Gods and Fighting Men

Bodb Dearg

   But as to the Tuatha de Danaan after they were beaten, they would not go under the sway of the sons of Miled, but they went away by themselves. And because Manannan, son of Lir, understood all enchantments, they left it to him to find places for them where they would be safe from their enemies. So he chose out the most beautiful of the hills and valleys of Ireland for them to settle in; and he put hidden walls about them, that no man could see through, but they themselves could see through them and pass through them.
   And he made the Feast of Age for them, and what they drank at it was the ale of Goibniu the Smith, that kept whoever tasted it from age and from sickness and from death. And for food at the feast he gave them his own swine, that though they were killed and eaten one day, would be alive and fit for eating again the next day, and that would go on in that way for ever.
   And after a while they said: "It would be better for us one king to be over us, than to be scattered the way we are through the whole of Ireland."
   Now the men among them that had the best chance of getting the kingship at that time were Bodb Dearg, son of the Dagda; and llbrech of Ess Ruadh; and Lir of Sidhe Fionnachaidh, the Hill of the White Field, on Slieve Fuad; and Midhir the Proud of Bri Leith, and Angus Og, son of the Dagda; but he did not covet the kingship at all, but would sooner be left as he was. Then all the chief men but those five went into council together, and it is what they agreed, to give the kingship to Bodb Dearg, for the sake of his father, for his own sake, and because he was the eldest among the children of the Dagda.
   It was in Sidhe Femen Bodb Dearg had his house, and he put great enchantments about it. Cliach, the Harper of the King of the Three Rosses in Connacht, went one time to ask one of his daughters in marriage, and he stayed outside the place through the whole length of a year, playing his harp, and able to get no nearer to Bodb or to his daughter. And he went on playing till a lake burst up under his feet, the lake that is on the top of a mountain, Loch Bel Sead.
   It was Bodb's swineherd went to Da Derga's Inn, and his squealing pig along with him, the night Conaire, the High King of Ireland, met with his death; and it was said that whatever feast that swineherd would go to, there would blood be shed before it was over.
   And Bodb had three sons, Angus, and Artrach, and Aedh. And they used often to be living among men in the time of the Fianna afterwards. Artrach had a house with seven doors, and a free welcome for all that came, and the king's son of Ireland, and of Alban, used to be coming to Angus to learn the throwing of spears and darts; and troops of poets from Alban and from Ireland used to be with Aedh, that was the comeliest of Bodb's sons, so that his place used to be called "The Rath of Aedh of the Poets". And indeed it was a beautiful rath at that time, with golden-yellow apples in it and crimson-pointed nuts of the wood. But after the passing away of the Fianna, the three brothers went back to the Tuatha de Danaan.
   And Bodb Dearg was not always in his own place, but sometimes he was with Angus at Brugh na Boinne.
   Three sons of Lugaidh Menn, King of Ireland, Eochaid, and Fiacha, and Ruide, went there one time, for their father refused them any land till they would win it for themselves. And when be said that, they rose with the ready rising of one man, and went and sat down on the green of Brugh na Boinne, and fasted there on the Tuatha de Danaan, to see if they could win some good thing from them.
   And they were not long there till they saw a young man, quiet and with pleasant looks, coming towards them, and he wished them good health, and they answered him the same way. "Where are you come from?" they asked him then. "From the rath beyond, with the many lights," he said. "And I am Bodb Dearg, son of the Dagda," he said, "and come in with me now to the rath."
   So they went in, and supper was made ready for them, but they did not use it. Bodb Dearg asked them then why was it they were using nothing. "It is because our father has refused land to us," said they; "and there are in Ireland but the two races, the Sons of the Gael and the Men of Dea, and when the one failed us we are come to the other."
   Then the Men of Dea consulted together. And the chief among them was Midhir of the Yellow Hair, and it is what he said: "Let us give a wife to every one of these three men, for it is from a wife that good or bad fortune comes."
   So they agreed to that, and Midhir's three daughters, Doirenn, and Aife, and Aillbhe, were given to them. Then Midhir asked Bodb to say what marriage portion should be given to them. "I will tell you that," said Bodb. "We are three times fifty sons of kings in this hill; let every king's son give three times fifty ounces of red gold. And I myself," he said, "will give them along with that, three times fifty suits of clothing of all colours." "I will give them a gift," said a young man of the Tuatha de Danaan, from Rachlainn in the sea. "A horn l will give them, and a vat. And there is nothing wanting but to fill the vat with pure water, and it will turn into mead, fit to drink, and strong enough to make drunken. And into the horn," he said, "you have but to put salt water from the sea, and it will turn into wine on the moment." "A gift to them from me," said Lir of Sidhe Fionnachaidh, "three times fifty swords, and three times fifty well-riveted long spears." "A gift from me," said Angus Og, son of the Dagda, "a rath and a good town with high walls, and with bright sunny houses, and with wide houses, in whatever place it will please them between Rath Chobtaige and Teamhair." "A gift to them from me," said Aine, daughter of Modharn, "a woman-cook that I have, and there is geasa on her not to refuse food to any; and according as she serves it out, her store fills up of itself again." "Another gift to them from me," said Bodb Dearg, "a good musician that I have, Fertuinne, son of Trogain; and although there were women in the sharpest pains of childbirth, and brave men wounded early in the day, in a place where there were saws going through wood, they would sleep at the sweetness of the music he makes. And whatever house he may be in, the people of the whole country round will hear him."
   So they stopped in Brugh na Boinne three days and three nights, and when they left it, Angus bade them bring away from the oak-wood three apple-trees, one in full bloom, and one shedding its blossom, and the third covered with ripe fruit.
   They went then to their own dun that was given them, and it is a good place they had there, and a troop of young men, and great troops of horses and of greyhounds; and they had three sorts of music that comely kings liked to be listening to, the music of harps and of lutes, and the chanting of Trogain's son; and there were three great sounds, the tramping on the green, and the uproar of racing, and the lowing of cattle; and three other sounds, the grunting of good pigs with the fat thick on them, and the voices of the crowd on the green lawn, and the noise of men drinking inside the house. And as to Eochaid, it was said of him that he never took a step backwards in flight, and his house was never without music or drinking of ale. And it was said of Fiacha that there was no man of his time braver than himself, and that he never said a word too much. And as to Ruide, he never refused any one, and never asked anything at all of any man.
   And when their lifetime was over, they went back to the Tuatha de Danaan, for they belonged to them through their wives, and there they have stopped ever since.
   And Bodb Dearg had a daughter, Scathniamh, the Flower of Brightness, that gave her love to Caoilte in the time of the Fianna; and they were forced to part from one another, and they never met again till the time Caoilte was old and withered, and one of the last that was left of the Fianna. And she came to him out of the cave of Cruachan, and asked him for the bride-price he bad promised her, and that she was never able to come and ask for till then. And Caoilte went to a cairn that was near and that was full up of gold, that was wages earned by Conan Maol and hidden there, and be gave the gold to Bodb Dearg's daughter. And the people that were there wondered to see the girl so young and comely, and Caoilte so grey and bent and withered. "There is no wonder in that," said Caoilte, "for I am of the sons of Miled that wither and fade away, but she is of the Tuatha de Danaan that never change and that never die."


Deidre of the Sorrows, by John Duncan