Arthur The West Country may have tried to appropriate Arthur but
there are very strong claims for Wales - particularly around Snowdon. In
fact, he was probably a Romanised Celtic chief Aurelious Ambrosius who
emerges as a leader about 472 whose influence encompassed a lot of Western
One of the strongest Arthur legends is linked to Dinas Emrys - an
iron-age fort atop a lump nestling on Snowdon's southernmost flanks near
Beddgelert. Here, it is said, the Celtic king Vortigern (unpopular amongst
Celts as it was he who invited in the Saxons to help rid Wales of the
Irish!) was trying to build a fort but every night the walls fell down.
His wise men told him that only the blood of a slaughtered boy with no
mother and no father would stop this happening.
Such a boy was found in Carmarthen - Myrddin Emrys (the Merlin of
Arthur legends) who was brought to the king and told him (unsurprisingly)
"No, don't kill me! Dig down and you'll find a lake and under that
lake two dragons - a red and a white -fighting and that's what causing
your building's destruction". He was right. When they dug down they
found the red dragon of the Celts and the White dragon of the Saxons,
which were released into the air to continuing fighting. Ambrosius
(Arthur) found Merlin at Dinas Emrys and persuaded him to be his
According to Welsh tradition, Arthur met his death in a skirmish on
Bwlch y Saetheau (Pass of the Arrows) and his knights lie resting on their
shields in a little cave on the face of Lliwedd. Some legends even place
Arthur's grave as being here under a cairn.
Of course every generation, including Hollywood today, has built a
little bit more of the Arthur legend and Tennyson probably had Llyn Llydaw
in mind in Idylls of the King when he had Bedivere "steeping down/By
zigzag paths and juts of pointed rock/Come on the shining levels of the
lake". In 1856 when the waters were lowered to help build the track
to the mines a primitive canoe was found and many echoed Malory's words of
the three "fayr ladyes" who bore away the body of the mortally
wounded king across the lake.