Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
Táin Bó Cúalnge from the Book of Leinster (Author: [unknown])

section 4

Here begin the youthful deeds of Cú Chulainn


‘For this boy was reared in the house of his father and mother at Airgdig in Mag Muirtheimne, and the stories of the youths of Emain were told to him. For this is how Conchobor spends his time of kingship since he assumed sovereignty: as soon as he arises, settling the cares and business of the province, thereafter dividing the day into three, the first third of the day spent watching the youths playing games and hurling, the second third spent in playing brandub and fidchell and the last third spent in consuming food and drink until sleep comes on them all, while minstrels and musicians are meanwhile lulling him to sleep. Though I am banished from him, I swear’ said Fergus, ‘that there is not in Ireland or in Scotland a warrior the counterpart of Conchobor.’

The stories about the youths and boys in Emain were told to that lad, and the little lad asked his mother if he might go to play to the playing-field at Emain, ‘It is too soon for you, my son’ said his mother, ‘until there go with you a champion of the champions of Ulster or some of the attendants of Conchobor to ensure your safety and protection from the youths.’ ‘I think it long to wait for that, mother’ said the little boy, ‘and I shall not wait for it, but show me in what place lies Emain.’ ‘Far away from you is the spot where it lies’ said his mother. ‘Slíab Fúait is between you and Emain.’ ‘I shall make a guess at it then’ said he.

The boy went forth and took his playthings. He took his hurleystick of bronze and his silver ball; he took his little javelin for casting and his toy spear with its end sharpened by fire, and he began to shorten the journey by playing with them. He would strike his ball with the stick and drive it a long way from him. Then with a second stroke he would throw his stick so that he might drive it a distance no less than the first. He would throw his javelin and he would cast his spear and would make a playful rush after them. Then he would catch his hurley-stick and his ball


{line 766-800}and his javelin, and before the end of his spear had reached the ground he would catch its tip aloft in the air.

He went on to the place of assembly in Emain where the youths were. There were thrice fifty youths led by Follomain mac Conchobuir at their games on the green of Emain. The little boy went on to the playing-field into their midst and caught the ball between his two legs when they cast it nor did he let it go higher than the top of his knee nor go lower than his ankle, and he pressed it and held it close between his two legs, and not one of the youths managed to get a grasp or a stroke or a blow or a shot at it. And he carried the ball away from them over the goal.

Then they all gazed at him. They wondered and marvelled. ‘Well, boys’ said Follomain mac Conchobuir, ‘attack yon fellow, all of you, and let him meet death at my hands, for it is tabu for you that a youth should join your game without ensuring his protection from you. Attack him all together, for we know that he is the son of an Ulster chieftain, and let them not make it a habit to join your games without putting themselves under your protection and safeguard.’

Then they all attacked him together. They cast their thrice fifty hurley-sticks at the boy's head. He lifted up his single play-thing stick and warded off the thrice fifty sticks. Then they cast the thrice fifty balls at the little boy. He raised his arms and his wrists and his palms and warded off the thrice fifty balls. They threw at him the thrice fifty toy spears with sharpened butt. The boy lifted up his toy wooden shield and warded off the thrice fifty spears. Then he attacked them. He threw fifty kings' sons of them to the ground beneath him. ‘Five of them’ said Fergus, ‘went between me and Conchobor in the spot where we were playing chess on the chess-board Cendchaem on the mound of Emain. The little boy pursued them to cut them down. Conchobor seized the little lad by the arms.’ ‘Nay, lad, I see that you do not deal gently with the youths.’ ‘I have good reason for that’ said the boy. ‘Though I came from distant lands, I did not get the honour due to a guest from the youths on my arrival.’ ‘Why, who are you?’ asked Conchobor. ‘I am little Setanta mac Sualtaim, the son of Deichtire your sister, and not through you did I expect to be thus aggrieved.’ ‘Why, my lad’ said Conchobor, ‘do you not know of the prohibition that the youths have, and that it is tabu for them that a boy should come to them from outside and not first claim their protection?’ ‘I did not know’ said the little boy, ‘and if I had known, I should have been on my guard


{line 801-838}against them.’ ‘Well, lads’ said Conchobor, ‘undertake the protection of the little boy.’ ‘We grant it indeed’ say they.

The little boy placed himself under the protection of the youths. Then they loosed hands from him but once more he attacked them. He threw fifty kings' sons to the ground beneath him. Their fathers thought that he had killed them but it was not so, he had merely terrified them with his many and violent blows. ‘Nay’ said Conchobor. ‘Why do you still attack them?’ ‘I swear by my gods that until they in their turn all come under my protection and guarantee as I have done with them, I shall not lift my hands from them until I bring them all low.’ ‘Well, little lad, take on you the protection of the youths.’ ‘I grant it’ said the little boy. Then the youths placed themselves under his protection and guarantee.

‘A little boy who did that deed’ said Fergus, ‘at the end of five years after his birth and overthrew the sons of champions and warriors in front of their own fort and encampment, there were no need of wonder or surprise that he should come to the marches and cut a four-pronged pole and kill one man or two men or three or four when his seventeen years are accomplished on Táin Bó Cúailnge’.

Then said Cormac Cond Longas, the son of Conchobor: ‘The year after that that little boy did a second deed’. ‘What deed was that?’ asked Ailill.

Cormac Cond Longas

Culand the smith dwelt in Ulster. He prepared a feast for Conchobor and went to Emain to invite him. He told him to come with only a small number unless he could bring a few genuine guests, for neither land nor domain had he but only his sledge- hammers and his anvils, his fists and his tongs. Conchobor said he would bring with him to Culand only a small number.

Culand came on to his fort to prepare food and drink. Conchobor remained in Emain until it was time to disperse when day drew to a close. The king put on his light travelling garb and went to bid farewell to the youths. Conchobor went to the playing-field and saw something that astonished him: thrice fifty boys at one end of the field and a single boy at the other end, and the single boy winning victory in taking the goal and in hurling from the thrice fifty youths. When they played the hole- game—a game which was played on the green of Emain—and when it was their turn to cast the ball and his to defend, he would catch the thrice fifty balls outside the hole and none would go past him into the hole. When it was their turn to keep goal and his to hurl, he would put the thrice fifty balls unerringly into the hole. When they played


{line 839-873} at pulling off each others's clothes, he would tear their thrice fifty mantles off them and all of them together were unable to take even the brooch out of his cloak. When they wrestled, he would throw the same thrice fifty to the ground beneath him and a sufficient number of them to hold him could not get to him. Chonchobor began to examine the little boy. ‘Ah, my warriors’ said Conchobor, ‘happy is the land from which came the little boy ye see, if his manly deeds were to be like his boyish exploits.’ ‘It is not fitting to speak thus’ said Fergus, ‘for as the little boy grows, so also will his deeds of manhood increase with him.’ ‘Let the little boy be summoned to us that he may go with us to share the feast to which we are going.’ The little boy was summoned to Conchobor. ‘Well my lad.’ said Conchobor, ‘come with us to enjoy the feast to which we are going.’ ‘I shall not go indeed’ said the little boy. ‘Why so?’ asked Conchobor. ‘Because the youths have not yet had enough of play and games and I shall not go from them until they have had their fill of play.’ ‘It is too long for us to wait for you, little lad, and we shall not.’ ‘Go on ahead’ said the little boy, ‘and I shall go after you.’ ‘You do not know the way at all, little boy’ said Chonchobor. ‘I shall follow the trail of the company and the horses and the chariots.’

Then Conchobor came to the house of Culand the smith. The king was served, and they were honoured according to rank and profession and rights and nobility and accomplishments. Reeds and fresh rushes were strewn beneath them. They began to drink and make merry. Culand asked Conchobor: ‘Good now, O King, have you appointed anyone to follow you tonight to this stronghold?’ ‘I have not’ said Chonchobor for he did not remember the little boy he had appointed to come after him. ‘Why so?’ asked Conchobor. ‘I have a good bloodhound and when his dogchain is taken off no traveller or wayfarer dares come into the same canton as he, and he recognises no one but myself. His strength is such that he can do the work of a hundred’. Then said Conchobor. ‘Let the bloodhound be loosed for us that he may guard the canton.’ His dog-chain was loosed from the bloodhound and he made a swift circuit of the canton and he came to the mound where he was wont to be while guarding the dwelling, and he lay there with his head on his paws. And wild, savage and here, rough, surly and battlesome was he who lay there.

As for the youths, they remained in Emain until it was time for them disperse. They went each of them to the house of his father and mother, or of his fostermother and fosterfather. But the little


{line 874-907} boy went on the track of the company until he reached the house of Culand the smith. He began to shorten the way as he went with his playthings. When he reached the green before the stronghold where Culand and Conchobor were, he threw away all his playthings in front of him except his ball alone. The bloodhound perceived the little boy and bayed at him, and the baying of the bloodhound was heard throughout all the countryside. And it was not a sharing out for a feast the hound was minded to make of the boy but rather to swallow him entire past the wall of his chest and the breadth of his throat and the midriff of his breast. The boy had no means of defence, but he made a cast of the ball and it went through the gaping mouth of the bloodhound and carried all his entrails out through the back way, and the boy then seized him by two legs and dashed him against the standing-stone so that he was scattered into pieces on the ground. Conchobor had heard the baying of the hound. ‘Alas, my warriors’ said Conchobor, ‘would that we had not come to enjoy this feast.’ ‘Why so?’ asked they all. ‘The little boy who arranged to come after me, my sister's son, Setanta mac Sualtaim, has been killed by the hound.’ All the famous Ulstermen rose with one accord. Though the gateway of the dwelling was wide open, they all went to meet him out over the palisades of the stronghold. Though all reached him quickly, quickest was Fergus and he lifted the little boy from the ground on to his shoulder and brought him into the presence of Conchobor. And Culand came forth and saw his bloodhound lying in scattered pieces. His heart beat against his breast. He went across into the stronghold then. ‘I welcome your arrival, little boy’ said Culand, ‘for the sake of your mother and your father, but I do not welcome your arrival for your own sake.’ ‘Why are you angry, with the boy?’ asked Conchobor. ‘Would that you had not come to consume my drink and eat my food, for my substance now is substance wasted, my livelihood a lost livelihood. Good was the servant you have taken from me. He used to guard my herds and flocks and cattle for me.’ ‘Be not angry at all, master Culand’said the little boy, ‘for I shall deliver a true judgment in this matter.’ ‘What judgment would you deliver on it, my lad?’ said Conchobor. ‘If there is a whelp of that hound's breeding in Ireland, he will be reared by me until he be fit for action like his sire. I shall myself be the hound to protect Culand's flocks and cattle and land during that time.’ ‘A good judgement you have given, little boy.’ said Conchobor. ‘I would not have given a better myself.’ said Cathbad. ‘Why shall


{line 908-943} you not be called Cú Chulainn Culand's Hound because of this?’ ‘Nay’ said the little boy, ‘I prefer my own name, Setanta mac Sualtaim.’ ‘Do not say that, lad’ said Cathbad, ‘for the men of Ireland and of Scotland shall hear of that name, and that name shall be ever on the lips of the men of Ireland and of Scotland.’ ‘I am willing that it shall be my name’ said the boy. Hence the famous name of Cú Chulainn clung to him since he killed the hound of Culand the smith.

‘A little boy who performed that exploit’ said Cormac Cond Longas, ‘six years after his birth, who killed the bloodhound with which hosts and armies dared not be in the same canton, there were no need to wonder or marvel that he should come to the marches and cut a four-pronged pole and kill one man or two or three or four, now that his seventeen years are completed on Táin Bó Cúailnge’.

‘The little boy performed a third exploit in the following year again’ said Fiachu mac Fir Aba. ‘What exploit did he perform?’ asked Ailill.

Fiachu mac Fir Aba

Cathbad the druid was teaching his pupils to the north-east of Emain, and eight pupils of the class of druidic learning were with him. One of them asked his teacher what omen and presage was for that day, whether it was good or whether it was ill. Then said Cathbad that a boy who should take up arms on that day would be splendid and famous but would be shortlived and transient. Cú Chulainn heard that as he was playing south-west of Emain, and he threw aside all his playthings and went to Conchobor's sleeping chamber. ‘All good attend you, O king of the warriors’ said the little boy. —That is the speech of a person making a request of someone.—‘What do you ask for, little lad?’ said Conchobor. ‘I wish to take arms’ said the little boy. ‘Who has advised you, lad?’ said Conchobor. ‘Cathbad the druid’ said the little boy. ‘He would not deceive you, lad’ said Conchobor. Conchobor gave him two spears and a sword and a shield. The little boy shook and brandished the arms and shattered them into small pieces. Conchobor gave him two other spears and a shield and a sword. He shook and brandished, flourished and waved them, and shattered them into small pieces. As for the fourteen suits of arms which Conchobor had in Emain for the youths and boys—for to whichever one of them should take arms Conchobor would give equipment of battle and the youth would have victory in his valour thereafter—that little boy made fragments and small pieces of them all.


{line 944-980}

‘Indeed these weapons are not good, father Conchobor’ said the little boy, ‘none of them suits me.’ Conchobor gave him his own two spears and his shield and his sword. He shook and brandished and flourished and waved them so that the point of spears and sword touched the butt, and yet he did not break the weapons and they withstood him. ‘These weapons are good indeed’ said the little boy, ‘they are suited to me. I salute the king whose weapons and equipment these are. I salute the land from which he came.’ Then Cathbad the druid came into the tent and spoke. ‘Is yon boy taking arms?’ said Cathbad. ‘He is indeed’ said Conchobor. ‘Not by your mother's son would I wish arms to be taken today’ said Cathbad. ‘Why is that? Is it not you who advised him?’ said Conchobor. ‘Not I indeed’ said Cathbad. ‘What mean you, you distorted sprite’ said Conchobor, ‘have you deceived me?’ ‘Do not be angry, father Conchobor’ said the little boy, ‘for it is he who advised me, for his pupil asked him what omen was for the day and he said that a boy who took arms on this day would be splendid and renowned but short-lived and transient.’ ‘I spoke truth’ said Cathbad. ‘You will be splendid and renowned but short- lived and transient.’ ‘It is a wonderful thing if I am but one day and one night in the world provided that my fame and my deeds live after me.’ ‘Come, little lad, mount the chariot now for it is the same good omen for you.’

He mounted the chariot, and the first chariot he mounted, he shook and swayed around him and shattered it to pieces. He mounted the second chariot and shattered it to pieces in the same way. He made fragments of the third chariot also. As for the seventeen chariots which Conchobor had in Emain to serve the youths and boys, the little lad shattered them all to pieces and they withstood him not. ‘These chariots are not good, father Conchobor’ said the little boy, ‘none of these suits me.’ ‘Where is Ibar mac Riangabra?’ asked Conchobor. ‘Here’ answered Ibar. ‘Harness my own two horses for yon boy and yoke my chariot.’ The charioteer harnessed the horses and yoked the chariot. Then the little boy mounted the chariot. He rocked the chariot around him and it withstood him and did not break. ‘This chariot is good indeed’ said the little boy, ‘and it is my fitting chariot.’

‘Well, little boy’ said Ibar, ‘let the horses go to their pasture now.’ ‘It is too soon yet, Ibar’ said the little boy. ‘Come on around Emain now for to-day is the first day I took


{line 981-1015} arms, that it may be a triumph of valour for me.’ They drove thrice around Emain. ‘Let the horses go to their pasture now, little boy’ said Ibar. ‘It is too soon yet, Ibar’ said the little boy. ‘Come on so that the boys may wish me well, for to-day is the first day I took arms.’ They went forward to the place where the boys were. ‘Is yon lad taking arms?’ they asked ‘Yes indeed.’ ‘May it be for victory and first- wounding and triumph, but we deem it too soon that you took arms because you part from us in our games.’ ‘I shall not part from you at all, but it is with a good omen I took arms to- day.’ ‘Let the horses go to their pasture now, little boy’ said Ibar. ‘It is still too soon, Ibar’ said the little boy. ‘And this great road which goes past us, where does it lead?’ said the little boy. ‘Why do you bother about it?’ said Ibar. ‘You are an importunate fellow, I see, little lad’ said Ibar. ‘I wish, fellow, to ask about the chief roads of the province. How far does it go?’ ‘It goes to Áth na Foraire on Slíab Fúait’ said Ibar. ‘Do you know why it is called Áth na Foraire?’ ‘I do indeed’ said Ibar. ‘A goodly warrior of the Ulstermen is always there, keeping watch and ward so that no warriors or strangers come to Ulster to challenge them to battle and so that he may be the champion to give battle on behalf of the whole province. And if poets leave Ulstermen and the province unsatisfied, that he may be the one to give them treasures and valuables for the honour of the province. If poets come into the land, that he may be the man who will be their surety until they reach Conchobor's couch and that their poems and songs may be the first to be recited in Emain on their arrival.’ ‘Do you know who is at that ford to-day?’ ‘I do indeed’ said Ibar, ‘Conall Cernach mac Amargin, the heroic and triumphant, the finest of the warriors of Ireland’ said Ibar. ‘Go on, fellow, that we may reach the ford.’ They drove forward in front of the ford where Conall was. ‘Is yon boy taking arms?’ asked Conall. ‘He is indeed’ said Ibar. ‘May that be for victory and first-wounding and triumph.’ said Conall, ‘but we deem it too soon for you to take arms because you are not yet fit for action if he that should come hither needed protection, for you would be complete surety for all the Ulstermen, and the nobles of the province would rise up at your summons.’ ‘What are you doing here, master Conall?’ said the little boy. ‘I am keeping watch and ward for the province here, lad’ said Conall. ‘Go home now, master Conall’ said the boy, ‘and let me keep watch for the province here.’ ‘Nay,


{line 1016-1050} little boy’ said Conall. ‘You are not yet fit to meet a goodly warrior.’ ‘Then I shall meanwhile go on southwards’ said the boy, ‘to Fertais Locha Echtrand to see if I might redden my hands in the blood of a friend or an enemy to-day.’ ‘I shall go with you to protect you, lad’ said Conall. ‘that you may not go alone to the marches.’ ‘Nay’ said the boy. ‘I shall indeed go with you’ said Conall, ‘for the Ulstermen will censure me if I let you go alone to the marches.’

His horses are harnessed for Conall and his chariot yoked, and he went to protect the boy. When Conall came abreast of him, the boy was certain that if the chance of performing a great deed were to come his way, Conall would not let him do it. He took from the ground a stone which filled his fist. He made a cast at the yoke of Conall's chariot and broke it in two so that Conall fell through the chariot on to the ground and his shoulder was dislocated. ‘What is this, boy?’ said Conall. ‘It was I who cast a shot to see it my marksmanship was straight and in what way I shoot, and to see if I am the makings of a good fighter.’ ‘A bane on your shot and a bane on yourself! Even if you leave your head with your enemies now, I shall not go with you to guard you any more.’ ‘That is exactly what I asked you’ said he, ‘for it is tabu for you Ulstermen to proceed on your way despite an insecure chariot.’ Conall came back again northwards to Áth na Foraire.

As for the little boy, he went south to Fertais Locha Echtrand. He was there until the close of day. ‘If we might venture to say so, little lad’ said Ibar, ‘we would deem it time to go now to Emain, for already for some time the serving of meat and drink and the sharing out has been made in Emain. You have your appointed place there between Conchobor's knees every day you come there while my place is merely among the messengers and jesters of Conchobor's household. I think it time for me to go and scramble for a place with them.’ ‘Then harness the horses for us.’ The charioteer harnesses the horses and the boy mounted the chariot. ‘Well, Ibar, what mound is that mound up there now?’ ‘That is Slíab Moduirn’ said Ibar. ‘And what is that white cairn on the top of the mountain?’ ‘That is Findcharn Slebe Moduirn’ said Ibar. ‘Yon cairn is pleasant’ said the little boy. ‘It is pleasant indeed’ said Ibar. ‘Come on, fellow, to that cairn.’ ‘Well, you are an importunate boy’ said Ibar, ‘but this is my first expedition with you. It will be my last expedition for ever if once I reach Emain.’ However


{line 1051-1083} they went to the summit of the hill. ‘Well now, Ibar’ said the boy, ‘teach me all the places of Ulster on every side for I do not know my way at all about the territory of Conchobor.’ The driver pointed out to him all the places of Ulster all around him. He told him the names of the hills and plains and mounds of the province on every side. He pointed out the plains and strongholds and renowned places of the province. ‘Well now, Ibar’ said the little boy, ‘what plain is that to the south of us which is full of retreats and corners and nooks and glens?’ ‘That is Mag m-Breg’ said Ibar. ‘Show me the buildings and renowned places of that plain.’ The driver showed him Temair and Tailtiu, Cleitech and Cnogba and Brug Meic in Óc and the fortress of the sons of Nechta Scene. ‘Are not these the sons of Nechta who boast that the number of Ulstermen alive is not greater than the number of those Ulstermen who have fallen at their hands?’ ‘They are indeed’ said the driver. ‘Come on to the stronghold of the sons of Nechta’ said the little lad. ‘Woe to him who says that!’ said Ibar. ‘We know that it is a very foolish thing to say that. Whoever goes there’ said Ibar, ‘it will not be I.’ ‘You shall go there alive or dead’ said the boy. ‘Alive I shall go south’ said Ibar, ‘but dead I know I shall be left at the stronghold of Nechta's sons.’

They went on to the stronghold and the boy leapt from the chariot on to the green. Thus was the green before the stronghold: there was a pillar-stone on it and around the stone an iron ring, a ring of heroic deeds, with an ogam inscription on its peg. And thus ran the inscription: if any man came on that green and if he were a warrior bearing arms, it was tabu for him to leave the green without challenging to single combat. The little boy read out the inscription and put his two arms around the stone, that is, the stone and its ring, and he pitched it into the pool and the water closed over it. ‘It seems to us’ said Ibar, ‘that that is no better than that it should remain where it was, and we know that you will find on this green what you are looking for now, namely, symptoms of death and dissolution.’ ‘Well now, Ibar, settle the coverings and rugs of the chariot for me that I may sleep for a little while.’ ‘Woe to him who says that’ said the driver ‘for this is a land of enemies and not a green for pleasure.’ The driver arranged the rugs and skin-coverings of the chariot. The little boy fell asleep on the green.

Then there came on to the green one of the sons of Nechta, Foíll mac Nechtain. ‘Do not unharness the horses, driver’


{line 1084-1116} said Fóill. ‘I do not attempt it at all’ said Ibar, ‘their traces and reins are still in my hand.’ ‘Whose are these horses?’ said Fóill. ‘Conchobor's two horses’ said the driver, ‘the two piebald-headed ones.’ ‘I recognise them as such, and what brought the horses here to the border of the marches?’ ‘A youthful lad of ours who took up arms’ said the driver. ‘He came to the edge of the marches to display his form.’ ‘May that not be for victory or triumph’ said Fóill. ‘Had I known that he was old enough to fight, his dead body would have returned north to Emain and he would not have returned alive.’ ‘He is not old enough to fight indeed’ said Ibar, ‘and it is not meet even to say so to him. He is in but the seventh year from his birth.’ The little boy raised his head from the ground and passed his hand over his face, and he blushed crimson from head to foot. ‘I am indeed capable of action’ said the little boy. ‘It pleases me better than that you should say that you are not.’ ‘It will please you still better if only we meet on the ford, but go and fetch your weapons for I see that you have come in cowardly fashion, unarmed, and I do not wound charioteers or messengers or those unarmed.’ The fellow hastened to fetch his weapon. ‘It behoves you to act warily with yon man, little lad’ said Ibar. ‘Why is that?’ said the boy. ‘The man you see is Fóill mac Nechtain. No points nor weapons nor sharp edges harm him.’ ‘Not to me should you say that, Ibar’ said the boy. ‘I shall take in hand for him my deil cliss, that is, the round ball of refined iron, and it will land on the flat of his shield and the flat of his forehead and carry out through the back of his head a portion of brain equal to the iron ball, and he will be holed like a sieve so that the light of the air will be visible through his head.’ Fóill mac Nechtain came forth. Cú Chulainn took in hand for him the deil cliss, and hurled it so that it landed on the flat of his shield and the flat of his forehead and took the ball's equivalent of his brains through the back of his head, and he was holed like a sieve so that the light of the air was visible through his head. And Cú Chulainn struck off his head from his neck.

The second son, Túachall mac Nechtain, came forth on the green. ‘I see you would boast of that deed’ said Túachall. ‘Indeed I think it no cause for boasting to slay one warrior.’ ‘You will not boast of that now for you will fall by my hand.’ ‘Go and fetch your weapons for you have come in cowardly fashion, unarmed.’ The fellow hastened to fetch his weapons. ‘You should have a care for yon fellow, little lad’ said Ibar.


{line 1117-1152} ‘Why so?’ said the boy. ‘The man you see is Túachall mac Nechtain. Unless you get him with the first blow or the first cast or the first touch, you will never do so, so skilfully and craftily does he move around the points of the weapons.’ ‘Not to me should that be said, Ibar’ said the boy. ‘I shall take in hand the great spear of Conchobor, the venomous lance. It will land on the shield over his breast, and having pierced his heart, it will crush through a rib in the side that is farther from me. It will be the cast of an outlaw not the blow of a freeman. From me he shall not get until the day of doom any place where he may be cured or tended.’ Túachall mac Nechtain came out on the green, and the boy threw Conchobor's spear at him and it went through the shield over his breast and crushed through a rib in the side farther from Cú Chulainn after piercing his heart in his chest. Cú Chulainn struck off his head before it reached the ground.

Then came forth the youngest of the sons, Faindle mac Nechtain, on to the green. ‘Foolish were they who fought with you here.’ ‘Why is that?’ said the boy. ‘Come away down to the pool where your foot will not touch bottom.’ Faindle hastened on to the pool. ‘You should have a care for yon fellow, little lad’ said Ibar. ‘Why so?’ said the boy. ‘The man you see is Faindle mac Nechtain, and he is so called because he travels over water like a swallow or squirrel. The swimmers of the world cannot cope with him.’ ‘Not to me should that be said, Ibar’ said the boy. ‘You know our river Calland in Emain. When the youths surround it to play their games on it and when the pool is not safe, I carry a boy over it on each of my two palms and a boy on each of my two shoulders and I myself do not wet even my ankles as I carry them.’ They met upon the water and the boy clasped his arms around Faindle and held him until the water came up flush with him, and he dealt him a violent blow with Conchobor's sword and struck his head from his trunk, letting the body go with the current and taking with him the head.

Then they went into the stronghold and pillaged the fort and fired it so that its buildings were level with its outer walls. They turned about on their way to Slíab Fúait and took with them the three heads of the sons of Nechta.

They saw in front of them a herd of wild deer. ‘What are these numerous fierce cattle, Ibar?’ said the boy. ‘Are they tame or are they deer?’ ‘They are deer indeed’ said Ibar. ‘That is a herd of wild deer which frequent the recesses of Slíab Fúait.’ ‘Ply the goad on the horses for us, that we may catch


{line 1153-1188} some of them.’ The charioteer plied the goad on the horses. The king's fat horses could not keep up with the deer. The boy dismounted and caught two swift, strong stags. He tied them to the shafts and ropes and thongs of the chariot.

They went forward to the mound of Emain. They saw a flock of white swans fly past them. ‘What kind of birds are those, Ibar?’ said the boy. ‘Are they tame or just birds?’ ‘Just birds’ said Ibar. ‘They are a flock of swans which come in from the crags and rocks and islands of the ocean to feed on the plains and level spots of Ireland.’ ‘Which would be the more wonderful, to bring them alive to Emain or to bring them dead, Ibar?’ said the boy. ‘More wonderful indeed to bring them alive’ said Ibar, ‘For not everyone can catch the living birds.’ Then the boy cast a small stone at them. He brought down eight of the birds. Then he cast a big stone and brought down sixteen of the birds. ‘Bring hither the birds, Ibar’ said the boy. ‘I am in a predicament’ said Ibar. ‘How is that?’ said the boy. ‘I have good reason to say so. If I move from where I am, the iron wheels of the chariot will cut me down, so fierce and so powerful (?) and so strong is the pace of the horses. If I stir at all, the stags' antlers will pierce and gore me.’ ‘Ah, no true warrior are you, Ibar’ said the boy, ‘for with the look that I shall give the horses, they will not break their straight course, and with the look that I shall give the deer, they will bow their heads in awe and fear of me, and it will not matter to you even if you stepped across their antlers.’ Then Ibar tied the birds to the shafts and cords and thongs and strings and ropes of the chariot.

They went forward and came to Emain. Then Leborcham perceived them. She was the daughter of Aí and Adarc. ‘A single chariot-warrior is here’ said Leborcham, ‘and terribly he comes. He has in the chariot the bloody heads of his enemies. There are beautiful, pure-white birds held (?) by him in the chariot. He has wild, untamed deer bound and tied and fettered. If he be not met tonight, the warriors of Ulster will fall at his hand.’ ‘We know that chariot-warrior’ said Conchobor. ‘It is the little boy, my sister's son, who went to the marches and shed blood there, but he has not had his fill of combat, and if he be not met, all the warriors of Emain will fall by his hand.’ And the plan they devised was this: to send the women- folk out to meet the boy, thrice fifty women, that is, ten and seven score women, all stark naked, led by their chieftainess, Scannlach, to


{line 1189-1220} expose all their nakedness and shame to him. All the young women came forth and discovered all their nakedness and shame to him. The boy hid his face from them and laid his countenance against the chariot that he might not see the women's nakedness. Then the boy was lifted out of the chariot. He was placed in three vats of cold water to quench the ardour of his wrath. The first vat into which the boy was put burst its staves and hoops like the breaking of a nutshell about him. As for the second vat, the water would seethe several hand-breadths high in it. As for the third vat the water grew hot in it so that one man might endure it while another would not. Thereupon the boy's wrath abated, and his garments were put

"were put", following ST

on him. His comely appearance was restored, and he blushed crimson from head to foot. He had seven toes on each of his feet and seven fingers on each of his hands. He had seven pupils in each of his royal eyes and seven gems sparkling in each pupil. Four dimples in each cheek, a blue dimple, a purple, a green, and a yellow. Fifty tresses of hair he had between one ear and the other, bright yellow like the top of a birch-tree or like brooches of pale gold shining in the sun. He had a high crest of hair, bright, fair, as if a cow had licked it. He wore a green mantle in which was a silver pin, and a tunic of thread of gold. The boy was placed between Conchobor's knees and the king began to stroke his hair.

A little lad who did those deeds when he was seven years old, who overcame the champions and warriors by whom two thirds of the men of Ulster had fallen and had been unavenged until this boy arose, there were no need to wonder or marvel that he should come to the marches and kill one man or two or three or four when his seventeen years were completed at the time of the Cattle-raid of Cúailnge.

Thus far then is some account of the youthful deeds of Cú Chulainn on the Cattle-raid of Cúailnge, together with the prologue of the tale and an account of the route and march of the host out of Crúachu.