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
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 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
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
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
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.