Orbiting Dicta

Harps and Dragons

Since I was very young, I have been fascinated by harps and dragons. That may be because three of my great grandmothers were Welsh. (My ethnic ancestry is almost all Irish, however. My maternal grandmother was born in a village in County West Meath called Tyrrellspass, and all my other forebears were also from Ireland.) The Celtic harp is the national instrument of both Wales and Ireland, and the national emblem of Ireland. The dragon is the national emblem of Wales.

When my friend Richard Hutt and I began making folk harps in the mid-seventies, we decided to call our partnership Pendragon Harps , which seemed natural enough. Pendragon was an ancient British (i.e., Welsh) title given to military leaders who organized the Christian kingdoms against invasions by Irish pirates and land-hungry Saxons and Angles who had succeeded in occupying the southeastern coast. The most famous of the legendary Pendragons were Uther and his son Arthur, who lived in the fifth and sixth centuries. (For a fascinating account of the role played by horses and horseshoes in Arthur’s campaigns against the Saxons, see Anne McCaffrey’s prize-winning novel, Black Horses for the King, published by Harcourt Brace. Anne and I also collaborated on A Diversity of Dragons , which was published by HarperPrism in 1997.)

The Brian Boru