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Hywel Sele

Hywel Sele (died c. 1402) was a Welsh nobleman. A cousin of Owain Glyndŵr,
Prince of Wales, he was a friend of Henry IV of England and opposed his cousin's
1400–1415 uprising. Sele was captured by Glyndŵr but is said to have accepted an
invitation to hunt with his cousin on the Nannau Estate. Sele attempted to kill
Glyndŵr but failed and was himself killed, his body being hidden within the hollow
of an oak tree. The oak is subsequently said to have been haunted and was named
Dewen Ceubren yr Ellyl ("The Hollow Oak of the Devils") or Ceubren yr Ellyll
("The Hollow Tree of the Ghost").

Contents
Biography
Different accounts
Nannau Oak
References
The discovery of the body of Hywel
Sele in the Nannau Oak
Biography
There are several different versions of the life of Hywel Sele.

Hywel Sele was a distant cousin of Owain Glyndŵr (c. 1359 – c. 1415), the last native Prince of Wales.[1] Sele was a friend of the
English King Henry IV and due to this was opposed to the Glyndŵr Rising.[2] Sele fought against Glyndŵr and was captured in a
battle near Beddau.[1] The abbot of Cymer Abbey brokered a reconciliation between the two men and they later went hunting
together in the Nannau Estate.[1]

It is said that during the hunt Sele drew his bow to shoot Glyndŵr. However Glyndŵr anticipated this and struck Sele with his sword
before he could release the arrow. Fearing repercussions from the abbot, Glyndŵr hid Sele's body in a hollow in an ancient oak
tree.[3] This subsequently became known as Dewen Ceubren yr Ellyl ("The Hollow Oak of the Devils"). Glyndŵr burnt down Sele's
estate, leaving Sele's 2-year-old son to be brought up by an uncle.[3] A cousin of Sele, Gruffyd ap Gwyn of Ardudwy heard of the
burning of the estate and set out to rescue his kinsman. But Glyndŵr ambushed Gruffyd's 200-strong force at Llanelltud Bridge and
killed sixty men before razing Gruffyd's own estates.[4]

Different accounts
There are significant differences in other accounts of Sele's life. In T. P. Ellis' 19th-century writings the sequence of events is
reversed. Glyndŵr is said to have captured Sele and carried him to Llanelltud, where Gruffyd unsuccessfully attempted to release
him. After Glyndŵr's victory the abbot attempted his reconciliation, and the fateful hunting expedition was carried out. In Ellis'
[4]
version Glyndŵr, suspicious of Sele, survived by wearing a coat of mail beneath his clothes.

In William Wynne's History of Wales, the attempted killing of Glyndŵr takes place after Glyndŵr asked Sele to prove his skill with a
bow and Gruffyd is said to have demolished the bridge at Llanelltud to prevent Glyndŵr's passage; his subsequent defeat taking place
at Rhyd Cadwallon (a nearby ford) and in the surrounding countryside.[5] John Humffreys Parry (1786-1825) relates another account
[6]
in which the meeting came about by accident while Glyndŵr was hunting on Sele's land and a confrontation turned violent.
The story is regarded as a legend by Elissa R. Henken, who states that the story was at some point muddled and Sele's name
sometime rendered as Huw Selef. She notes that some local people still regard the site of the tree as haunted.[7] The story was also
ascribed to legend by D. Helen Allday.[8] Breverton states that there is some uncertainty over the date of the killing with 1402 given
[3] The story was well known among the inhabitants of Dolgellau.
most credence, though some sources state 1404 or 1406. [9]

Nannau Oak
The tree that supposedly entombed Sele subsequently became known as the Nannau
Oak.[10] Welsh writer Thomas Pennant inspected the oak in 1778 and noted that it
was 27 feet 6 inches (8.38 m) in girth but that it was in an advanced state of decay.
The tree was said to have resembled the shape of a gothic arch.[3] The tree fell on 13
July 1813 and it was said that the body of Sele fell from within it and was laid to rest
at Cymer Abbey.[4] Sir Richard Colt Hoare was present at the time it fell and had
completed a drawing of the tree that very morning. The drawing shows the tree in its
decrepit state and damaged by lightning.[10]

As with the rest of the story there are different versions of events. Writer TP Ellis
states that Sele's body lay within the tree only for forty years. He further notes that
the oak was also known as Ceubren yr Ellyll ("The Hollow Tree of the Ghost") and
[4]
was regarded as haunted, with people afraid to approach it at night.

The site of the tree was marked on the day it fell by a sundial and brass plate with a
sketch of the tree.[4] The landowner, a baronet, is said to have had the wood of the
tree made into various utensils. It is also said that many houses in Dolgellau
contained an engraving of the tree with a frame made from its wood.[11] The tree
An engraving made from Hoare's
was immortalised by Walter Scott in his 1808 work Marmion as "the spirit's Blasted 1813 drawing of the oak
Tree".[12]

References
1. Barber, C (1998). In Search of Owain Glyndŵr. Abergavenny: Blorenge Books.
2. Davies, R R (1995). The Revolt of Owain Glyndŵr. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
3. "Realising the repercussions from the Abbott and the followers of Hywel, Owain concealed the body in the hollow of
an ancient oak tree" Breverton, Terry (2009). Owain Glyndwr: The Story of the Last Prince of W
ales (https://books.go
ogle.com/books?id=8XGoAwAAQBAJ). Amberley Publishing Limited. p. 109.ISBN 9781445608761. Retrieved
8 April 2019.
4. Breverton, Terry (2009). Owain Glyndwr: The Story of the Last Prince of W
ales (https://books.google.com/books?id=
8XGoAwAAQBAJ). Amberley Publishing Limited. p. 110.ISBN 9781445608761. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
5. Saint Caradoc (of Llancarfan) (1832).The History of Wales ... Translated into English by Dr. Powell; and augmented
by W. Wynne ... A new edition, greatly improved and enlarged with pedigrees of families. W ith a collection of
documents. With maps (https://books.google.com/books?id=hblV AAAAcAAJ). John Eddowes. p. 232. Retrieved
8 April 2019.
6. Parry, John H. (1834). The Cambrian Plutarch: Comprinsing Memoirs of Some of the Mosts Eminent W
elshmen... (ht
tps://books.google.com/books?id=RQNaAAAAcAAJ)Simpkin. p. 248. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
7. Henken, Elissa R. (1996).National Redeemer: Owain Glyndŵr in Welsh Tradition (https://books.google.com/books?i
d=WpDJObx8lpMC). Cornell University Press. p. 157.ISBN 9780801483493. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
8. Allday, D. Helen (1981). Insurrection in Wales: The Rebellion of the Welsh Led by Owen Glyn Dwr (Glendower)
Against the English Crown in 1400(https://books.google.com/books?id=68YgAAAAMAAJ) . T. Dalton. p. 88.
ISBN 9780861380015. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
9. Jones, Evan (2009). A Portrait of Machynlleth and Its Surroundings(https://books.google.com/books?id=oduum2r12
x8C). Coch Y Bonddu Books. p. 13.ISBN 9781904784241. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
10. The Book of Trees: Descriptive of the Principal Timber-trees, and the Larger Species of Palms(https://books.google.
com/books?id=D-W6J2eP90AC). J. W. Parker. 1837. p. 97. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
11. Saint Caradoc (of Llancarfan) (1832).The History of Wales ... Translated into English by Dr. Powell; and augmented
by W. Wynne ... A new edition, greatly improved and enlarged with pedigrees of families. W ith a collection of
documents. With maps (https://books.google.com/books?id=hblV AAAAcAAJ). John Eddowes. p. 234. Retrieved
8 April 2019.
12. Simpson, Roger (1997)."The Nannau Oak: Bulwer Lytton and his Midsummer Knight at the Westminster Round
Table" (https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/27869279.pdf)(PDF). Arthuriana. 7 (3): 126. ISSN 1078-6279 (https://www.w
orldcat.org/issn/1078-6279). Retrieved 8 April 2019.

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