Nant Gwrtheyrn, a Welsh love story
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Rhys and Meinir


The Tale of Nant Gwrtheyrn

All oak trees are believed to be the same. Not the one in Nant Gwrtheyrn, once home to Wales’s most tragic lovers…

Centuries ago in Nant Gwrtheyrn, a small village along the Lleyn Peninsula in North Wales, there lived a young boy named Rhys Maredydd, who lived on a farm with his sister Angharad. On one of the neighbouring farms lived his cousin Meinir with her father. As children, Rhys and Meinir would often play together, along with Angharad.

Rhys and Meinir soon grew up and fell in love. Some time later, Rhys proposed to Meinir and of course, she accepted. They sent Ifan y Cilie as the inviter, who walked through the village and surrounding area, telling everyone of the news of the wedding, the date it was to take place and all the details. The village was excited by the prospect of a wedding and preparations quickly took place.

The night before the wedding, neighbours arrived in the village to bring gifts for Rhys and Meinir and to participate in the pre-wedding meal. The gifts included yeast dough for the couple to begin baking their own bread, and pieces of cloth and fabric, which symbolised warmth and harmony. Rhys and Meinir were thankful for all the gifts and kindness. That night, they sat together under an oak tree, which had become one of their favourite haunts, gazing out across the village towards the Irish Sea. There, Rhys began carving a heart into the trunk of the tree, with ‘Rhys + Meinir’ scratched into the middle. Meinir warned him that it was bad luck before they were married, but Rhys simply told her that there could be no bad luck between them.

On the morning of the wedding, Meinir rose from her sleep and began her own preparations for the wedding. She watched from the window as Rhys’s friends approached the house to collect her to the church. As her father answered the door and began answering the end of each verse the group sang to him, Meinir ran to hide from the groom’s friends, as was the tradition. Once the verses had been finished, the group began searching for Meinir. However, she was nowhere to be found. They searched all morning, before deciding that Meinir had perhaps already made her own way to the Clynnog church, where Rhys would be waiting for her. However, Meinir was not at the church. The searching continued for the rest of the day, everybody looking far and wide for any sight of Meinir. By the dawn of the next morning and still no luck, everyone knew that something sinister had happened to her.

Rhys was left distraught. After everyone else had given up the search, he continued wandering the hills and woods, the only company being his dog Cidwm. He began calling “Meinir! Meinir!” and even made pilgrimages to the oak tree where they had sat together many times. Over the years, Rhys grew mad, desperate to find his beloved Meinir.

One night several years later, Rhys was sitting underneath the oak tree as a storm began brewing. Suddenly a bolt of lightning struck the tree, splitting the trunk in two. There Rhys stood as a horrific scene took place before him. There in the centre of the trunk of the oak tree was the skeleton of Meinir, still wearing her white wedding dress. Frozen with shock for a few moments, Rhys finally fell to the ground, dying from his devastation and heartbreak. He and Meinir were buried together in the same grave.

Although Rhys and Meinir were finally together after all those years, nothing remains from their story, except the oak tree. That is what makes it so different to other oaks; not only does it carry with it a history, but it also carries a story of love and tragedy between its branches.

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