St Melangell


A storytellers art is to bring the countryside alive, with the exploits, which in this case is the Princes of Powys, in North Wales, and the hunting of a Hare.

Come around the camp fire, and listen to this tale!

Prince Brochwel was the Prince of Powys, a long time ago, during the 8th century, which is about 1200 years. Now the prince was a great huntsman, and he owned all the land......

And so he had plenty of room and plenty of animals to hunt. In those days there were deer, wild boar and wolves in those parts and Prince Brochwel and his huntsmen had a fine time I can tell you. But the animal which the Prince loved to hunt most of all was the Hare. It was swifter and more agile than any other  animal and so the chase was always good.

But despite the fact that the Prince had animals to hunt and much good farmland which made him very wealthy, they do say that he was an unhappy man, who seldom smiled or laughed, for he was troubled in his heart.

It was a cold morning and the hunt had gathered. The fields were covered in white blue frost as the prince and his dogs and huntsmen rode out. Prince Brochwel hoped there would be a fine swift hare to chase that morning.

The very same morning a lovely young girl left the small hut in which she lived alone, her threadbare cloak pulled around her against the cold. Her name was Melangell, and although she was very poor, she was in fact a princess from Ireland, who had chosen to live in the wilds of Wales as she did not wish to marry the old cruel man her father had chosen for her. Melangell was gentle and kind and everything she had, little though it was, she shared with weary travellers and animals alike.

And now Prince Brochwels hunt drew close. The quarry had been poor that morning, there were no animals about except for a few birds which scattered and flew away as the dogs approached. And then a hare broke from its cover, startled by the sound of dogs and horses and horns, it ran swift and true and the dogs picked up the scent and were on its trail.

The hare was frightened almost to death, it darted here and there, leaping into bushes and amoung trees, trying to lose the dogs that howled and bayed closer with every moment.

Try as it might, the hare could not escape, the dogs just kept coming on and on, the huntsmen following closely behind. The hare was becoming tired. Its heart beat faster and faster. It gasped for breath. It knew that to stop meant death. the hounds were so close now, the hare could almost feel their hot breath on its neck.

Then ahead it saw Princess Melangell. The poor animal should have been afraid, for this was another human being, an enemy ready to hunt and kill. But the hare sensed that Melangell was somehow different, and as it ran towards her, its heart slowed and its terror subsided. The hare could sense Melangells kindness. Somehow here was a safe place to rest. The creature did not hesitate. It ran straight as an arrow towards the girl, and crept beneath the hem of her cloak.

And now the dogs came, those fierce hunting dogs, saliva at their jaws, the hot madness of killing in their eyes, barking and howling, their sharp yellow fangs bared and deadly. But they would not come close to Melangell, instead they slunk low to the ground, their ears flattened against their heads, tails between legs, whining a little now and again. They too could sense the kindness of this girl, they could not attack such a person.

The hunters soon followed, galloping in on their sweating mounts, but the horses too, as soon as they saw Melangell, became calm and would not be urged on by their riders. The jeering, shouting men became silent in the presence of the princess. A huntsman tried to blow his horn, but no note would come. And that little hare just peeped out from under the hem of Princess Melangells cloak and all was silent. You could have heard a pin drop.

It was Prince Brochwel who spoke.

"have you placed and enchantment on us all just to save the life of one hare?", he asked.

"There is no enchantment prince for I am  no witch. There is only goodness and kindness in this valley", said Melangell.

The Prince slowly got down from his horse, took off his cap and knelt before the Princess. He knew he was in the presence of a great and noble lady, "Then I swear never again to hunt any animal, nor shall any man hunt upon land that belongs to me." The Princes life had been changed forever.

For the first time in many years the Prince smiled and he felt happiness in his heart. It was as if a great dark weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He gave the valley to the Princess Melangell and she had a small church built there which is now dedicated to Saint Melangell, the Welsh Patron Saint of all animals. And you can visit that church today, as I have done many times and if you do you will feel peace and goodness and kindness all around you.


For more information visit St Melangell's Church 

Brochwel, Hare, Powys, Storyteller,
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