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The Second Branch of The Mabinogion: Branwen, Daughter of Llÿ r

Branwen was Bran and Manawydan's sister, daughter of Llÿ r. Bran was the king of Britain. One time he was staying at one of his courts in Wales when he saw thirteen ships approaching from Ireland. Fearing attack he got his men to arm themselves.

The ships came in peace, bearing the king of Ireland, Matholwch. He wished to become Bran's ally and to marry Branwen, so that Ireland and Britain could be united and together become stronger.

After much deliberation Bran agreed to allow Matholwch to marry Branwen.

Efnisien, Bran's half-brother, loved to cause chaos when things were going well with others. So he went to the stable and pretended to found out that Branwen and Matholwch had married, even though he already knew. He went into a rage and destroyed Matholwch's horses.

Matholwch heard this and made preparations to leave. Bran hearing that that his guest was going to leave sent a messenger to find out why. The messenger explained that Bran had nothing to do with the attack on the horses and eventually managed to soothe the angry king. He returned home with Branwen and in due time she gave birth to a son.

But word of what had happened reached the ears of the people and he became an image of mockery.

Branwen was sent to the kitchen to cook for the household where she was regularly beaten as part of her punishment. All communication was cut off with Britain so that Bran would not hear of his sister's treatment. This continued for three years.

But Branwen was not one to suffer meekly and so she tamed a starling and taught it to talk. When it was ready she sent it to Bran with a message and he was outraged.

He and his warriors went to Ireland where they fought a bloody battle. Only seven men from Bran's forces survived, one was Pwyll's son, Pryderi, and most of the people in Ireland perished. Bran himself was killed and asked that they cut off his head and bury it at the White Mount, facing France.

The seven men did as he asked and sailed back to Britain with Bran's head and Branwen. When they landed on the shores of Britain the weight of what had happened because of her killed Branwen and she was buried there.

The seven men with Bran's head went on and they met some travellers who told them that Bran's son was dead and that a man named Caswallawn had been crowned king in London.

They spent seven years at Harddlech, feasting and listening to three birds belonging to Rhiannon.

Then they went on to Penfro and found another feasting hall. Here they found three doors. Two were open and one was closed. They knew that this third door was one that Bran had warned them not to open.

They spent eighty years feasting at this hall. Then curiosity overcame one of them and he opened the third door. They all felt the return of the feelings that had been alleviated by the feasting. They remembered all the people they had known that had died in the fight and all their misfortunes.

They knew that it was time to leave so they went to White Mount and buried Bran's head as he had asked. In all the time that Bran's head remained undisturbed the land was free from plagues and invasion.

Category: The Four Branches of Mabinogion | Added by: obiflo (22 October 10)
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