Branwen: Meaning, Popularity, Origin of Baby Name Branwen
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Branwen is a goddess of Welsh mythology; also see Bronwen.
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The name means something like "beautiful raven." From Welsh bran "raven" and gwen "fair, white, blessed".
In The Mabinogion, a collection of tales from Welsh myth, Branwen is a daughter of King Llyr, and she is the sister of the British king Bran. In the story, Branwen is married off to the King of Ireland, Matholwch, but the marriage does not bring peace.
In some instances the name Branwen appears as Bronwen. The question of which name is original is disputed. One could postulate that Bronwen was original, but influenced in some sources to appear as Branwen to match the name of the character's brother Bran. Alternately, one could argue that the names Branwen and Bran originally appeared as this matched pair. It is accepted, however, that all the pre-modern Welsh uses of the names Branwen and Bronwen are references to this literary character or to objects popularly associated with her.
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In The Mabinogion, Branwen is a daughter of Llyr. She is considered the Welsh goddess of love and beauty. Branwen is the spoiled only girl in a family of rambunctious boys, which includes the terrible Efnisien. When Branwen is married off to Matholwch, an Irish king, Efnisien is furious that nobody asked his permission, so as revenge he tortures Matholwch's servants to the point of insanity. In order to appease Matholwch, Bran the Blessed gives him the Cauldron of Rebirth, which can resurrect the dead, although they will no longer be able to speak. Things go well for Branwen for a while. Unfortunately, Matholwch turns out to be a bit wishy-washy, and his men coerce him into chucking poor Branwen out of the house due to her brother's crimes. She is forced to become a kitchen maid, despite the fact that she has recently given birth to Gwern, Matholwch's heir. A lot of things happen once Bran and the others get wind of this, and the end result is a rash decision by Efnisien to toss Gwern into a blazing fire in front of a desperate Branwen, sparking further battle. When the Irish try to use the Cauldron of Rebirth, Efnisien hops inside and shatters it at the cost of his life. Bran, meanwhile, is given a fatal stabbing by some sort of poisoned spear. Overcome by all this tragedy, Branwen dies of a broken heart.
Branwen is also the name of a related character in some versions of Tristan and Iseult.
Painting: Christopher Williams, painting of a beautiful, raven-haired woman entitled *Branwen,* circa 1915.
In 1994 a feature film was released called *Branwen.*