The Hounds of Henllys: Shadowed

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We spent our Christmas with my sister, Jo, and chap, Bob, and their labrador Molly, staying in a cottage in the grounds of Henllys Hall on Anglesey. These huge sculpted dogs guard the entrance drive to the cottages, and are caught here in light shadow with the sun on the scene behind them. I find them intrinsically noble, and they unavoidably remind me of the story of the great dog Gelert, owned by the thirteenth century Welsh prince, Llywelyn of Gwynnedd. But beware, this tale does not end well. Here it is.

One day Llywelyn went hunting with his court, leaving his faithful hound, Gelert, to guard the stronghold, and in particular to watch over the Prince’s young motherless son who was still only an infant. At sunset when Llywelyn returned to his castle, Gelert rushed to meet his master, but something was horribly wrong. The dog’s muzzle was all smeared with blood. Filled with alarm, Llywelyn ran to his son’s chamber and, seeing the cot upturned, and bed clothes  strewn about and streaked in blood, he leapt to conclusions, and drawing his sword, he killed his beloved dog. As the dog yelped his last, so a child’s cry rang out from under the cot. When Llywelyn ran to right it, he found his son quite safe beneath. But he also found the corpse of a large wolf that Gelert had killed to save the child. Filled with remorse, Llywelyn built a cairn of stones to honour his faithful friend, and the place where it may be seen is at Beddgelert (grave of Gelert), beside the River Glaslyn, on the road to Porthmadog.

copyright 2015 Tish Farrell

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40 thoughts on “The Hounds of Henllys: Shadowed

  1. I have read this story, but it was serpent that the dog killed to save the child in the version I read. Either way, a good story illustrating that one should not jump to conclusions and act without knowing the full story. Super photos of the dog sculptures. Looks like an interesting place.

  2. Sad, but I suspect a little bit of myth/legend … maybe?

    Oddly enough, even though I lived not too far from Anglesey, I never visited, though my folks have been there many times.

    1. Oh plenty of myth, Ark. Actually I read that Gelert’s grave at Beddgelert was said to have been created in the 18th century, by the then owner of the nearby Goat Hotel. It was a notion to drum up tourism.

  3. Looks like what we call a Great Dane, but is not Danish, and is one of the giant mastiff breeds. I guess back in those days they called all dogs “hounds.” Fantastic story and great piece of carving. I wouldn’t mind living in the shadow of a giant protector dog.

  4. No sorry I can’t like those dogs (though I DO like your photos of them) I find them quite scary and Hounds of the Baskerville come to mind. Not sure I’d sleep well in those cottages 😉

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