“Branwen, Daughter of Llŷr” is another captivating tale from “The Mabinogion,” the collection of Welsh medieval legends. The story follows the tragic events surrounding Branwen, the daughter of the Welsh king Llŷr. Here’s an abridged version of the story:
Branwen was a beautiful and kind-hearted princess, beloved by all who knew her. Her brother, Bendigeidfran (Bran), was the mighty king of Britain and held a great feast to celebrate his kingship. At this feast, Branwen was married to Matholwch, the king of Ireland, in the hopes of forging an alliance between the two kingdoms.
The marriage between Branwen and Matholwch started on a promising note, and the couple traveled to Ireland to live together. However, not everyone in Ireland was happy with the union, particularly Matholwch’s half-brother, Euroswydd, who held a grudge against the marriage.
As a result of Euroswydd’s resentment, Branwen was subjected to mistreatment and cruelty at the hands of her husband. Despite her suffering, she maintained her grace and dignity.
One day, Branwen gave birth to a son, Gwern, and hoped that this child would bring joy and healing to her troubled marriage. However, Matholwch’s anger and resentment towards the union only intensified after Gwern’s birth.
In an attempt to ease the tension between the kingdoms, Branwen sent word to her brother, King Bran, seeking his help. When Bran received Branwen’s plea, he gathered his forces and led an army to Ireland to confront Matholwch and demand justice for the mistreatment of his sister.
Despite the initial hostility between the two kingdoms, Branwen’s soothing words and Bran’s wise counsel eventually led to a peaceful resolution. Matholwch agreed to restore Branwen’s honor and treat her with respect. Branwen and her son, Gwern, were to return to Britain with Bran, while Matholwch would remain in Ireland.
However, the peace was short-lived. Euroswydd, still harboring resentment, sowed discord by misleading Matholwch about Bran’s intentions. This resulted in a tragic misunderstanding that led to a devastating battle between the two kingdoms.
The war between Britain and Ireland, known as the Second Battle of the Mound, was fierce and bloody. Many warriors lost their lives, including Bran, who was mortally wounded in the conflict. Before succumbing to his injuries, Bran instructed his companions to sever his head and take it back to Britain.
Bran’s head, which possessed the gift of speech and prophecy, provided guidance to his companions on their journey home. They returned to Britain, carrying the head of their fallen king, and Branwen died of a broken heart upon learning of her brother’s death.
The tale of “Branwen, Daughter of Llŷr” is a tragic and poignant story of love, loyalty, betrayal, and the consequences of misunderstanding. It portrays the complexities of human emotions and the price of war, as well as the enduring bond between siblings, even in the face of great adversity.