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Bedd Branwen

Round Barrow(s)


This is the grave of Branwen, the daughter of Llyr. She was the 'fairest damsel in the world'. Well, at least Anglesey I expect. Her story is told in the Mabinogion and you can read it here at the sacred texts archive:

Let me summarise it for you: One day, the Irish King, Matholwch, came sailing over to Wales. He intended to make an alliance with the people there and to marry the beautiful Branwen. He was obviously a very important man with some impressive ships and the marriage was agreed by the family. That night there was a huge feast, loads of beer was flowing and everybody had a super time. However, the next day one of Branwen's other brothers, who had not been present earlier, turned up. He was unimpressed by the arrangements that had been made without him, and carried out some rather unpleasant revenge on Matholwch's horses (you don't want to know). Matholwch was outraged and insulted and was about to leave without the usual pleasantries when Bran, another of Branwen's brothers, called him back to smooth things over. He gave Matholwch his greatest treasure - a cauldron that could bring the dead back to life (albeit they wouldn't be able to speak). So Matholwch went back to Ireland happy again and with his new wife.

For a year Branwen had the utmost respect in the Irish court, but then various stirrers started getting at Matholwch, saying that he shouldn't have let her brother get away with what had happened. Poor Branwen was sent to work in the kitchens where the cook used to box her ears. She was stuck there for three years but eventually managed to tame a starling which flew a letter back to Bran for her. Bran and his army rushed to Ireland to rescue here. In the ensuing battle Bran was killed and his head was taken to the White Mound - now, the tower of London ('white' also means 'holy' in Welsh, as I suppose it implies purity in English). Branwen blamed the entire mess on herself. She died of a broken heart and was buried under the cairn you see today.
So they cut off [her brother, Bendigeid Vran's] head, and these seven went forward therewith. And Branwen was the eighth with them, and they came to land at Aber Alaw, in Talebolyon, and they sat down to rest. And Branwen looked towards Ireland and towards the Island of the Mighty, to see if she could descry them. "Alas," said she, "woe is me that I was ever born; two islands have been destroyed because of me!" Then she uttered a loud groan, and there broke her heart. And they made her a four-sided grave, and buried her upon the banks of the Alaw.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
23rd April 2004ce
Edited 21st March 2006ce

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