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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Jacobs - Beth Gelert - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

ANGER!  Is there anybody who hasn't felt it?  If ever there was a tale to pop in your head before acting, "Beth Gelert" is it.  Anybody addressing the topic of Anger Management or Character Education and Values needs this story in their resources.

Read the story first, it won't take long. After it I'll give both Joseph Jacobs' own notes on the story and additional online information including photos -- but please don't skip ahead as it will ruin the story.  The story is given repeatedly by many people, but I think it's best told by Jacobs. He was an Australian best known for his collections of English and Celtic folklore and I've earlier posted a bit of that and a little of his Aesop fables.  This comes from his book, Celtic Fairy Tales, published in 1892.
That story has been told many times and even can be traced moving across the globe.  Wait a second.  I'm sometimes asked "Is that story true?"  Well truth and what really happened or even if it happened as a story may retell it can be different things.

Historic UK tells the facts in the briefest way:
To this day, a cairn of stones marks the place, and the name Beddgelert means in Welsh 'The grave of Gelert'. Every year thousands of people visit the grave of this brave dog; slight problem however, is that the cairn of stones is actually less than 200 years old!
Nevertheless this story has great appeal. History and myth appear to have become a little confused when in 1793, a man called David Pritchard came to live in Beddgelert. He was the landlord of the Royal Goat Inn and knew the story of the brave dog and adapted it to fit the village, and so benefit his trade at the inn.
He apparently invented the name Gelert, and introduced the name Llywelyn into the story because of the Prince's connection with the nearby Abbey, and it was with the help of the parish clerk that Pritchard, not Llywelyn, raised the cairn!

That site gives a quick view of the two tablets shown at Historic UK and placed in Beddgelert.  The second tablet repeats in Welsh, so here is the English version.  It and the appealing dog are found on  Their source is a postcard entitled "The Faithful Hound" and was published by Gwynedd Crafts, Beddgelert. The hound pictured was named Sean and sadly died in May, 1989 from osteosarcoma at the age of three.  The site also gives the poem by William Robert Spencer, often given as a source and mentioned by Joseph Jacobs.   If you are further interested in the Irish Wolfhound,  the site mentions it's the "world's tallest breed of dog."  They also provide a great deal of information on the breed for Wolfhound fanciers and potential lovers of the breed. looked at the legend and had a Forum discussion following it.  One Forum member, "Maverick", said:
a comprehensive look at the legend and the Celtic myths behind it Croker (Fairy Legends of Ireland, vol. iii. p. 165) points out several places where the legend seems to have been localised in place-names - two places, called "Gwal y Vilast" ("Greyhound's Couch"), in Carmarthen and Glamorganshire; "Llech y Asp" ("Dog's Stone"), in Cardigan, and another place.

I love the idea of these tales migrating across the face of the globe so that a Bhuddhistic text eventually becomes subsumed into Celtic culture (and we wonder about the migration of language!)

This concludes the literary route of the Legend of Gellert from India to Wales: Buddhistic Vinaya Pitaka - Fables of Bidpai; - Oriental Sindibad;-Occidental Seven Sages of Rome ; - " English" (Latin), Gesta Romanorum ;-Welsh, Fables of Cattwg.

Angie Lake's article for The Megalithic Portal gives excellent, but small, photos of the site, along with maps of it.  This photo is the largest.  Angie Lake contributes regularly to the Portal which over the years has become a major team effort with input from thousands of photographers, archaeologists, locals and visitors.  Ms. Lake is part of a team of voluntary editors and site admins for the Portal viewing ancient sites.  Many of these ancient sites are not protected in any way, and many have disappeared over the last 50 years or so under development and intensive agriculture. Even sites that are scheduled have limited real protection, so their mission is to document, publicise and protect these remaining sites.  I love it when they say they're "creating a Hitchhikers' Guide to Ancient Sites if you like. Or - wait for it - Pokemonolith TM (Gotta catch 'em all :-)"

O.k. I've held up on posting Jacobs' own notes about the story.  I'm afraid a lot of it fits the illustration he gives to the Notes and References section.  He's certainly thorough -- it's longer than the story itself -- but feel free to skip through it, reading the parts that interest you.  I certainly did.
I meant to note, all illustrations in the story and notes are by John D. Batten.

Hopefully you aren't indeed sleeping for "an hundred years."  I'll close with my usual closing for days when I have a story in Keeping the Public in Public Domain

This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories.  

At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my regular posting of a research project here.  (Don't worry, this isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future storytelling to an audience.)  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other postings as often as I can manage it. 

Other Public Domain story resources I recommend -
  • There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I have long recommended it and continue to do so.  He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key.
  • You may have noticed I'm no longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking specific types of stories.  There's another site, FairyTalez claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales, folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.
Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"
  • The email list for storytellers, Storytell, discussed Online Story Sources and came up with these additional suggestions:            
               - David K. Brown -
               - Karen Chace -
               - Richard Martin -
               - Spirit of Trees -
           - Story-Lovers - is now only accessible through the Wayback Machine, described below, but Jackie Baldwin's wonderful site lives on there, fully searchable manually (the Google search doesn't work), at and put in in the search box.  I recommend using the latest "snapshot" on November 2016
               - Tim Sheppard -
               -  World of Tales -

    You're going to find many of the links on these sites have gone down, BUT go to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to find some of these old links.  Tim's site, for example, is so huge probably updating it would be a full-time job.  In the case of Story-Lovers, it's great that Jackie Baldwin set it up to stay online as long as it did after she could no longer maintain it.  For an example of using the "Wayback Machine", list member, Papa Joe is on both Tim Sheppard's site and Story-Lovers, but he no longer maintains his old Papa Joe's Traveling Storytelling Show website and his Library (something you want to see!) is gone, but using the Wayback Machine you can still see it.  At the Wayback Machine I put in his site's address, then chose 2006 since it was a later year and clicked until I reached the Library at  

    Somebody as of this writing whose stories can still be found by his website is the late Chuck Larkin -  I prefer to list these sites by their complete address so they can be found by the Wayback Machine, a.k.a., when that becomes the only way to find them.
You can see why I recommend these to you. Have fun discovering even more stories!

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