The Mabinogion, tr. by Lady Charlotte Guest, , at sacred-texts.com
369a BENDIGEID VRAN.--Page 369.
BRAN the son of Llyr Llediaith, and sovereign of Britain, derives, according to the Welsh authorities, his title of Bendigeid, or the Blessed, from the circumstance of his having introduced Christianity into this Island. They tell us that he was the father of the celebrated Caradawc (Caractacus), whose captivity he is said to have shared; and proceed to state that having embraced the Christian faith, during his seven years' detention in Rome, he returned to his native country, and caused the Gospel to be preached there. 1 The following Triad recites these events.
"The three blissful Rulers of the Island of Britain, Bran the Blessed, the son of Llyr Llediaith, who first brought the faith of Christ to the nation of the Cymry from Rome, where he was seven years a hostage for his son Caradawc, whom the Romans made prisoner through the craft, and deceit, and treachery of Aregwedd Fôeddawg [usually supposed to be Cartismandua]. The second was Lleurig ab Coel ab Cyllyn Sant, who was called Lleufer Mawr, [the great Light], and built the ancient church at Llandaff, which
was the first in Britain, and who gave the privileges of land, and of kindred, and of social rights, and of society to such as were of the faith of Christ. The third was Cadwaladyr the Blessed, who gave refuge, with his lands, and with all his goods, to the believers who fled from the Saxons without faith, and from the aliens who would have slain them."--Tr. 35.
The benefit which Bran thus conferred upon his country procured for his family the distinction of being accounted one of the three Holy Tribes; the families of Cunedda Wledig and Brychan Brycheiniog were the other two.
All this, however, it may be observed, is much at variance with the particulars of Caradawc's captivity, and of his family, recorded by classical writers.
Bran is ranked with Prydain ab Aedd Mawr, and Dyvnwal Moelmud as one of the three Kings who gave stability to sovereignty by the excellence of their system of government.--Tr. 36.
Various ancient Welsh documents allude to the incidents recorded of Bran in the Mabinogi of Branwen. Thus in the curious poem entitled Kerdd am Veib Llyr ab Brychwel Powys, attributed to Taliesin, are the following lines,--
I was with Bran in Ireland,
I saw when Morddwyd Tyllon was slain. 1
And there is a Triad upon the story of his head being buried under the White Tower of London, with the face towards France, intended as a charm against foreign invasion. Arthur, it appears, proudly disinterred the head, preferring to hold the Island by his own strength alone, and this is recorded as one of the fatal disclosures of Britain.
"The three Closures and Disclosures of the Island; First the head of Bendigeid Vran ab Llyr, which Owain the son of Maxen Wledig buried under the White Tower in London, and while it was go placed no invasion could be made upon this Island; the second was the bones of Gwrthevyr the Blessed [Vortimer], which were buried in the chief harbour of the Island, and while they remained there hidden all invasions were ineffectual. The third was the dragons buried by Lludd ab Beli, in the city of Pharaon, in the rocks Of Snowdon. And the three closures were made under the blessing of God and his attributes, and evil befel from the time of their disclosure. Gwrtheyrn Gwrtheneu [Vortigern], disclosed the dragons
to revenge the displeasure of the Cymry against him, and he invited the Saxons in the guise of men of defence to fight against the Gwyddyl Ffychti; and after this he disclosed the bones of Gwrthevyr the Blessed, through love of Ronwen [Rowena], the daughter of the Saxon Hengist. And Arthur disclosed the head of Bendigeid Vran ab Llyr, because he chose not to hold the Island except by his own strength. And after the three disclosures came the chief invasions upon the race of the Cymry."--Tr. 53.
The name of Bran is of frequent occurrence in the poems of Cynddelw, and other bards of the middle ages.
369b HARLECH.--Page 369.
MOST of the localities which occur in the Tale of Branwen are too well known to need any description; one or two, however, require a slight notice. Of Harlech, it may be remarked that it is also called Twr Bronwen, or Branwen's Tower. The name of Caer Collwyn was also bestowed upon it after Collwyn ab Tangno, chief of one of the fifteen Noble Tribes of North Wales. It possesses the ruins of a fine castle. Harlech stands on the sea coast, on the confines of Ardudwy, one of the six districts of Merionethshire, of which the portion called Dyffryn Ardudwy is a remnant of the Cantrev y Gwaelod, inundated in the time of Gwyddno Garanhir.
Edeyrnion, mentioned a little further on in the story, is also situated in Merionethshire.
Talebolion is a Commot in Anglesey.
Aberffraw, likewise in Anglesey, was the residence of the princes of Gwynedd from the time of Roderick the Great, in 843, to that of the last Llywelyn, in 1282.
369c EUROSSWYDD.--Page 369.
EUROSSWYDD is beyond doubt the Roman general Ostorius, the captor of Llyr Llediaith, and his family, including Bran and Caradawc (Caractacus).
He is mentioned as such in Triad L, already quoted.--See p. 192.
369d BELI THE SON. OF MANOGAN.--Page 369.
BELI, surnamed the Great, was king over Britain forty years, and was succeeded in the sovereignty by his sons, Lludd and Caswallawn, better known as Cassivelaunus. In the Armes attributed to Taliesin, Beli is thus addressed,--
"Greatly do I honour thee
Son of Manogan the king.
Do thou preserve the glory
Of the Honey Island 1 of Beli."
Myv. Arch. I. p. 73.
370a BRANWEN.--Page 370.
THE beautiful Branwen (or Bronwen, the "white-bosomed," as she is more frequently called), is one of the most popular heroines of Welsh romance. No less celebrated for her woes than for her charms, we find that her eventful story was a favourite theme with the bards and poets of her nation. Numerous instances might be adduced of the allusions to her, which their compositions contain; suffice it to refer to the words of Davydd ab Gwilym, who, in one of his odes addressed to Morvudd, compares her hue to that of Bronwen, the daughter of Llyr.
The indignities to which Branwen was subjected in Ireland are referred to in one of the Triads (49).
In 1813, a grave containing a funeral urn was discovered on the banks of the river Alaw, in Anglesey, in a spot called Ynys Bronwen. The appearance of the grave, and its remarkable locality, led to the inference that it might indeed be the "Bedd Petrual," the four-sided place of burial, in which, according to the text, her sorrowing companions deposited the remains of the unfortunate heroine of the Mabinogion. The following account of its discovery was communicated, in 1821, to the Cambro-Briton (and printed in that publication, II. p. 71), by Sir R. C. Hoare, on the authority of Richard Fenton, Esq., of Fishguard.
"An Account of the Discovery, in 1813, of an Urn, in which, there is every reason to suppose, the ashes of Bronwen (White Bosom), the daughter of Llyr, and aunt to the great Caractacus, were deposited.
A farmer, living on the banks of the Alaw, a river in the Isle of Anglesea, having occasion for stones, to make some addition to his farm-buildings, and having observed a stone or two peeping through the turf of a circular elevation on a flat not far from the river, was induced to examine it, where, after paring off the turf, he came to a considerable heap of stones, or carnedd, covered with earth, which he
removed with some degree of caution, and got to a cist formed of coarse flags canted and covered over. On removing the lid, he found it contained an urn placed with its mouth downwards, full of ashes and half-calcined fragments of bone. The report of this discovery soon went abroad, and came to the ears of the parson of the parish, and another neighbouring clergyman, both fond of, and conversant in, Welsh antiquities, who were immediately reminded of a passage in one of the early Welsh romances, called the Mabinogion (or juvenile tales), the same that is quoted in Dr. Davies's Latin and Welsh Dictionary, as well as in Richards's, under the word Petrual (square).
'Bedd petrual a wnaed i Fronwen ferch Lyr ar lan Alaw, ac yno y claddwyd hi.'
A square grave was made for Bronwen, the daughter of Llyr, on the banks of the Alaw, and there she was buried.
Happening to be in Anglesea soon after this discovery, I could not resist the temptation of paying a visit to so memorable a spot, though separated from it by a distance of eighteen miles. I found it, in all local respects, exactly as described to me by the clergyman above mentioned, and as characterised by the cited passage from the romance. The tumulus, raised over the venerable deposit, was of considerable circuit, elegantly rounded, but low, about a dozen paces from the river Alaw. 1 The Urn was preserved entire, with an exception of a small bit out of its lip, was ill-baked, very rude and simple, having no other ornament than little pricked dots, in height from about a foot to fourteen inches, and nearly of the following shape.
[paragraph continues] When I saw the urn, the ashes and half-calcined bones were in it."
Branwen appears to be the Brungwaine or Brangian of romance, though the character of the Welsh heroine, and the part she sustains, differ widely from those attributed to the confidante of Tristan and Yseult la Belle. In like manner Matholwch the Irishman also seems identical with Morholt the stern king of Ireland of the Trouvères.--See the Romances of Meliadus of Leonnoys, Tristan, &c.
370b THE ISLAND OF THE MIGHTY.--Page 370.
YNYS Y KEDYRN, the Island of the Mighty, is one of the many names bestowed upon Britain by the Welsh. A Triad, in which several more of these ancient appellations are preserved, asserts that while yet uninhabited the Island was called Clas Merddin, but that after its colonization it bore the name of Vel Ynys, which was again changed in compliment to its conquest by Brut, into Ynys Prydain, or the Island of Brut. The same Triad states that some authorities attribute the more modern designation to its conquest by Prydain son of Aedd the Great.--Myv. Arch. II. p. 1.
372a AN ATONEMENT FOR THE INSULT.--Page 372.
THE compensation here offered to Matholwch, is strictly in accordance, except as regards the size of the silver rod, with what was required by the Laws of Hywel Dda, where the fine for insult to a king is fixed at a "hundred cows on account of every cantrev in the kingdom, and a silver rod with three knobs at the top, that shall reach from the ground to the king's face, when he sits in his chair and as thick as his ring-finger; and a golden bason, which shall hold fully as much as the king drinks, of the thickness of a husbandman's nail, who shall have followed husbandry for seven years, and a golden cover, as broad as the king's face, equally thick as the bason." In another MS. the payment, instead of being only partly in gold, is said to have been entirely in that metal; thus "a golden rod as long as himself, of the thickness of his little finger, and a golden tablet, as broad as his face, and as thick as a husbandman's nail."
374a THE CAULDRON.--Page 374.
THE powers exercised by this family through the influence of the cauldron, bear a strong resemblance to those possessed by the Tuatha
de Danann, a race of necromancers, who once invaded Ireland. This tribe, whilst sojourning in Asia, were at war with the Syrians, and were enabled to triumph through the aid of magic, as they had the art of resuscitating such of their number as fell in fight by sending demons to animate their corpses, so that the Syrians found to their dismay that those whom they had slain met them in battle the next day as vigorous as ever. In this difficulty, they had recourse to the advice of their priests, who told them to drive a stake of mountain ash through the bodies of such as they slew, and that, if they had been animated by demons, they would instantly turn into worms. This counsel was followed, and the Tuatha de Danann were compelled to quit that country.
An ancient Irish poem contains a series of Triads respecting this race which remind us of some passages in the Mabinogi of Kilhwch and Olwen.--See p. 228.
"Blackness, obscurity, and darkness were their three cup-bearers; strength, robustness, and vigour, their three horses; indignation, pursuit and swiftness, their three bounds, &c."--See Bunting.
377a CARADAWC THE SON OF BRAN.--Page 377.
THIS Prince, so well known under his Latinized name of Caractacus, is chiefly remarkable for his captivity in Rome, which, according to Welsh authorities, was shared by his father Bran, his grandfather Llyr Llediaith, and all his near kinsfolk. There are several Triads relating to this principal event of his life. 1 From one of these it seems that he was chosen by his countrymen as their general, or War-king, to repel the incursions of the Romans, and another corroborates this by styling him "One of the three Rulers of choice," having been elected by the voice of the country and the people, although he was not an elder. There is no doubt of his having stood high in the esteem of his nation; and we are told that "the men of Britain, from the prince to the slave, became his followers in their country's need against the progress of the foe and of destruction. And wheresoever he went in war, all the men of the Island went in his train, and none desired to remain at home." 2
Caradawc is also extolled as one of those brave princes, who, by reason of their valour, could never be overcome save by treachery;
and the treason by which he was cast into the hands of his enemies is very frequently alluded to. Avarwy ab Lludd ab Beli, and his daughter Aregwedd Foeddawg, were the traitors, and are mentioned in terms of disgust and execration. "One of the praiseworthy opposers," is another of the titles bestowed upon Caradawc, because he resisted the invasion of the Cæsarians.
381a WHITE MOUNT IN LONDON.--Page 381.
UNDER the name of the Gwynvryn, or White Mount of the text, allusion is most probably intended to the Tower of London, in which the Welsh, who always regarded the capital as a city of their own foundation, appear to have felt a peculiar interest.
Llywarch ab Llewelyn (Prydydd y Moch), a poet of the twelfth and early part of the thirteenth century, speaks of it as "The White eminence of London, a place of splendid fame."--Myv. Arch. I. p. 280.
The keep of the metropolitan fortress of England has in turn been attributed to Celts, Romans, Saxons, and Normans; now, however, the "Towers of Julius" are assigned, upon irrefragable evidence, to the early Norman period.
382a CASWALLAWN.--Page 382.
CASWALLAWN the son of Beli, known more generally by the name of Cassivelaunus, bestowed on him by the Romans, is a celebrated character in Welsh history. He is recorded as one of the chiefs chosen to oppose the invasion of Caesar, and was styled one of the War-kings of Britain.--Tr. 24.
It is related that Caswallawn led an army of sixty-one thousand men against Julius Caesar. The charms of Flur, the daughter of Myguach Gorr, are said to have been the cause of this incursion, She had been carried off by Mwrchan, a Gaulish prince, in alliance with Caesar, to whom he intended to present his prize. The expedition which Caswallawn headed was successful; six thousand of the partisans of Caesar were slain, and Flur was recovered. Some of the circumstances of this exploit acquired for Caswallawn the designation of "One of the Three Gold-Shoemakers" (the other two being Manawyddan mab Llyr, and Llew Llaw Gyffes, as will be detailed hereafter), and the whole achievement occasioned him to be ranked among the three faithful lovers of Britain.
The army of Caswallawn did not return with their leader, whence it is called one of the three Emigrant hosts of Britain. 1
Meinlas was the name of Caswallawn's horse.--Trioedd y Meirch ii.
384a FIVE DIVISIONS OF IRELAND.--Page 384.
BEFORE the invasion of the Anglo-Normans, in Henry II.'s time, Ireland was divided into a pentarchy composed of the kingdoms of Munster, Leinster, Connaught, Ulster, and Meath.
385:1 For an account of Bendigeid Vran, see Professor Rees's Welsh Saints p. 77.
386:1 Myv. Arch. I. p. 66.
388:1 An ancient name for Britain.
389:1 "This spot is still called Ynys Bronwen, or the Islet of Bronwen, which is a remarkable confirmation of the genuineness of this discovery."
391:1 Tr. 17, 23, 24, 34, 41, 55.
391:2 In this Triad (41) he is called one of the exalted servants, and is distinguished as the son of a Bard.
393:1 The above particulars with regard to Caswallawn are related in the Triads 14,102,124, and xl.