The Celtic Literature Collective

The Giants of Wales and Their Dwellings Sion Dafydd Rhys, ca. 1600
Peniarth MS 118 f.829-837

In the land of Merioneth in the parish of Dolgelly in the commote of Talybont is a mountain or peak or high large mount that is called Cader Idris. And about the foot of this large hill are several lochs or lakes of water. Large and high (as I have said) is the mountin; and though so high, and though so difficult to cross over, yet (so they say) if a stick or other piece of wood be thrown into any you may choose of those waters, you will get that wood in the other lake on the opposite side of this mountain. And as it is not easy to believe that the wood can go over the top of a mountain as high as this one here, it is supposed that there is some cave or hollow from the one lake to the other under this mountain, so that a thing that is in one lake can be moved to the other. And on the highest crown of this mountain is a bed-shaped form as it were, great in length and width, built of slabs or stones fixed around it. And this is called The Bed of Idris, though it is more likely that it is the grave in which Idris was buried in ages past. And it is said that whoever lies and sleeps on that bed, one of two things will happen to him, either he will be a poet of the best kind, or go entirely demented. And from one of the lakes that is under the high mountain runs a large river. And in spite of that when a very dry summer happens there is lack of water to grind in the mills built on the bank of that river. And for that reason it was frequently necessary to release the water from that lake to save the shortage of water of the mills. And (so they say) no water was ever released from that lake, that there was not at once some storm and downpour of rain, and thunder, and lighting, happening in that spot. And in this high mountain formerly lived a big giant, not less in size of body than any of the above giants, and he was called Idris Gawr. And 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.

[1 Marginal Note (f. 829):
The Giants of Wales Giant Idris The Commot of Ystymmer. And Arthur killed him. And by that there were giants ruling here long after Brutus Giant Crychan dwelling in Moel Crychan a neighbour of Giant Idris.]

And in the parish of Llanfachreth is a hill or mountain called Moel Ophrom, where formerly lived Ophrom Gawr, and it is from his name that that hill derived its name, and that hill is not far from Moel Yscydion, and it is smaller than Moel Yscydion, and in the same country and the same commote.

And in the land of Merioneth also, in the parish of Llanelltyd and the commote of Ardudwy, and a little from the other hills and on the other side of the river that divides the commotes, is another hill called Moel Ysbryn, because Ysbryn Gawr had his dwelling there; from whose name the hill received its name. And all these giants were of enormous size, and in the time of Idris Gawr, which Idris was king and chief over them. And in the land of Merioneth also, and close to Pen Aran in Penllyn, and under the place called Bwlch y Groes, is a grave of great dimensions where they say Lytta or Ritta or Ricca or Rithonwy or Itto Gawr was buried; whose body some of the tribe of giants removed from Eryri to somewhere near Mynydd Arau Fawr in Penllyn. This Rica Gawr was the one whom Arthur had fought and had killed in Eryri. And this giant made this for himself, a robe of the beards of the kings he had killd. And he sent to Arthur to order him to cut off his own (i.e., Arthur's) beard and send it to him. And as Arthur was the chief of the Kings, he would place his beard above the other beards as an honor to Arthur. And if he would not do that, he begged Arthur to come and fight him; and the victorious of them to make a robe from the other's beard. And after they went to fight Arthur had the victory and he took the giant's beard and his robe. Itto Gawr said he never met a second man as brave as that giant. And when Arthur had got that victory, in the second watch of the night they came ...

[Marginal Note:-
And others relate the story thus, namely:
Itto Gawr, calling himself king of Gwynedd in the time of Arthur, sent to Arthur to ask him for his beard. And Arthur refused it to him. And on this they met on the top of a hil called Bwch y Groes between Mowddwy and Penllyn in the land of Merioneth. And in the meeting at Itto's wish, they cast their weapons away from them, to prove their strength. And at last by a struggle, and rolling, they came to the plain, to the place called Blaen Cynllwyd, after plucking each other's beards. And in remembrance of that, that hill is called Rhiw y Barfau. And after that, they fought with their swords, in the place where Arthur killed the giant: in which place is Itto's grave to be seen to this day at the foot of the slope.
Iwni gawr,
Iwni Gawr lived in the commote of Penllyn in a place still called CEfn Caer Iwni, and the place where still is a trace of his old castle]

In the land of Aberteifi and in the parish of Llan Dyssiliaw is a place called Caer Wedros. And that caer was called thus, and is still so called because Gwedros Gawr formerly lived there.

And in the land of Aberteifi and in the parish of Llan Dyssul lived a giant and his name was Howel Gawr; and the place he lived in is still called Castell Howel Gawr.

And in the land of Aberteifi and in the parish of Llanfair or Llwyn was a giant called Llyphan Gawr, and the place he lived in is still called Castell Llyphan Gawr.

And in the land of Aberteifi and in the parish of Bangor lived Pyscoc Gawr; and the place he dwelt in is still called Castell Pyscoc Gawr.

Three witches were wives to the last three giants, namely, to Howel Gawr, adn Llyphan Gawr, and Pyscoc Gawr; and those three giantesses were killed (they say) by Gwalchmai the nephew of Arthur by trickery, because they could not be destroyed except by cunning, on account of their strength and power. And three sisters were these three witches; and within the three castles they were killed, namely Castell Howell, Castell Llyphan, and Castell Pyscoc, according to what is related of them.

In the land of Aberteifi and in the parish of Llan Dyssul formerly lived Hedoc Gawr; and the place he lived in is still called Caer Hedoc Gawr.

And in the land of Aberteifi adn in the parish of Llan Drenoc formerly lived Chwi^l Gawr: adn the place he abode in is still called Castell Ghw^il Gawr.

In the land of Aberteifi in Ystrad was formerly Diddanel Gawr, and the place he lived in was named after him, and is still called Castell Diddanel.

And in the land of Aberteifi in the above Ystrad there dwelt Moel Gawr, and his abode is still called Castell Moythyn.

In the land of Aberteifi was a giant called Meifod Gawr, and the place he dwelt in is still called Cwrt Meifod.

And in the land of Caerfyrddin in Llan Sawel were four giants, and these were four brothers, namely Mabown Gawr, and the plae where this giant dwelt is called today by the name Castell Fabon; and the second is called Dinas Gawr, and the place he dwelt is still called Caer Dinas Gawr. And the third is called Chwilcin or Wilcin Gawr, and the place he dwelt in is still called Caer Wilcin. And the fourth is called Celgan Gawr, and the place he lived in is still called Caer Celgan.

In the land of Caerfyrddin and in Llan y Crwys was a giant called Chwermon Gawr, adn the place he dwelt in is still called Llwyn Chwermon.

And in the land of Caerfyrddin in the parish of Cynwil was a giant called Ladyr or Radyr Gawr, and the place he lived in is still called Bwlch Rhiw Radyr.

And in the land of Caerfyrddin in Cynwil Gayo was a giant called Cynwil Gawr, and that is the reason, perhaps, why the place is still aclled Cynwil, and he was a godly man.

And in the land of Caerfyrddin in Llan llony was Oerbryd ro Eurbryd Gawr, and the place he dwelt in is still called Castell Ourbryd.

And in the same parish and place was Cymryd Gawr, and the place he dwelt in is still called Castell Cymryd.

In the land of Brycheiniog near to the town of Aber Hodni: Gogfran Gawr lived in Aber Ysgyr in the caer above the river. Mwngmawr drefi lived in the caerau which land now belongs to Rosser Howel of the gaer. Crystil Gawr in the land of the Cruc by Bont wilim. Crwcast Gawr dwelling in the top of Crwcast. Others say Castell Crow, Castell y brain.

And in the country of Aberteifi, before the coming of Brutus to this island, there formerly lived Maylor Gawr, and the place where he lived is still called Castell Maylor which was built on a high hill or high ridge called Y Dinas on the one side of the river Ystwyth within the boundary of the town of Aber Yystwyth.

To this Maylor Gawr were three sons, namely, Cornippin Gawr, and Crygyn Gawr, and Bwba Gawr. Corpinnin Gawr dwelt in a castle which is still called after his own name, namely Castell Cornippin opposite the parish of Llan Ychaiarn within the commote of Meifienydd. And it came to pass that Maylor Gawr was taken prisoner in a place called Cyfeilog, about twelve miles from his own castle: and when on the point of being put to death, he begged of his enemies to permit him to blow his horn three times before suffering death, which thing was allowed to him. And then he blew his horn the first time until the hair on his head and beard fell. And on the second blast of his horn, so great was the strength and force of the sounding that all his finger and toe-nails fell off completely. And on the third blast of his horn the intensity of the force of the sound caused the horn to be broken into small pieces. And then when his son Cornippin was hunting, as he rode on his huge horse and leading his hound by hand, and hearing the sound of his father's horn, he saddened greatly, and he longed beyond measure for his father: and that place, to this present day, is called Cefn Hiraethog. And then he began to return towards his father in seeking to help him: and in riding with such haste and swiftness, he tore the head of his hound off its body, until there only remained in the leash the head and mouth of the dog. And that place is still called to this day, The Pass of the Dog's Muzzle. And when he saw that, he spurred his steed until the horse leapt at one bound over the Ystwyth River so that it was a great wonder to see such a length of leap, is called to this hour Ol Carn y March. And in that manner Cornippin came up to his father, where after fighting he also was killed.

And Crygyn Gawr dwelt in Castell Grygyn within the parish of Llan Hilar, and in the same commote.

Bwba Gawr lived in the castle which still bears his name, namely, Castell Bwba, in the parish of Llan Badarn Fawr in the middle commote.

These giants lived in Wales before Brutus came to this island, and their custom while they lived was to kill whatever men should come to lodge within their strongholds until at last the same man came and killed them both the same night by cunning.

Odwyn Gawr lived in his stronghold which is still called Caer Odwyn or Castell Edwin within the parish of Llan Badarn Odyn, which is called Llan Badarn Odyn, the letter (w) being lost from the middle. Some consider Garwed a giant, but he was not a giant but a hermit living within four miles of Ystrad Fflur, in a place still called Rhiw Garwed; and then he was killed by Gwaith Bhoed, about five hundred years ago.

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. And opposite to him was another giant called Oyle Gawr, and his dwelling place is still called Pen Oyle.

And in the same parish in a place still called Ynys Cedwyn there was another giant called Cedwyn Gawr, and these three lived in Arthur's time. And the first two were killed by Arthur.

And in the parish of Pen Ederyn, Dynas Gawr was killed by Arthur. And the place where he dwelt is still called Caer Craig Dynas Gawr, at other times Craig y Llyn.

Bwch Gawr lived in a place still called Castell Bwch between Caerleon on Usk and Llan Ternan, and he also lived in the other Castell Bwch between Pentref Bach and the Henllys in the country of Gwent. And there were sons to this Bwch, namely, Ernallt Gawr, whose dwelling was in the place still called Castell Ernallt in Llan Gattwg in the Usk valley. Clidda Gawr in the parish of Bettws Newydd, and his abode in the place called Cloddeu Caer Clidda, and that land to-day is called Tir Clidda in the parish of Llan arth. Buga Gawr, and his abode in the place still called Castell Bryn Buga, Trogi Gawr dwelt in the castle still called Castell Trogi by Coed Gwent. Cybi Gawr, whose home was in the castle still called Castell Cybi. Crou Gawr, his abode in the place still called Castell Tir Crou in the parish of Bettws Newydd. All these were sons of Bwch Gawr within the country of Gwent. And some say that Phili was a giant and a son to the above Bwch, and his abode in

Caer Phili in the country of Morgannwg, and their father (they say) was killed in the country of Morgannwg above Llantrissant in the place still called Pen Bwch.

Erddan or Gerddan Gawr was living in Castell Erddan and in a cave still called Gogof Gerddan Gawr, and briefiy Gogerddan, and on a hill called Bryn Bron Gastellan in the country of Aberteifi.

And in the country of Morgannwg is a place called Cell .... Wallawn Gawr, and that is a big marsh in Coed Ffranc between Neath Castle and Swansea. And there is a place called Rhyd Pen y Cawr between Llan Sawel and Cwrt y Betws in the country of Morgannwg, where Lloches Gawr had his head cut off.

And in the country of Morgannwg is a spot called Bedd Dilic Gawr, between Llan Sawel and Baglan and this grave is over thirty feet in length.

Tarnoc Gawr in the parish of Merthyr in the valley of Hodni in the country of Brecknock.

Meddgyrn Gawr in the parish of Aber Ysgyr in the same country of Brecknock.

Dyrnhwch Gawr in the country of Euas.

Gwrle Gawr, and the place he dwelt in was called Caer Gwrle not far from Caerlleon Gawr and the Dee.

Iestyn Gawr and his dwelling in Llaniestyn, by Garth Beibio.

Cornbwch Gawr dwelling in the Graig don, between Trefyclawdd and Knucklas.

The grave of Gnerys Gawr is within the parish of Llan yn Mawddwy near a place called the Pass of the Bitch's Mouth, in the country of Merioneth.

Drewyn Gawr made Caer Drewyn in Deyrnion, the other side of the river from Corwen. And to his sweetheart he made that Caer,to milk her cows within it. And opposite Caer Drewyn is Cefn Heini, and the lake of Heini Gawr. These two places were named by the Cawr Heini. And near the park of Glocaenawg is a place called Sarn y Trichawr which was made by three giants in a marsh to be able to stand firmly in respect of two others in order to fight one another; and when one of them was killed, for the other two to fight each other, and whichever of the two triumphed, he was to receive the thing that was claimed, because of that quarrel.

In a place called Glascoed in the country of Montgomery is the grave of three giants, namely, Meichiad Gawr who kept pigs; and after his name was called Nant and Dyffryn Meichiad and Cwm Glan Meichiad; where his knife and flute were found. And Aeddan Gawr: and after him Bwlch Aeddan was called. And in the parish of Meifod are those two places, namely, the Nant and the Bwlch.

Ceimiad Gawr has a grave in the soil of Dyffryn Mochnant in a place called Llwyn y Meini Hirion near Nant Ceimiad, in the parish of Pennant Mylangell, where he was killed (so they say) by Arthur, and two long stones mark the length of the grave, one at each end.

There was a place on the frontier of the land of Shropshire, called Bron Wrgan, and it was the abode of giants.

And in this place it is related that there were some brothers to Gwenhwyfar, the daughter of Gogyrfan Gawr, who were imprisoned by some of these giants. And she grieved greatly they were in captivity. But Arthur saved them each one, killing the giants, and taking the head of the biggest of them and throwing it into the middle of the river instead of a stone, in stepping across the river, to go to Castell y Cnwclas. And as he placed his foot on the head of the giant in stepping across the river Arthur said, Let the head grow in the river instead of a stone. And henceforth that river was called Afon Tyfed-iad, as the side of the giant's head grew.

"Peniarth Ms. 118, fos. 829-837" ed. and trans. Hugh Owen. Y Cymmrodor. vol. 27. London: Honorable Society of Cymmrodorion, 1917. pp.115-152