Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Branwen the Daughter of Llyr — Tale 2

Among the relations of Bendigeid Vran, the giant king of the island (Wales) are his sister Branwen and his brother Evnissyen. The latter is known for trouble making. King Matholwch of Ireland sail to Wales and proposes to Bendigeid that they form an alliance. He also requests Branwen's hand, which is agreed upon; and they go to the desired site, under a tent, the only structure that can hold Bendigeid.

One day Evnissyen comes upon Matholwch's horses, and inquires about what is happening. Finding out, he feels insulted he was not asked his consent. Enraged, he mutilates all the horses. Matholwch, too, takes the mutilation as an insult; and prepares to depart immediately. After some negotiations, he relents and remains with Bendigeid. Reparations are made, but Matholwch seems morose. Bendigeid says he will include a cauldron that came from Ireland. A man slain today will be alive tomorrow; he will be well except he will be unable to speak.

The story of the cauldron is related: Llassar Llaesgyvewid and his wife escaped Ireland and went to Wales, where Bendigeid gave them land, where now a multitude of their tribe live. Matholwch adds further information: one day hunting, he saw a giant of a man carrying a cauldron, accompanied with his pregnant wife. She was much was shorter. Matholwch maintained them, but at the end of a year many complaints arose about their evil ways. The people told the king to choose between the evil people and his kingdom. Matholwch asked his council what he should do because the evil couple would not go of their own accord, and it was not possible to force them to leave.

An iron chamber was built, outside of which coal was piled to the top. The evil couple and others were served food and drink, and when they were drunk, the smiths outside lit the coal. Llassar smashed his way out, followed by his wife. Only they survived, then fled to Wales. There, Bendigeid Vran dispersed everywhere, and they have prospered, fortifying the places where they dwell.

A year after Matholwch and Branwen return to Ireland, she gives birth to a son, whom the name Gwern. But in the second year the people rise up against the insult given to Matholwch in Wales. They cause her to be a cook, and have the butcher give her a blow to the head each day. Branwell raises a starling, teaches it to speak, writes a letter to her brother, and sends it bird flying to him. Bendigeid and his men sail to Ireland. (Bendigeid apparently walks in the water since no ship can hold him). The Irish flees over a river, and demolish the bridge; but Bendigeid lies across the river, allowing his army to pass to the other side. Negotiation begin, and it is finally decided that Bendigeid have the country, and for the Irish to build a house big enough for Bedigeid on one side, and for Matholwch on the other. The Irish, however, place armed men in leather bags on each side of the hundred pillar; but the trouble maker Evnisseyen comes and squeezes every man's head in leather bags.

Negotiation continue, and it is resolved that Gwern shall be sovereign. However, Evnisseyen casts the boy into the fire; and fighting begins. The Irish fill the cauldron with their dead, and the next day they are ready to fight again. Evnisseyen sees that his own men are not resusciated, so pretends to be dead; and the Irish, taking him for one of their own, cast him into the cauldron. He stretches out and breaks the cauldron in four; but also bursts his own heart.

Bendigeid's side has some success, but only seven survive; and Bendigeid is struck by a poison arrow. He commands that his head be cut off. Having returned to her homeland, Branwen is heartbroken, blaming herself for all that happened. She dies from this great sorrow. Caswallawn, putting on the Veil of Illusion so no one could see him, slays the six men with Caradawc, the man left in charge to guard Bendigeid's kingdom. Caswallawn does not kill his nephew Caradawc, but the latter dies of a broken heart. Bendigeid's head is eventually buried in London to protect from invasion — but later is it disinterred. In Ireland only five pregnant woman are left alive. They give birth to five sons, who eventually take the women for wives and populate the land. From the five come what is called the five divisions of Ireland.

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