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Encyclopedia > The Four Branches of the Mabinogi

The Four Branches of the Mabinogi are the best known tales from the medieval Welsh Mabinogion. Welsh redirects here, and this article describes the Welsh language. ... The Mabinogion is a collection of prose stories from medieval Welsh manuscripts. ...

Contents


Overview

The most mythological stories contained in the Mabinogion collection are collectively titled The Four Branches of the Mabinogi. Pryderi appears in all four, though not always as the central character. The Mabinogion is a collection of prose stories from medieval Welsh manuscripts. ... In Welsh mythology, King Pryderi of Dyfed was the son of Pwyll and Rhiannon. ...

  • Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed tells of Pryderi's parents and his birth, loss and recovery.
  • Branwen, Daughter of Llyr is mostly about Branwen's marriage to the King of Ireland. Pryderi appears but does not play a major part.
  • Manawyddan, son of Llyr has Pryderi return home with Manawyddan, brother of Branwen. The misfortunes that follow them there.
  • Math, son of Mathonwy is mostly about Math and Gwydion, who come into conflict with Pryderi.

Whether this was originally Pryderi's tale and has had material added, or whether he has been introduced to link legends of separate origins, is a disputed point. This article is about the Welsh hero; for the impact crater on Europa, see Pwyll (crater). ... In Welsh mythology, Branwen was a daughter of Llyr and Penarddun and has been interpreted as a goddess of love and beauty. ... In Irish mythology, Manannan mac Lir was a sea and weather god. ... Mathematics is the study of quantity, structure, space and change. ... In Welsh mythology, Gwydion is a magician appearing prominently in the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogion and the ancient poem Cad Goddeu. ...


Story details

Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed

The first branch tells of how Pwyll, the prince of Dyfed, exchanges places for a year with Arawn, the ruler of Annwn (the underworld), defeats Arawn's enemy Hafgan, and on his return encounters Rhiannon, a beautiful maiden whose horse cannot be caught up with. He manages to win her hand at the expense of Gwawl, to whom she is betrothed. He does so by using a magic bag that can never be filled which he traps Gwawl in. His men proceed to beat Gwawl while he is in the bag. Rhiannon bears Pwyll a son, but the child disappears the night after he is born. Rhiannon is accused of killing him and forced to carry guests on her back as punishment. The child has been taken by a monster, and is rescued by Teyrnon and his wife, who bring him up as their own, calling him Gwri of the Golden hair, until his resemblance to Pwyll becomes apparent. They return him to his real parents, Rhiannon is released from her punishment, and the boy is renamed Pryderi. This article is about the Welsh hero; for the impact crater on Europa, see Pwyll (crater). ... Dyfed was one of the ancient kingdoms (or principalities) of Wales prior to the Norman Conquest. ... In Welsh mythology, Arawn was the Lord of the Underworld, which was called Annwn. ... Annwn or Annwfn, ( under-world or un-world, sometimes inaccurately written Annwyn, Annwyfn or Annwfyn) was the Otherworld, the land of souls that had departed this world in Welsh mythology. ... In Welsh mythology, Hafgan was a rival of Arawns for the position of the god of the underworld. ... In Welsh mythology, Rhiannon was a daughter of Hefeydd the Old. ... In Welsh mythology, Gwawl was Rhiannons fiance. ... In Welsh mythology, Teyrnon or Teirnon was the foster father of Pryderi. ... In Welsh mythology, King Pryderi of Dyfed was the son of Pwyll and Rhiannon. ...


Branwen, Daughter of Llyr

In the second branch, Branwen, sister of Bendigeidfran (meaning Bran the Blessed), king of Britain, is given in marriage to Matholwch, king of Ireland. Branwen's half-brother Efnisien, angry that he was not consulted, insults Matholwch by mutilating his horses, but Bendigeidfran gives him compensation of new horses and treasure, including a magical cauldron which can restore the dead to life. After returning to Ireland, Matholwch and Branwen have a son, Gwern, but Efnisien's insult continues to rankle and Matholwch begins to mistreat Branwen, beating her and making her a drudge. Branwen trains a starling to take a message to Bendigeidfran, who goes to war against Matholwch. His army crosses the Irish Sea in ships, but Bendigeidfran is so huge he wades across. The Irish offer to make peace, and build a house big enough to entertain Bendigeidfran, but inside they hang a hundred bags supposedly containing flour but actually containing armed warriors. Efnisien, suspecting a trick, reconoitres the hall and kills the warriors by crushing their heads inside the bags. Later, at the feast, Efnisien throws Gwern on the fire and fighting breaks out. Seeing that the Irish are using the cauldron to revive their dead, Efnisien hides among the corpses and destroys the cauldron, although the effort costs him his life. Only seven men, all Welsh, survive the battle, including Pryderi, Manawyddan and Bendigeidfran, who is mortally wounded by a poisoned spear. Bendigeidfran asks his companions to cut off his head and take it back to Britain where it continues to live for sometime as they partake of an enchanted feast. Branwen dies of grief on returning home. Five pregnant women survive to repopulate Ireland. In Welsh mythology, Branwen was a daughter of Llyr and Penarddun and has been interpreted as a goddess of love and beauty. ... Bran the Blessed (aka Bendigeidfran) was a character in Welsh mythology, a son of Llyr and Penarddun, who appears in the Mabinogion. ... Matholwch was an Irish lord in Welsh mythology. ... In Welsh mythology, Efnisien was the son of Penarddun and Eurosswydd. ... In Welsh mythology, Gwern was a son of Branwen and Matholwch. ... Genera Aplonis Poeoptera Grafisia Onychognathus Lamprotornis Cinnyricinclus Speculipastor Neochicla Spreo Cosmoparus Sarroglossa Creatophora Fregilupus (extinct) Necropsar (extinct) Sturnus Leucopsar Basilornis Streptocitta Sarcops Scissirostrum See also Myna, Oxpecker Starlings are small to medium-sized passerine birds in the family Sturnidae. ... Relief map of the Irish Sea. ... In Welsh mythology, King Pryderi of Dyfed was the son of Pwyll and Rhiannon. ... In Welsh mythology, Manawydan, son of Llyr, is the equivalent of the Irish Manannan mac Lir and a presumed sea god. ...


Manawyddan, son of Llyr

Pryderi and Manawyddan return to Dyfed, where Pryderi is reunited with his wife Cigfa and Manawyddan marries Rhiannon (Pryderi's mother, see the First Branch). However, a magical mist descends on the land, leaving it empty of all domesticated animals and humans apart from the four protagonists. They stay in Dyfed and themselves by hunting at first, then move to England where they make a living making saddles, shields and shoes of such quality that the local craftsmen cannot compete, and drive them from town to town. Eventually they return to Dyfed and become hunters again. While hunting, a white boar leads Pryderi and Manawyddan to a mysterious castle. Pryderi, against Manawyddan's advice, goes inside, but does not return. Rhiannon goes to investigate and finds Pryderi clinging to a bowl, unable to speak. The same fate befalls her, and the castle disappears. Manawyddan and Cigfa return to England as shoemakers, but once again the locals drive them out and they return to Dyfed. They sow three fields of wheat, but the first field is destroyed before it can be harvested. The next night the second field is destroyed. Manawyddan keeps watch over the third field, and when he sees it destroyed by mice he catches one and decides to hang it the next day. A scholar, a priest and a bishop in turn offer him gifts if he will spare the mouse, but he refuses. When asked what he wants in return for the mouse's life, he demands the release of Pryderi and Rhiannon and the lifting of the enchantment over Dyfed. The bishop agrees, because the mouse is in fact his wife. He reveals that his name is Llwyd ap Cil Coed and he has been waging magical war against Dyfed because he is a friend of Gwawl, whom Pwyll, Pryderi's father humiliated (see the First Branch). Dyfed was one of the ancient kingdoms (or principalities) of Wales prior to the Norman Conquest. ... In Welsh mythology, Cigva (or Cigfa) was the wife of King Pryderi of Dyfed. ...


Math, son of Mathonwy

While Pryderi rules Dyfed in south Wales, Gwynedd north Wales is ruled by Math, son of Mathonwy. His feet must be held by a virgin, except while he is at war. Math's nephew Gilfaethwy is in love with Goewin, his current footholder, and Gilfaethwy's brother Gwydion tricks Math into going to war against Pryderi so Gilfaethwy can have access to her. Gwydion kills Pryderi in single combat, and Gilfaethwy rapes Goewin. Math marries Goewin to save her from disgrace, and banishes Gwydion and Gilfaethwy, transforming them into a breeding pair of deer, then pigs, then wolves. After three years they are restored to human form and return. Gwynedd is an administrative county in Wales, named after the old Kingdom of Gwynedd. ... In Welsh mythology, Math ap Mathonwy was a king who needed to rest his feet in the lap of a virgin unless he was at war, or wanted to be. ... In Welsh mythology, Gilfaethwy was a son of the goddess Don. ... In Welsh mythology, Goewin was Math ap Mathonwys foot-holder; she was raped by Gilfaethwy. ... In Welsh mythology, Gwydion is a magician appearing prominently in the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogion and the ancient poem Cad Goddeu. ...


Math needs a new foot-holder, and Gwydion suggests his sister, Arianrhod, but when Math magically tests her virginity, she gives birth to two sons. One, Dylan, immediately takes to the sea. The other child is raised by Gwydion, but Arianrhod tells him he will never have a name or arms unless she gives them to him, and refuses to do so. But Gwydion tricks her into naming him Llew Llaw Gyffes and giving him arms. She then tells him he will never have a wife of any race living on earth, so Gwydion and Math make him a wife from flowers, called Blodeuwedd. But Blodeuwedd falls in love with a hunter caled Gronw Pebyr, and they plot to kill Llew. Blodeuwedd tricks Llew into revealing the means by which he can be killed, but when Gronw attempts to do the deed, Llew escapes, transformed into an eagle. In Welsh mythology, Arianrhod (silver wheel) was a daughter of Beli and Don. ... Dylan (or Dylan Eil Ton; sea in Welsh) is a sea-god in Welsh mythology, a son of Arianrhod and Gwydion. ... In Welsh mythology, Llew Llaw Gyffes was born a blob, a son of Arianrhod and brother of Dylan. ... In Welsh mythology, Blodeuwedd is the later name of Blodeuedd, a woman made from flowers by Math and Gwydion. ... In Welsh mythology, Goronwy was the lover of Blodeuwedd, the wife of Llew Llaw Gyffes. ...


Gwydion finds Llew and transforms him back into human form, and turns Blodeuwedd into an owl. Gronw offers to compensate Llew, but Llew insists on returning the blow that was struck against him. He kills Gronw with his spear, which is thrown so hard it pierces him through the stone he is hiding behind.


 
 

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