Brian, nephew of cadwalla

Discussion in 'Celtic Mythology' started by Caburus, Jun 18, 2012.

  1. Caburus

    Caburus Active Member

    Brian is a little known character in Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain. He is nephew to Cadwalla, who was the last great king of the Welsh, having defeated the Saxons and had a bronze statue erected of him on a horse in London.
    But Brian has an interesting story.
    Originally, Cadwalla was going to share his kingdom with the Saxon King Edwin, but when Cadwalla was lying with his head in his nephew's lap, Brian wept over him and foretold doom if the acceptance of the Saxons went ahead. Moved by Brian's words, Cadwalla declared war on Edwin, but the Saxons, with the help of a Spanish magician called Pellitus, defeated him, and Cadwalla fled to Brittany.
    But on the way he and Brian were shipwrecked on the isle of Guernsey, and Cadwalla grew so depressed that he refused to eat for three days and became very ill. On the fourth day he asked Brian to bring him some venison, but Brian could not find any deer on the island. So he cut a piece of flesh out of his own thigh, which he roasted, and then gave to Cadwalla. The king ate it, and commented that it was the sweetest meat that he had ever tasted. He regained his spirits, and three days later the two of them carried on to Brittany, where the king of Brittany agreed to help them.
    While they were preparing an army to reconquor Britain, Brian was sent back to assasinate King Edwin's magician. He made an iron spear, and went to York, where he disguised himself as a poor man and killed Pellitus the magician. Brian also discovered his sister being held captive in York, and he tried, but failed, to rescue her.
    Brian then prepared the native Britons for battle and helped Cadwalla, when he arrived, to defeat the Saxons, and regain the kingship of Britain.
    .
    The most interesting part to me is the cannibalism. It is never mentioned in any commentaries that I can find. Does the image appear in any other myth/legends (a dying king is fed the flesh of a noble youth, and is restored)? Cadwalla is a good guy, and Brian doesn't seem to have suffered any ill health.
  2. Misa

    Misa Member

    What comes to mind is the Greek myths, of Lycaon and Tantalus who slaughtered their sons/grandsons at feasts to the gods - to try to get Zeus to eat human flesh. Pelops was killed by Tantalus and Lycaon killed Nyktimos, or his grandson Arkas, or a Molossian captive.
  3. Caburus

    Caburus Active Member

    Great. All examples were intending the diner to be unaware of the meats' origin. But the boys eaten in the Greek myths were passive victims, and the outcome was a curse on the killer. Brian however willingly (and secretly) gave his flesh, and the outcome was beneficial.
  4. Misa

    Misa Member

    I just recalled the Christian Eucharist/Holy Communion/Lord's Supper where Jesus gave his disciples bread, saying, "This is my body", and gave them wine saying, "This is my blood." As they were Christian it might have had that meaning, not sure.

    In Greek myth after both boys were consumed they were reborn/resurrected and became kings.
  5. Caburus

    Caburus Active Member

    The Eucharist does seem a nearer analogy. The three days of Cadwalla regaining health, and the whole seven day episode might, at a stretch be taken to represent the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the seven days of the Creation account in Genesis (- I said "at a stretch", because it is Brian who is giving his flesh, not Cadwalla).

    The whole episode is very odd to me.

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