The Tain Bo Culaigne
Here Is Told The Meeting of Cuchulain And Finnabair
"Let a message be sent to
him," said Ailill, "that Finnabair my daughter will
be bestowed on him, and for him to keep away from the hosts." Manè Athramail
('Fatherlike') goes to him. But first he addresses himself to Laeg. "Whose man
art thou?" spake Manè. Now Laeg made no answer. Thrice Manè addressed him in
this same wise. "Cuchulain's man," Laeg answers, "and provoke me not, lest it
happen I strike thy head off thee!" "This man is mad," quoth Manè as he leaves
Then he goes to accost Cuchulain. It was there Cuchulain had doffed his
tunic, and the deep snow was around him where he sat, up to his belt, and the
snow had melted a cubit around him for the greatness of the heat of the hero.
And Manè addressed him three times in like manner, whose man he was?"
Conchobar's man, and do not provoke me. For if thou provokes me any longer I
will strike thy head off thee as one strikes off the head of a blackbird!" "No
easy thing," quoth Manè, "to speak to these two." Thereupon Manè leaves them and
tells his tale to Ailill and Medb.
"Let Lugaid go to him," said Ailill, "and offer him the girl." Thereupon
Lugaid goes and repeats this to Cuchulain. "O master Lugaid," quoth Cuchulain,
"it is a snare!" "It is the word of a king; he hath said it," Lugaid answered;
"there can be no snare in it." "So be it," said Cuchulain. Forthwith Lugaid
leaves him and takes that answer to Ailill and Medb. "Let the fool go forth in
my form," said Ailill, "and the king's crown on his head, and let him stand some
way off from Cuchulain lest he know him; and let the girl go with him and let
the fool promise her to him, and let them depart quickly in this wise. And
methinks ye will play a trick on him thus, so that he will not stop you any
further till he comes with the Ulstermen to the battle."
Then the fool goes to him and the girl along with him, and from afar he
addresses Cuchulain. The Hound comes to meet him. It happened he knew by the
man's speech that he was a fool. A clingstone that was in his hand he threw at
him so that it entered his head and bore out his brains. He comes up to the
maiden, cuts off her two tresses and thrusts a stone through her cloak and her
tunic, and plants a standing-stone through the middle of the fool. Their two
pillar-stones are there, even the pillar-stone of Finnabair and the pillar-stone
of the fool.
Cuchulain left them in this plight. A party was sent out from Ailill and Medb
to search for their people, for it was long they thought they were gone, when
they saw them in this wise. This thing was noised abroad by all the host in the
camp. Thereafter there was no truce for them with Cuchulain.
Here The Combat of Munremar and Curoi
While the hosts were there in
the evening they perceived that one stone fell
on them coming from the east and another from the west to meet it. The stones
met one another in the air and kept falling between Fergus' camp, the camp of
Ailill and the camp of Nera. This sport and play continued from that hour till
the same hour on the next day, and the hosts spent the time sitting down, with
their shields over their heads to protect them from the blocks of stones, till
the plain was full of the boulders, whence cometh Mag Clochair ('the Stony
Now it happened it was Curoi macDarè did this. He had come to bring help to
his people and had taken his stand in Cotal to fight against Munremar son of
Gerrcend. The latter had come from Emain Macha to succour Cuchulain and had
taken his stand on Ard ('the Height') of Roch. Curoi knew there was not in the
host a man to compete with Munremar. These then it was who carried on this sport
between them. The army prayed them to cease. Whereupon Munremar and Curoi made
peace, and Curoi withdrew to his house and Munremar to Emain Macha and Munremar
came not again till the day of the battle. As for Curoi, he came not till the
combat of Ferdiad.
"Pray Cuchulain," said Medb and Ailill, "that he suffer us to change our
place." This then was granted to them and the change was made.
The 'Pains' of the Ulstermen left them then. When now they awoke from their
'Pains,' bands of them came continually upon the host to restrain it again.
The Slaughter of The Boy-Troop
Now the youths of Ulster discussed the matter among themselves in Emain
Macha. "Alas for us," said they, "that our friend Cuchulain has no one to
succour him!" "I would ask then," spake Fiachu Fulech ('the Bloody') son of
Ferfebè and own brother to Fiachu Fialdana ('the Generous-daring') son of
Ferfebè, "shall I have a company from you to go to him with help?"
Thrice fifty youths accompany him with their play-clubs, and that was a third
of the boy-troop of Ulster. The army saw them drawing near them over the plain.
"A great army approaches us over the plain," spake Ailill. Fergus goes to espy
them. "Some of the youths of Ulster are they," said he, "and it is to succour
Cuchulain they come." "Let a troop go to meet them," said Ailill, "unknown to
Cuchulain; for if they unite with him ye will never overcome them." Thrice fifty
warriors went out to meet them. They fell at one another's hands, so that not
one of them got off alive of the number of the youths of Lia Toll. Hence is Lia
('the Stone') of Fiachu son of Ferfebè, for it is there that he fell.
"Take counsel," quoth Ailill; "inquire of Cuchulain about letting you go from
hence, for ye will not go past him by force, now that his flame of valour has
risen." For it was usual with him, when his hero's flame arose in him, that his
feet would turn back on him and his buttocks before him, and the knobs of his
calves would come on his shins, and one eye would be in his head and the other
one out of his head. A man's head would have gone into his mouth. There was not
a hair on him that was not as sharp as the thorn of the hew, and a drop of blood
was on each single hair. He would recognize neither comrades nor friends. Alike
he would strike them before and behind. Therefrom it was that the men of
Connacht gave Cuchulain the name Riastartha ('the Contorted One').
The Slaughter of The King's Bodyguard
"Let us ask for a sword-truce from
Cuchulain," said Ailill and Medb. Lugaid
goes to him and Cuchulain accords the truce. "Put a man for me on the ford
to-morrow," said Cuchulain. There happened to be with Medb six royal hirelings,
to wit: six princes of the Gans of Deda, the three Dubs ('the Blacks') of Imlech, and the three Dergs ('the Reds') of
Sruthair, by name. "Why should it
not be for us," quoth they, "to go and attack Cuchulain?" So the next day they
went and Cuchulain put an end to the six of them.