The Welsh Dragon
Welsh Red Dragon
The Welsh Dragon is just called 'The Red Dragon' (Y Ddraig Goch) in Welsh, but where does it come from?
Mythology has it that there were two dragons, many centuries ago, a red one and a white one. The red dragon was
said to represent the people of Britain and the white one the invading Anglo-Saxons, who never really conquered the
British, because they fled into the western mountains and became the Welsh.
It seems that there could be some truth in this as there is evidence, I think, that a Roman garrison stationed
at Caerleon in South Wales used a red dragon on its standard. When the Romans went home, just before the
Anglo-Saxons invaded, the local dignitaries could well have retained the red dragon as a symbol of their
The red dragon's first recorded use as a symbol for Wales was in the Historia Brittonum in 829 AD. However, it
was said to have been used by King Arthur and other Celtic kings more than three hundred years earlier.
When the house of Tudor ruled the kingdom, the red dragon was shown on his standard with a white and green
background, like the current Welsh flag, and supporting the royal crest, because they were seen as Welsh, but it
was later removed. However, it is used by many Welsh authorities, many Welsh companies and on the Welsh flag.
In the Mabinogi, the 'book' of Welsh fairy tales and legends, the red and the white dragons are said to have
fought so long, so hard and so viciously that their cries caused milk to turn sour and pregnant women to have
miscarriages. Eventually, King Lludd imprisons the dragons underground in Dinas Emrys, in Snowdonia (Eryri), in
However, a later king, Vortigern, tried to build a castle there, but was perturbed by the 'rumblings' every
night. His advisers tell that he has to sacrifice a boy to solve the problem. On the point of the sacrifice, the
boy, whom some say was Merlin, told the king about the dragons, so he excavated and released them, saving the boy'
The dragons fought on, and the boy assured Vortigern, who did rule in the fifth century either with or just
after the Romans left, that the red dragon would eventually win.
All these odds and ends paint a picture, but it is up to you what you see in it. History did not have to be too
factual in those days and symbolism was used far, far more than nowadays would be allowed, as is the case in most
old books, including The Bible.
A point of interest could be that Arthur's father was said to be Uther Pendragon. 'Pen' means 'head' in Welsh,
but could it have meant 'top' in the sense of 'chief' as well?
There are precedents for either a white or a golden dragon to be used to represent the
Anglo-Saxons, such as in a battle of 782 AD, and on the Bayeux Tapestry, where a white dragon with red wings
is on a flag by the fallen king Harold. A golden dragon is also on the crest of the county of Wessex. A
two-legged dragon is called a Wyvern
by +Owen Jones