Thursday, 4 January 2018

#FolkloreThursday ~ The Legend of Dragon Hill #Arthurian #Legend @timwalker1666

The Legend of Dragon Hill

Told by Tim Walker

In the year 485, high king Uther Pendragon of the Britons made a disorderly retreat from the ruins of former Roman garrison town, Verulamium, with the remnants of his guard. Half of the men, including Uther himself, were unwell after drinking poisoned water from the fountain in that town. The wagon ride was most uncomfortable for the miserable king who had nothing left in his stomach to void.

They made slow progress to the ford at Goringum where an ancient footpath crossed the mighty Tamesis river at its shallowest point. This path led upwards over the high hills, but Uther’s wagon train took a lower road that led into the Vale of the White Horse.

“The Saxons are getting closer, my lord,” Gawain reported from beside Uther’s wagon.

“How far?” Uther groaned from beneath his bearskin.

“Barely one mile distance.”

“Then ride ahead to the village and tell the Keeper of the Horse to arm his men and prepare our defence at that place. We shall not get much further before the enemy reach us.” He slumped back on his straw mattress and Gawain barked his orders before riding off.

The way was clear and they made good progress on a well-kept dust road that led along a flat-bottomed dry valley half a mile wide, bordered by steeply-rising hills. It was clearly a fertile place as many farms and small settlement were scattered across the valley floor. Farmers rallied to the king’s dragon banner, carrying pitchforks, knives and axes, giving encouragement to the men. They arrived at a larger settlement – a cluster of mud-walled thatched round huts, in a wicker fence enclosure.

“My king, I hoped to welcome you in better circumstances,” Intoned a tall druid with a long plaited grey beard and crowned with a holly wreath. “I am Melchior, the Keeper of the White Horse.”

Uther was pushed into a sitting position in the wagon by two attendants and he surveyed the scene around him. “My thanks for your welcome, Melchior,” he whispered.

“Unfortunately, we have brought the enemy upon you, and must now make our stand here. What is that place beneath the white horse?” He pointed to a flat plateau that stood alone in a bowl-shaped space below steep hills.

“That is, erm…” Melchior stuttered.

Uther cut him short with more orders. “Tell your women and children to flee and your men to join our guard. Lead us to that place.”

The horses pulling Uther’s wagon were led up a narrow track that snaked around a low, flat hill, standing below a large prancing white horse, carved into the steep chalk hillside above. For those who had not seen it before it was a magical sight in a sacred location, surely made by gods. Uther called his few commanders to him. “Gawain, you must lead our riders in the open, and harry the enemy where you can. Those men able to bear arms must form a defensive ring around this hill under the command of Vortimer. Yonder dust cloud tells us they are not far... May the gods bless us on this day.”

Uther sat in the back of the wagon, clutching the hilt of his sword, Saxon Sting whilst his legs dangling off the back. He looked about him and saw his red dragon banner fluttered on the hill, surrounded by those men too sick to form the line. Melchior was hovering nearby and he called him to his side.

“As we wait for battle, Keeper of the Horse, tell me about this strange flat hill where nothing grows and the legend of the horse.”

The druid preened his beard and replied. “King Uther of the Dragon, it is foretold that this is the place where a warrior did slay a dragon. It is called ‘Dragon Hill’.”

Uther stared at him. “I have heard of such a place. My grandmother told me that dragons are real creatures that live in the far mountains of Dyfed and fly in the night, but hide in the bowels of the earth by day. Continue.”

“This is the place where a brave warrior named Gaarge, in the time of the ancients, did save a maiden by slaying a dragon and spilling its blood that soaked the ground on which no grass grows. In that time, far before the Romans came to this land, there were large worm-like creatures that roamed the land, called ‘dragons’ by the fearful people.

This worm, named Draca, was big, wise and had a liking for gold. It could place its thoughts into the minds of men, and instructed them to bring gold or sacrifice a pure maiden instead. Before long, it had amassed all the gold in the area, and the terrified villagers along this valley did resort to choosing a maiden who was tied to a stake and left for the vile worm to devour.”

Despite the approach of the Saxon army, Uther’s interest was piqued and he told Melchior to continue his tale as he surveyed the valley below.

“After many full moons had passed and many maidens sacrificed, it fell to the chief’s daughter, a fair maid named Wynflaeth, to be the next. In his despair, the chief sent out his men to scour the corners of the land for a dragon slayer of repute to come and kill the creature. In time, as the moon was waxing, a warrior arrived, styling himself Gaarge the Dragon Slayer.”

Uther chuckled and bid him continue.

“This Gaarge was promised what wealth they had remaining and the hand of the fair maid in marriage if he killed the giant worm…”

“Hurry with your story,” Uther growled. “The Saxons approach.”

Melchior cleared his throat and replied, “The brave warrior did join in battle with the dragon and slew it on this very spot, spilling its foul blood into the ground, on which no grass has grown since. Over in yonder corner, they discovered a cave in which the worm had hidden their gold. George married the fair maid and became a lord over this land.”

“I see,” Uther said, “and what of the prophecy of my death?”

Melchior recoiled, eyes wide with fear. “I… cannot recall, my lord,” he stammered.

“Oh come, come, dear keeper. I have heard tell of a prophecy of my own death, here on this spot. I did not know there was a dragon hill beneath the carving of the white horse until I came here, but now…” he gazed up at the prancing horse above them.

A perturbed Melchior spoke quickly: “As Keeper of the White Horse, the legends linked to this place were told to me by my forbearer. He did say that you would lead your army to this hill and make your last stand here, and your blood would soak into the earth beneath our feet, mingling with that of your ancestor, the dragon…”

Uther glared at him, and pushed himself to his feet. “Thank you for the story, dear druid. And now, unless you can fight, take your leave.”

Uther found himself surrounded by men whose names he did not know, all with worried looks. The Saxons had now reached the hill and had forming a shield wall.

“Count them, and count our own men,” Uther moaned through dry lips to his commander, Vortimer, who now stood beside him. In a few seconds he had the answer. Nine hundred Saxon warriors facing his three hundred men-at-arms, and another one hundred anxious villagers. Behind the Saxon lines his remaining riders buzzed like hornets at their rear, making little impression.

“Ensure all our standing men have a shield and a weapon,” he drawled as shapes swirled before his tired eyes. He staggered, prompting his attendants to rush to his side. A Saxon horn sounded the start of their advance…

This tale is based on a legend told in an excellent book I have on my shelf, Berkshire Folk Tales by D. England and T. Bilbe. I have slightly customised it to fit in with my own story of how King Uther meets his end. This scene (or something similar) will feature in my forthcoming novel, Uther’s Destiny, due for release in March 2018.

--> Uther’s Destiny

Uther’s Destiny is book three in a series – A Light in the Dark Ages – and is preceded by:-
Part one: Abandoned! – a novella –  Amazon 
Part two: Ambrosius: Last of the Romans – a novel – Amazon 

In 2015 I visited the Uffington White Horse on the Berkshire Downs, located below the Ridgeway Footpath and above Dragon Hill. They are real places. I was intrigued and researched the origins and folklore. I then wrote a short story, The White Horse, that appears in my first book of short stories, Thames Valley Tales.

Tim Walker
Tim Walker is an independent author based in the UK.
His latest book is Postcards from London - a book of short stories that explores London's past, present and imagined future. This follows an historical fiction novel, Ambrosius: Last of the Romans, set in Britain in the fifth century, launched in early 2017. Book two in the series - A Light in the Dark Ages - it follows on from, Abandoned! Both titles have found a wide readership since their re-launches in April 2017 with new content and covers.

He lives in Datchet Village, near Windsor, beside the River Thames, the inspiration for his book of short stories, Thames Valley Tales.

Tim is currently writing Uther’s Destiny, book three in his series, A Light in the Dark Ages. This novel is due out in March 2018.
Connect with Tim ~ Website


  1. I have never heard of The Legend Of Dragon Hill before. Very Interesting.

  2. Gah! I hate it when the hero is about to meet his end... *sniffs*

  3. Wonderful story. Thank you for sharing it with us.


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