Bran, Myths and Legends Contest Picture

I first encountered Bran, son of Llyr, in the Mabinogion, an early book of Welsh tales, where he is heavily featured in the Second Branch. This scene is in fact taken from the second branch: Bran, giant king of the island of Britain, wades across the Irish Channel with his army in boats behind him, off to fight a terrible war to reclaim his sister Branwen from the king of Ireland, her abusive husband. In the ensuing war, all but seven men and Branwen die--they carry Bran's head back across the channel, and once the Irish cauldron of Life is destroyed, all but a few of their women are killed--for more information, read the story.…

The Bran in the Mabinogion is watered down from his roots, reduced to a mortal man, but there is much more behind the character: "Bran" means "raven," which in Celtic tradition are associated with war and death. Bran's father Llyr is a sea god, but potentially also a god of the underworld. Therefore, Bran is a god of war and transition. Potentially, his mother is Iweryd, an Irish goddess, daughter of the sun--this is based on a single stanza of the Dialogue of Gwyddno Garanhir, so it is debatable. (1,2)

For the art, it was a difficult balance to show Bran's scale while still getting some detail into the background--I was using a smaller paper than I'd like. I really wanted Bran to be in scale mail rather than more historically accurate Celtic armor, because I wanted to recall the raven. He should be a bit more accurate with the round shield and short sword--I remember seeing something similar in the British museum. The tattoos are supposed to be ravens, of course, and the other ravens around him are supposed to be outsized. In the Dream of Rhonabwy also in the Mabinogion, the ravens of King Owain have a pitched battle with King Arthur's knights (the battle is tied to a chess game, btw, but that's another story), and it seemed they should be a bit larger than normal to present an actual threat. The mountains of the Welsh coast are seen in the distance.

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