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Cokinosauropteryx Oualis (detail)
Cokinosauropteryx Oualis (detail)

The Tale of the Red Dragon

Welsh lore relates tales of a red dragon that defends Wales, doing battle to protect the people from invasion. In the Mabinogian, the red dragon fights with the invading white dragon. His pained shrieks cause women to miscarry, animals to perish and plants to become barren. Lludd, king of Wales, goes to his wise brother Llefelys in France. Llefelys tells him to dig a pit in the center of Britain, fill it with mead, and cover it with cloth. The dragons drink the mead and fall asleep.

The dragons remain asleep beneath Dinas Emrys for centuries until King Vortigern tries to build a castle there. Every night the castle walls and foundations are demolished by unseen forces. Vortigern consults his advisers who tell him to find a boy with no natural father, and sacrifice him. Vortigern finds such a boy in Merlin. The boy tells the king of the two dragons. Vortigern excavates the hill, freeing the dragons. They continue their fight and the red dragon defeats the white. The boy tells Vortigern that the white dragon symbolizes the Saxons and that the red dragon symbolizes the people of Wales.

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