Posted by: francesthomas | June 24, 2010

Here be dragons!

A group for Welsh children’s writers obviously had to have a dragon in there somewhere, though as you can see from the website image, our dragon is a small and friendly beast.  But  Wales and dragons go back a long way. King Arthur is ‘Pendragon’ and he’s supposed to have had a red dragon on his standard. Their earliest appearance in Welsh mythology comes in the Mabinogion story of  Llud and Llefelys where the hero Llud buries two fighting dragons deep in the earth on the slopes of Snowdon. These dragons are later uncovered by the magic boy Merlin; a red one and a white. The red  is victorious, and ever since  the Welsh have kept him as their symbol. When Henry Tudor returned from long exile in France to defeat Richard the Third, he had the Red Dragon as his banner.  Owain Glyndwr also fought under the red dragon

Yet strangely, it wasn’t until 1959  that it was adopted as the national flag of Wales (against the advice of Churchill, apparently, who hated it.)   It’s held its ground ever since, in spite of the yellow-and-black cross of St David, which some Christian fundamentalists also prefer, calling the red dragon a symbol of Satan.  Meic Stephens has observed that it’s the only national flag which no-one can draw, but it’s also one of the most iconic and memorable – let’s keep our dragon flying.

Norse dragons are cold and gloomy and malevolent; Chinese – wingless- are  friendly.       If you’re lucky, on the day of the Chinese New Year, in London you can follow the lively red dragon bounding through the streets of Chinatown.

The Welsh dragon is somewhere in between friendly and fearsome. The little village of Mordisford in Herefordshire – close enough to Wales to be almost  Welsh,  preserves a legend of a baby dragon found by Maud, a local maiden. At first, it’s cute and pretty; she cares for it with devotion , and they become inseparable companions. But the dragon grows up, and starts to do what dragons do. When the dragon is finally killed, Maud is heartbroken, and until the nineteenth century her story was recorded on the walls of the church.

In mid-Wales, there’s a cluster of churches dedicated to St Michael, all called Llanfihangel. The story goes that the last dragon in Wales sleeps somewhere in the Radnor Forest, but encircled by these churches, presents no danger. If the churches are demolished, he’ll wake up and ravage the countryside.

And of course,  dragons have played a special part in children’s books, from E.Nesbit and Kenneth Grahame to the present day.    Dragon Days, (see the picture above)  with fantastic illustrations by Brett Breckon, has contributions from several members of our group.

And  just in case you should you be foolish enough to think dragons are no longer a danger, remember the recent decision by a local  Trading Standards Officer , who stopped a firm from marketing their (rather delicious )  ‘Welsh Dragon Sausages.’   My mind was set at rest, though,  when I asked a local butcher whether he too put real dragon meat in his ‘Welsh Dragon’ sausages. ‘No,’ he said. ‘Can’t catch ‘em. They fly too fast.’



  1. Well done, Dragontongue!

    There’s a good dragon joke:
    “Do not meddle with the affairs of dragons,
    for you are crunchy
    and taste good with ketchup.”

    Modern dragons seem to have lost a lot of their original fearfulness – I’d like to read about them in their wild, dangerous ‘other’ state.

  2. I wish you could still get hold of those dragon sausages – they sound fantastic 😉

  3. I remember having to draw the flag over and over again in school. Maybe it was for St David’s day or something?? Anyway, my dragons always looked like red fried eggs. It is a daft flag, but a good one, I think!

  4. … What about all the Red Dragon pubs? and there are at least three Green Dragons in Wales – all organisations or companies promoting green technologies and services! Long live dragons!

  5. Lovely name for your blog! (and what a lovely picture). I look forward to hearing much more from Dragontongue!

  6. Great blog.

    Go! ye Welsh Dragons GO!

    …and every success to ye & all yer books!

    Is Dragontongue a dragon language- with lots of snarls and growls?

  7. Love the name of your blog! Shall visit regularly.

  8. I always thought they spoke in hisses and whispers. But it’s probably unwise to make jokes about them. Even good ones. Especially good ones. You just never know…..

  9. According to feline family history an ancestor of mine tamed a dragon. It was a South Walian one. JTS Cat

  10. Love the name – and lots of luck to all the dragon authors. I lived on Welsh border for many years so very into dragons myself (not their stomachs, though!)… will link to your blog from mine, which is written by a unicorn… enchanted creatures are taking over the web!

  11. […] the Road I would love to write a piece as beautiful and thoughtful as Frances’ and David’s, but unfortunately, my brain is mince and I think that the last beautiful thought I […]

  12. And of course, dragons will provide the free energy of the future. Bravo, Frances, God bless the good ship Dragontongue and all who sail in her.

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