The Cadw Dragons' Tale
Wales’s spectacular castles may have experienced colossal sieges, mighty battles and lavish parties of medieval years gone by, but more recently the historic strongholds have been a familiar stomping ground for a beastly family of Cadw Dragons.
You may have spotted them swooping around the mighty towers of your favourite Welsh castle, or perhaps you were brave enough to meet them face-to-face when they proudly toured the country last year… but do you know how the famous quartet all began?
On the misty morning of St David’s Day 2017, Caernarfon locals awoke to the sight of two Welsh Dragons on the Town Square — one of whom looked very familiar. Dewi, the Welsh Dragon who broke the banks of Caerphilly Castle on 01 March 2016, was back — but this time, accompanied by a very special friend — Dwynwen, the brand new Caernarfon Dragon. The beasts were entwined in a romantic embrace — or “cwtch” in Welsh — and looked magnificent against the looming backdrop of Caernarfon Castle. The Dragons were clearly in love. But how did they meet? You’ll have to read their legendary love story to find out…
Let’s begin at the beginning.
Many thousands of years ago, in a time of dragons, witches and giants, a great King of Wales was walking in the deep, dark caves at Dinas Emrys.
The King was lost. He had been walking for days in the cave’s deep, dark chambers. Surrounded by gloom and walking for miles, his hunger was growing — so imagine his relief when he stumbled upon a large egg, gleaming in the darkness.
Now, in those days it was said that any creature to mistakenly consume a dragon egg would immediately transform into a dragon. The King knew this. But he also knew how rare dragon eggs were. And by this point on his long journey, he was too hungry to care.
The King cracked the egg open and wolfed it down whole. Then, BANG! In a puff of smoke, the King was gone and in his place stood an enormous dragon.
Now, as everyone knows, dragons rather like dark, damp places — so he found the cave very pleasant. But after many years, he grew tired of seeing the same stalactites, stalagmites and echoing chambers. He longed for some company.
So the Dragon emerged from the cavernous caves, rose high above Dinas Emrys and flew south, in the search for a brand new lair.
The Dragon flew around for several hours before he spotted some magnificent stone walls, far below. He soared down to investigate and landed on the banks of an epic castle. It was Caerphilly.
It’s believed that a love of castles is ingrained within the very nature of dragons — they like having towers to climb and dungeons to hide in. And this Dragon was no exception to the rule.
He was enamoured by the site and spent hours exploring the castle grounds before curling up on the banks for a much-needed rest.
The following morning, he woke to a sea of astounded humans. By chance, he had landed at Caerphilly Castle in time for St David’s Day — a day of national celebration in Wales.
He felt rather afraid at first but he needn’t have done — Welsh people have always been fond of dragons. And a real dragon hadn’t been seen in Wales for many centuries, so the humans were very excited.
As the day went on, the crowds grew and grew. The humans were so happy to see the Dragon that they decided to name him Dewi — after their patron saint — and invited him to live at Caerphilly Castle permanently.
Dewi obliged, thrilled with his new identity and brand new lair. And so, he roamed the castle grounds and guarded the castle walls with passion for an entire spring season…
Dewi loved his new home but part of him wondered what else was waiting for him in Wales.
In July 2016, Dewi embarked on a summer holiday. He spent time exploring seven different castles across Wales and enjoying the incredible sights in-between. And on one particular day, after visiting Caernarfon Castle, he decided to embark on a quick journey up to the very peak of Mount Snowdon.
And when he was right at the top, looking out across the epic landscape of Wales, he heard the soft beating of another pair of wings.
He turned around to see a blur of purple descending through the clouds and watched as a striking female Dragon laid her claws down upon the mountainside before him.
Their piercing black eyes met and studied each other’s scales carefully. And within seconds, they were speaking fluently in a foreign tongue neither beast had ever spoken before. It was a dragon language not heard in Wales for many hundreds of years and the mountainside quaked with joy at the ancient sound.
The Dragons fell instantly in love. But they knew they would have to part. After all, Dewi was responsible for guarding Caerphilly Castle and his new beau belonged within the epic landscape of Gwynedd — though she longed for a castle lair of her own.
When asking her name, the female Dragon said she didn’t have one. So Dewi vowed to call her Dwynwen — after Wales’s patron saint of love. And before parting, the beasts made a promise that, if their love remained strong, they would meet in Caernarfon on 01 March 2017.
Dewi hoped with all of his scaly black heart that Dwynwen would meet him in Caernarfon. He knew that the local humans would welcome them with open arms on this very special date and secretly wished that they would invite Dwynwen to guard Caernarfon Castle permanently.
Dewi and Dwynwen were separated for several months after they made their pact. But, as everyone knows, absence only makes the heart grow fonder — and with every day, their love grew stronger and stronger.
So of course, both Dragons did meet in Caernarfon on that day; the townspeople did invite Dwynwen to guard the castle permanently; and with much excitement, Dewi and Dwynwen agreed to continue their loving long-distance relationship.
So they lived happily ever after. But it wasn’t the end…
Dewi and Dwynwen’s long distance relationship was going rather well.
The fiery pair organised a dragon date-night once a fortnight ─ sometimes going for a late-night flight over the skies of Wales and other times meeting for a walk around the country’s stunning landscape.
But on one day in April, Dwynwen had to cancel her dragon-date with Dewi. She was feeling a little bit peaky and wasn’t sure if she could manage the flight.
She had a bit of a fever, felt constantly hungry and kept sneezing fire-balls.
The lovely custodians at Caernarfon Castle noticed this and began to worry about Dwynwen. She simply wasn’t herself.
So, they rang the local vet who popped along to the castle to have a look at her. The vet came armed with his stethoscope and a welding mask (just in case of any rogue sneezes) and began to examine the poorly beast.
After poking around for a few minutes, the vet suddenly stopped — his stethoscope hovering over the dragon’s big tummy. A big smile spread over his face as he pulled his mask off and said: “Dwynwen’s not ill — she’s carrying eggs!”
Dwynwen and the custodians stood in stunned silence for a second before they began to celebrate — they were so excited at the prospect of dragon babies coming to the castle!
The vet continued: “By the looks of things, Dwynwen will be ready to lay her eggs within a day or two. I suggest she starts making a nest — sharpish!”
Dwynwen began to panic. She couldn’t possibly lay her eggs here — so far away from Dewi.
Plus, she simply didn’t have enough energy to build a nest. And she knew that the human custodians would take weeks to build a nest big enough to hold dragon eggs!
The custodians could see that Dwynwen was stressed so they suggested that she lay her eggs at Caerphilly Castle instead. That way, Dewi could be present to help with all the preparations for the new arrivals — from building the nest to guarding the eggs.
Dwynwen agreed and the excited custodians quickly arranged for a huge truck to drive the expecting reptile all the way to Caerphilly Castle.
The truck carried Dwynwen through the night and she snoozed soundly the entire way — dreaming of her future babies and smiling through her roaring dragon-snores.
Upon arrival, Dwynwen climbed out of the truck and looked up at the magnificent stone walls of Dewi’s lair.
She simply couldn’t wait to tell Dewi her news. So she scaled the walls, crept over the battlements and tip-toed across the castle to find her scaly beau.
Dewi was snuggled in a tower at the time, enjoying a delicious breakfast of crushed beetles on toast when he heard footsteps climbing the turret.
Annoyed to be so rudely interrupted, he turned around — ready to breathe fire at whomever dared to disturb him… But it was Dwynwen!
He leapt up in surprise, embraced her tightly and asked what on earth she was doing there.
Dwynwen smiled and said:
“Dewi — I need you to build a nest…”
To say that Dewi was excited is an understatement.
His scaly black heart was positively brimming with joy at the thought of hearing the pitter-patter of tiny claws at Caerphilly Castle.
The minute Dwynwen told him the news, he tucked her up in his cosy tower and flew high, low, back and fore across the still-sleeping town of Caerphilly to collect twigs, branches and leaves for the dragon nest.
All the while, he could hear Dwynwen sneezing with flashes of fire and could see rings of smoke billowing from her tower.
Dewi smiled. He had always wanted dragon whelps of his own and was determined to build the comfiest nest possible for his future children.
It took him all day to build but when complete, the nest looked spectacular — he couldn’t wait to show Dwynwen.
With a roar and a high-flying fireball, he beckoned her down from the tower to have a look at his masterpiece — and she wasn’t disappointed.
To say thanks, she gave Dewi a big slobbery lick on the cheek — a rather affectionate gesture among dragons — and with a sigh of relief, they both cwtched up next to the nest and watched the sun go down over Caerphilly Castle.
The romantic reptiles were ready for their babies.
The castle custodians arrived for work as normal the following day. It was a lovely spring morning and they were all chatting cheerfully while unlocking the enormous wooden gates.
But as the doors cranked open and the dragon nest came into view, the custodians stopped talking and stood in amazement as their eyes met with a most magnificent sight.
Within the nest were two gigantic dragon eggs — gleaming in fiery shades of orange, red and yellow.
The amazed custodians immediately called the local vet, who arrived within an hour — very excited to see the nest’s contents. After all, dragon eggs hadn’t been seen in Wales for centuries.
Armed with ultrasound gel and a sonography machine, the vet approached the nest confidently and watched with fascination as Dwynwen doused the eggs in gentle streams of fire, straight from her nostrils.
“What is she doing?” asked one of the custodians, nervously.
The vet smiled and said: “Why, she’s tending the eggs, of course. Dragon eggs are forged in flames, you know. She’s helping the babies to grow!”
The custodians exclaimed with knowing relief — Dwynwen’s mysterious fiery sneezes finally made sense. Her body was just getting itself ready to tend the eggs!
After fully examining the mum-to-be and her nest, the vet confirmed that both Dwynwen and the eggs were perfectly healthy, adding:
“It could be weeks, months or even years before the babies are born though — no one really knows the gestation period of dragon eggs.”
Dwynwen snorted with discontent. She didn’t want to wait for years to meet her babies!
The vet stroked Dwynwen’s nose gently and asked the custodians to call him if they see any egg movements — big or small. The custodians agreed and waved as he left the castle with a hop, skip and a jump.
News about the dragon eggs spread like wildfire and hundreds of humans came from across Wales to see them — proud that their homeland was bringing baby dragons into the world.
But as the days turned into weeks, there was no sign of the babies.
Until one evening in May, that is.
The custodians had left the castle for the day and the Cadw Dragons were getting ready for bed.
As she did at sundown every evening, Dwynwen wandered over the nest to say goodnight to her eggs.
While rearranging some dislodged twigs in the nest, she stopped and listened. She was sure she could hear something moving in the nest. She moved closer to the eggs and nearly jumped out of her scales when she saw one of them move. And then the other. The time had come.
Panic-stricken, she called for Dewi and they both watched as the nest began to tremor and wisps of steam protruded from the gleaming red eggs.
The ground around the nest was quaking and the stones of Caerphilly Castle were shaking for what felt like hours, when all of a sudden — it all stopped.
Dewi and Dwynwen exchanged glances with confusion before hearing an enormous ‘CRACK’ and seeing huge pieces of shell fly through the air.
And then, through the sudden silence, two little dragon heads poked out from nest. The babies had arrived.
Dewi roared with joy and Dwynwen wept a perfectly purple tear.
The Cadw Dragon family was complete.
Just moments after birth, the beastly baby dragons fell into a deep sleep.And for hours, all was calm. The stone walls of the castle echoed with gentle snores. Mum was peaceful, dad was proud and the custodians were full of excitement.
But the serenity didn’t last for long.
As a rule, new-born creatures are hard work. Everyone knows that. From humans to birds and mammals — they all need a lot of looking after. But baby dragons are something else.
They’re born with the ability to walk, squawk and even breathe fireballs on occasion. So, as you can imagine, little Dylan and Cariad (named so in honour of their Welsh roots) caused unimaginable mischief at the castle.
It all started on the morning after their arrival.
Dwynwen — who had slept next to her new-born whelps all night long — had been dreaming of her babies and their futures.
Would they be fire dragons like Dewi or perhaps earth dragons just like her? Every dragon is born with a power, you see — whether it’s the power to control earth, water, ice or fire.
And though dragons take months to ‘transform’ into their true identities, Dwynwen couldn’t help but wonder what her little bundles of fiery joy would become.
She awoke with a smile but when she turned over and opened her emerald eyes, she saw an empty nest and could hear the distant sound of stone hitting stone.
Panic-stricken, she called for Dewi who was out on an early morning ramble, looking for new branches and leaves for the nest. With no response from her beau, she bounded around the castle to look for the babies.
And boy, was she angry when she found them.
Dwynwen discovered a huge pile of rubble hidden within the upper gatehouse. And hovering above it on their tiny wings were Dylan and Cariad, who were busy launching stones from their mouths down to the castle walls below.
Dwynwen roared with anger when she stumbled across the scene — not only was it dangerous for dragons to attempt flight at such a young age but fragments of the castle were flying, smashing and crashing in all directions too!
The babies halted in sudden terror. But their fear of upsetting Dwynwen didn’t last for long.
In fact, Dewi and Dwynwen spent a whole weekend chasing after the naughty babies who left a trail of destruction in their wake.
On several occasions Cariad was caught stealing lollipops from the castle’s visitor centre. The little dragon had developed rather a sweet tooth and couldn’t resist those pink and white swirls on a stick.
And Dwynwen couldn’t help but notice that, as Cariad slurped away on her stolen goodies, the sun would shine down on the castle in rays of pure happiness.
And the moment she was scolded for it, the heavens would open and a torrential downpour would hit the castle, as if mirroring Cariad’s displeasure.
“Could she be a weather dragon?”, Dwynwen wondered.
Dylan, on the other hand, was continually caught dropping pennies into the castle’s ancient well, all in an effort to make the biggest possible splash.
In fact, Dylan seemed to be fascinated by water.
He was even spotted chasing the local geese into the moat. Dewi saw him doing it from one of the monument’s lofty towers and swiftly flew down to stop him. As Dylan noticed his furious dad approaching, he entered the moat in an elaborate dive and powered through the water like a dolphin.
“I wonder if he’s a water dragon”, thought Dewi, with excitement overpowering his rage.
After a weekend of pure carnage at the castle, the time came for Dwynwen and the babies to leave.
She was planning to take the little ones on a summer tour of Wales, in an effort to teach them about their Welsh heritage. Plus, she hoped all the travelling would tire them out a bit!
Dewi wished he could join them but of course, he needed to prioritise his duties as the Caerphilly Dragon. Plus, a bit of peace and quiet wouldn’t go amiss…!
Dwynwen and the mischievous monsters enjoyed a fantastic tour across Wales, travelling from Chepstow Castle to Raglan and from Tretower Court to the castle of Kidwelly.
And along the way, Dylan and Cariad displayed even further signs of what their future powers may hold.
Dylan’s fascination with water grew ever stronger. Most dragons dislike water but Dylan’s scales became dry and scratchy if he went even a day without a swim.
He even started being able to control the water — creating beautiful shapes and enormous waves with only a thought.
Meanwhile, the weather within a five-mile radius continued to change with Cariad’s moods. And as a predominantly good-natured beast, it meant that sunshine seemed to follow the family around Wales.
Dwynwen noticed both of these things. But nothing was confirmed until they landed at Harlech Castle.
As sundown approached, Dwynwen tucked the babies up in their nest as normal. She then climbed up into one of the castle’s cosiest towers and settled down for an evening of peace.
It was a perfectly clear night and Dwynwen could see hundreds of stars in the night sky. She watched them through the tower’s large window and felt her eyelids droop as a comfortable wave of tiredness washed over her.
Then, BANG! FLASH!
Dwynwen was thrown back into consciousness.
“Was that thunder and lightning?”, she thought. “No, it couldn’t be — not on such a pleasant night.”
“Was it part of a fireworks display? No, not in August — surely not!”
Then suddenly, she thought of the babies. And she knew exactly what was happening.
Dwynwen tore down to the nest, which was situated on the ground floor of the castle and stopped in her tracks as she caught sight of her sweet babies.
Dylan and Cariad were suspended in mid-air, with beams of light engulfing their tiny bodies. The light was morphing their scales from soft and sweet to hard and strong — their wings, fangs and claws growing larger with every second.
It was time. They were transforming from dragon whelps into dragons. Soon they wouldn’t be babies anymore! And most importantly, they would know their dragon destinies once and for all.
Dwynwen watched the magnificent display proudly, wishing that Dewi was there to see it too.
And after what felt like hours, the lights dimmed and the Dragon Babies were lowered to the ground. Dylan and Cariad looked at each other with pure joy.
“I’m a water dragon”, said Dylan.
“I’m a weather dragon”, said Cariad.