A traditional story re-told by Andrew Wright.
Here is the story from North Wales about the dog Gellert so wrongly killed by his owner. The story is in two versions, one making use of a broadly elementary level English and the other written for native speakers. The two versions of the story allow it to be used at a variety of levels but also open possibilities of contrasting the two versions. There is also an historical profile of the story and a few activities which might be used in class with the students.
Two versions of the story: elementary and intermediate
Gellert: the story of a dog
(Sort of elementary level)
There was a prince, his name was Henry. Henry’s uncle King John, gave him a dog; it was a good hunting dog. It’s name was Gellert. Gellert was big and strong and ran very fast and caught the deer very easily.
One day Prince Henry shouted for his dogs, “Dogs! Come here!” All the dogs came but Gellert didn’t come. Gellert stood in front of the castle. Henry shouted, “Come here! Come here, Gellert!” But Gellert didn’t leave the castle.
Henry had a bad day! He didn’t catch any deer; he was angry. He came back to the castle and Gellert ran to meet him. There was blood on Gellert’s face and blood on his body. It wasn’t the dog’s blood! Was it Henry’s baby’s blood? Sometimes Gellert played with the little child and Gellert was half wolf!
Henry ran into the castle and ran to the child’s room. The furniture lay on the floor. There was blood on the floor and blood on the furniture, there was blood on the bed. Henry didn’t see his child!
Henry was very, very angry. He killed Gellert! Then he heard his baby! He found the child under the bed. Behind the bed was a dead wolf!
Henry made a terrible mistake; he killed Gellert! But Gellert killed the wolf not the little child.
Gellert, a faithful dog
(Sort of intermediate level)
Once, there was a prince whose name was Llewellyn. His uncle, King John, gave him a dog, a hunting dog. The dog’s name was Gellert. Gellert was a fine hunting dog. When he left the castle he could smell the deer a kilometre away. He could run faster than the deer. He was so strong, he could knock the deer over. He was a fine hunting dog.
One day Prince Llewellyn went hunting with his friends. He called all his dogs but Gellert wouldn’t go. Gellert stood in the gateway of the castle and wagged his tail and put his head on one side but he would not leave the castle.
Llewellyn was furious! He shouted, “Come on Gellert! Come here!” But Gellert wouldn’t leave the castle. He stood in the gateway, with his head on one side and wagging his tail. Llewellyn and his friends caught nothing, all day and they returned, enraged, to the castle.
As they came towards the castle Gellert bounded towards them, wagging his tail. As the dog came closer Llewellyn saw there was blood smeared on his muzzle and on his flanks.
‘How could that be?’ Llewellyn thought. ‘Gellert sometimes plays with my child. Gellert is half wolf, half wild. Perhaps he has killed my child!’ And Llewellyn ran into the castle. He ran to the child’s room. All the furniture was turned over. There was blood everywhere. Llewellyn couldn’t see his child.
Prince Llewellyn hissed, “You have killed my child!” and drew his sword and drove it into the side of Gellert. With the last gasp for life of Gellert so Llewellyn heard the cry of his child from beneath the overturned cradle. Llewellyn ran to the cradle, turned it over and there was the child, perfectly safe, perfectly well. But behind the cradle was a dead wolf. Gellert had killed the wolf, not the child.
Llewellyn grieved. But what could he do? He couldn’t bring Gellert back to life! He dug a hole for Gellert outside the castle. He put Gellert in the hole and covered him with stones, a great pile of stones. He put a plaque on the stones for every passerby to read: ‘For Gellert, a faithful dog!’
Background to the story
There is a monument to Gellert in the village of Beddgelert in North Wales at the foot of Snowden where Llewellyn had a house. The village is thought to have got its name from a greyhound given to Llewellyn by King John in 1205. The story of Gellert being killed due to someone wrongly jumping to conclusions was attributed to Llewellyn’s dog only in 1793-4 by a local innkeeper who, presumably had an eye on the possible increase in the tourist trade! The innkeeper’s story then became widely known through the poem by William Spencer published in 1800.
However, the legend is actually known all over the world. The animals concerned change according to what is regarded as normal locally! So in India it is a mongoose that saves a brahmin’s son from a snake. This story was published in the third century in Sanskrit and then translated into Persian and then from Persian into Arabic and reached Europe in the stories of Sinbad the Sailor, eventually reaching Welsh folklore as a dog and a wolf.
(My source for this information: Westwood, J. Albion: A Guide to Legendary Britain. Paladin. 1985. Pps 329 to 340)
The basic human fault of ‘jumping to conclusions’ has been with us from the beginning of time and in every culture. The story keeps this basic theme but adapts to different places and times. It is a fundamental characteristic of living storytelling to change stories to fit in with the place and time of the telling.
Some activities for the classroom
The elementary version
Before reading the story
Elementary students may not know the words: hunt, deer, castle, wolf. Here are some drawings you could use to teach them (I hope to learn how to include drawings on the web site at some point). Enlarge the drawings with the photocopying machine until they are large enough for the students to see easily.
You could begin by saying that you are going to read a story but they will need to know a few special words. The drawings you do will not only illustrate the words but prepare the students’s minds for the general theme of the story.
During the story
Read the story but try to act out the meaning as much as possible. If you have a shelf at the bottom of the board then you can display the pictures as you refer to them.
After the story
– Discuss the story with the students: What do you think of Henry/Llewellyn ? Was he good, bad, stupid, crazy? What did he say to his friends later? Think of three sentences which he might have said. I am very sorry/sad. I killed my dog. Gellert killed the wolf not the child. Etc.
– Invite the students to read the story and to make a flow chart of it. You might explain the idea of a flow chart by drafting this flowchart of the start of Little Red Riding Hood in order to give them an idea; show the students that only a few key words are needed in each bubble. The students should compare their flowcharts. Point out that flowcharts are a good way of analysing a story and remembering it but also of planning a story.
(flowchart ie a series of bubbles connected by arrows each bubble containing a short text) of story of Little Red Riding Hood: mother and LRRH. Basket. Food and drink./Be careful of the wolf./Forest. Flowers./Wolf./Cottage. Wolf and grandma./Wolf in bed./ etc.
– You might like to let upper elementary students read the full version of the story to see if they can understand it.
– A day or two later you can ask the students to try to re-tell the story.
The advanced version
Before reading the story
– Show the pictures and ask the students to name them. Write the title of the story on the board and then ask the students to try to predict the story.
– Show the students a map of Britain and the location of Wales and of Snowdonia in North Wales where the village of Beddegelert is. Tell them that there is monument there with the caption on it: To Gellert: a faithful dog…and you are going to tell them the story.
– Perhaps summarise the way in which people jump to conclusions everyday at school, at home, in the community at large and how serious this can be. Then say you are going to tell them about a terrible thing that happened when someone, ‘jumped to conclusions’.
(illustration of hunt/deer/wolf)
After the story
– The students compare and contrast the two texts: list what is in common and what is different. Are there any important things missing in the simple text.
– The students prepare ten comprehension questions and appropriate answers on the text to give to other students.
– Read or ask the students to read the background to the story. Discuss with them the way in which stories are continually re-told and often changed to be appropriate to the times. Ask the students to re-tell the story of Gellert and to adapt it for and our contemporary and very different times.
– Re-tell the story as if told by Llewellyn many years later to his child who is now older.
– Tell the students that when people think they understand a situation very quickly and then take action we call it, ‘jumping to conclusions’. Sometimes they are seriously and even tragically wrong. Tell the students to brainstorm with a friend at least five times when they or someone they know has ‘jumped to conclusions’ recently. If they can’t remember five then they should think of some of the important people in their lives and invent typical ways in which they have or might, ‘jump to conclusions’ . The students should include ways in which they themselves have jumped to conclusions as well!