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

section 5

The story proper is what follows now.

The four great provinces of Ireland came the next day eastwards over Cruinn, that is, the mountain called Cruinn. Cú Chulainn went ahead of them. He met the charioteer of Órlám, the son of Ailill and Medb who was at Tamlachta Órláim to the north of


{line 1221-1255} Dísert Lochad, cutting chariot poles from a holly-tree in the wood. ‘Well, Láeg’ said Cú Chulainn, ‘boldly do the Ulstermen behave if it is they who are thus cutting down the wood in front of the men of Ireland. And do you stay here for a little while until I find out who is cutting down the wood in this manner’. Then Cú Chulainn went on and came upon the charioteer. ‘What are you doing here, lad?’ asked Cú Chulainn. ‘I am cutting the chariot poles from a holly-tree here’ said the driver, ‘for our chariots broke yesterday hunting that famous deer, Cú Chulainn. And by your valour, warrior, come to my help, lest that famous Cú Chulainn come upon me’. ‘Take your choice, lad’ said Cú Chulainn, ‘either to gather the poles or to strip them’. ‘I shall gather them for it is easier’. Cú Chulainn began to strip the poles, and he would draw them between his toes and between his fingers against their bends and knots until he made them smooth and polished and slippery and trimmed. He would make them so smooth that a fly could not stay on them by the time he cast them from him. Then the charioteer looks at him. ‘Indeed it seems to me that it was not a labour befitting you that I imposed on you. Who are you?’ asked the driver. ‘I am the famous Cú Chulainn of whom you spoke just now’. ‘Woe is me!’ cried the charioteer, ‘for that am I done for’. ‘I shall not slay you, lad’ said Cú Chulainn, ‘for I do not wound charioteers or messengers or men unarmed. And where is your master anyway?’ ‘Over yonder on the mound’ said the charioteer. ‘Go to him and warn him to be on his guard, for if we meet, he will fall at my hands’. Then the charioteer went to his master, and swiftly as the charioteer went, more swiftly still went Cú Chulainn and struck off Órlám's head. And he raised the head aloft and displayed it to the men of Ireland.

Then came the three Meic Árach on to the ford at Ard Ciannacht to meet with Cú Chulainn. Lon and Ualu and Díliu were their names; Mes Lir and Mes Laig and Mes Lethair were the names of their charioteers. They came to encounter Cú Chulainn because they deemed excessive what he had done against them the previous day, namely, killing the two sons of Nera mac Nuatair meic Thacáin at Áth Gabla and killing Órlám, the son of Ailill and Medb, as well and displaying his head to the men of Ireland. They came then that they might kill Cú Chulainn in the same way and bear away his head as a trophy. They went to the wood and cut three rods of white hazel to put in the hands of their charioteers so that all six of them together might fight with Cú


{line 1256-1288} Chulainn. Cú Chulainn attacked them and cut off their six heads. Thus fell Meic Árach by the hand of Cú Chulainn.

There came also Lethan on to his ford on the Níth in the district of Conaille Muirtheimne, to fight with Cú Chulainn. He attacked him on the ford. Áth Carpait was the name of the ford where they reached it, for their chariots had been broken in the fighting at the ford. Mulchi fell on the hill between the two fords, whence it is still called Gúalu Mulchi. Then Cú Chulainn and Lethan met, and Lethan fell by the hand of Cú Chulainn who cut off his head from his trunk on the ford, but he left it with it, that is, he left his head with his body. Whence the name of the ford ever since is Áth Lethan in the district of Conaille Muirtheimne.

Then came the harpers of Caínbile from Ess Ruaid to entertain them. The men of Ireland thought that they had come from the Ulstermen to spy on them, so the hosts hunted them vigorously for a long distance until they escaped from them, transformed into wild deer, at the standing-stones at Lia Mór. For though they were called the harpers of Caínbile, they were men of great knowledge and prophecy and magic.

Then Cú Chulainn vowed that wherever he saw Medb, he would cast a stone at her and it would not go far from the side of her head. It happened as he said. Where he saw Medb to the west of the ford, he cast a stone from his sling at her and killed the pet bird on her shoulder. Medb went eastwards over the ford, and he cast another stone from his sling at her east of the ford and killed the pet marten which was on her shoulder. Whence the names of those places are still Meide in Togmaill and Meíde ind Eóin, and Áth Srethe is the name of the ford across which Cú Chulainn cast the stone from his sling.