Weird & Wonderful Wales

Weird & Wonderful Wales

weird-wonderful-wales

Weird & Wonderful Wales was a six stop tour of Wales exploring our myths and legends with illustrator Pete Fowler, best known for his work with Super Furry Animals, and guest artists. Guided by professional and emerging artists, storytellers and community members, each stop used local stories and folktales as inspiration for new murals and written works. These will be displayed at Cadw sites during 2018.

The tour culminated in the installation of a giant Weird & Wonderful Wales mural on the Water Tower at Cardiff Central Railway Station. 

Places Of Interest

  • Water Tower, Cardiff Central Railway Station

    This stunning mural by Pete Fowler draws on some of the strange and fantastic stories from Wales and is mounted on the 1932 grade II listed Great Western Railway Water Tower. The mural comprises images particularly inspired by The Mabinogion; the ancient oral stories of Wales which were written down in the Middle Ages. We have the giant Bendigeidfran ('Blessed Crow’) - King of Britain – who fought the Irish and whose severed head talked to his men for eighty-seven years. We have Blodeuwedd, who was conjured from flowers by two magicians as a wife for Lleu, but was transformed again into an owl as punishment for trying to murder her husband. There is the goddess Rhiannon, who rides her horse better and stronger than the best horsemen of Pwyll, Lord of Dyfed. There is the noble stag, slain by the ghostly hounds of Arawn – Lord of Annwn (the Otherworld). And we have the crow, which features throughout the stories as a harbinger of death.  

    Videos by Mark James.


    Giclée Prints 

    A limited edition print run of 200 has been commissioned. Cardiff Water Tower Mural, signed by Pete Fowler, is available framed and unframed, size - 1200 mm x 400 mm. Profits will be used for creative workshops with marginalised communities.

    Images: Unframed 1; Unframed 2; Unframed 3.

    Unframed - £90 + £8 p&p* - includes 10% Christmas Discount (order by 5 December 2018). RRP £100 + £8 p&p 
    Framed - £135 + £15 p&p*  - includes 10% Christmas Discount (order by 5 December 2018). RRP £135 + £15 p&p 

    Order below. Dispatch will take place within 2-3 weeks of purchase. Please state the delivery address when ordering. Enquiries to post@literaturewales.org marked 'Cardiff Water Tower Mural'.

    *the p&p rates stated above are for UK delivery only. For international postage, please email post@literaturewales.org for a quote BEFORE purchasing a print

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  • Caerphilly Castle

    Caerphilly Castle was built by Gilbert de Clare (1243 - 1295) to control Glamorgan and halt the territorial expansion of Llewelyn ap Gruffudd (1223-1282). De Clare’s wife Alice of Angouleme (The Green Lady of Caerphilly) is said to haunt the castle, having died of a broken heart after de Clare killed her lover Gruffudd the Fair. Her green robes mock her husband’s envy. The Gwrach y Rhibyn, a banshee with black eyes, talons and leathery wings, reputedly haunts the marshy ground around the castle, wailing in the mist. Other tales from the county include The Cuckoos of Risca - the nickname for Risca townspeople. They believed that cuckoos brought sunshine and, craving fine weather throughout the year, grew high hedges but failed to trap any cuckoos. The Curse of Pantannas to the north of Caerphilly tells of the Fairy King cursing Pantannas Farm after its farmer tried to evict some fairies. Madoc, the farmer’s grandson, was enticed to a cave by eerie music a few weeks before his wedding. Re-emerging from the cave, he learned he had been away 100 years and the shock turned him to dust.

  • Blaenavon Ironworks

    Blaenavon Ironworks was established in 1789 and was the first purpose-built multi-furnace site which pioneered coal-fired, steam powered smelting processes. This enabled poor quality, high sulphur iron ores to be used - a technology which spread across the globe. Myths from Torfaen include Gwynllyw Filwr (‘Woolo the soldier’), who pirated along the Wye until he dreamt of, and then found, a white bull with a black star on its forehead standing on Stow Hill. Chastised, he repented and established Saint Woolo’s Cathedral. Twmbarlwm, a hill near Cwmbran, contains buried treasure over which swarms of bees and wasps regularly fight. Its Llys (‘court’) was a place of judgement, with the condemned thrown downhill to their deaths. Grizzled mischievous pixies, the Bwca, live underground here. The Bwca supposedly colonised Wales before humans and inspired both JRR Tolkien’s (1892-1973) dwarves and George RR Martin’s (1948-) ‘Children of the Forest’. The Bwca taught people how to mine and often play tricks - immediately before a collapse, you can hear them knocking on the mine walls. In The Mabinogion, Lord Teyrnon lived in Gwent Iscoed (the plain south of Wentwood). He discovered the baby Pryderi after cutting the arm from a giant claw which tried to steal his foal.  

  • Oxwich Castle

    Oxwich Castle is a fortified Tudor manor house, built on the site of an earlier castle. Nearby Pennard Castle was reputedly built overnight by a sorcerer under Norman attack. Its tenant, Lord Rhys ap Iestyn, threatened fairies dancing on his wedding night. Enraged, they lifted a sand mountain in Ireland and engulfed the castle with the dunes it still sits in. The shoreline from Mumbles to Ogmore used to lie 3-5 miles out to sea. The land in-between - Green Grounds - contained Coed Arian (‘Silver Wood’), which was crossed by a long-lost bridleway from Penrice Castle to Margam Abbey. Submerged by several major storms, fisherman report underwater buildings and often trawl the remains of wild elk, ox, boar and stags. Other myths from the county include Coeten Arthur (‘Arthur’s Stone’) near Reynoldston: a pebble which magically grew in size when King Arthur threw it. Said to be thirsty, the stone occasionally drinks at a nearby stream. Viking King Sweyn Forkbeard (960 – 1016 AD) reputedly founded Swansea ('Sweyn's Island’) and is buried on Rhossili Downs between the twin tombs known as ‘Sweyn Howes’.

  • Kidwelly Castle

    Kidwelly Castle was built by the Normans and was taken repeatedly by Welsh forces. It is forever associated with Princess Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd (1100-1136), who married Gruffydd ap Rhys Tewdwrh (1081-1137). Gwenllian led the Deheubarth army in attacking the castle but was killed nearby at Maes Gwenllian (‘Gwenllian’s Field’). For many years, a headless woman was seen there searching for her head. Another Carmarthenshire story refers to a tree (Merlin’s Oak) which used to grow in Carmarthen: "When Merlin's Oak shall tumble down, then shall fall Carmarthen town". When the rotten tree was removed in 1978, Carmarthen suffered its worst floods in living memory. Llyn Fan y Fach was home to the Lady of the Lake, who married a local farm boy. Their sons - the Physicians of Myddfai - became the first of many generations of expert healers and herbalists. In The Mabinogion, the Twrch Trwyth, a cursed boar, ran riot across Carmarthenshire, pursued by Culhwch and King Arthur who were trying to fulfil one of forty prenuptial challenges set by the giant Ysbaddaden, father of Olwen – Culhwch’s betrothed.  

  • Plas Mawr, Conwy

    Plas Mawr is an Elizabethan townhouse built between 1576-1585. Conwy is supposedly beset by The Mermaid’s Curse. Some fishermen caught a mermaid in the Conwy estuary and paraded her through the town. As she started to suffocate, she cursed the people and buildings of Conwy – at the very same spot where both Conwy Town Hall and a later library burned down. On both occasions, the mermaid’s laughter was heard through the flames. Up the Conwy Valley is Llansanffraid, where Gwen Ferch Ellis (1542-1591) was tried for witchcraft. She was accused of leaving a curse at the home of Thomas Mostyn, and was later hung in Denbigh town square. Other stories from the county include the Llyn yr Afanc, a pool on Conwy River once terrorised by the sea serpent Afanc. Back on the coast are the submerged lands of Tyno Helig (‘Helig’s Hollow’), which lay between Great Orme and Bangor. They were flooded by the ghost of a Scottish chieftain who was murdered by the lowly baron Tathal for his golden aristocratic collar. Prince Helig's vain daughter Gwendud had refused to marry Tathal until he improved his status.

  • Caernarfon Castle

    Caernarfon Castle was built by Edward I of England (1239-1307) during his brutal conquest of Wales. Myths from Gwynedd include Dinas Emrys, where King Gwrtheyrn (‘Vortigern’) tried to build a castle. The walls kept failing and a young Myrddin Emrys (‘Merlin’) revealed a subterranean lake in which a red (Brythonic) and a white (Saxon) dragon were fighting. Gwrtheyrn fled to a coastal valley (thereafter named Nant Gwrtheyrn), which was later home to Rhys and Meinir. On the morning of their wedding, Meinir followed tradition and hid, but she missed the ceremony and Rhys spent many years searching for her. One day a hollow tree was struck by lightning and Meinir’s skeleton fell out. Another Gwynedd story tells of Gelert, the faithful dog of Llywelyn the Great (1172-1240), who saved the prince's infant from a wolf but was slain before the baby was found safe. Back in the Llŷn, King March ab Meirchion kept the fact that he had horse’s ears a secret to all but his barber, who eventually whispered it to the ground. Reeds sprung up and were picked by a piper for his new pipe, which sang: “Horses’ ears for March ab Meirchion” over and again until March learned to live with his ears.