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

section 28

Then the men of Ireland debated as to whom they should send to fight and do combat with Cú Chulainn at the hour of early morning on the morrow. They all agreed that it should be Calatín Dána with his twenty-seven sons and his grandson Glas mac Delga. Now there was poison on each man of them and poison on each weapon that they carried; none of them ever missed a throw, and anyone whom one of them wounded, if he died not at once, would die before the end of nine days. Great rewards were promised them for this fight and they undertook to engage in it. This agreement was made in the presence of Fergus but he was unable to dispute it; for they said that they counted it as single combat that Calatín Dána and his twenty-seven sons and his grandson Glas mac Delga should all engage in the fight, for they asserted that his son was but one of his limbs and one of his parts and that the issue of his own body belonged to Calatín Dána.

Fergus came forward to his tent and followers and heaved a sigh of weariness. ‘We are sad for the deed to be done to- morrow’ said Fergus. ‘What deed is that?’ asked his followers. ‘The killing of Cú Chulainn’ said he. ‘Alas!’ said they, ‘who kills him?’ ‘Calatín Dána’ said he, ‘with his twenty seven sons and his grandson Glas mac Delga. There is poison on every man of them and poison on each of their weapons, and there is none


{line 2552-2590} whom one of them wounds but dies before the end of nine days if he do not die at once. And there is not man who should go to witness the encounter for me and bring me news if Cú Chulainn should be killed, to whom I would not give my blessing and my gear’. ‘I shall go there’ said Fiachu mac Fir Aba. They remained there that night. Early on the morrow Calatín Dána arose with his twenty-seven sons and his grandson Glas mac Delga, and they advanced to where Cú Chulainn was, and Fiachu mac Fir Aba came too. And when Calatín reached the spot where Cú Chulainn was, they cast at him at once their twenty- nine spears nor did a single spear miss its aim and go past Cú Chulainn. Cú Chulainn performed the "edge-feat" with his shield and all the spears sank half their length into the shield. Not only was that not a misthrow for them but yet not a spear wounded him or drew blood. Then Cú Chulainn drew his sword from its warlike scabbard to lop off the weapons and so to lessen the weight of his shield. While he was so doing, they went towards him and all together they smote his head with their twenty-nine clenched right fists. They belaboured him and forced his head down so that his face and countenance met the gravel and sand of the ford. Cú Chulainn uttered his hero's cry and the shout of one outnumbered and no Ulsterman alive of those who were awake but heard him. Then Fiachu mac Fir Aba came towards him and saw how matters were, and he was filled with emotion on seeing a man of his own folk in danger. He drew his sword from its warlike scabbard and dealt a blow which lopped off their twenty-nine fists at one stroke and they all fell backwards; so intense was their effort, so tight their grip.

Cú Chulainn raised his head and drew his breath and gave a sight of weariness, and then he saw the man who had come to his help. ‘It is timely aid, my fosterbrother’ said Cú Chulainn. ‘Though it be timely aid for you, it will not be so for us, for though you think little of the blow I struck, yet if it be discovered, the three thousand men of the finest of Clann Rudraige that we number in the camp of the men of Ireland will be put to the sword’. ‘I swear’ said Cú Chulainn, ‘now that I have raised my head and drawn my breath, that unless you yourself make it known, not one of those yonder shall tell of it henceforth’. Then Cú Chulainn fell upon them and began to strike them and to cut them down, and he scattered them around him in small pieces and divided quarters, east and west throughout the ford. One of them, Glas mac Delga, escaped by taking to his heels while Cú Chulainn was beheading the rest, and Cú Chulainn rushed after him, and Glas


{line 2591-2623} came round the tent of Ailill and Medb and only managed to say ‘fiach, fiach’ when Cú Chulainn struck him a blow and cut off his head.

‘They made quick work of yon man’ said Medb. ‘What debt did he speak of, Fergus?’ ‘I do not know’ said Fergus, ‘unless perhaps some one in the camp owed him debts and they were on his mind. However’ said Fergus, ‘it is a debt of flesh and blood for him. I swear indeed’ said Fergus, ‘that now all his debts have been paid in full to him’.

Thus fell at Cú Chulainn hands Calatín Dána and his twenty-seven sons and his grandson Glas mac Derga. And there still remains in the bed of the ford the stone around which they fought and struggled and on it the mark of their sword hilts and of their knees and elbows and of the hafts of their spears. And the name of the ford is Fuil Iairn to the west of Áth Fhir Diad. It is called Fuil Iairn because swords were bloodstained there.

Thus far the Encounter with the Sons of Calatín.