Myths and legends are woven into the DNA of Wales and the story of the Red Dragon (Y Ddraig Goch) on the National flag is no different. The beginnings of this tale start in the Mabinogion; a set of 11 stories that are said to be the oldest recorded written prose in the world. The Mabinongion was originally passed down from generation to generation through storytelling until they were officially recorded in 1350–1410 in the Red Book of Hergest.
The Mabinogion legends are full of colourful characters and story lines, many of which were set in Snowdonia. The Legend of the Red Dragon comes from the Mabinogion story of Lludd and Llefelys and goes something like this….
An on-going fight between a red dragon and an invading white dragon is wreaking havoc in England as crops are failing, animals dying and pregnant women miscarrying every time the red dragon cries in pain from its injuries. In a state of despair, King Lludd, the ruler of the kingdom looks to his brother, King Llefelys of France for advice. His words of wisdom are to build a pit in the ground, fill it with mead and honey and entice the dragons, where once they had drunk the mean, they could be captured.
The pit was dutiful dug, the mead and honey poured in. The dragons came as expected and having drunk the mead fell into a deep sleep. As they slept, they were imprisoned under the hill side that is now Dinas Emrys, but when they awoke from their drunken stupor, the fight continued under the hillside.
Enter the next King, King Vortigern. Looking for a suitable place to build his next castle, he chose the hill side of Dinas Emrys. However, everytime he tried building his new castle, the foundations would fall each night proving it impossible for the castle to be finished.
Seeking advice from mystical figures, King Vortigern is advised to find a boy with no natural father whose blood can be scattered on the ground on where the castle is to be built; a young boy called Myrddin Emrys is found. However, Myrddin is in fact a mystical wizard, Merlin and tells the king that sacrificing him will be of no help as the problem is with the dragons that are imprisoned under the hill. It is their fighting that is causing the foundations to fall. The King believes him and instructs for the hillside to be excavated, where they find the two dragons and set them free.
Once set free, the dragons continue their fight and the Red dragon eventually prevails during the final battle. Peace returns to the country along with the prophecy that King Arthur is on his way….