Red and White: Part 1

Bouncing off Caleb’s archaeology post a couple of weeks back, here are the legends of Dinas Emrys.

“But where is it?” gasped Vortigern, the stout man who teetered on the edge of his High Kingship of Britain.

“I don’t know, my lord,” cringed his chief builder. “It disappeared in the night.”

It was a dark time for Britain. The Saxons, who had originally come as guests, were now refusing to leave. They were growing greedy, forcing the High King to turn his eyes west, to the mountains, looking for a site to build a fortress so impregnable that it would keep him and his household safe for many years.

Vortigern shivered as the bitter Welsh wind whipped up his cloak. Why oh why was he up a mountain at dawn?

“Well, this is clearly a matter for my poets and wise men,” he announced, hurrying back down the hill with a sigh of relief. “There is some magic at work here.”

Back down in the valley, very near where, in later times, an irate man was going to kill his favorite hound, Vortigern took council.

The wise men consulted together and then gave their answer.

“Lord, we advise you to seek out a boy who was born without a father. He is the one who can solve your problem.”

“A boy who was born without a father?” echoed the king. “How is that possible?”

The wise man shook his head, “I don’t know, my lord, but one exists.”

The king shook his head, but called his messengers to him and sent them off.

One travelled into Monmouthshire, where he saw a group of boys playing football. As he watched, one boy cried scathingly, “No good will come to you, boy without a father!”

“Aha,” thought the messenger. He began to walk slowly among the adults who stood around, making enquiries. Eventually he came across the boy’s mother, who confirmed that he was indeed without a father. So the boy was summoned before the king.

“Boy,” said King Vortigern, when he was brought before him. “You are here to tell me why I cannot build a fortress on the top of this mountain. Whatever work my builders accomplish during the day, by dawn it is all gone.”

“Your wise men cannot answer you?” inquired the boy, delicately lifting his fine eyebrows.

“Boy, do you think you would be here, if they could,” returned the king, heatedly.

“Indeed,” said the boy. He turned, “Wise men, do you know what is under these rocks?”

They looked at each other and shook their heads.

“So dig and find out.” The boy sat down to watch. Vortigern sighed and summoned men to dig.

“We have found an old pool, my liege,” one of the men cried at last.

“Well, what next?” cried Vortigern impatiently.

The boy rose. “What do you see, wise men.”

“A vase,” they muttered.

“Pick it out,” the boy ordered. “And look inside. You will see a tent. It is a magic tent.”

And so it proved to be, springing open to full size when it was flung on the grass.

“Look inside.”

The king and the wise men stooped to look in. There before their eyes were two dragons, fighting.

Vortigern stood up and looked the boy in the eyes. “Explain this!”

“The red dragon is the Britons, and the white dragon represents the Saxons,” explained the boy. “One day soon the white dragon will be defeated for a short time. But while they are still fighting, no one will be able to build on this hill. You, O king, are fated to seek other lands where you may build a fortress. Indeed,” said the boy, warming to his theme, “Would you like to hear how the dragons got here, my lord?”

“Indeed I would,” said Vortigern, much more friendly now he had an answer. “Let’s go down to the tents and share some wine while you tell the tale.”