Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
The History of Ireland (Author: Geoffrey Keating)

Section 36


Know, O reader, that if I were to relate here how Cuchulainn fell by the sons of Cailitin, and Fear Diadh son of Damhan by Cuchulainn, and the death of the seven Maines sons of Oilill Mor and of Meadhbh, and of many other stout heroes who are not mentioned here, a long narrative would be needed concerning them. But if thou wishest to get a lengthy account of them, read Brisleach Mhuighe Muirtheimhne; Oidhidh na gCuradh; or Tain Bo Cuailgne; or Tain Bo Reaghamain; or Deargruathar Chonaill Cheamaigh; or Feis Eamhnan; or Tain Bo Fliodhais; or similar tales which are now to be seen in Ireland; and thou shalt find therein a copious account of the above-mentioned persons and of many other champions and warriors of their history and adventures.

Nevertheless I think I should not omit mention of Curaoi son of Daire here but should set down the cause of his as he was a valiant man, and a contemporary of Conchubhar and of the heroes. Morann Mhanannach was mother of Curaoi son of Daire, as the poet says in this quatrain:

    1. Morann Mhanannach of honour pure,
      Daughter of Ir son of Uinnseach,
      Sister of Eochaidh Eachbheoil was she,
      Mother of Curaoi son of Daire.

There were three orders of champions in Ireland at the same time; and there lived neither before their time nor ever since a body of the sons of Milidh who were bigger, stronger, braver, more skilled, more intrepid on the field of battle, and in exercises of valour and bravery than they; for the Fian of Leinster were not to be compared with them. The first order of these were the champions of the Craobh Ruadh under Conchubhar; the second order the Gamhanruidh of Iorras Domhnonn under Oilill Fionn; and the third order


clanna Deaghaidh under Curaoi son of Daire in west Munster.

It was thus that the death of Curaoi came about. The champions of the Craobh Ruadh went on an expedition to pillage an island in the ocean near Alba called Manainn, where where was much gold and silver and wealth of various kinds, and many precious valuables besides; and the lord of the island had a comely, marriageable daughter who surpased the women of her time in form and beauty. Her name was Blanaid. And when Curaoi heard that the champions were setting out on that expedition, he put on a disguise by magic, and went with the party; and when they were about to plunder the island in the guise of jugglers they apprehended great difficulty in seizing on the dun which was in the island in which was Blanaid, and all the precious valuables of the island, both on account of its strength and of the great skill in magic of those who were defending it. Then Curaoi, who was disguised as a man with a grey cloak, said that if he got his choice of the valuables in the dun he would capture it for them. Cuchulainn promised him this; and thereupon they attacked the dun with the man in the grey cloak at their head. He stopped the magic wheel that was in motion at the door of the fortress, and enabled all to enter; and they plundered the dun, and took from it Blanaid and all the precious valuables it contained. They thence set out for Ireland and reached Eamhain, and as they were dividing the valuables, the man in the grey cloak asked for the valuable he should choose as was promise to him. ‘Thou shalt have it,’ said Cuchulainn. ‘Well, then,’ said he, ‘Blanaid is my choice of the valuables.’ ‘Thou mayst have thy choice of the other valuables excepting only Blanaid.’ ‘I will not accept any but her,’ said the man of the grey coat. Thereupon Curaoi sought an opportunity of carring off Blanaid, and, seizing her unperceived, he bore her off in an enchanted mask. When Cuchulainn noticed that the lady was missing, he concluded that it was


Curaoi who carried her off, and he pursued them by direct route to Munster, and overtook them at Solchoid; and the champions grappled with one another and engaged in strong, valorous wrestling and Cuchulainn was brought to the ground by Curaoi, who inflicted on him the binding of the five smalls, and left him there a bound captive, having cut off his hair with his sword; and, leaving Cuchulainn bound as we have said, he took Blanaid with him to west Munster. But after this Laogh son of Rian of Gabhra came and unbound Cuchulainn; and they proceeded thence to the north of Ulster, and settled down beside Beanna Boirche for a year without coming to a meeting of the men of Ulster until Cuchulainn's hair grew and at the end of that year Chuchulainn happened to be on Beanna Boirche and he saw a large flock of black birds coming southwards from the surface of the ocean; and when they reached land he pursued them, and slew with his sling, by the exercise called taithbheim or ‘return-stroke’, a bird out of each country, till he killed the last black bird of them at Sruibh Broin in west Munster; and as he was returning eastwards, he found Blanaid alone beside Fionnghlaise in Ciarraidhe, where Curaoi's dwelling-fortress stood, at that time. A conversation then took place between them, and she made known to him that there was not on the face of the earth a man loved more than him, and asked him to come on the following Samhain with a full host and carry her off by fraud or force, and that he might the more easily do this, she would bring about that Curaoi should at that time have but few warriors and attendants. Cuchulainn promised to come to fetch her at that time. Thereupon he bade her farewell, and proceeded to Ulster, and gave Conchubhar an account of the incident.

As to Blanaid, she told Curaoi that he ought to build a stone fortress for himself which would excel all the royal fortresses of Ireland, and that the way in which that could be done was to send the clanna Deaghaidh to collect and bring together all the large stones that were standing in Ireland for


the purpose of making a stone fortress for himself. And Blanaid's object in this was that clanna Deaghaidh might be scattered through the distant regions of Ireland far from Curaoi when Cuchulainn should come to carry her off. Now when Cuchulainn heard that clanna Deaghaidh were thus dispersed throughout Ireland, he set out secretly from Ulster with an army, and no tidings are recorded of him till he reached the oak wood that lay beside Curaoi's fortress; and when he arrived there, he sent word privately to Blanaid that he was there with army; and the sign she sent him was that she would steal Curaoi's sword and thereupon pour a vat of new milk that was in the lios into the stream which was flowing from the homestead through the wood in which Cuchulainn was. Not long after he was informed of this token he saw the stream become white from the milk, and with that they attacked the fortress and sprang upon Curaoi in the lios and slew him alone and unarmed as he was. And the river referred to was called Fionnghlaise, through its having become white from the milk.

Curaoi's poet, who was called Feircheirtne, went after Blanaid to Ulster in the hope of getting an opportunity of slaying her to avenge Curaoi; and on reaching Ulster he found Conchubhar and Cuchulainn and Blanaid, with a large assembly round them, at Ceann Beara point; and when the poet saw Blanaid standing there on the brink of a precipice, he went towards, her and twined his arms round her and cast himself and herself suddenly down the precipice, and thus they were both killed.