Horrible Histories of Wales
450AD: Deadly dragons

We’d never want to put you off visiting our lovely country, but some pretty nasty stuff has happened in Wales over the last 250,000 years or so. It’s fine now, though, honest.

A blood sacrifice

In North Wales there is an old hill fort, known as Dinas Emrys. There is a legend that the British King Vortigern, who fled to Wales from the Saxons, tried to build his castle here. But every night, when the work stopped, the tower fell down.

A wise old man explained to Vortigern that a new building needed a blood sacrifice. The wise old man added that the blood must be of a young fatherless boy. Vortigern’s men returned with a young boy named Merlin.

The red dragon

Just as Merlin was about to get the chop he claimed that he knew the real reason the castle kept falling down. Beneath the ground, he explained, was a deep pool where two dragons lived. The red dragon and the white dragon would fight every night and the struggle would bring down the tower.

The red dragon represented Wales and the white dragon represented Saxon England. When the red dragon eventually won the fight, then peace would return.

Of course, Vortigern never did get to defeat the Saxons. That was down to another British leader – the man they knew as Arthur. Merlin joined Arthur and for a while the British defeated the Saxon enemies.

When Dinas Emrys was finally dug up in the 1950s they really did find a deep pool. Spooky or what?

Reproduced by kind permission of Scholastic Children’s Books.