The Mightiest Heart

The Mightiest Heart is a kids book by Lynn Cullen.  It tells the tale of a loyal Irish Wolfhound, Gelert, to his master, Prince Llywelyn.  One day Gelert stays behind while Prince Llywelyn goes hunting.  When the Prince returns, Gelert is all bloody and his son is missing.  He blames the dog who runs away only to rescue the Prince once more when he is in danger.  The Prince finds his son and the body of a dead wolf nearby.

When the Llywelyn’s son grows up and finds a puppy (presumably Gelert’s child), the Prince tells him he may keep him only if “You never let him go.”  He continues, “The mightiest heart can come in the humblest vessel.”

I have read this story before where instead of Gelert running away, the Prince kills the dog with his sword before he finds out his son is alive.  This is the traditional tale.  I like this version better merely  because my daughter can’t stand it when animals die in stories but the traditional one is much more poignant.

It highlights how we all jump to conclusions, react when we shouldn’t, do things we shouldn’t, only to find out later we were wrong, and regret our choices made.  I especially like this one because this dog had shown no reason to doubt it in the past and yet our human mind still thinks the worst.

This is based on a true story.  The Prince really lived in the twelfth and thirteenth century and he had an Irish Wolfhound named Gelert.  In fact, the town of Beddgelert in Wales, United Kingdom is named for the dog where an actual grave site exists purported to be the resting spot of the real Gelert.  Fascinating stuff.

Irish Wolfhounds were prized in the Middle Ages for their hunting capabilities and given to royalty as gifts.

Dog owners know how loyal dogs are and uncharacteristic behavior usually has a very good reason behind it.

Personally, I like this tale because we almost got Irish Wolfhounds instead of English Mastiffs.  They are one of my favorite breeds and are still on my short list of dogs to own in the future.  I love loyal breed dogs, guard dogs, and big dogs–all of which describe these breeds best.

Here’s a link to the story with photos of the grave:

Fire and Wings

Lately, I’ve been reading compilations of stories to my kids.  I was reading long novels but for some reason I’ve switched.

I picked up Fire and Wings: Dragon Tales from East and West. My oldest loves fantasy and dragons and so does Mommy.  Two tales stuck out:

Called Dragon’s Coo by Patricia MacLachlan, a dragon wishes for a name of its own and a family.  He was a dragon ‘left-over’ from the days of knights.  The dragon finds a human child and raises it as its own.  It takes care of it and names the baby Coo because that’s all the baby could say.  Until one day the dragon became too old to take care of itself so Coo began to provide for the dragon.

One day Coo touches the dragon and says, “Papa.”  Finally, the dragon had a name–a name out of love– and a family.

My kids LOVED this story!  It is touching.  How a family can be what you make of it and love can grow in the oddest of circumstances.  I loved the giving part: how the dragon gives to the baby and then the baby gives to the dragon.  Just like life today.  You raise a a baby and most likely one day the baby will be helping you in your old age.

Poignant story that really gets to the heart of what matters most.

The other story I really liked is called The Fourth Question: A Chinese Legend retold by Vida Chu.  Here, a farmer named KaiWei sets out to ask the Budda a question:  Why even though I work hard am I still poor?

Along the way, he meets 2 people and a dragon who ask him to ask the Buddha questions for themselves, which he agrees to do, since they all gave him a place to stay and food on his journey.

When he arrives, the Buddha informs him he can only ask 3 questions even though he has 4.  So instead of asking his own question, KaiWei asks the questions of his friends he met along his journey.

KaiWei journeys back and gives his friends the answers.  In so doing, KaiWei is given riches (a pearl, sacks of gold and silver, and one of the men’s daughter for a bride whom he loves) from these friends.

Thus, KaiWei gets the answer to his question through helping others.  He is blessed beyond comparison through putting his needs aside.

Later, KaiWei’s grandkids favorite story is “their grandfather’s journey to see Buddha and the fourth question he never asked.”

I LOVE this one!  I wish all the stories I read to my kids had such a powerful message.  When we do put others first and our needs aside, powerful things begin to happen in our lives, questions get answered, and God moves in ways hitherto unforeseen.

Great stuff!  Highly recommended!