NIGHTBRINGER | The Arthurian Encyclopedia


Bragain, Braginja, Bragwaine, Brandina, Brangane, Brangæne, Brangene, Brangien, Branguina, Brangwaine, Brengain, Brengvien, Brengwain, Bríngven, Bringvet, Bringwain

La Beale Isoud’s faithful and beautiful gentlewoman (maidservant) in almost all of the Tristan legends. She had two brothers named Mathael and Perynin, whom she presented to Tristan as servants.

When Tristan came to Ireland to escort Isolde to King Mark of Cornwall to be wed, Isolde’s mother, the Irish queen, entrusted Brangain and Gouvernail with a love potion intended for Mark and Isolde on their wedding day. Tristan and Isolde accidentally drank it on the way, however, and fell in love with each other. (In some versions it seems Brangain’s carlessness is blamed for Tristan’s accidentally drinking the potion with Isoud onboard the ship, but Malory is careful not to fix blame on anyone for the mischance.)

On Isolde’s wedding night, she substituted Brangain, under the cover of darkness, in Mark’s bedroom, since Isolde was no longer a virgin. Isolde then tried to have Brangain killed to hide the secret; the attempt failed when the assigned killers took pity on her. Isolde regretted the attempt, and she and Brangain were eventually reconciled, but not before Brangain was kidnapped by Palamedes and used as a tool to get to Isolde.

Brangain seems to have been an herbwoman in her own right, as well as Isoud’s well loved favorite. Once two other handwomen of Isoud’s conspired to kill Brangain out of envy – she was sent into the forest near Mark’s court to gather herbs and there waylaid and bound to a tree for three days until Sir Palomides fortunately came by and rescued her.

When La Beale Isoud heard of Tristram’s marriage to Isoud La Blanche Mains, she sent Bragwaine to Brittany with letters to Tristram, Gouvernail, and Kehydius. On a later occasion, also carrying letters from La Beale Isoud to Tristram, Bragwaine found him on his way to the tournament at the Castle of Maidens. At his invitation she went with him, and was given a place near Guenevere during the tourney. Not long thereafter, Lancelot met Bragwaine fleeing as fast as her palfrey could go from Breuse Sans Pitie. Lancelot, of course, rescued her.

Thomas says that she had an affair with Kahedins of Brittany, son of the King of Brittany – who fell in love with her upon seeing her statue in Tristan’s Hall of Statues – but became enraged when Mariadoc, a cowardly and dishonest knight, reported that Kahedins had fled from him in combat. Some versions of the legend suggest that Brangain was infatuated with Tristan. Eilhart von Oberge says that she died before Isolde and Tristan, but does not name the cause. In La Tavola Ritonda, she perishes from sorrow after Mark forcibly retrieves Isolde from the castle of Joyous Guard, where she was living with Tristan. In some other Italian texts, she marries Governal, Tristan’s tutor, and becomes the Queen of Lyoness.

Tristan | Thomas of England, 1170-1175
Tristan | Béroul, late 12th century
Tristrant | Eilhart von Oberge, 1170–1190
Tristan | Gottfried von Strassburg, early 13th century
Prose Tristan | 1230-1240
Tristrams Saga ok Ísöndar | 1226
Tristano Riccardiano | Late 13th century
La Tavola Ritonda | 1325–1350
Saga af Tristram ok Isodd | 14th century
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470