Bedd y Cawr - A Giant's Grave

I can now reveal the new painting I have been working on for several months, and the first completed piece for my 'Giants' Wake' project. I have revisited a subject which I illustrated around 4/5 years ago, a particular story of a Giant's grave from Shropshire folklore.


The new piece; 'Bedd y Cawr', watercolour and gouache on paper, 2020...


Bedd Y Cawr, 2020

And the older version; 'The Golden Torc', watercolour on paper, 2016...



I think it is interesting to see how much my style and technique have developed between the two! Many of the details from the original have been reworked for the new picture - the inclusion of a (also giant) raven companion, ornamental copper scale/leaf dress and the offerings of apples and flowers. I wanted to make it much clearer that she is a giant this time. This is potentially the first in a series of Giants' Graves, which will each depict a different Giant from across British folklore. For now, here is the story behind this one...


In the North-west of Shropshire there lies one half of a village, with the other half in Wales. The border slices through the middle, not only of the village, but also of the adjacent hill that shares it's name; Llanymynech.

As late as the 19th century there were said to be found the stones of a Cromlech on the Shropshire side of the hill; the remnants of a great megalithic tomb of unfathomed age. But this was no ordinary burial monument, these overgrown slabs of rock marked the site of a Giant's grave, in Welsh a "Bedd y Cawr". She who was buried here was one of two Giants who built and lived upon the hill, claimed erroneously to be husband and wife (the Giant-kind were bound by no such social concepts). The story of how they met, how they lived out their long tranquil lives, and the tragedy of how she came to die... none of this is described in any myth or legend, only that her companion buried her here, a precious circlet of gleaming gold resting around her neck, the heart they had shared now torn in two. They had been some of the last Giants to walk the earth, and left now alone, he apparently disappeared without trace.


Over the centuries, numerous treasure hunters sought to uncover the grave, lured by the thought of that golden torc and the fortune it would bring them, but none ever succeeded. In one notable instance, three brothers tried to lift the massive cap-stone, but were struck suddenly and inexplicably dead on the spot, as if by divine intervention. Why the Christian God should be compelled to defend an ancient pagan monument with such violence is a mystery, unless the men died by a more earthly hand... perhaps of one who still stood over that grave in silent vigil, a looming body calcified beneath ivy and moss, his calloused, weather-worn form indistinguishable from the surrounding trees, compelled only to stir when the sanctity of his love's rest be threatened...


It has been written that the remains of the Cromlech have since been destroyed, its location is certainly unclear. But perhaps the spot still exists in some hidden space beneath the trees, concealed from any human eye, where one Giant sleeps, and another waits... and one day, perhaps, they both shall wake.


Finally, here are some of my preliminary sketches for the new piece...





There will be much more to come on 'The Giants Wake'!