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The Gwiber of Penmachno


The word "gwiber" in Welsh means viper or adder but many centuries ago the word actually meant "flying snake" . This is the story of how Wibernant (meaning "valley of the gwiber) which is near Penmachno got its name.

The gwiber that resided in this particular valley was a very dangerous creature and was unique amongst its kind. It was the only one in Wales that could live on land and under the water. It preyed on the fish in the river, local livestock and on anyone foolish enough to get in its way !!!

In despair, the local residents decided to offer a large reward to anyone who could kill the beast and a young man named Owen Ap Gruffydd (who lived in the nearby mountains) took up the challenge. Before heading off to do battle with the monster, however. Owen decided to consult a local wise name by the name of Rhys Ddewin to find out his chances of success.

Rhys told him bluntly that the creature would bite him. Needless to say, Owen was shocked at the prediction and went home that night very depressed and worried.

The next day, Owen decided to visit the wise man again only this time, he was disguised as a vagrant. He again told Rhys he was about to do battle with the Gwiber. This time, Rhys told him bluntly that he would not succeed and added that he would fall and suffer a broken neck for his trouble !!!

Again, Owen went back home shocked and more that a little puzzled.

The next day, Owen paid his third...and last visit...to Rhys, this time disguised as a miller. He told Rhys he was about to do battle with the Gwiber. Again, Rhys told him bluntly that he would not succeed and that he would die by drowning !!!

On hearing this prediction, Owen pulled off his disguise and angrily challenged Rhys to explain how he could give him three different predictions about his forthcoming fight with the Gwiber. Rhys smiled sadly and simply said, "We will see. Time will tell".

Owen was a fearless young man and putting the 3 predictions out of his mind, set off down into the valley to kill the Gwiber. The valley was steep, however, and whilst he was on a rocky ledge high above the valley floor, the Gwiber suddenly swooped down out of the sky and bit him about his neck and shoulders. Owen bravely lashed out with his sword but slipped and fell from the ledge. As he fell, he smashed into another rocky outcrop that snapped his neck like a twig before plunging into the river far below where he eventually drowned.

When his lifeless body was discovered shortly after, his friends swore vengeance and set off up the valley to kill the Gwiber. After an hours trek, they discovered the Gwiber asleep on the river bank and let loose a hail of arrows that severely wounded the creature. With a blood-curdling scream, the Gwiber plunged into the river and was never seen again !!!

To this day, however, the place where this flying dragon lived is called Wibernant (the valley of the Gwiber)

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Author: 
Mike Heffernan

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Simon Topham
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Re: The Gwiber of Penmachno

 A Gwiber (in Welsh folklore a dragon or winged serepent), is said to be created when a snake drinks human breast milk. Of course this is a rare occurance, and would only have a chance of happening naturally if and when a lactating mother expressed milk on to the ground whilst out walking. 
Another version of the story states that the unfortunate hero of this tale was an outlaw named Hiraethog, who sought the advise of a wizard.



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