Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia



Gwales is a mythical and legendary island that features prominently in Welsh folklore. Gwales has been associated with the region of Pembrokeshire in Wales.

Gwales is described as an otherwordly island, often associated with bliss, peace, and joy. It is depicted as a place where time passes differently, and those who enter it experience a timeless, idyllic existence. It is mentioned that those who visit Gwales would not age, and they would remain in joy and tranquility. However, upon leaving Gwales and returning to the mortal world, time catches up with them, and they age rapidly.

The Welsh folklore tale of Branwen, daughter of Llyr and sister of Bran the Blessed, is a part of the Mabinogion, a collection of Welsh medieval stories. The connection to Pembrokeshire comes in when Branwen, the central character in the tale, is mistreated and abused by her husband, the Irish king Matholwch. After facing hardships, she is eventually brought back to Wales, and her brother constructs a fortress at Harlech to protect against any reprisals. Gwales, the otherworldly island, plays a significant role in the latter part of the story.

The story takes a turn when Bran the Blessed is mortally wounded in a later conflict. He instructs his followers to cut off his head and bring it to London. The party stopped in Gwales and remained in a great hall for a total of eighty years, the severed and uncorrupted head of Bendigeid Vran keeping them company, until one member of the seven opened a door facing towards Cornwall. At once, all seven were filled with memories of what had passed and left to continue their journey to London, where they fulfilled the last orders of Bendigeid Vran and buried his head, face twoards France, under the White Mount.

The tale of Branwen ferch Llŷr is one of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi and has connections to Welsh mythology and the landscape of Wales, including Pembrokeshire. Pembrokeshire itself has a rich tapestry of legends and folklore, and the tale of Gwales is part of this cultural heritage.

See also
Pembroke | The Legend of King Arthur