A renown giant and king of Britain in Welsh folklore, Bran the Blessed’s (Welsh: Bendigeidfran, literally "Blessed Raven", also Brân Fendigaidd) live severed head was buried at his behest under the White Tower in London, facing France. The head served as a powerful talisman, protecting Britain from invasion for countless generations before it was excavated and turned around by the pious King Arthur, who claimed that from that point forward, Britain would be safeguarded by God and his armies alone.
In the Welsh tale of Bran the Blessed’s sister Branwen, Bran dispatches a formidable army to avenge the Irish king Matholwch’s maltreatment of his beloved sibling. The king’s swineherd witness their movements on the open sea and consult their queen:
“Hail to your Lordship!’ said they. ‘We have seen a forest on the ocean, where we never before saw a single tree…we see a great mountain beside the forest, and it is moving; and a high ridge on the mountain with a lake on each side of the ridge; and the forest and the mountain and the rest are all in motion.”
Upon hearing this, Branwen decodes the cryptic display,
“I know what this is. The men of the Island of the Mighty are coming over, for they have heard of my being punished and dishonoured”
‘And what was the mountain which they saw beside the ships?’ said they.
‘That was my brother, Bran the Blessed,’ she said. ‘wading through the shallows. There was no ship that could carry him’.
‘What was the high ridge with a lake on each side?’
‘That was he, looking upon this island,’said she, ‘for he is angry. His eyes on each side of his nose are the two lakes on each side of the ridge’
Bran’s love, which assumed a degree so powerful that both the forces of nature and man were summoned to preserve it, inspired this serene portrait. The giant’s mild expression and glistening eyes imply wisdom, his smile a hint of mischief. The horizon line is marked by the presence of the White Cliffs of Dover which served as Britain’s natural defense against aggressors crossing the English Channel. Bran represents the perfect confluence of dormant and active energies--the stationary monolith rising from the channel in a mantle of evanescent fog, the viking horde ascending the cliff tops. I will likely continue in this vein for the remainder of the series.
Initial concepts for Bran the Blessed, which gave greater focus to the 'severed head' notion than was perhaps acceptable. The intent here is that these images will appeal to adults and children alike.