When the earth was born, there was a black dragon in the ground. It caused misfortune. Then, the red dragon as the god of water appeared. After a long battle, the red dragon won and the earth seemed to become peaceful.
The Red Dragon, the peaceful dragon is on the Welsh flag (Y Ddraig Goch) and has represented Wales for centuries.
In the medieval story Lludd a Llefelys included in the anthology of medieval Welsh texts denominated Mabinogion, are narrated the battles of the red dragon against an invading white dragon. Their shrieks were so intense that animals and plants were turned sterile. Desperate, king Lludd of Great Britain consulted his brother Llefelys in France. Llefelys advises him to dig a hole in the center of Great Britain, fill it with an alcoholic substance and cover it with a cloth.
Lludd does as he instructed. Both dragons drink and fall asleep, then he caged them in the region of Dinas Emrys, in Snowdonia, to the north of Wales.
The story is taken by Nennius in the book Historia Britonum of Nennius. Here, the dragons remain in the Dinas Emrys by centuries until king Vortigern tries to construct a castle in that zone. However, every night the walls of the castle are demolished by invisible forces. A boy called Merlin reveals the king the existence of both dragons, then Vortigern excavates the hill and releases them. The animals finally continue their fight and the red dragon defeat bravely his white opponent.
Where There Be Dragons, There Be Faeries
During the 5th century, Welsh Arthurian legends and legends of North Wales include monsters, magicians, faeries, pygmy and wrymouthed elves, and creatures of enchantment. Fairyland corresponds with the Avalon of the Arthurian legends. The green meadows of the sea, called in the triads Gwerdonnau Llion, are the Green fairy islands, reposing in sunlight and beauty on ocean’s calm breast. There are, of course, mountain faeries, and faeries of lakes and streams. And in every hollow there are wrymouthed elves.
It is considered that the Welsh kings of Aberffraw first adopted the dragon in the early fifth century in order to symbolize their power and authority after the Romans withdrew from Britain. Later, around the seventh century, it became known as the Red Dragon of Cadwaladr, king of Gwynedd from 655 to 682.
Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Historia Regum Britanniae, written between 1120 and 1129, links the dragon with the Arthurian legends, including Uther Pendragon, the father of Arthur, whose name translates as Dragon Head. Geoffrey’s account also tells of the prophecy of Myrddin (or Merlin) of a long fight between a red dragon and a white dragon, symbolising the historical struggle between the Welsh (red dragon) and the English (white dragon).
The oldest recorded use of the dragon to symbolise Wales however, is from the Historia Brittonum, written by the historian Nennius around 820.
The red dragon was even said to have been used as the British standard at the Battle of Crecy in 1346, when the Welsh archers, dressed in their beloved green and white, played such a crucial role in defeating the French.
In 1400 Owain Glyndwr raised the dragon standard during his uprising against the occupation of Wales by the English King.
Oddly, although Owain Glyndwr raised the dragon standard in 1400 as a symbol of revolt against Henry V and the English Crown, the dragon was brought to England by the House of Tudor, the Welsh dynasty that held the English throne from 1485 to 1603. It signified their direct descent from one of the noble families of Wales. King Henry V himself flew the Red Dragon standard at the Battle of Agincourt against the French. (This was in part because they used a large number of Welsh longbowmen for the battle – which Shakespeare alludes to in his play Henry V.)
The green and white stripes of the flag were additions of Henry VII, the first Tudor king, representing the colors of his standard. The red dragon on a green and white background became a favorite emblem on Royal Navy ships.
As the national flag of Wales, the red dragon was used for the 1911 Caernarfon Investiture of Edward, Prince of Wales. It wasn’t until 1959 however, that it became officially recognised as the national flag of the principality.
The Red Dragon now flies over public and private buildings throughout Wales; thousands make their way into England.