The Sleeping Giant of Cribarth

This summer I went to visit some sites in the upper Tawe Valley in South Wales. I was interested in following up some hints left by a druid about the Valley of the Ancients – “the most holy pagan site in Wales” [1].

The valley entrance is guarded by the rather amazing sleeping giant of Cribarth, pictured below (from the middle of the A4067).


If you can’t immediately see the figure, he is lying on his back along the hill top, his head (darkened by cloud) to the left and body sloping down to the right. I could have passed it a hundred times without seeing it, but now I can never miss it. The power of the landscape!

According to local folklore, the giant will awaken from his slumber and come to the aid of his people in their time of greatest need. [2]

The druid who wrote about it says that the giant is called Yscydion, and he lies sleeping waiting for the call of King Arthur’s return. But there also seems to be a competing claim, that the giant was called Cribwr.

Both giants are mentioned in the 17th Century book by  Sion Dafydd Rhys, The Giants of Wales and Their Dwellings [3]. The story of Yscydion is short, and seems to indicate that he was located in North Wales near Dolgellau:

“…in the same parish (Dolgelly) is a mountain called Moel Yscydion. And in this mountain was the abode of a great giant called Yscydion Gawr and from his name that hill was called Moel Yscydion.”

The tale of Cribwr is more interesting:

“In the country of Morgannwg was Cribwr Grawr in Castell Cefn Cribwr by Llan Gewydd. Arthur killed three sisters of Cribwr by treachery. Because Arthur nicknamed him(self) Hot Pottage to the first sister, and Warm Porridge to the second sister (so the tale runs), and a Morsel of Bread to the third, and when the first sister called for help against Hot Pottage Cribwr answered: Wench, let him cool; and in the same manner he answered the second sister, when she sought assistance against Warm Porridge. And the third sister called out that the Morsel of Bread was choking her; and to this he answered, Wench, take a smaller piece. And when Cribwr reproached Arthur for killing his sisters Arthur replied by an englyn milwr in this manner;

Cribwr take thy combs
And cease with currish anger
If I get a real chance—surely
What they have had, thou shalt have too.

No one could kill the three sisters together, so great was their strength, but singly by stealth Arthur killed them.

And the place is still called after his name Cribarth, namely, Garth Cribwr Gawr.”

It seems that Cribwr is located in the right part of the country, although “Castell Cefn Cribwr by Llan Gewydd” looks to be someway south of Cribarth, in Bridgend.

Whichever giant it is, the place is worth a visit, as is the valley of the ancients.






About singinghead

druid, mathematician, blogger, gardener...
This entry was posted in Magical Life, Welsh sources and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Sleeping Giant of Cribarth

  1. Oh wow, you can SEE him 🙂 Yet Arthur’s giant killing sprees, I just find saddening. I’m planning to visit Neath this year so will definitely try to get to this remarkable place whilst I’m there.

  2. Helloa, I’m currently involved with a new blog on Brythonic polytheism and one of our areas of interest is giants within the landscape and Brythonic lore surrounding them. I’m wondering whether we could re-publish this on the blog at some point? Here’s the link – Let me know what you think.

  3. singinghead says:

    That’s great Lorna! The bio on ‘about’ is fine.

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