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Monday, 14 July 2014
Monday's Welsh legend. Cantre'r Gwaelod - the Welsh Atlantis.
According to legend, there was once a prosperous, low lying kingdom, known as Cantre'r Gwaelod, which stretched along the coast where now the waves lap against the sandy shores.The kingdom was a community of merchants and prices and comprised sixteen thriving cities.
In order to protect the kingdom from the sea, a number of steep embankments were built, with gates, or sluices which were only opened at lif water was needed to irrigate the fields, and kept closed at high tide.
The Prince Gwyddno Garanhir ruled over the land, and he delegated the working of the sluices to the control of a man called Seithennin, decribed as a notorious drukard. One night he became so inebriated he forgot to close the sluice gates and the sea poured through, drowning the kingdom which vanished forever beneath the waves of Cardigan Bay. At times of danger it is said the bells ring out from the ocean's depths. A famous folk song 'The Bells Of Aberdovey' supposedly refers to the legend.
About seven miles along the coast from Aberystwyth, between the town and Aberdovey, lies the old fishing village of Borth and Ynyslas, Every winter, after storms have scoured away the surface of the sand, at low tide large areas of peat appear, littered with tree stumps and fallen tree trunks. Radiocarbon dating suggests these trees died about 1500 BC. The remains of the ancient forest were especially evident earlier this year when fierce storms swept along the coast, causing much damage and uncovering fresh areas of peat. And in 1770, Welsh antiquarian scholar William Owen Pughe reported seeing sunken human habitations about four miles off the Cardiganshire coast, between the rivers Ystwyth and Teifi.
So perhaps the idea of a submerged kingdom may be more than just a legend, after all.
I often incorporate snippets of Welsh legends into my writing, and I mention the legend of Cantre'r Gwaelod in my fantasy novella Dancing With Fate, only I use the more ancient name of 'Maes Gwyddno.'
"He’d never known anyone to dance as she did. The way she swiveled her hips had him mesmerized. Her voice was soft and clear, with a haunting quality. It reminded him of the musical bells of Maes Gwyddno, the civilization that now lay drowned beneath the sea. At times of danger, if one listened hard enough, one could hear the bells ringing from beneath the waves."
I hope you've enjoyed hearing about today's legend. Do you know any other legends which bear a similarity to 'Atlantis'?