This week we return to Faeries Second Edition in a to look at Saint Guinefort. Guniefort tis a folk saint – a sainted greyhound – and it doesn’t turn up much in the later Ars Magica books because we tried not to have things that people who currently follow one of the religions described in the book would consider heresy as a basic tenet of their religion. If you are a Catholic for example, animal saints are heterodox.
People believe that they can pray to Gunefort for intercession much in the same way that you can work your way around Jesus by asking for favors from his Mum. There’s also a ritual of the cultists of Guinefort which was used to return changelings: that you could leave a changeling on his grave and walk away. When you walk back your own child would be returned. We have moved away from that in some of the more recent material because that’s literally child abuse, usually targeted towards autistic kddies.
What we have here in Beth Gelert is the same folktale without the sainthood. The same origin story showing up in Wales. Now when a story shows up twice like this, and if it is divorced from the Divine, that would indicate that Gelert is a fairy. Now I make pretty much everything fairies, but here I think I have an excellent argument. We have greyhounds with the same name showing up doing similar things and being killed in similar ways far apart from each other both in time and space.
The recording which follows is by Peter yearsley who is a recorder through Librivox. He’s one of my favourites. Thank to Peter and his production team. I believe this was a Poem of the Week on Librivox some years ago so there are about 15 versions of this wandering around in Librivox’s database, if you want a voice that sounds a different way for your particular campaign. For example you want to play this as a prop and you’d prefer someone with a French or Italian accent have a poke around in Librivox.
THE SPEARMEN heard the bugle sound,
And cheerly smiled the morn;
And many a brach and many a hound
Obeyed Llewelyn’s horn.
And still he blew a louder blast, 5
And gave a lustier cheer:
“Come, Gêlert, come, wert never last
Llewelyn’s horn to hear.
“O, where doth faithful Gêlert roam,
The flower of all his race, 10
So true, so brave,—a lamb at home,
A lion in the chase?”
’T was only at Llewelyn’s board
The faithful Gêlert fed;
He watched, he served, he cheered his lord, 15
And sentineled his bed.
In sooth he was a peerless hound,
The gift of royal John;
But now no Gêlert could be found,
And all the chase rode on. 20
And now, as o’er the rocks and dells
The gallant chidings rise,
All Snowdon’s craggy chaos yells
The many-mingled cries!
That day Llewelyn little loved 25
The chase of hart and hare;
And scant and small the booty proved,
For Gêlert was not there.
Unpleased Llewelyn homeward hied,
When, near the portal seat, 30
His truant Gêlert he espied,
Bounding his lord to greet.
But, when he gained his castle door,
Aghast the chieftain stood;
The hound all o’er was smeared with gore, 35
His lips, his fangs, ran blood.
Llewelyn gazed with fierce surprise;
Unused such looks to meet,
His favorite checked his joyful guise,
And crouched and licked his feet. 40
Onward, in haste, Llewelyn passed,
And on went Gêlert too;
And still, where’er his eyes he cast,
Fresh blood-gouts shocked his view.
O’erturned his infant’s bed he found, 45
With blood-stained covert rent;
And all around the walls and ground
With recent blood besprent.
He called his child,—no voice replied,—
He searched with terror wild; 50
Blood, blood, he found on every side,
But nowhere found his child.
“Hell-hound! my child ’s by thee devoured,”
The frantic father cried;
And to the hilt his vengeful sword 55
He plunged in Gêlert’s side.
His suppliant looks, as prone he fell,
No pity could impart;
But still his Gêlert’s dying yell
Passed heavy o’er his heart. 60
Aroused by Gêlert’s dying yell,
Some slumberer wakened nigh:
What words the parent’s joy could tell
To hear his infant’s cry!
Concealed beneath a tumbled heap 65
His hurried search had missed,
All glowing from his rosy sleep,
The cherub boy he kissed.
Nor scath had he, nor harm, nor dread,
But, the same couch beneath, 70
Lay a gaunt wolf, all torn and dead,
Tremendous still in death.
Ah, what was then Llewelyn’s pain!
For now the truth was clear;
His gallant hound the wolf had slain 75
To save Llewelyn’s heir:
Vain, vain was all Llewelyn’s woe;
“Best of thy kind, adieu!
The frantic blow which laid thee low
This heart shall ever rue.” 80
And now a gallant tomb they raise,
With costly sculpture decked;
And marbles storied with his praise
Poor Gêlert’s bones protect.
There never could the spearman pass, 85
Or forester, unmoved;
There oft the tear-besprinkled grass
Llewelyn’s sorrow proved.
And there he hung his horn and spear,
And there, as evening fell, 90
In fancy’s ear he oft would hear
Poor Gêlert’s dying yell.
And, till great Snowdon’s rocks grow old,
And cease the storm to brave,
The consecrated spot shall hold 95
The name of “Gêlert’s Grave.”
2 replies on “Beth Gêlert, or the Grave of the Greyhound by William Robert Spencer”
I ran an adventure based on the Gelert story many years ago, playing 4th edition Ars Magica. A magus and companions were returning with Llewelyn to his manor, where they found the bloody scene. I can’t remember if they saved the dog or not. The more pressing issue was that Llewelyn’s enemies had conjured up a demon wolf that was only mostly dead, and still needed to be finished off.
That’s brilliant – if the dog doesn’t die, no saint, so in a way that’s a win for the infernal…