Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 27


BENDIGEID VRAN, the son of Llyr, was the crowned king of this
island, and he was exalted from the crown of London. And one afternoon
be was at Harlech, in Ardudwy, at his court; and he sat upon the
rock of Harlech, looking over the sea. And with him were his
brother, Manawyddan, the son of Llyr, and his brothers by his mother's
side, Nissyen and Evnissyen, and many nobles likewise, as was
fitting to see around a king. His two brothers by the mother's side
were sons of Euroswydd, and one of these youths was a good youth,
and of gentle nature, and would make peace between his kindred, and
cause his family to be friends when their wrath was at the highest,
and this one was Nissyen; but the other would cause strife between his
two brothers when they were most at peace. And as they sat thus they
beheld thirteen ships coming from the south of Ireland, and making
towards them; and they came with a swift motion, the wind being behind
them; and they neared them rapidly. "I see ships afar," said the king,
"coming swiftly towards the land. Command the men of the court that
they equip themselves, and go and learn their intent." So the men
equipped themselves, and went down towards them. And when they saw the
ships near, certain were they that they had never seen ships better
furnished. Beautiful flags of satin were upon them. And, behold, one
of the ships outstripped the others, and they saw a shield lifted up
above the side of the ship, and the point of the shield was upwards,
in token of peace. And the men drew near, that they might hold
converse. Then they put out boats, and came toward the land. And
they saluted the king. Now the king could hear them from the place
where he was upon the rock above their heads. "Heaven prosper you,"
said he, "and be ye welcome! To whom do those ships belong, and who is
the chief amongst you?" "Lord," said they, "Matholch, king of Ireland,
is here, and these ships belong to him." "Wherefore comes he?" asked
the king, "and will he come to the land?" "He is a suitor unto thee,
lord," said they, "and he will not land unless he have his boon." "And
what may that be?" inquired the king. "He desires to ally himself,
lord, with thee," said they, "and he comes to ask Branwen, the
daughter of Llyr, that, if it seem well to thee, the Island of the
Mighty* may be leagued with Ireland, and both become more powerful."
"Verily," said he, "let him come to land, and we will take counsel
thereupon." And this answer was brought to Matholch. "I will go
willingly," said he. So he landed, and they received him joyfully; and
great was the throng in the palace that night between his hosts and
those of the court; and next day they took counsel, and they
resolved to bestow Branwen upon Matholch. Now she was one of the three
chief ladies of this island, and she was the fairest damsel in the

* The Island of the Mighty is one of the many names bestowed upon
Britain by the Welsh.

And they fixed upon Aberfraw as the place where she should become
his bride. And they went thence, and towards Aberfraw the hosts
proceeded, Matholch and his host in their ships, Bendigeid Vran and
his host by land, until they came to Aberfraw. And at Aberfraw they
began the feast, and sat down. And thus sat they: the king of the
Island of the Mighty and Manawyddan, the son of Llyr, on one side, and
Matholch on the other side, and Branwen, the daughter of Llyr,
beside him. And they were not within a house, but under tents. No
house could ever contain Bendigeid Vran. And they began the banquet,
and caroused and discoursed. And when it was more pleasing to them
to sleep than to carouse, they went to rest, and Branwen became
Matholch's bride.
And the next day they arose, and all they of the court, and the
officers began to equip, and to range the horses and the attendants,
and they ranged them in order as far as the sea.
And, behold, one day Evnissyen, the quarrelsome man, of whom it is
spoken above, came by chance into the place where the horses of
Matholch were, and asked whose horses they might be. "They are the
horses of Matholch, king of Ireland, who is married to Branwen, thy
sister; his horses are they." "And is it thus they have done with a
maiden such as she, and moreover my sister, bestowing her, without
my consent? They could have offered me no greater insult than this,"
said he. And thereupon he rushed under the horses, and cut off their
lips at the teeth, and their ears close to their heads, and their
tails close to their backs; and he disfigured the horses, and rendered
them useless.
And they came with these tidings unto Matholch, saying that the
horses were disfigured and injured, so that not one of them could ever
be of any use again. "Verily, lord," said one, "it was an insult
unto thee, and as such was it meant." "Of a truth, it is a marvel to
me that, if they desire to insult me, they should have given me a
maiden of such high rank, and so much beloved by their kindred, as
they have done." "Lord," said another, "thou seest that thus it is,
and there is nothing for thee to do but to go to thy ships." And
thereupon towards his ships he set out.
And tidings came to Bendigeid Vran that Matholch was quitting the
court without asking leave, and messengers were sent to him to inquire
wherefore he did so. And the messengers that went were Iddic, the
son of Anarawd, and Heveyd Hir. And these overtook him, and asked of
him what he designed to do, and wherefore he went forth. "Of a truth,"
said he "if I had known I had not come hither. I have been
altogether insulted; no one had ever worse treatment than I have had
here." "Truly, lord, it was not the will of any that are of the
court," said they, "nor of any that are of the council, that thou
shouldst have received this insult; and as thou hast been insulted the
dishonor is greater unto Bendigeid Vran than unto thee." "Verily,"
said he, "I think so. Nevertheless he cannot recall the insult." These
men returned with that answer to the place where Bendigeid Vran was,
and they told him what reply Matholch had given them. "Truly," said
he, "there are no means by which we may prevent his going away at
enmity with us that we will not take." "Well, lord," said they,
"send after him another embassy." "I will do so," said he. "Arise,
Manawyddan, son of Llyr, and Heveyd Hir, and go after him, and tell
him that he shall have a sound horse for every one that has been
injured. And besides that, as an atonement for the insult, he shall
have a staff of silver as large and as tall as himself, and a plate of
gold of the breadth of his face. And show unto him who it was that did
this, and that it was done against my will; but that he who did it
is my brother, and therefore it would be hard for me to put him to
death. And let him come and meet me," said he, "and we will make peace
in any way he may desire."
The embassy went after Matholch, and told him all these sayings in a
friendly manner; and he listened thereunto. "Men," said he, "I will
take counsel." So to the council he went. And in the council they
considered that, if they should refuse this, they were likely to
have more shame rather than to obtain so great an atonement. They
resolved, therefore, to accept it, and they returned to the court in
Then the pavilions and tents were set in order after the fashion
of a hall; and they went to meat, and as they had sat at the beginning
of the feast so sat they there. And Matholch and Bendigeid Vran
began to discourse; and, behold, it seemed to Bendigeid Vran, while
they talked, that Matholch was not so cheerful as he had been
before. And he thought that the chieftain might be sad because of
the smallness of the atonement which he had for the wrong that had
been done him. "O man," said Bendigeid Vran, "thou dost not
discourse to-night so cheerfully as thou wast wont. And if it be
because of the smallness of the atonement thou shalt add thereunto
whatsoever thou mayest choose, and to-morrow I will pay thee for the
horses." "Lord," said he, "Heaven reward thee!" "And I will enhance
the atonement," said Bendigeid Vran, "for I will give thee a
caldron, the property of which is that if one of thy men be slain
to-day, and be cast therein, to-morrow he will be as well as ever he
was at the best, except that he will not regain his speech." And
thereupon he gave him great thanks, and very joyful was he for that
That night they continued to discourse as much as they would, and
had minstrelsy and carousing; and when it was more pleasant to them to
sleep than to sit longer, they went to rest. And thus was the
banquet carried on with joyousness; and when it was finished, Matholch
journeyed towards Ireland, and Branwen with him; and they went from
Aber Menei with thirteen ships, and came to Ireland. And in Ireland
was there great joy because of their coming. And not one great man nor
noble lady visited Branwen unto whom she gave not either a clasp or
a ring, or a royal jewel to keep, such as it was honorable to be
seen departing with. And in these things she spent that year in much
renown, and she passed her time pleasantly, enjoying honor and
friendship. And in due time a son was born unto her, and the name that
they gave him was Gwern, the son of Matholch, and they put the boy out
to be nursed in a place where were the best men of Ireland.
And, behold, in the second year a great tumult arose in Ireland,
on account of the insult which Matholch had received in Wales, and the
payment made him for his horses. And his foster-brothers, and such
as were nearest to him, blamed him openly for that matter. And he
might have no peace by reason of the tumult, until they should revenge
upon him this disgrace. And the vengeance which they took was to drive
away Branwen from the same chamber with him, and to make her cook
for the court; and they caused the butcher, after he had cut up the
meat, to come to her and give her every day a blow on the ear; and
such they made her punishment.
"Verily, lord," said his men to Matholch, "forbid now the ships
and the ferry-boats, and the coracles, that they go not into Wales,
and such as come over from Wales hither, imprison them, that they go
not back for this thing to be known there." And he did so; and it
was thus for no less than three years.
And Branwen reared a starling in the cover of the kneading-trough,
and she taught it to speak, and she taught the bird what manner of man
her brother was. And she wrote a letter of her woes, and the despite
with which she was treated, and she bound the letter to the root of
the bird's wing, and sent it toward Wales. And the bird came to that
island; and one day it found Bendigeid Vran at Caer Seiont in Arvon,
conferring there, and it alighted upon his shoulder, and ruffled its
feathers, so that the letter was seen, and they knew that the bird had
been reared in a domestic manner.
Then Bendigeid Vran took the letter and looked upon it. And when
he had read the letter, he grieved exceedingly at the tidings of
Branwen's woes. And immediately he began sending messengers to
summon the island together. And he caused sevenscore and four of his
chief men to come unto him, and he complained to them of the grief
that his sister endured. So they took counsel. And in the council they
resolved to go to Ireland, and to leave seven men as princes at
home, and Caradoc,* the son of Bran, as the chief of them.

* Caractacus.

Bendigeid Vran, with the host of which we spoke, sailed towards
Ireland; and it was not far across the sea, and he came to shoal
water. Now the swineherds of Matholch were upon the seashore, and they
came to Matholch. "Lord," said they, "greeting be unto thee."
"Heaven protect you!" said he; "have you any news?" "Lord," said they,
"we have marvellous news. A wood have we seen upon the sea, in a place
where we never yet saw a single tree." "This is indeed a marvel," said
he; "saw you aught else?" "We saw, lord," said they, "a vast
mountain beside the wood, which moved, and there was a lofty ridge
on the top of the mountain, and a lake on each side of the ridge.
And the wood and the mountain, and all these things moved."
"Verily," said he, "there is none who can know aught concerning this
unless it be Branwen."
Messengers then went unto Branwen. "Lady," said they, "what thinkest
thou that this is?" "The men of the Island of the Mighty, who have
come hither on hearing of my ill-treatment and of my woes." "What is
the forest that is seen upon the sea?" asked they. "The yards and
the masts of ships," she answered. "Alas!" said they; "what is the
mountain that is seen by the side of the ships?" "Bendigeid Vran, my
brother," she replied, "coming to shoal water, and he is wading to the
land." "What is the lofty ridge, with the lake on each side
thereof?" "On looking towards this island he is wroth, and his two
eyes on each side of his nose are the two lakes on each side of the
The warriors and chief men of Ireland were brought together in
haste, and they took counsel. "Lord," said the neighbors unto
Matholch, "there is no other counsel than this alone. Thou shalt
give the kingdom to Gwern, the son of Branwen his sister, as a
compensation for the wrong and despite that have been done unto
Branwen. And he will make peace with thee." And in the council it
was resolved that this message should be sent to Bendigeid Vran,
lest the country should be destroyed. And this peace was made. And
Matholch caused a great house to be built for Bendigeid Vran, and
his host. Thereupon came the hosts into the house. The men of the
island of Ireland entered the house on the one side, and the men of
the Island of the Mighty on the other. And as soon as they had sat
down, there was concord between them; and the sovereignty was
conferred upon the boy. When the peace was concluded, Bendigeid Vran
called the boy unto him, and from Bendigeid Vran the boy went unto
Manawyddan, and he was beloved by all that beheld him. And from
Manawyddan the boy was called by Nissyen, the son of Euroswydd, and
the boy went unto him lovingly. "Wherefore," said Evnissyen, "comes
not my nephew, the son of my sister, unto me? Though he were not
king of Ireland, yet willingly would I fondle the boy." "Cheerfully
let him go to thee," said Bendigeid Vran; and the boy went unto him
cheerfully. "By my confession to Heaven," said Evnissyen in his heart,
"unthought of is the slaughter that I will this instant commit."
Then he arose and took up the boy, and before any one in the house
could seize hold of him he thrust the boy headlong into the blazing
fire. And when Branwen saw her son burning in the fire, she strove
to leap into the fire also, from the place where she sat between her
two brothers. But Bendigeid Vran grasped her with one hand, and his
shield with the other. Then they all hurried about the house, and
never was there made so great a tumult by any host in one house as was
made by them, as each man armed himself. And while they all sought
their arms Bendigeid Vran supported Branwen between his shield and his
shoulder. And they fought.
Then the Irish kindled a fire under the caldron of renovation, and
they cast the dead bodies into the caldron until it was full; and
the next day they came forth fighting men, as good as before, except
that they were not able to speak. Then when Evnissyen saw the dead
bodies of the men of the Island of the Mighty nowhere resuscitated, he
said in his heart, "Alas! woe is me, that I should have been the cause
of bringing the men of the Island of the Mighty into so great a
strait. Evil betide me if I find not a deliverance therefrom." And
he cast himself among the dead bodies of the Irish; and two unshod
Irishmen came to him, and taking him to be one of the Irish, flung him
into the caldron. And he stretched himself out in the caldron, so that
he rent the caldron into four pieces, and burst his own heart also.
In consequence of this the men of the Island of the Mighty
obtained such success as they had; but they were not victorious, for
only seven men of them all escaped, and Bendigeid Vran himself was
wounded in the foot with a poisoned dart. Now the men that escaped
were Pryderi, Manawyddan, Taliesin, and four others.
And Bendigeid Vran commanded them that they should cut off his head.
"And take you my head," said he, "and bear it even unto the White
Mount in London, and bury it there with the face towards France. And
so long as it lies there, no enemy shall ever land on the island."
So they cut off his head, and these seven went forward therewith.
And Branwen was the eighth with them. And they came to land on Aber
Alaw, 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 groan, and there
broke her heart. And they made her a four-sided grave, and buried
her upon the banks of the Alaw.
Then the seven men journeyed forward, bearing the head with them;
and as they went, behold, there met them a multitude of men and women.
"Have you any tidings?" said Manawyddan. "We have, none," said they,
"save that Caswallawn,* the son of Beli, has conquered the Island of
the Mighty, and is crowned king in London." "What has become," said
they, "of Caradoc, the son of Bran, and the seven men who were left
with him in this island?" "Caswallawn came upon them, and slew six
of the men, and Caradoc's heart broke for grief thereof." And the
seven men journeyed on towards London, and they buried the head in the
White Mount, as Bendigeid Vran had directed them.*(2)

* Cassivellaunus.
*(2) There is a Triad upon the story of the head buried under the
White Tower of London, as a charm against invasion. Arthur, it
seems, proudly disinterred the head, preferring to hold the island
by his own strength alone.

Thomas Bulfinch