The Tain Bo Culaigne
The Killing of The Squirrel
And of The Tame Bird
Then Cuchulain made a threat in Methe
that wherever he saw Medb he would cast
a stone at her and that it would not go far from the side of her head. That he
also fulfilled. In the place where he saw Medb west of the ford he cast a stone
from his sling at her, so that it killed the pet bird that was on her shoulder.
Medb passed over the ford eastwards, and again he cast a stone from his sling
at her east of the ford, so that it killed the tame squirrel that was on her
shoulder. Hence the names of those places are still, Meide in Togmail
('Squirrel's Neck') and Meide ind Eoin ('Bird's Neck'). And Ath Srethe ('Ford of
the Throw') is the name of the ford over which Cuchulain cast the stone from his
Then did the men of Erin deliberate about going to ravage and lay waste Mag
Breg and Meath and the plain of Conall and the land of Cuchulain; and it was in
the presence of Fergus macRoig they discussed it.
The four grand provinces of Erin moved out on the morrow, and began to harry
the plains of Breg and Murthemne. And the sharp, keen-edged anxiety for
Cuchulain came over his fosterer Fergus. And he bade the men of Erin be on their
guard that night, for that Cuchulain would come upon them. And here again he
sang in his praise, as we wrote it before, and he uttered the lay:--
"If Cuchulain, Cualnge's Hound,
After this lay, that was the day that Donn ('the Brown Bull') of Cualnge came
into the land of Marginè to Sliab Culinn and with him fifty heifers of the
heifers of Ulster; and there he was pawing and digging up the earth in that
place, in the land of Marginè, in Cualnge; that is, he flung the turf over him
with his heels.
And Red Branch chiefs on you
Men will welter in their blood,
Laying waste Murthemne's plain!
"Far away he held his course,
Till he reached Armenia's
Battle dared he, past his wont,
And the Burnt-breasts put to
Hardest for him was to drive
Necht's sons from their chieftest
And the smith's hound-- mighty deed--
Hath he slain with single
"More than this I've naught to say,
As concerns Dechtird's
My belief, in troth, is this:
Ye will now meet with your fate."
It was on the same day that the Morrigan, daughter of Ernmas, the prophetess
of the fairy-folk, came in the form of a bird, and she perched on the
standing-stone in Temair of Cualnge giving the Brown Bull of Cualnge warning end
lamentations before the men of Erin. Then she began to address him and what she
said was this: "Good, now, O luckless one, thou Brown Bull of Cualnge," so spake
the Morrigan; "take heed; for the men of Erin are on thy track and seeking thee
and they will come upon thee, and if thou art taken they will carry thee away to
their camp like any ox on a raid, unless thou art on thy guard." And she
commenced to give warning to him in this fashion, and she delivered this
judgement and spake these words aloud:--
"Knows not the restless Brown of the truly deadly fray that is not
uncertain?-- A raven's croak-- The raven that doth not conceal-- Foes range
your checkered plain-- Troops on raids-- I have a secret-- Ye shall know. . .
The waving fields-- The deep-green grass . . . and rich, soft plain-- Wealth
of flowers' splendour-- Badb's cow-lowing-- Wild the raven-- Dead the men-- A
tale of woe-- Battle-storm on Cualnge evermore, to the death of mighty sons--
Kith looking on the death of kin!"
When the Brown Bull of Cualnge heard those words he moved on to Glenn na
Samaisce ('Heifers' Glen') in Sliab Culinn ('Hollymount'), and fifty of his
heifers with him.
This was one of the magic virtues of the Brown Bull of Cualnge: Fifty heifers
he would cover every day. These calved before that same hour on the next day and
such of them that calved not at the due time burst with the calves, because they
could not suffer the begetting of the Brown Bull of Cualnge. One of the magic
virtues of the Brown Bull of Cualnge were the fifty grown youths who engaged in
games, who on his fine back found room every evening to play. Another of the
magic virtues of the Brown Bull of Cualnge was the hundred warriors he screened
from the heat and the cold under his shadow and shelter.
Another of the magic virtues of the Brown Bull of Cualnge was that no goblin
nor boggart nor sprite of the glen dared come into one and the same cantred with
him. Another of the magic virtues of the Brown Bull of Cualnge was his musical
lowing every evening as he returned to his haggard, his shed and his byre. It
was music enough and delight for a man in the north and in the south, in the
east and the west, and in the middle of the cantred of Cualnge, the lowing he
made at even as he came to his haggard, his shed, and his byre. These, then, are
some of the magic virtues of the Brown Bull of Cualnge.
Thereupon on the morrow the hosts proceeded among the rocks and dunes of the
land of Conalle Murthemni. And Medb ordered a canopy of shields to be held over
her head in order that Cuchulain might not strike her from the hills or hillocks
or heights. Howbeit on that day, no killing nor attack came from Cuchulain upon
the men of Erin, in the land of Murthemne among the rocks and dunes of Conalle