now, Efa didn’t know it then, but she was about to become a Dragon Keeper. Led by common sense and good instincts, she returned to the egg every couple of days—more often when she could. Sometimes Brychan even tagged along. She dug up the egg, tapped it, talked to it, then returned it to its warm, sandy nest.

So the summer passed, day upon day, week upon week, until the sun travelled lower in the sky and a whiff of coming autumn lingered in the air.

“Is it going to hatch soon?” Brychan asked impatiently as they pulled turnips and greens from the garden.

“I don’t know,” Efa said, unable to lie even to her pest of a brother.

“Well, I should have cracked it open—Whack!—long ago. Then we’d know—“

“Absolutely nothing. We’d just have a broken egg. Too big to even scramble!” Brychan laughed then shrugged, returning to a particularly stubborn turnip that wanted to spend another day or two underground.

Though she wouldn’t say so out loud, Efa was as eager as her brother to know what grew inside the star-lit-shell. Something amazing was about to happen, she knew it in her bones. And as soon as she could, she gave her brother the slip and ran off to the check on her treasure. When she neared the river, her heart sank. Through the brambles and honeysuckle, she saw waters churned up and muddy, a great mass of paw prints ripped deep into the bank. My egg!  Someone’s after my egg! And without a thought to her own safety, Efa followed the tracks down the river bed, until, under a wind-bent tree, she found a lustrous silver Dragon—a mountain of a Dragon!—sobbing into her paws.

“What’s wrong?” the brave child asked.

“Who are you to ask, tender morsel?” moaned the Dragon.

“I’m Efa. A—a girl. I only want to help.”

“Help? Oh, how can an insignificant scaleless thing like you help me?! I am a wretched Dragon—a Dragon bereft and bewailed. A Dragon beyond help. I am a Dragon who has lost her egg.”

“Was it all blue with specks as silver as your scales?”

The Mother Dragon pricked up her ears and wiped her eyes, drenching Efa in the tears she flicked from her paws. “Yes, that’s it. Where is my egg, what have you done with it? Answer quick or I’ll eat you where you stand!”

“Oh, I’d much rather you didn’t. Really. The thing is, my brother and I found your egg caught in one of our nets. He wanted to—well, that’s not important. I—we—buried it in the sun, not far from here. I’ve taken good care of it, I promise. I’ve turned it and talked to it. Come, I’ll show you where.” And she led the Dragon down around the bend to the sunny side of the river. There, with tears of joy, the Silver Dragon unearthed her egg, wrapped it in the curl of her tail and blew a hot-hot breath upon it.

Then they waited, Dragon and child. And when the sun tipped over the hills, and dusk was fast approaching, the egg began to tremble, to rock, to roll. Then, with a loud crack, it split open, spilling forth a baby, yolk-soaked red Dragon.egg2

“Oh, he is perfect!” the Dragon said with proper mother’s pride. “You saved him, girl, and I and all the Dragons of Cymru are eternally grateful.” She plucked a scale from near her heart and placed it in the child’s hands. “Keep this until our return,” she said, “a sign of our thanks.” And with that, she scooped the little red Dragon up in her paws and flew off into the western hills.

With a Wow! in her heart and a lump in her throat, Efa watched them disappear over the horizon. Then she plopped down on the bank and stared at the token heavy in her hand. Oh dear, she thought, how ever will I explain this to my brother?

Many years later, when Efa and Brychan had families and children of their own, a great Red Dragon swooped down into the village—the same Red Dragon they’d helped hatch so long ago that it all seemed like a dream.

“I am Y Ddraig Goch,” he roared. Then recognizing the Dragon scale which hung around Efa’s neck, he bowed low. “I am here to thank you for helping me come into this world. I owe you a great debt. You and your people. The Dragons of my Enchantment—my clan—owe you, too. We shall teach you and guard you, till the end of time.”

Y Ddraig Goch hovering near Dinas Emrys

And so they did and so they do, to the end of time.

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Tell-a-Dragon-Tale Week – Y Ddraig Goch of Yore

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Month of the Dragon is racing right along, and we have arrived at a favorite time of mine, Tell-a-Dragon-Tale Week. It is a time to gather in the mead hall and spin the most fantastic yarns of draconic daring-do. To talk of Dragon books and stories.

This year, prodded gently by my friend Karen Sanderson, I’m kicking off the week with a classic piece of Dragon lore: the tale of Y Ddraig Goch, the Red Dragon of Wales.

There are many stories about this noble creature, though one of the earliest is found in the Mabinogion. In the story of good King LluddRelated image

and his brother, Llefelys. It seems that long ago, Britain was cursed by three plagues, the second of which is to our tale.

Every May Day a terrible scream was heard across the land, from Anglesey to Land’s End, from Dubrae to Caledonia. Worse than a thousand Ban síde, the scream made grown men weep and all manner of creatures, two-legged and four, to go barren. Lludd was at a loss, but his brother, who was wise in the way of the mystical knew at once what to do.

“Dragons! The land is plagued with Dragons.” One very old (the Red Dragon of the Celts) and one a newcomer (the would-be usurping White Dragon of the Saxons and Angles). They were engaged in a terrible battle and it was their terrible screams that cut through the night.The only thing to do was to capture the Dragons and confine them underground at the heart of the land. 

Now, to capture two warring Dragons is no easy task, but, with the help of vast quantities of mead (Dragons do love their mead), King Lludd and Prince Llefelys were able to bind the Dragons and bury them deep underground on the southern verge of Snowdonia in Cymru. The mound that kept them contained is Dinas Emrys.

What images this conjures up! Daenerys Targaryen chaining Viserion and Rhaegal in a dungeon under Meereen [Mother of Dragons lost major cred with that move; than goodness Tyrion was wise enough to set them free.]

Then again, was it perhaps an ancient precursor of Yucca Mountain,where lethal forces beyond our control were going to be entombed until – in theory – no longer dangerous? But I digress…

Years later, King Vortigern, a first-class tyrant if ever there was one, wanted to build a castle atop Dinas Emrys. Everytime his builders tried to set the foundation, the earth trembled so violently the stones turn to rubble. His court “magicians” told him to sacrifice a child “born without a father” and sprinkle his blood on the hill. This would stop the tremors and bring him great good fortune, to boot.

So Vortigern searched far and wide until he found such a msyterious child.

The next day the king, his wise men, his soldiers and retinue, his artificers, carpenters, and stonemasons, assembled for the ceremony of putting the boy to death.

Then the boy said to the king, “Why have your servants brought me hither?”

“That you may be put to death,” replied the king, “and that the ground on which my citadel is to stand may be sprinkled with your blood, without which I shall be unable to build it.”

“Who,” said the boy, “instructed you to do this?”

“My wise men,” replied the king.

“Order them hither,” returned the boy.

This being done, he thus questioned the wise men: “By what means was it revealed to you that this citadel could not be built unless the spot were sprinkled with my blood? Speak without disguise, and declare who discovered me to you.”

Then turning to the king, “I will soon,” said he, “unfold to you everything; but I desire to question your wise men and wish them to disclose to you what is hidden underneath this pavement.”

They could not do so and acknowledged their ignorance….

“I,” said the boy, “can discover it to you if the wise men cannot.

And the boy told the king of a great chamber in which two mighty dragons, one red, one white, were engaged in eternal war with each other.

“…the red…is your dragon, but the white…is the dragon of the Saxons, who occupy several provinces and districts of Britain, even almost from sea to sea. At length, however, our people shall rise and drive the Saxon race beyond the sea whence they have come. But do you depart from this place where you are not permitted to erect a citadel, you must seek another spot for laying your foundations.” (Why the Red Dragon Is the Emblem of Wales; W. Jenkyn Thomas)

Red Dragon v. White – Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain

After executing his not-so-wise council, Vortigern took the lad’s advice and built his castle on a neighboring hill.  His life spared, the boy grew in fame and power and became know, in time, as Myrddin Emrys, a name later Anglicized as Merlin.

As most of us know, Merlin left Cymru for Cornwall where he offered his considerable services to Uther Pendragon and, later, his son, Arthur, a king who also rode under the banner of the Dragon.

In later years, a much better king than Vortigern, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the last king of Cymru, constructed a great citadel atop Dinas Emrys. It was perhaps his reverence for the Red Dragon that made it possible for him to build without draconic interference. 

As for Merlin’s vision of the Red Dragon defeating the White, the mage was right for a time. Yet, eventually, as Geoffrey of Monmouth recounted, the White Dragon of of Britain – sometimes Anglo-Saxon, sometimes Norman – did overcome and subsume Y Ddraig Goch.

For the Cymry, though, the Red Dragon remains the soaring emblem of the land on flag and crest, watching over them with all his fierceness.

The English, perhaps recalling the strength of Y Ddraig Goch in centuries past, have not always approved. To which Dragons reply, “Tough talons! We’re here, we fierce, get used to it.”

Dragon Art – Sunday Edition…

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Happy Sunday.

Dragon Art Weekend continues through morning frost and clear autumn skies. So when you need a break from the Sunday Crossword, pour yourself another cup of coffee and enjoy….

"One White Soul" by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

“One White Soul” by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

https://i.pinimg.com/736x/4a/a4/53/4aa453a204c2c8f0d04cbfc7b1533c92--dragons-den-here-be-dragons.jpg

Dragão da Névoa em sua forma física. Mais

driftwood dragon - James Doran

Driftwood Dragon – James Doran

https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/narutofanon/images/7/73/WDragon.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20140611013244

Bronze Dragon – Yoshida City, Japan

Hunting Party, Artur Mósca on ArtStation at https://www.artstation.com/artwork/dBD3X

Hunting Party – Artur Mosca

Mojave Desert Sand Dragon

Mojave Desert Sand Dragon

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/398076054544837617/

Far In The Direction – East Monkey

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Green Dragons – Norsk Wood Works

chinese dragon ink - Google Search

Fire inside by ~yoggurt on deviantART

Fire Inside – Yoggurt

 

Green Dragon – A Miscellany of Magical Beasts by Simon Holland

And for all those who are still looking for ways to help the people devastated by hurricane Maria, here’s a place to start.

 

 

Weekend Dragon Art –

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Leaf season is fading fast and I hope everyone is getting out and enjoying these crisp October days. Since I hope to be doing just that myself – along with tackling fall garden clean-up – I thought it would be fun to devote this weekend’s posts to some of the wild and woolly new Dragon art I have come across since last year’s MotD.

Enjoy.

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https://www.google.com/search?q=Dragons

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Medieval Dragon

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Chinese Dragon – Vincent Coviello

This is really cool. Wat Sampron (Dragon temple) near Bangkok, Thailand.

Diwali Lights – Dragon Flights

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This year, Diwali – the Lunar festival of Lights – and Month of the Dragon happen to coincide and the Dragons of the Himalayan Quad couldn’t be happier. They are doing aerial somersaults from the Western Ghats to the shores of Lop Nur.

Diwali is a moveable feast, celebrated by Hindu, Jain, Sikh, and Buddhist across the globe. When it falls during MotD, it serves as a brilliant reminder that, though we may be more familiar with Western Dragons, we must never forget their wise, often-reclusive, Asian kin.

Fire Dragon – Vasylina

Occurring sometime between mid-October and mid-November, Diwali is a festival of joy, wishes, fireworks, and sweets – all thing Dragons embrace! It is also a time when intricate rice/flour paintings or rangoli are created on floors and in courtyards as sacred greetings for the gods. A bit of common sense advice: ask your Dragons to stay clear of the paintings, as they are fragile and can be dispersed with the slightest whoosh of Dragon wings.

Diwali is also the time to celebrate

light winning out over darkness,
good over evil,
knowledge over ignorance,
hope over despair.

Sky Dragon – Jackie Morris

In a year of increased fears and doubts about tomorrow, of lies exhaled as easily as breath by those who should be ashamed to do so, Diwali seems to carry a special significance.

Today we light a flame to honor the Inner Cosmic Light, the underlying Reality of All Things.

Including Dragons!Dragon, Kouji Tajima on ArtStation at https://www.artstation.com/artwork/wqE5g?utm_campaign=digest&utm_medium=email&utm_source=email_digest_mailer

 

Dance Into Flight…

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He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.    

….Friedrich Nietzsche

We had our first frost of autumn yesterday. The nasturtiums wilted fiercely, the woolly-bears came out in force, and Draconic must fills the air. Dragons have taken to the skies over the Green Mountains in joyful, romantic dance. Few beings have as innate an understanding of dance as Dragons, especially during mating season. They positively ripple with the rhythms of the elements, rising and falling on cool autumn breezes, tapping their talons on leaf-littered glens.

They understand the core of Agnes de Mille’s words,

To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking.

In the East, we humans look to Dragons for festive inspiration, especially around the New Year. The fluid ins and outs of the ritual Dragon Dance exemplify draconic strength and flow of the season.

And so, today, honor the dancing Dragons. Embrace their wild abandon and wing-flapping two-steps. 

 

To paraphrase William Butler Yeats – he was writing of Fairies at the time, though might just as well have been speaking of our scaly friends:

Come…take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame.

So, go forth with joy and dance with Dragons.

 

 

For the Dragon Who Has Everything: A Bibble, A Bauble, A Day at the Fair…

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Baubles And Beads - 12of8

Baubles And Beads – 12of8

Back in darkly superstitious – and Dragon-rich – 7th-century England,

Cheerful yellow dragon - BnF Latin 10533 - http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b10318624f/f10.imagethere lived a very devout princess named Etheldreda. She was, by all accounts, a beautiful woman, and learned, to boot. In her younger years, she was fond of necklaces and beads, beautiful baubles of every description. While such finery was befitting a young royal expected to play a role in the political chess-game of the day, it was less apt for the saintly abbess she became once she’d extricated herself from not one but two unconsummated marriages and was party to numerous miracles. (Some say getting out of her connubial relationships a virgin was her greatest miracle of all!)

audrey

Etheldreda, aka Audrey, died in 679 in her early 40s (39-45, exact dates of birth were sketchy back then), young by modern standards. In the end, she succumbed to a great growth on her neck, which she attributed to divine judgment on her frivolous, necklace-loving youth. In recognition of this – and St Audrey’s pious legacy – St Audrey’s Fairs have become an annual tradition. Morris Dancers kick up their heels and colorful stalls are festooned with baubles and beads of less than stellar quality – downright tawdry, in fact – the word itself a bastardization of St Audrey.

 

As every Dracophile knows, Dragons have a warm place in their fiery hearts for baubles, tawdry or not. It is only fitting that, during the Month of the Dragon, we tip our hats to St Audrey and her deliciously tacky fairs. Thus, on October 16th, we celebrate Gaudy Bauble Day, a time to go to a tag sale or flea market or five-and-dime, and find a charming sparkly for your Dragon (or yourself). Remember, Dragons understand that their keeping is expensive, and so value the giving more than the cost. Gaudy Bauble Day is a celebration of the cheap and flashy – and a good time to do some early Yule shopping, too.

Time for Chipping In: All Paws On Deck!

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Month of the Dragon usually sets aside a weekend to get together with our scaly cohorts and tackle that autumn Dragon-do list we’ve all been trying to ignore. Cleaning gutters, blowing leaves (no burning, please), pruning trees, sweeping chimneys, and putting the storms on those upstairs windows. It is the draconic way of giving back and paying forward.

This year, in this as in so many things, is different. Fires, floods, and winds, disaster relief is under way around the world – and now Ophelia bearing down on Ireland. It all makes a few leaves in the gutter seem unimportant. With this in mind, the consensus among the Weyrs is to extend Chipping-In Day through the entire month of October and beyond as needs be. Related image

Even among non-believers, Dragons are there, watching out for the displaced and endangered. They lift the weary and make frightened children laugh. And when possible, they even find lost pets and keep them safe until they can be reunited with their humans.

It is a messy, troubled world out there, and just knowing that Dragons are around, lending a paw, somehow inspires the better angels of our own species and makes it all a little more bearable. Even if only in our imaginations.

 

 

 

Do You Believe In Dragons?

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Chances are, if you’re visiting the Nest, the answer is a resounding “Yes!!”

Dragon

But today is Skeptics Day. And skeptics abound even in the company of Dragons. I am constantly surprised by just how may people, despite all the evidence to the contrary, still think Dragons – large and small – are just elaborate figments of our imagination. Silly humans.Baby Dragon

Of course, as any Dragon will tell you, “If they don’t believe, you can’t make them.” Some people will simply not see what right in front of their eyes.

For those of you who still languish in doubt, I off a bit of film from Game of Thrones that always makes me smile. Not only does it feature the brilliant Peter Dinklage, but it offers the evidence to the rankest skeptic. And, as David Hume said, “A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.” Plus, I too, when a child, always wanted a Dragon of my very own.

 

In the face of so much wonder, skepticism simply dries up and blows away.

 

Where’s Falkor When We Need Him?

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Since this time last year the world has been rocked, rolled, and tumbled, careening this way and that towards the edge of utter chaos. From the Himalayan Quad to the Weyrs of Tierra del Fuego, Dragons who should be delighting in the change of season and attendant mating rituals are on existential alert. For all of us.

And so it is with an added sense of urgency that we raise an orison to Luck Dragons around the world, and wish one and all a Felicitous Falkor Festival.

[Note: Falkor’s Festival coincides with the feast of Felicitas, Pagan tutelary of good fortune. All is connected in the world of Dragons.]

Falkor, for those of you new to the way of Dragons, is the Luck Dragon in Michael Ende’s Neverending Story. A pluch, sinuous, floppy-eared Dragon who comes to the aid of Atreyu in his quest to keep the vile Nothing at bay. Named after the Japanese Dragon of good fortune, he exemplifies the positive attributes of Asian Dragons from the Arals to the Pacific Rim.ArtStation - Chinese Dragon-sketch, Zhelong XU

Though not particularly magical himself, Falkor has a way of bringing luck to those who persevere.

At a time when nuclear tensions are increasing around the globe, there is another Lucky Dragon worth remembering today. In March, 1954, the Japanese tuna boat, Daigo Fukuryū Maru – Lucky Dragon No. 5 – and her crew were irradiated by fallout from the U.S.’s massive Castle Bravo thermonuclear test in the Bikini Atoll.

Castle Bravo Nuclear Test – 1954

On a draconic level, The Lucky Dragon incident gave rise to Godzilla lore. More importantly, the ship and her crew joined Hiroshima and Nagasaki as vital symbols of Japan’s anti-nuclear movement. At a time when certain moronic world leaders are wondering why we have such abominable weapons if we’re not going to use them, it is more important than ever to remind them – every day if we must – exactly why we never can. 

In short, today we need the wisdom and benevolence of all the Luck Dragons in the world. We also need to persevere in the quest for global sanity and peace.The Dragons of the Marsh

Find your own personal Falkor, rub him/her between the ears, and hold tight.

May their good fortune bless us all.