Friday, April 23, 2021

Tarot Tales: T is for the Tower

Welcome to the 2021 A to Z Blogging Challenge! My theme this year is Tarot Tales. I am making a selection of folktales, legends, and other traditional stories that correspond to tarot cards. Storytelling and tarot go well together. Do other stories come to mind? Let me know in the comments!

The card: The Tower

Meanings: The Tower is about sudden, devastating change. Something that comes out of nowhere and wipes the board; "lightning from the clear sky" that breaks everything down in a moment. It symbolizes the feeling when life pulls the rug from under you, when everything you knew turns out to be wrong. Things come crashing down because they were not built well in the first place. The Tower symbolizes the imploding of lies, false beliefs and pretenses - but also, the possibility of rebuilding after the destruction, on more solid foundations. 

Selection process: At first, I was thinking of flood myths, for obvious reasons. There are thousands of them. And then I somehow ended up reading legends about sunken cities, which seemed much closer to the kind of story I wanted to choose.

The story: The Drowning of the Bottom Hundred

Origin: Wales

The Bottom Hundred was a fertile lowland in Wales, protected from the sea by a great stone wall and watchtowers. Each tower had a captain responsible for its upkeep, and the whole embankment was under the supervision of Prince Seithenyn - one of the "Three Immortal Drunkards of Wales". The prince, who loved parties more than work, let the wall fall into disrepair. There was only one decent captain, Teithrin, who kept his tower at the end of the wall in good shape. One day he took a walk along the embankment and he was shocked to discover how dilapidated the whole thing was becoming.
Knowing the Bottom Hundred was in danger, Teithrin tried to warn Prince Seithenyn but he didn't listen. So Teithrin went to the great King Gwyddno Garanhir - but he was having a feast and not taking any visitors. So Teithrin moved on to Elphin, the king's son, who was a more attentive man, and listened to the warning. Prince and captain returned to the embankment to talk to Seithenyn, but they found him busy getting wasted. In the meantime, a storm was starting up at high tide, and the embankment began to shake and crumble.  
With the help of Angharad, Seithenyn's daughter, they lit the warning beacons of the wall, so the people of the lowland would know to evacuate and run to high ground. Then, as the embankment was breaking down all around them, Teithrin, Elphin and Angharad managed to get out to safety with some of the people that followed them. Seithenyn on his part tried to fight the tide with a sword, and drowned. Many people and villages were lost as the sea swept over the lowland. 
The legend of the Bottom Hundred is sometimes called the Welsh Atlantis. In one night, the fertile lands transformed into Cardigan Bay. 

Sources & notes: Read one version of the story here, and some background information here.

Runner-ups: I was also thinking about using the famous Dutch legend about the sunken city of Stavoren.

What other myths, legends or tales would you associate with sudden disaster? Which one speaks to you the most?


  1. I think the first clue something was going to go wrong was the Prince being one of "Three Immortal Drunkards of Wales."
    As you said, there are so many flood tales from around the world. Most don't listen, a few are saved.

  2. Great tale, but so much true. A lot of these are happening, or will, with climate changes.

  3. Love your choice of tales. I tend to think of earthquakes when I think of the tower card. But the only earthquake tale I know is a kind of vague memory about how Earth was carried by a god on a sled driven by dog. Whenever one of the dogs had to stop and scratch at his fleas the earth would shake.

  4. Seithenyn wasn’t very smart if he tried to fight the tide with a sword. There are certainly parallels to today as people turn their backs on the crumbling towers.

  5. Wonderful, cinematic tale today. I can picture it all. And once again, an incompetent leader leads to the ruin of his people.

  6. Natural disasters are hard to safeguard against, if at all possible. Pompey comes to mind first, even before Atlantis, even though Pompey was destroyed by a volcano while Atlantis drowned.

  7. He fought the tides with his sword... How drunk was he?

    Ronel visiting for the A-Z Challenge with an A-Z of Faerie: Tooth Faeries

  8. I desperately need to read more about the immortal drunkards of Wales.

  9. Wow, this feels like an oddly timely story when you think about infrastructure and what could/can't be done in anticipation of events like these. Very appropriate story.

    Anne from