for choosing the book:
This book has been chosen because it is beautifully written/illustrated
and tells of a well-loved Welsh story which has echoes in other cultures.
For example, the Breton cathédral engloutie myth evoked through
Ceri Richard's paintings.
young boy, looking over the cliffs on the edge of the walled town of Cantr'er
Gwaelod, tells King Gwyddno of his vision of a city under the sea. The
King is confused because all he can see in the distance is his own prospering
city. But he feels that the boy has something poetic about him, so he
invites him to dine with his nobleman and subjects. Reluctantly, the boy
agrees but still has this foreboding and hears the sound of the sea constantly
during the preparations for the great feast at which he is to perform.
As they begin to eat, he is told by Mereid that the King has the sea under
control because the sluice gates to the city will be closed later that
night. Half way through the meal, the boy discovers that his feet are
getting wet, and he and Mereid realise that the sluice gates must have
been left open. The King, however, is too proud to listen to them and
prefers to stay with his guests, as his city falls under the control of
'Of Cantre'r Gwaelod and its people there was nothing left except the
tolling of a bell beneath the waves, and the echoes of a poem as yet unwritten:
cry overwhelms me tonight
And it brings me no gladness
Pride often comes before a fall.'
A boy stood
on the Western cliff-top with the echo of a cry in his ears. He did not
hear King Gwyddno ride towards him. The king reined his horse and watched
him with a smile. No wonder the boy stood spellbound. Many a grey traveller
before him had marvelled at the golden cities of Cantre'r Gwaelod that
stretched below the cliffs as far as the eye could see.
'Boy,' called the king at last. 'What brings you here?'
'A cry,' said the boy. 'A cry that roused me from my bed.'
'I heard no cry,' said the king. 'Tell me, why do you stand so silently
on the cliff-top? What wonders can you see?'
The boy drew his hands across his eyes.
'I can see golden
sands,' he said.
The king exclaimed in surprise.
'I see the gleam of oyster shells.'
'And?' said the king. 'And,' the boy said dreamily, 'I see bright fish
swimming in the sea.'
The king looked, too, and saw only the riches of Cantre'r Gwaelod. He
'Boy,' he said. 'I know what you are. You are a poet. Poets can pluck
visions from the air. Shall I tell you now what you really see?'
king dismounted and braced himself against the Western wind. Proudly he
swept his arm over the golden cities that reached across the lowlands
to the horizon.
'Down below us lies my land of Cantre'r Gwaelod, the richest land in all
The golden sands you saw are fields of waving corn.
oyster shells are shining roofs and towers.
The brightly coloured fish are my people in their fine clothes laughing
and dancing in the streets. Now.' The king covered the boy's eyes with
his hands. 'Forget your dreams,' he said.
'No one has
need of dreams in Cantre'r Gwaelod.'
'But I hear
the sea,' the child said in a puzzled voice. 'Even though your arms are
around me, I can hear it hiss. 'That's the hiss of the fountains in the
courtyards,' replied the king.
'I hear it froth,'
the child said.
'That's the froth of good wine in the cellars.'
'I hear it groan,' said the child.
the groan of our carts,' the king replied, taking his hands away.
'Can you see them lumbering like seed-bearing ants from North and South
They are groaning beneath the weight of the food for our feast tonight.'
The king looked down into the boy's thin face. 'Come to the feast,' he
said kindly. 'You shall be my guest. A feast can always do with an extra
He swung the boy onto the back of the bay horse and sprang into the saddle.
At once the horse moved away from the swirling cliff-top and cantered
joyfully along the downward path to Cantre'r Gwaelod.
from the English Translation, published by Pont Books, Llandsul, Dyfed,
for use in school:
1. Discuss dreams. What are they? What do they mean? Let the children
share some of their own. What was the young boy's dream in this story?
What did it mean? Why do they think he had this dream? How did this affect
the other characters in the story? Did they believe him? The children
could create a written dialogue, to extend the story, between the boy
and the King.
2. The illustrations in Cantre'r Gwaelod are very atmospheric
and reminiscent of much Celtic art. Get the children to investigate Welsh
mythology and art, perhaps investigating which countries, other than Wales,
share a similar cultural heritage (ie Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, Scotland,
& Ireland). An information booklet could be made from this.
3. 'Pride often comes before a fall' - discuss this saying which is included
in the poem on the final page of the book. Focus on which characters in
the story were proud. Why was this? What was the reason for their 'fall'?
You might like to discuss characters in other stories who are proud and
whose down fall is due to pride. The Fat King, in 'War and Peas', Northern
Ireland's chosen book, is a possible example. Your class could use their
knowledge of descriptive language to create a number of 'opening paragraphs'
which introduce 'proud' characters into a story.
4. See www.jackiemorris.co.uk
for more books and ideas
Consider personal pride.
literature and language-based activities can be found in
Picture Books sans Frontières available