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

section 10

Then there rose up a great and valiant warrior of Medb's household, called Nath Crantail, and he came to attack Cú Chulainn. He scorned to bring with him any arms except thrice nine spits of holly which were sharpened, charred and pointed by fire. And Cú Chulainn was on the pond before him.—And as for the pond, it was not safe but there were nine spits fixed in it, and Cú Chulainn used not to miss a single spit of them.—Then Nath Crantail cast a spit at Cú Chulainn. Cú Chulainn stepped on to the upper point of the spit which Nath Crantail had cast. Nath Crantail cast a second spit. He cast a third spit and Cú Chulainn stepped from the tip of the second spit on to the tip of the last spit.

Then the flock of birds flew out of the plain. Cú Chulainn pursued them as swift as any bird, that they might not escape him but might leave him that evening's meal. For what sufficed


{line 1708-1742} and served Cú Chulainn on the Foray of Cúailnge was fish and fowl and venison. However Nath Crantail was sure that Cú Chulainn fled in defeat from him, so he went forward to the door of the tent of Medb and Ailill and lifted up his voice: ‘This famous Cú Chulainn of whom ye speak’ said Nath Crantail, ‘has fled in rout before me just now’. ‘We knew’ said Medb, ‘that that would happen, and that if only goodly heroes and warriors came to meet him, the young and beardless sprite would not withstand resolute men. For when a goodly warrior came to him, he did not hold out against him but was routed by him’. Fergus heard that and he was greatly grieved that any man should taunt Cú Chulainn with having fled. And Fergus told Fiachu mac Fir Aba to go and speak with Cú Chulainn. ‘And tell him that it was seemly for him to attack the hosts as long as he performed deeds of valour upon them but that it were fitter for him to hide himself rather than to flee before a single warrior from among them’. Then Fiachu came to speak with Cú Chulainn. Cú Chulainn bade him welcome. ‘I trust that welcome, but I have come to speak to you from your fosterfather Fergus. He said that it was seemly for you to attack the hosts as long as you did deeds of valour but that it were more fitting for you to hide yourself than to flee before a single man of their warriors’. ‘Why, who among you boasts of that?’ asked Cú Chulainn. ‘Nath Crantail’ said Fiachu. ‘Why, do you not know, you and Fergus and the nobles of Ulster, that I do not wound charioteers or messengers or folk unarmed? No weapons had Nath Crantail, only a wooden spit, and I would not wound him until he had a weapon. Tell him to come to me here early in the morning tomorrow and I shall not flee from him’. It seemed long to Nath Crantail until it was bright day for him to attack Cú Chulainn. Early on the morrow he came to attack him. Cú Chulainn rose early on that day, and a fit of rage came on him, and he angrily cast a fold of his cloak around him so that it wrapped itself round the pillarstone, and he dragged the pillarstone out of the ground between himself and his cloak. And he knew nothing of this because of the greatness of his rage, and he became distorted. Then came Nath Crantail and said: ‘Where is this Cú Chulainn?’ ‘Over yonder’ said Cormac Cond Longas mac Conchobuir. ‘That is not how he appeared to me yesterday’ said Nath Crantail. ‘Then repel yon warrior’ said Cormac ‘and it is the same as if you repelled Cú Chulainn’.


{line 1743-1779}

Then Nath Crantail came and cast his sword at Cú Chulainn, and it struck the pillarstone which was between Cú Chulainn and his cloak, and the sword broke on the pillarstone. Cú Chulainn jumped from the ground to the top of the boss of Nath Crantail's shield and dealt him a return blow past the top of the shield and cut off his head from his trunk. Quickly he raised his hand again and dealt him another blow on the top of the trunk and cut him into two severed parts down to the ground. Thus fell Nath Crantail by the hand of Cú Chulainn. Thereafter Cú Chulainn said:

‘If Nath Crantail has fallen, there will be increase of strife. Alas that battle cannot now be given to Medb with a third of the host!’