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The Destruction of Dind Ríg

Author: [unknown]

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Whitley Stokes

Translated by Whitley Stokes

Electronic edition compiled by Benjamin Hazard, Beatrix Färber

Funded by University College, Cork and
The Higher Education Authority via the LDT Project

2. Second draft.

Extent of text: 3640 words


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Text ID Number: T302012A

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Available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of academic research and teaching only.


    Manuscript sources for the Irish text
  1. Book of Leinster, 262a.1, 269b.1. See Robert Atkinson (ed.), The Book of Leinster: A collection of pieces, prose and verse, in the Irish language compiled, in part, about the middle of the twelfth century, published from the original manuscript in the library of Trinity College, Dublin by the Royal Irish Academy with an Introduction, Analysis of contents and Index (Dublin, 1880).
  2. Yellow Book of Lecan, 112a.1–113a.47, col. 754–756. See Robert Atkinson (ed.), The Yellow Book of Lecan, a collection of pieces, prose and verse, in the Irish language in part compiled at the end of the fourteenth century, published from the original manuscript in the library of Trinity College, Dublin by the Royal Irish Academy with an Introduction, Analysis of contents and Index (Dublin, 1896), 61. For catalogue details see T. K. Abbott (ed.), Catalogue of the manuscripts in the library of Trinity College, Dublin (Dublin, 1900), MS H.2.16 (1318), pp. 328–37.
  3. Rawlinson B 502, 130b.15. For details see Brian Ó Cuív (ed.), Catalogue of Irish manuscripts in the Bodleian Library at Oxford and Oxford College Library, (Dublin: DIAS, 2001–2003), vol. 1, 163–200: 174, vol. 2, plates 15–21.
  1. Whitley Stokes, Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie 3 (1901) 1–14.
    Secondary literature
  1. Myles Dillon, The Cycles of the Kings (London 1946), 4–11.
  2. Thomas F. O'Rahilly, Early Irish History and Mythology (Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies 1946) 101–17.
  3. Morgan Thomas Davies, 'Protocols of Reading in Early Irish Literature: Notes on some Notes to Orgain Denna Ríg and Amra Coluim Cille.' Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 32 (Winter 1996) 1–23.
    The edition used in the digital edition
  1. Whitley Stokes, The Destruction of Dind Ríg in Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie. Volume 3, Halle/Saale, Max Niemeyer (1901) page 1–14


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Created: Translated by Whitley Stokes (1900)

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Language: [EN] Introduction and translation are in English.
Language: [LA] Some words are in Latin.

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Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition: T302012A

The Destruction of Dind Ríg: Author: [unknown]


The Destruction of Dind Ríg

There are three copies of the following tale of treachery, love, self-devotion, and vengeance, one (LL) in the Book of Leinster, pp. 269, 270 of the lithographic facsimile, another (R) in Rawlinson B. 502; ff. 71, 72, a ms. of the twelfth century in the Bodleian library, and the third (YBL) in the Yellow Book of Lecan, cols. 754-756=pp. 112, 113a of the photolithograph published in 1896. The three copies substantially agree. But LL is slightly fuller than the others, and is therefore made the basis of the following edition. The variae lectiones of R and YBL are given as footnotes.

The tale is now for the first time printed. But it has been noticed, more or less fully, by Keating in his Forus Feasa air Eirinn, Dublin 1811, p. 350, by Conall MaGeoghagan in the Annals of Clonmacnoise, Dublin 1896, pp. 43, 44, by O'Curry, in his Lectures 251, and his Manners etc. III, 242-245, by Prof.Atkinson in the Contents to the Book of Leinster, p. 61, and by Prof. d'Arbois de Jubainville, in his Essai d'un Catalogue de la littérature épique d'Irlande, p. 184. A tale dealing, very differently, with the same subject is preserved as a scholium on the Amra Choluimb chille (YBL. col. 689, Egerton 1782, fo. 9 b), and will be published in the Revue Celtique, tome XX. Keating (ubi supra, pp. 352, 353) abridges this version.

There seems no ground for doubting the actual occurrence of the final incident of our tale, which is thus chronicled by Tigernach ( Rev. Celt. XVI, 378): ‘Cobthach the Meagre of Bregia, son of Ugaine the Great, was burnt, with thirty kings around him, at Dind Ríg of Magh Ailbe, in the palace of Tuaimm Tenbath precisely, by Labraid the Dumb, the Exile, son of Ailill of Áne, son of Loeguire Lorc, in revenge for his father


and grandfather, whom Cobthach the Meagre had killed. Warfare thence between Leinster and Conn's Half’ (i.e. the northern half of Ireland).

This warfare is also referred to in the title contained in R. viz. 'Scelshenchas Lagen inso sis. Orguin Denna rig inso: Bruiden Tuamma Tenbad ainm aile do, & is ed on cetna scel Lagen & tuus a ngliad. 'A legendary story of Leinster this below. This is the Destruction of Dind Ríg.1 The Palace of Tuaimm Tenbad is another name for it, and this is the first tale of the Leinstermen and the commencement of their fighting'.


Whence is the Destruction of Dind Ríg? Easy (to say). Cobthach the Meagre of Bregia, the son of Ugaine the Great, was king of Bregia, but Loegaire Lorc, son of Ugaine, was king of Erin. He, too, was a son of Ugaine the Great. Cobthach was envious towards Loegaire concerning the kingship of Erin, and wasting and grief assailed him, so that his blood and his flesh wasted away. Wherefore he was surnamed the Meagre of Bregia, and Loegaire's murder was brought about.

So Loegaire was called to Cobthach that he might leave him his blessing before he died. Now when Loegaire went in to his brother the leg of a hen's chick is broken on the floor of the house. ‘Unlucky was thine illness’, says Loegaire. ‘This is fitting’, says Cobthach: ‘all has departed, both blood and bone, both life and wealth. Thou hast done me damage, my lad, in breaking the hen's leg. Bring it hither that I may put a bandage round it.’2 ‘Woe is me’, says Loegaire, ‘the man has decay and destruction: he is delivered into neglect.’ ‘Come, tomorrow’, says Cobthach, ‘that my tomb be raised by thee, and that my pillar-stone be planted, my assembly of mourning be held, and my burial-paean be performed; for I shall die swiftly.’ ‘Well’, says Loegaire, ‘it shall be done.’

‘Well, then’, saith Cobthach to his queens and his steward, ‘say ye that I am dead, but let none other know it, and let me be put into my chariot with a razor-knife in my (right) hand. My brother will come to me vehemently, to bewail me, and will throw himself upon me. Mayhap he will get somewhat from me.’

This was true. The chariot is brought out. His brother came to bewail him. He comes and flings himself down upon Cobthach, who plunges the knife into Loegaire at the small of his back, so that its point appeared at the top of his heart, and thus Loegaire died, and was buried in Druim Loegairi.3


Loegaire left a son, even Ailill of Ane. He assumed the kingship of Leinster. The first parricide did not seem enough to Cobthach, so he gave silver to some one who administered a deadly drink to Ailill, and thereof he died.

After that, Cobthach took the realm of Leinster. Now Ailill of Ane had left a son, even Móen Ollam. Now he was dumb until be became a big man. One day, then, in the playground, as he was hurling, a hockey-stick chanced over his shin. ‘This has befallen me!’ says he. ‘Moen labraid’, ("speaks") say the lads. From that time Labraid was his name.

The men of Erin are summoned by Cobthach to partake of the Feast of Tara. Labraid went, like everyone, to partake of it. Now when they were most gloriously consuming the banquet, the eulogists were on the floor, lauding the king and the queens, the princes and the nobles.

‘Well then’, says Cobthach, ‘know ye who is the most hospitable (man) in Erin?’ ‘We know’, says Craiphtine (the Harper), ‘it is Labraid Loingsech, son of Ailill. I went to him in spring, and he killed his only ox for me.’ Says Ferchertne the Poet: ‘Labraid is the most hospitable man we know. I went to him in winter, and he killed his only cow for me, and he possessed nothing but her.’

‘Go ye with him then!’ says Cobthach, ‘since he is more hospitable than I.’ ‘He will not be the worse of this’, says Craiphtine, ‘and thou wilt not be the better.’ ‘Out of Erin with you then’, says Cobthach, ‘so long as thou art alive!’ ‘Unless we find our place (of refuge) in it’, says the lad.

They are then rejected. ‘Whither shall we go?’ says the lad. ‘Westwards’, answered Ferchertne.

So forth they fare to the king of the Men of Morca, the Men of Morca that dwelt about Luachair Dedad in the west. Scoríath is he that was their king.

‘What has brought you?’ asked Scoríath. ‘Our rejection by the king of Erin.’ ‘Ye are welcome’, says Scoríath. ‘Your going or your staying will be the same (to us) so long as I am alive. Ye shall have good comradeship’, says the king.


Scoríath had a daughter, whose name was Moríath. They were guarding her carefully, for no husband fit for her had been found at once. Her mother was keeping her. The mother's two eyes never slept (at the same time), for one of the two was watching her daughter. Howbeit the damsel loved Labraid. There was a plan between her and him. Scoríath held a great feast for the Men of Morca. This is the plan they made — after the drinking, Craiphtine should play the slumber-strain, so that her mother should fall asleep and Labraid should reach the chamber. Now that came to pass. Craiphtine hid not his harp that night, so that the queen fell asleep, and the (loving) couple came together.

Not long afterwards the queen awoke. ‘Rise, O Scoríath!’ says he. ‘Ill is the sleep in which thou art. Thy daughter has a woman's breath. Hearken to her sigh after her lover has gone from her.’

Then Scoríath rose up. ‘Find out who has done this’, quoth he, ‘that he may be put to the sword at once!’ No one knew who had done it. ‘The wizards and the poets shall lose their heads unless they find out who has done it.’ ‘It will be a disgrace to thee’, says Ferchertne, ‘to kill thine own household.’ ‘Then thou thyself shalt lose thy head unless thou tellest.’ ‘Tell’, quoth Labraid: ‘tis enough that I only should be ruined.’4

Then said Ferchertne: ‘The lute hid no music from Craiphtine's harp till he cast a deathsleep on the hosts, so that harmony was spread between Moen and marriageable Moríath 5 of Morca. More to her than any price was Labraid.’ ‘Labraid’ says he, ‘forgathered with her after ye had been lulled by Craiphtine's harp.’ In this he betrayed his companions.

‘Well then’, says Scoríath, ‘until tonight we have not chosen6 a husband for our daughter, because of our love for her. (But) if we had been choosing one, 'tis he whom we have found here. Let drinking take place within’ says the king,


‘and let his wife be put at Labraid's hand. And I will never part from him till he be king of Leinster.’

Then Labraid's wife came to him and sleeps with him.

And thereafter they deliver a hosting of the Munstermen till they reached Dind Ríg (for) the first destruction. And they were unable to destroy it until the warriors outside made a deceptive plan, namely, that Craiphtine should go on the rampart of the fortress to play the slumber-strain to the host within, so that it might be overturned, and that the host outside should put their faces to the ground and their fingers in their ears that they might not hear the playing.

So that was done there, and the men inside fell asleep, and the fortress was captured, and the garrison was slaughtered, and the fortress was sacked.

Now Moríath was on the hosting. She did not deem it honourable to put her fingers into her ears at her own music, so that she lay asleep for three days, no one daring to move her. Whence said Flann Mac Lónain:7 ‘As great Moríath slept before the host of Morca — more than any tale — when Dind Ríg was sacked — course without a fight — when the hole-headed lute played a melody.’

Thereafter Labraid took the realm of Leinster, and he and Cobthach were at peace, and his seat was at Dind Ríg.

Once upon a time, however, when he had taken it, and Cobthach had the full kingship, he induced this Cobthach to do his will and meet his desire. So a house was built by him to receive Cobthach. Passing strong was the house: it was made of iron, both wall and floor and doors.8 A full year were the Leinstermen abuilding it, and father would hide it from son, and mother from daughter, husband from wife, and wife from husband, so that no one heard from another what they were going about, and for whom they were gathering their gear and their fittings. To this refers (the proverb): ‘not more numerous are Leinstermen than (their) secrets.’ Where the house was built was in Dind Ríg.


Then Cobthach was invited to the ale and the feast, and with him went thirty kings of the kings of Erin. Howbeit Cobthach was unable to enter the house until Labraid's mother and his jester went in. This is what the jester chose (as his reward for doing so): the benediction of the Leinstermen, and the freedom of his children forever. Out of goodness to her son the woman went. On that night Labraid himself was managing household matters.

On the morrow he went to play against the lads in the meadow.9 His fosterer saw him. He plies a one-stemmed thorn on Labraid's back and head. ‘Apparently’, saith he, ‘the murder thou hast (to do) is a murder by a boy! Ill for thee, my lad, to invite the king of Erin with thirty kings, and not to be in their presence, meeting their desire.’

Then Labraid dons (his mantle) and goes to them into the house. ‘Ye have fire, and ale and food (brought) into the house.’ ‘Tis meet’, says Cobthach. Nine men had Labraid on the floor of the house. They drag the chain that was out of the door behind them, and cast it on the pillar-stone in front of the house; and the thrice fifty forge-bellows they had around it, with four warriors at each bellows, were blown till the house became hot for the host.10

‘Thy mother is there, O Labraid!’, say the warriors. ‘Nay, my darling son’, says she. ‘Secure thine honour through me, for I shall die at all events.’

So then Cobthach Coel is there destroyed, with seven hundred followers and thirty kings around him, on the eve of great Christmas precisely. Hence is said: Three hundred years — victorious reckoning — before Christ's birth, a holy conception, it was not fraternal, it was evil — (Loegaire) Lorc was slain by Cobthach Coel. Cobthach Coel with thirty kings, Labraid ... slew him (Lugaid). Loegaire's grandson from the main, in Dind Ríg the host was slain.11


And 'tis of this that Ferchertne the poet said: ‘Dind Ríg, which had been Tuaim Tenbath,’ etc. i. e. Máin Ollam he was at first, Labraid Moen afterwards, but Labraid the Exile, since he went into exile, when he gained a realm as far as the Ictian Sea, and brought the many foreigners with him (to Ireland), to wit, two thousand and two hundred foreigners with broad lances in their hands, from which the Laigin (Leinstermen) are so called.

This is the Destruction of Dind Ríg.
Whitley Stokes. Cowes, Isle of Wight.