The Tour of Wales



Gallery: Myths and Legends
The most enduring of Celtic legends must be the story of King Arthur, and Wales has (of course) many associations with this story from the mountain of Cader Idris to the giant Arthur's Stone. A little known fact is that "Arth" is the Welsh word for bear, although whether there ever really was a warrior called Arth or Arthur is still much debated.
    Wales has produced more then just this one legend though. The Mabinogion, one of the first written works of Welsh literature, is full of legends and legendary figures - figures that may be more familiar then you think.
    Taliesin the bard, for instance, is in fact a historical Welsh figure (although there is much myth surrounding him now too). Gwydion the magician seems to appear in modern literature almost as frequently as Arthur himself, and let's not forget Merlin (or Myrddin in Welsh) who even has a town named after himself - his legendary birth place - Carmarthen. There are many others, but unfortunately there is not space to list them all here.

Urien yng Ngorffowys (Urien at Home)

A poem by the 6th century bard, Taliesin. The book of Taliesin is preserved at the National Library of Wales. A translation of this poem is avaliable.

Carn March Arthur

Carn March Arthur, on the hills near Aberdyfi, is reputedly the hoofprint of King Arthur's horse, which (being magical in nature) left the hoofprint embedded in solid rock. Spoilers of the story tell us that it was actually formed by a certain type of erosion.
    The site has been made most noteworthy in recent times by children's novelist Susan Cooper, who used this and other nearby sites (echo rock and the bearded lake) in her story "Silver on the Tree" in "The Dark is Rising" sequence.

Bedd Taliesin

This is the legendary grave of Taliesin. Taliesin is both a historical Welsh poet and a legendary figure.
    According to legend, orginally, his name wasGwion Bach, a serving boy by Lake Bala in north Wales where the giant Tegid and his wife, the witch Cerridwen, lived. Cerridwen had a son, the ugliest boy in all the world, and she brewed a potion to make him both handsome and wise. She set Gwion to stirring a cauldron containing the magic potion.
    At the end of the year and a day of stirring, three drops of the potion flew out and burned Gwion's finger; he thrust the finger into his mouth but perchance those three drops held all the magical essence of the potion. At once Gwion realised the power and impending wrath of Cerridwen and fled in terror.
    Furious, Cerridwen went after him. The two repeatedly changed shapes, Gwion to escape, and Cerridwen in an attempt to capture him. Finally, he changed into a grain of wheat and Cerridwen as a hen ate him. Upon returning to her own shape, she discovered she was pregnant. When Gwion was reborn, the Goddess cast him into the sea in a little boat.
    Elphin, son of a wealthy landowner, rescued the baby and named him Taliesin (radiant brow). Taliesin remembered all the knowledge he had gained from Cerridwen's magic potion. He became a great bard, magician, and counselor of kings."



  © Stephen Kingston