Beddgelert （Wales） CULTURAL BACKGROUNDBeddgelert is a Welsh folktale about a faithful dog who sacrifices his life in service to his master. There is， in fact， a town in Wales named Beddgelert in honor of his heroic deed. Welsh culture is steeped in myth and legend. For instance， the country's national symbol is the dragon， a mythical beast. True to Welsh tradition， the narrative history of nearly every mountain， river and lake， as well as many farms and villages is associated with the legend of fairies， magical properties or fearful beasts.
Wales is known as the land of poets and singers. The traditions of Welsh literature and music are among the oldest in Europe and date back more than 1，000 years to the bards （poet singers） of the Middle Ages. The legendary British hero King Authur， as well as the famed magician Merlin are claimed by the Welsh along with other characters who people the famous collection of medieval Welsh tales entitled the Mabinogion. Traditional Welsh culture has laid great stress on the spoken， as well as the written word in both poetry and prose. Vocal music， particularly choral singing， has also played a great part in the cultural heritage of the country.The Welsh take great pride in their heritage. Though united with England for more than 400 years， they have kept alive their own language， literature and traditions.
Wales occupies the western portion of the island of Great Britain and is one of four countries of the United Kingdom. The Welsh name for Wales is Cymru， meaning a fellow countryman. Cardiff is the capital and largest city of Wales.
The people of Wales number nearly 3 million. Some Welsh are descended from prehistoric peoples of continental Europe who colonized Wales thousands of years ago. Many others trace their ancestry to such late settlers as the Celts， Romans， Anglo-Saxons， Normans and English. Today， Wales has two official languages Welsh and English. Welsh， one of the oldest languages in Europe， is still the daily language spoken in many sections of western and northern Wales.
Wales is a mountainous country interspersed with lakes and valleys. In fact， the country is well known for its farmlands， mountains， valleys and rivers considered to be of such scenic beauty that one-fifth of the country is classified as national parkland. The highest mountain in Wales， Mount Snowdon is located in the northwest. The country boasts no large towns or cities. Most people live in the towns， cities and industrial areas of south Wales noted for its coal mines. The remainder of Wales is mainly rural and is， therefore， only sparsely populated for those areas which are too mountainous and rugged to grow many crops. Apart from coal and of course agriculture the only other natural resources of Wales are water and the woodlands.
In rural areas， many people live in whitewashed stone cottages and farmhouses consisting of only one or two rooms. Today many picturesque old cottages have been turned into vacation homes. Housing in the coal-mining areas generally consists of row houses with slate and stone walls. The Welsh are known for their long tradition of sheep farming. Sheep freely roam the hillsides and the valleys which were once woodlands. Throughout the United Kingdom dogs have long been used to help farmers and hunters in their work. Like the hero of our tale， Beddgelert， dogs are also traditionally very popular as pets.
Family and kinship are extremely important to the Walsh who lavish affection on their children. Most families of today have between one and three children. Welsh families spend a lot of time at home. Special occasions are spent with members of the extended family. However， life in rural areas tends to be very insular. On Sunday， many people attend church； afterward they have Sunday dinner， the most important meal of the week. For ordinary casual and formal occasions， the Welsh wear typical Western-style clothing.
Dating from the 18th century， one of the most popular aspects of traditional Welsh culture is the National Eisteddfod， a festival in which performers compete. The festival is held annually but alternates between North and South Wales. Participants compete in all aspects of music， literature， drama and art during one week in August. In addition， there are a series of dramatic performances and concerts all conducted in the Welsh language with simultaneous English translations.