The Buried Giant

by

Kazuo Ishiguro

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The Giant’s Cairn Symbol Analysis

The Giant’s Cairn Symbol Icon

Near the end of the story, Axl, Beatrice, Sir Gawain, Wistan, and Edwin meet at the top of a mountain near a mysterious monument known as the giant’s cairn, which sits near the pit that Merlin was ordered to help trap Querig in. This cairn—which is similar to other mysterious monuments throughout the land—symbolizes the ugly, hidden truth of England’s history. It is noted more than once, by Sir Gawain and by Wistan, that one doesn’t need to look far to find evidence of past battles and violence; fields filled with buttercups also hold bones from bloody battles just beneath the surface, and seemingly peaceful monasteries were once witness to unimaginable carnage as Saxon villagers made their last stand against bands of Britons. The “giant” buried beneath the cairn is not a monster in the literal sense, but rather a culmination of the dark truth of this conflict: mutual hatred, betrayal, the slaughter of innocent women and children, and an unquenchable thirst for revenge. These are the things that are unloosed when, as Wistan says, “The giant, once well buried, now stirs” after the death of Querig restores everyone’s memories. Once the giant (the truth) is unburied, the nation that had enjoyed peace for years will inevitably revert back to war, and violence will ensue as Saxons exact revenge against the Britons for the atrocities they committed under King Arthur.

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The Giant’s Cairn Symbol Timeline in The Buried Giant

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Giant’s Cairn appears in The Buried Giant. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 13
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
War, Peace, Vengeance, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Denial and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...the girl wasn’t the only one anxious “to have this goat go up to the giant’s cairn .” Beatrice says she’s still anxious for this to happen because it would be “a... (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
...children ask Axl and Beatrice if they will take their remaining goat up to the giant’s cairn and leave it for the dragon to eat. The girl also explains that killing Querig... (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Axl refuses to help bring the goat to the giant’s cairn , saying they are too old to do it. Despite the pleading of the children,... (full context)
Gawain’s Second Reverie
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Denial and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...and looked at him suspiciously. Finally, Sir Gawain had agreed to accompany them to the giant’s cairn , eager to get there before Wistan and the boy. (full context)
Chapter 15
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Denial and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...some will only have wooden crosses, and some will have nothing. It is possible the giant’s cairn was erected as a memorial to a tragic loss of innocent lives—there aren’t many other... (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Denial and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...to go rest and leave the goat with him. Watching her walk back to the giant’s cairn , Axl feels “distinct shadows of anger and bitterness” and wonders if it was her... (full context)