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St David’s Day and what Wales has done for the World

1 March 2018

Dydd Gŵyl Dewis hapus pawb! And, a Happy St David's Day to all of our non-Welsh speaking readers!

We love Wales. Wales is a sublime odyssey through the stunning and mysterious magic of the British Isles, a remarkable tapestry of the storied history of Celtic legends and a fantasy world of deep green valleys and misty mountains. Arguably, and regrettably, lesser known than its cousins England and Scotland, Wales has left its indelible mark on history and fiction in a myriad of ways, subtly placing its footstep on a planet infinitely bigger than wales itself. With that in mind, here are just some of Wales' most important contributions to the world, and to human history:

JRR Tolkien's fantasy universe

To anyone who has read the books or seen the films, it should come as no surprise that a great deal of JRR Tolkien's magnificent Middle Earth, from the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and Silmarillion books, is based off the landscapes of the British Isles. Even though the films were filmed in New Zealand, the original scenery was based off Britain. Warwickshire in England and the Welsh Black famously inspired the Shire of the hobbits, while it seems easy to link the Misty Mountains of Tolkien's Fellowship of the Ring, to the stunning Snowdonia National Park in North Wales. By far and away however, Wales' strongest influence on Tolkien was the wonderful old language of Welsh. The Elves of Middle Earth speak a language called Sindarin, an entirely original language created by Tolkien and based heavily on Welsh. Both grammatically and linguistically, the similarities are striking, and Tolkien was supposedly most interested in the sound especially of Welsh.

The NHS

That great bastion of Britain, and the first and most successful national healthcare service in history, came from the plans of one Welshman, Aneurin Bevan. Appointed under Clement Attlee in the ruling Labour Party of 1945 as Health Minister, Bevan went about devising the core model around which the NHS would be created. It was based around three main principles: that it would be free, that it would be designed to cover the requirements of everyone and that it would be based on clinical need rather than financial wealth. It went on to become the largest of its kind, serving millions of Britons every year and employing around 1.7 million people, making it the 5th biggest employer in the world. All of this came from the determination and careful planning of one iconic Welshman.

King Arthur and Merlin

Dating back throughout the centuries, King Arthur has left an indelible stamp on the history of the world. His stories of chivalry, wizards and quests have inspired fantasy literature for millennia, with everything from damsels in distress to crusades crammed in the pages. A great deal of this comes from Welsh historians and poets who wrote some of the first ever examples of mythical literature. Many of these posit King Arthur as a Welsh king and military leader, who went on several adventures and quests, and who would rise again when Britain was in great need. The wizard Merlin was undoubtedly a Welsh figure, first mentioned by the famed Geoffrey of Monmouth in his book Historia Regum Britanniae, written in 1136. His home was thought to be the town of Carmarthen, whose name in Welsh, Caerfyrddin, means Merlin's castle.

Iconic actors

'Gwlad beirdd a chantorion' goes the Welsh national anthem, meaning 'the Land of poets and singers', but did you know, that Wales has an important thespian national cast? One of the finest actors ever, Richard Burton, came from a small town near Neath Port Talbot, near Swansea. His work in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Cleopatra, as well as his tumultuous relationship with Elizabeth Taylor mark him out as one of Hollywood's greats. Anthony Hopkins, 'the greatest actor of his generation' according to Richard Attenborough, was also born in Port Talbot and went on to star in Silence of the Lambs and Meet Joe Black. A little known fact is that Batman, American Hustle and The Fighter star Christian Bale was born in Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire, South Wales. Other names include Catherine Zeta Jones, Iwan Rheon, Ioan Gruffudd, Rhys Ifans and Taron Egerton.

Talented sportsmen

Wales' prowess as a sports-loving nation should never be forgotten. The national sport of Wales is rugby, but the most played sport is football. The Rugby World Cup and the Six Nations draw together communities and bring the cities and towns to a halt. Welsh rugby players include the sensational Phil Bennet, and the rock-hard presence of JPR Williams. Alongside that, there have scores of famous football players including Gareth Bale, Ian Rush, Mark Hughes, Ryan Giggs and John Toshack.

Those are just some of Wales' finest contributions to the world. With such national diversity, and such a strong cultural identity, there's much more to choose from so consider this to be just a taster. All that remains to be said it Dydd Gŵyl Dewi hapus unwaith eto, a fe welwn ni eto cyn bo' hir! 

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