Long ago, the townsfolk were gathered for the annual fair at the foot of the hill behind the castle of this small market town. Drovers with horses, cattle, pigs and sheep. Flower girls with baskets, milkmaids with churns. Tailors, butchers and bakers with stalls. Children taking apples from the old women’s fruit tables. Jugglers, fiddlers and clog dancers with music and song.
They drank ale, picnicked and some cooled off in the hot sun by splashing in the glistening waters of the surrounding river Teifi and its cascading white water weir. Suddenly, a dark shadow came overhead and with it a strange noise ... loud and roaring, like a wild fire on the rampage. The people looked up above the castle. Some froze in fear, and others quaked in their leather boots and wooden clogs. For there in the sky above them was an enormous winged serpent ... a dragon ... circling down towards them.
They watched with bulging eyes and open mouths as this scaly green creature landed near the mast of the flag flying high upon one of the turrets. And there it drew in its huge wings, as if to rest, or even sleep. The people below ran around in panic. Flowers scattered, milk spilled, apples rolled all over the ground and stalls crashed in the chaos.
One among them, a tall young man, strode to the front of the crowd, a red shawl under his arm and a musket over his shoulder. He waded into the river until he was waist-deep, spread the shawl over his shoulders and took steady aim. A shot rang out. The hero dived beneath the water and swam to the far bank.
The fatally wounded Dragon swooped towards the remaining red floating shawl and in its dying fury ripped at it with its black talons. Writhing in a whirlpool of blood, shawl and venom the serpent sank beneath the water as the river washed its body away, never to be seen again.
The Last Dragon of Wales had been killed.
The version above is a well known and recorded legend of Newcastle Emlyn, typically told where we see the hero is good to rid us of the scary Dragon. Though it all depends whose side you take ...
Stories are passed down over hundreds of years by many tellers and later written down in history, often from one point of view for entertainment or political propaganda. The castle in Newcastle Emlyn is one of the few built by the Welsh, and tracing back through different versions of the story is a fascinating exploration of Welsh history, of invasions, occupations and resistance.
Research reveals that the story originated as a record of a battle in 1403 when Welsh Prince Owain Glyndwr seized the castle from its occupiers. His red/golden dragon flag was to fulfill medieval/ Merlin’s prophecy of the red dragon rising up against invaders. The falling of his flag after only two weeks and the accompanying bloodshed as the castle was reoccupied ended this resistance.
So we choose to tell our story from the...
Heart of the Dragon
All around the world, for thousands of years, the dragon was a creature representing the power of nature, and still is beloved and revered in many cultures. In Wales we see the magnificent creature on our flag, a symbol of national pride of our land.
Our town’s story needed a new and different chapter to move us on from the wounds of history and to fulfill a prophecy. So on Midsummer Eve 2006 over a hundred people called to the Spirit of the Last Dragon from the castle ruins in Newcastle Emlyn.
A reply came in the form of a coracle floating in the river bearing a magical dragon's egg. Tended by the children of the town, the egg was invited to travel to Poland and Ireland over the coming year, and our egg grew ... and grew.
At the first Heart of the Dragon Festival in July 2007 we stepped into the story of our castle with a medieval fayre and re-enactment of the battle of the Last Dragon. Children made dragon puppets, props and historical costumes. There were rural crafts, birds of prey, music, storytelling, puppets, making of a willow dragon, fireworks and much, much more.
An exhibition of the history of the castle and Owain Glyndwr was on display at Hanes Emlyn and Attic Players performed a play of The Last Dragon. Local schools, community groups and youth groups made processional dragons for a parade through the town alongside marching bands, stilt walkers and jugglers as our celebration at the return of the dragon.
Our giant egg hatched... and the birth of the First New Welsh Baby Dragon was celebrated.
Thanks again to funding from Awards for All Heritage Lottery, Heart of the Dragon is able to offer workshops to schools, community groups and youth groups in the area to explore the story and help create the next chapter. This is your opportunity to take part!
Become part of the retelling of the story so far, greeting the arrival of the coracle with the dragon's egg … the growing of the egg … the amazing birth from the giant egg …
Parade your dragons through the town on the Grand Dragon Procession.
Take part in the Naming Ceremony by choosing a name for Baby Dragon, and witness what happens next as a Prince returns and a prophecy is fulfilled ……
Drama, costumes and music-making workshops are all available.
Also available, for free, are our unique ‘Inspiration Packs’ containing a 30min DVD and our delightful storytelling and music CD....
The aim is to inspire you all to be involved again and make the next Heart of the Dragon Festival on July 4th 2009 truly spectacular!
All workshops will be led by local community artists with many years' experience.
Bookings are being taken now, cost you nothing, and workshops will take place in March through till June.