By Richard Freeman
Brilliantly coloured flying serpents were said to inhabit the woods of Penllin as recently as the mid 19th century. People who were old men and women at the beginning of the 20th century recalled them well from their youth. They were prone to raid chicken coops and as a result were hunted into extinction.
Another colony of the winged serpents resided here. One old woman said her grandfather had killed one after a fierce fight. She recalled seeing the skin preserved at his house when she was a girl. To the horror of cryptozoologists, it was thrown away upon his death.
A worm was supposed to live at the bottom of a whirlpool in the River Taff. It was said to drown people and suck down their bodies to eat.
Trellech a’r Betws
A gwiber is supposed to guard a prehistoric tumulus in the area.
A flame-spewing wyvern lived in a ruined castle, and was covered in impenetrable scales. A soldier waded into the river with a large piece of red cloth. The wyvern reacted to the cloth like a bull (or a male robin) and swooped down to attack it, allowing the soldier to shoot it in its one vulnerable spot. Like the dragon of Wantley, the vital spot was its rear end!
In one of the strangest British dragon legends, the beast here was a cockatrice whose body was covered in eyes. For some unexplained reason the estates of Winston were up for grabs to whoever could look on the freakish thing without it seeing them.
One resourceful chap hid inside a barrel and rolled into the cockatrice’s lair. He shouted out “Ha, bold cockatrice! I can see you but you cannot see me!”
He was granted the estates. What happened to the multi-eyed monster is anyone’s guess.
A dragon roosted in the tower of Llandelio Graban church until a local ploughboy worked out a way of destroying it. He carved a dummy dragon out of oak, and had the blacksmith cover it with steel hooks and spikes. It was then painted red and erected on the tower whilst the dragon was away hunting.
Upon returning, the dragon saw what it thought was a rival and savagely attacked it. The real dragon coiled about its facsimile and tried to squeeze the life from it. The genuine dragon was fatally wounded, and both the monster and the fake dragon came crashing down from the tower to their ruin.
A monster known as the Wybrant gwiber terrorized the neighbourhood. An outlaw from Hiraethog tried to kill it, but it bit him, tore out his throat, and flung him into the river for good measure!
A gwiber brought a reign of terror to the area until the surviving locals studded a huge megalith with spikes and hooks and swathed it in red cloth. The red colour enraged the gwiber who attacked, becoming fatally entwined on the hooks. The megalith is known as the Red Pillar, or the Pillar of the Viper.
In this detailed story a rich nobleman invites a soothsayer to the celebration feast after his son’s birth. The sage foretells that the boy will die of a gwiber’s bite. The boy is sent away to England for safekeeping, and his father offers a reward to whoever can slay the last gwiber in the area.
A clever lad digs a pit on the path were the gwiber usually slithers. At the bottom he places a highly polished brass mirror. He covers the pit with sticks and grass then waits. The gwiber falls into the pit and sees its own reflection. Thinking it a rival, it attacks the mirror until exhausted; then they boy leaps into the pit and hacks off the gwiber’s head.
Years later the nobleman’s son, now a spoilt teenager, returns and is shown the gwiber’s skull. He contemptuously kicks it and one of its long, dead fangs slices through his boot. The fang retains traces of venom and, as prophesied, the boy dies.
A wyvern dwelt in this lake beneath the slopes of Moel Offrum. It emerged to poison the countryside and devour whatever it could catch. The Wizard of Ganllwyd employed a group of archers to kill it, but the wyvern always eluded them.
One day a shepherd boy named Meredydd found the wyvern sleeping on the hill. He ran two miles to Cymmer Abbey and borrowed a magick axe. He hacked the wyvern’s head off while it was asleep.
After the Roman Legions left, Vortigern became the first British king. He decided to build a stronghold on the Iron Age hill fort of Dinas Emrys. Every time work began upon Dinas Emry, it would be destroyed by earthquake-like disturbances. Vortigern’s wizards said that in order to stop these events, the ground should be sprinkled with the blood of the son of a virgin. A boy was found whose mother had apparently been magically impregnated by a spirit. He was about to be sacrificed when he went into a trance and announced that beneath the hill was a lake. In the lake dwelt a red dragon and a white dragon who perpetually fought.
Vortigern’s men dug down and found the lake. When the lake was drained they found a pair of dragons. The two great reptiles fought until, at last, the white dragon gave way and fled. Seeing this as an omen that his forces would defeat the invading Saxons, Vortigern adopted the red dragon as his emblem.
The boy was none other than a young Merlin.
In the 18th century a group of men were swimming across this small lake close to Snowdonia. One of them was grabbed and devoured by a worm.