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Friday, October 19, 2012

Fearsome tales in our Readers 8


Gelertan impressive hound!
I didn't know it was a fable but even if I had, it wouldn't have mattered anyway. It was another favourite of Old Jim's and I heard it a hundred times. You probably know the story – how Llywelyn goes out hunting leaving his favourite hound Gelert solely in charge of the household, including the baby [yeah right....] and when he returns he finds evidence of carnage everywhere and Gelert looking very pleased with himself, blood all over his teeth and most of the rest of his body.
   This hothead Welshman jumps to the immediate conclusion that Gelert must have got bored and, with (alleged) pit-bull-terrier-like enthusiasm, has ripped the kid to shreds. So, cursing and raging, he plunges his sword deep into Gelert's side. We listen as the poem describes the dying process in fair detail, and then Llywelyn goes to the nursery to see if there's anything left of his one and only heir to scrape up.
   Of course he comes across his kid sleeping like... well... a baby; totally undamaged goods, and a monstrous great wolf dead beside him. Gelert had fought the wicked wolf for I don't know how long but I'll bet it was hours, and finally despatched him. And now we have reams of verses, or so it seems, describing Llywelyn's anguish at what he'd done to the faithful Gelert through not bothering to take a peek into the kid's room first.
   See, I could imagine our faithful old cattledog Ted protecting my younger sister from ahhhh... dingoes... while we all went out to the Saturday night dance. I thought of Ted, and it was the sheer injustice of poor Gelert's death I couldn't stand.
   If I'd have known Llywelyn was a Welshman at the time I would have been annoyed at the Welsh for decades, but fortunately I've met some nice Welsh people in my time and they aren’t all bad. (Hi, Avril and Jerry!)
   But Llywelyn… it's a silly name anyway, isn't it? What's with Aberystwyth and Betws-y-Coed, and llanfairpwllgwyn-gyllgogerychwyrndrobwll-llantysiliogogogoch? The Welsh language is ... interesting. Lucky we stuck mainly to Ten Pound Poms of the English sort as immigrants in the 1950s. At least we could spell their names.
   I had no idea where Wales was anyway. Probably next to where Mazeppa came from.
   I guess, looking back, we did learn a vast amount from those Readers, and every story and poem had some sort of moral lesson in it, including these horror tales I detested so much. There is a common element in all but one, and I'm sure you can see what it is. 
Fearsome tales in our Readers 1: Introduction [1000 words] 
Fearsome tales in our Readers 2: The Daisy and the Lark [256 words] 
Fearsome tales in our Readers 3: The Little Match Girl [206 words] 
Fearsome tales in our Readers 4: The Crocodile and the Bull [280 words] 
Fearsome tales in our Readers 5: Escape from the wolves [444 words] 
Fearsome tales in our Readers 6: Mazeppa's Ride [438 words] 
Fearsome tales in our Readers 7: A Tale of Two Cities [336 words] 
Fearsome tales in our Readers 8: Gelert [343 words]


  1. This poem traumatised me in primary school, and as you know, too bad, you had to read it (sometimes out loud in class). A disaster, tears and snot. Another story in our Reader which made me cry was the story of an orphaned bear brought up by a family living in a little cabin. The bear leaves and returns when it is fully grown. The people shoot it and only after do they realise it is their bear returned to them. Don't remember the story's title, but do remember I had to read it in front of the dreaded School Inspector, which of course ended in tears.

    1. Oh no! Not in front of the School Inspector! [It was only after I became a teacher that I discovered the School Inspector wasn't out to tear children to shreds if they put a foot wrong, but the teacher who was being inspected. Still, I could see the value in that myth, and terrified my pupils with it too. It produced good results for my evaluations....]

      I had forgotten that bear story. Maybe I suppressed it. I also remember "A Cup of Cold Water" where in a battle a terribly wounded man begging for a drink was given the only bit of water available by an equally thirsty but more able-bodied man. Something like that but it's vague, but I remember the description of the eyes of the dying man craving the water.

      I always had to go downstairs after that and pour myself a good cup of cool water from the watertank.

  2. I'm so glad we didn't have these horror readers in NSW! I've never heard of any of these stories, thank goodness, but I guess they have admirable morals. Nasty, but!! Would stay in a young child's mind..

    Julie xxx


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