The Tain Bo Culaigne
The Tooth-Fight of Fintan
Fintan, himself the son of Niall Niamglonnach ('of the brilliant Exploits')
from Dûn da Benn, was father of Cethern son of Fintan. And he came to save the
honour of Ulster and to avenge his son upon the hosts. Thrice fifty was his
number. And thus it was they came, and two spear-heads on each shaft with them,
a spear-head on the top and a spear-head at the butt, so that it made no
difference whether they wounded the hosts with the points or with the butts.
They offered three battles to the hosts. And thrice their own number fell at
their hands, and there fell also the people of Fintan son of Niall, all
excepting Fintan's son Crimthann alone. This one was saved under a canopy of
shields by Ailill and Medb.
Then said the men of Erin, it would be no disgrace for Fintan son of Niall to
withdraw from the camp and quarters, and they would give up Crimthann son of
Fintan to him, and then the hosts would fall back a day's march to the north
again; and that he should cease from his deeds of arms against the hosts till he
would come to encounter them on the day of the great battle at the place where
the four grand provinces of Erin would clash at Garech and Ilgarech in the
battle of the Cattle-reaving of Cualnge, as was foretold by the druids of the
men of Erin. Fintan son of Niall consented to that, and they gave over his son
to him. He withdrew from the camp and station, and the host marched a day's
journey back to the north again, to stop and cease their advance.
In this manner they found each man of the people of Fintan son of Niall
Niamglonnach and each man of the men of Erin, with the lips and the nose of each
of them in the teeth and tusks of the other. The men of Erin gave thought to
that: "This is a tooth-fight for us," said they; "the tooth-fight of Fintan's
people and of Fintan himself." So this is the 'Tooth-fight' of Fintan.
The Red-Shame of Menn
It was then came to them great Menn son of
Salcholga, he from Renna ('the
Waterways') of the Boyne in the north. Twelve men with many-pointed weapons,
that was his number. It was thus they came, and two spearheads on each shaft
with them, a spear-head on the top and a spearhead at the butt, so that it made
no difference whether they wounded the hosts with the points or with the butts.
They offered three attacks upon the hosts. Three times their own number fell
at their hands and there fell twelve men of the people of Menn. But Menn himself
was sorely wounded in the strait, so that blood ran crimson on him. Then said
the men of Erin: "Red is this shame," said they, "for Menn son of Salcholga,
that his people, should be slain and destroyed and he himself wounded till blood
ran crimson red upon him." Hence here is the 'Reddening Shame of Menn.'
Then said the men of Erin, it would be no dishonour for Menn son of Salcholga
to leave the camp and quarters, and that the hosts would go a day's journey back
to the north again, and that Menn should cease his weapon-feats on the hosts
till Conchobar arose out of his 'Pains' and battle would be offered them at
Garech and Ilgarech, as the druids and soothsayers and the knowers of the men of
Erin had foretold it.
Menn son of Salcholga agreed to that, to leave the camp and halting-place.
And the hosts fell back a day's march for to rest and wait, and Menn went his
way to his own land.
The Accoutrement of the Charioteers
Then came the charioteers of the Ulstermen to them. Thrice fifty was their
number. They offered three battles to the hosts. Thrice their number fell at
their hands, and the charioteers themselves fell on the field whereon they
stood. Hence this here is called the 'Accoutrement of the Charioteers [with
The White-Fight of Rochad
Rochad Rigderg ('Red-king') son of Fathemon, was of Ulster. Thrice fifty
warriors was his number, and he took possession of a hill fronting the hosts.
Finnabair, daughter of Ailill and Medb, perceived that and she went to speak to
her mother thereof, even to Medb. "Truly have I loved yonder warrior for a long
time," said she; "and it is he is my sweetheart, and mine own choice one in
wooing." "An thou hast so loved him, daughter," quoth Ailill and Medb, "sleep
with him this night and crave for us a truce of him for the hosts, until he
encounters us on the day of the great battle when four of the grand provinces of
Erin will meet at Garech and Ilgarech in the battle of the Foray of Cualnge."
Rochad son of Fathemon accepted the offer and that night the damsel slept with
An Under-king of Munster that was in the camp heard the tale. He went to his
people to speak of it. "Yonder maiden was plighted to me on fifteen hostages
once long ago," said he; "and it is for this I have now come on this hosting."
Now wherever it happened that the seven Under-kings of Munster were, what they
all said was that it was for this they were come. "Why," said they, "should we
not go to avenge our wife and our honour on the Manè, who are watching and
guarding the rear of the army at Imlech in Glendamrach ('Kettle-glen's navel')?"
This was the course they resolved upon. And with their seven divisions of
thirty hundreds they arose. Ailill arose with thirty hundred after them. Medb
arose with her thirty hundred. The sons of Maga with theirs and the Leinstermen
and the Munstermen and the people of Tara. And a mediation was made between them
so that each of them sat down near the other and hard by his arms.
Howbeit before the intervention took place, eight hundred very valiant
warriors of them had fallen. Finnabair, daughter of Ailill and Medb, had tidings
that so great a number of the men of Erin had fallen for her sake and on account
of her. And her heart broke in her breast even as a nut, through shame and
disgrace, so that Finnabair Slebe ('Finnabair of the Mount') is the name of the
place where she fell, died and was buried.
Then said the men of Erin, "White is this battle," said they, "for Rochad son
of Fathemon, in that eight hundred exceeding brave warriors fell for his sake
and on his account and he himself goes safe and whole to his country and land
without blood-shedding or reddening on him." Hence this is the 'White-fight' of