Poison-tongue held a great feast for Chonchobar
Mac Nessa and for all the Ulstermen. The
Preparation of the feast took a whole year. For
the entertainment of the guests a spacious house
was built by him. He erected it at Dun Rudraige
after the likeness of the Red Branch in Emain
Macha. Yet it surpassed the buildings of that
period entirely for material, for artistic
design, and for the beauty of architecture-its
pillars and frontings splendid and costly, its
carving and lintel-work famed for magnificence.
The house was made in this fashion: on the plan
of Tara's Mead-Hall, having nine compartments
from fire to wall, each fronting of bronze thirty
feet high, overlaid with gold. IN the fore part
of the palace a royal couch was erected for
Conchobar high above those of the whole house. It
was set with carbuncles and other precious stones
which shone with a luster of gold and silver,
radiant with every hew, making night like day.
Around it were placed the twelve couches of the
twelve tribes of Ulster. The nature of the
workmanship was on a par with the material of the
edifice. It took a wagon team to carry each beam
and the strength of seven Ulstermen to fix each
pole, while thirty of the chief artificers of
Erin were employed on its erection and
a balcony was made by Bricriu on a level with the
couch of Conchobar and as high as those of the
heroes of valor. The decorations of its fittings
were magnificent. Windows of glass were placed on
each side of it, and one of these was above
Bricriu's couch, so that he could view the hall
from his seat, as he knew the Ulstermen would not
allow him within.
Bricriu had finished building the hall and the
balcony, supplying it with both quilts and
blankets, beds and pillows, providing meat and
drink, so that nothing was lacking, neither
furnishings nor food, he straightway went to
Emain Mach to meet Conchobar and the nobles of
fell upon a day when there was a gathering of the
Ulstermen in Emain. He was at once made welcome,
and was seated by the shoulder of Conchobar.
Bricriu addressed himself to him as well as to
the body of Ulstermen. "Come with me,"
said Bricriu, "to partake of a banquet with
rejoined Conchobar, "if that please the men
Mac Roig and the nobles of Ulster made answer,
"No; for if we go our dead will outnumber
our living , when Bricriu has incensed us against
ye come not, worse shall ye fare," said
then," asked Conchobar, "if the
Ulstermen go not with the?"
will stir up strife," said Bricriu,
"between the kings, the leaders, the heroes
of valor, and the yeomen, till they slay one
another, man for man, if they come not to me to
share my feast."
shall we not do to please thee," said
will stir up enmity between father and son so
that it will come to mutual slaughter. If I do
not succeed in doing so, I will make a quarrel
between mother and daughter. If that does not
succeed, I will set each of the Ulster women at
variance, so that they come to deadly blows till
their breasts become loathsome and putrid"
it is better to come," said Fergus.
ye straightway take counsel with the chief
Sencha son of Ailill.
we take counsel against this Bricriu, mischief
will be the consequence," said Conchobar.
all the Ulster nobles assembled in council. In
discussing the matter Sencha counseled them
thus:"Take hostages from Bricriu, since ye
have to go with him, and set eight swordsmen
about him so as to compel him to retire from the
house as soon as he has laid out the feast."
Ferbenn son of Conchobar brought Bricriu their
reply and explained the whole matter.
is happily arranged," said Bricriu.
men of Ulster straightway set out from Emain
Macha, host battalion, and company, under king,
chieftain, and leader. Excellent and admirable
the march of the brave and valiant heroes to the
hostages of the nobles had gone security on his
behalf, and Bricriu accordingly considered how he
should manage to set the Ulstermen at variance.
His deliberation and self-scrutiny being ended,
he betook himself to the presence of Loegaire the
Triumphant son of Connad mac Iliach. "Hail
now, Loegaire the Triumphant, thou mighty mallet
of Brfeg, thou hot hammer of Meath, flame-red
thunderbolt, thou victorious warrior of Ulster,
what hinders the championship of Ulster being
so I choose, it shall be mine," said
thine the sovereignty of the nobles of
Erin," said Bricriu, "if only thou act
as I advise."
will indeed," said Loegaire.
if the Champions's Portion of my house be thine,
the championship of Emain is thine forever. The
Champion's Portion of my house is worth
contesting, for it is not the portion of a fool's
house," said Bricriu. "Belonging to it
is a caldron of full generous wine, with room
enough for three of the valiant heroes of Ulster;
furthermore a seven-year-old boar; nought has
entered its mouth since it was little save fresh
milk and fine meal ins springtime, curds and
sweet milk in summer, the kernel of nuts and
wheat in autumn, beef and broth in winter; a
cow-lord full seven-year-old; since it was a
little calf neither heather nor twig-tops have
passed its lips, nought but sweet milk and herbs,
meadow-hay and corn. Add to this five score cakes
of wheat cooked in honey. Five-and -twenty
bushels, that is what was supplied for these
five-score cakes--four cakes from each bush. Such
is the champions portion of my house. And since
thou art the best hero among the men of Ulster,it
is but just to give it to thee, and so I wish it.
By the end of the day, when the feast is spread
out, let thy charioteer get up, and it is to him
the champion's portion will be given."
them shall be dead men if it is not done
so," said Loegaire. Bricriu laughed at that,
for it pleased him well.
he ad done inciting Loegaire the Triumphant to
enmity, Bricriu went to Conall the Victorious.
"Hail to thee, Conall the Victorious! Thou
art the hero of victories and of combats; great
are the victories thou hast already scored over
the heros of Ulster. By the time the Ulstermen go
into foreign bounds thou art three days and three
nights in advance over many a ford; thou
protectest their rear when returning so that an
assailant may not spring past thee nor through
thee nor over thee; what then should hinder the
Champion's Portion of Emain being thine
always?" Though great his treachery with
regard to Loegaire, he showed twice as much with
Conall the Victorious.
he had satisfied himself with inciting Conall the
Victorious to quarrel, he went to Cu Chulainn.
"Hail to thee, Cu Chulainn! Thou victor of
Breg, thou bright banner of the Liffey, darling
of Emain, beloved of wives and of maidens, for
thee today Cu Chulainn is no nickname, for thou
art the champion of the Ulstermen. Thou wardest
off their great feuds and forays; thou seekest
justice for each man of them; thou attainest
alone to what all the Ulstermen fail in; all the
men of Ulster acknowledge thy bravery, thy valor,
and thy achievements surpassing theirs. What
meaneth therefore thy leaving of the Champion's
Portion for some one else of the men of Ulster,
since no one of the men of Erin is capable of
contesting it against thee?"
the gods of my tribe," said Cu Chulainn,
"his head shall be lose who comes to contest
it with me.". Thereafter Bricriu severed
himself from them and followed the host as if no
contention had been made among the heros.
they entered Bricriu's stronghold, and each one
occupied his couch therein, king, prince, noble,
yeoman, and young hero. The half of the hall was
set apart for Conchobar and his retinue of
valiant Ulster heros; the other half was reserved
for the ladies of Ulster attending on Mugan
daughter of Eochaid Fedlech, wife of Conchobar.
Those who attended on Conchobar were the chief
Ulster warriors with the body of youths and
the feast was being prepared for them, the
musicians and the players performed. The moment
Bricriu spread the feast with its savories he was
ordered by the hostages to leave the hall. The
straightway got up with their drawn swords in
their hands to expel him. Whereupon Bricriu and
his wife went out to the balcony. As he arrived
at the threshold of the stronghold he called out,
"That Champion's Portion, such as it is, is
not the portion of a fool's house; do ye give it
to the Ulster hero ye prefer for valor." And
then he left them.
the waiters got up to serve the food. The
charioteer of Loegaire the Triumphant, that is,
Sedlang mac Riangabra, rose up and said to the
distributors;" Give to Loegaire the
Triumphant the Champion's Portion which is by
you, for he alone is entitled to it before the
other young heros of Ulster."
Id mac Riangabra, charioteer to Conall the
Victorious, got up and spoke to like effect. And
Loeg mac Riangabra spoke as follows:"Bring
it to Cu Chulainn; it is no disgrace for all the
Ulstermen to give it to him; it is he that is
most valiant among you."
not true," said Conall the Victorious and
Loegaire the Triumphant.
got up upon the floor and donned their shields
and seized their swords. The hewed at one another
until half the hall was an atmosphere of fire
with the clash of sword- and spear-edge, the
other half one white sheet from the enamel of the
shields. Great alarm got hold upon the
stronghold; the valiant heros shook; Conchobar
himself and Fergus mac Roig were furious on
seeing the injury and injustice of two men
attacking one, namely Conall the Victorious and
Loegaire the Triumphant attacking Cu Chulainn.
There was no one among the Ulstermen who dared
separate them until Sencha spoke to
Conchobar:"Part the men," said he.
Conchobar and Fergus intervened; the combatants
immediately let drop their hands to their sides.
"Execute my wish," said Sencha.
will shall be obeyed," they responded.
wish, then," said Sencha,"is to-night
to divide the Champion's Portion there among all
the host, and after that to decide with reference
to it according to the will of Ailill mac Matach,
for it is accounted unlucky among the Ulstermen
to close this assembly unless the matter be
adjudged in Cruchan."
feasting was then resumed; they made a circle
about the fire and got drunken and merry.
however, and his queen were in their balcony.
From his couch the condition of the palace was
visible to him, and how things were going on. He
exercised his mind as to how he should contrive
to get the women to quarrel as he had the men.
When Bricriu had done searching his mind, it just
chanced as he could have wished that Fedelm
Fresh-Heart came from the stronghold with fifty
women in her train, in jovial mood. Bricriu
observed her coming past him. "Hail to thee
to-night, wife of Loegaire the Triumphant! Fedelm
Fresh-Heart is no nickname for the with respect
to thy excellence of form and wisdom and of
lineage. Conchobar, king of a province of Erin,
is thy father, Loegaire the Triumphant thy
husband; I should deem it but small honor to thee
that any of the Ulster women should take
precedence of the in entering the
banqueting-hall; only at thy heel should all the
Ulster women tread. If thou comest first into the
hall to-night, the sovereignty of queenship shalt
thou enjoy over all the ladies of Ulster
forever." Fedelm at that takes a leap over
three ridges from the hall.
came Lendabair daughter of Eogan mac Durthacht,
wife of Conall the Victorious. Bricriu addressed
her saying. "Hail to thee, Lendabair! For
thee that is no nickname; thou art the darling
and pet of all mankind on account of thy splendor
and of thy luster. As far as thy husband hath
surpassed al the heros of mankind in valor and in
comeliness, so far hast thou distinguished
thyself above the women of Ulster." Though
great the deceit he applied in the cased of
Fedelm, he applied twice as much in the case of
Emer came out with a half hundred women in her
train.. "Greeting and hail to the. Emer
daughter of Forgall Monach, wife of the best man
in Erin! Emer of the Fair Hair is no nickname for
thee; Erin's kings and princes contented for thee
in jealous rivalry. As the sun surpasseth the
stars of heaven, so far dost thou outshine the
women of the whole world in form and shape and
lineage, in youth and beauty and elegance, in
good name and wisdom and address." Though
great his deceit in the case of the other ladies,
in that of Emer he used thrice as much.
three companies thereupon went out until they met
at a spot three ridges from the hall. None of
them knew that Bricriu had incited them one
against the other. To the hall they straightway
return. Even and easy and graceful their carriage
on he first ridge; scarcely did one of them raise
one foot before the other. But on the ridge
following, their steps were shorter and quicker.
On the ridge next to the house it was with
difficulty each kept up with the other; so they
raised their robes to the rounds of their hips to
complete the attempt to go first into the hall.
For what Bricriu had said to each of them with
regard to the other was that whosoever entered
first should be queen of the whole province. The
amount of confusion then occasioned by the
competition was as it were the noise of fifty
chariots approaching. The whole stronghold shook
and the warriors sprang to their arms and tried
to kill one another within.
cried Sencha; "they are not enemies who have
come; it is Bricriu who has set to quarreling the
women who have gone out. By the gods of my tribe,
unless the door be closed against them, our dead
will outnumber our living." Thereupon the
doorkeepers closed the doors. Emer, the daughter
of Forgal Monach, wife of Cu Chulainn, by reason
of her speed, outran the others and put her back
against the door, and straightway called upon the
doorkeepers before the other ladies came, so that
the men within got up, each of them to open the
door for his own wife that she might be the first
to come in. "Bad outlook tonight," said
Conchobar. He struck the silver scepter that was
in his hand against the bronze pillar of the
couch, and the company sat down.
said Sencha;"it is not a warfare of arms
that shall be held her; it will be a warfare of
words." Each woman went out under the
protection of her husband, and then followed the
"Ulster Women's War of Words
series of rhetorical speeches in which the women
enumerate the virtues of their respective
husbands is omitted.)
Thus did the men in the hall
behave on hearing the laudatory address of the
women- Logarire and Conall each sprang into his
hero's light, and broke a stave of the palace at
a like level with themselves, so that in this way
their wives came in. Cu Chulainn upheaved the
palace just over against his bed, till the stars
of heaven were to be seen from underneath the
wattle. By that opening came his own wife with
half a hundred of her attendants in her train, as
also a hundred in waiting upon the other twain.
Other ladies could not be compared with Emer,
while no one at all was to be likened to Emer's
husband. Thereupon Cu Chulainn let the palace
down until seven feet of the wattle entered the
ground; the whole stronghold shook, and Bricriu's
balcony was laid flat to the earth in such a way
that Bricriu and his queen toppled down until
they fell into the ditch in the middle of the
courtyard among the dogs. "Woe is me,"
cried Bricriu , as he hastily got up,
"enemies have come into the palace." He
took a turn round and saw how it was lop-sided
and inclined entirely to one side. He wrung his
hands, then betook himself within, so bespattered
that none of the Ulstermen could recognize him.
Then from the floor of the house
Bricriu made speech:"Alas! That I have
prepared you a feast, O Ulstermen. My house is
more to me than all my other possessions. Upon
you, therefore, it is taboo to drink, to eat, or
to sleep until you leave my house as you found it
upon your arrival."
Thereupon the valiant Ulstermen
went out of the house and tried to tug it, but
they did not raise it so much that even the wind
could pass between it and the earth. That matter
was a difficulty for the Ulstermen. "I have
no suggestions for you, "said
Sencha,"except that you entreat of him who
left it lop-sided to set it upright."
Whereupon the men of Ulster told
Cu Chulainn to restore the house to its upright
position, and Bricriu made a speech: " O
king of the heros of Erin, if you set it not
straight and erect, none in the world can do
so." All the Ulstermen then entreated Cu
Chulainn to solve the difficulty. That the
banqueters might not be lacking for food or for
ale, Cu Chulainn got up and tried to lift the
house at a tug and failed. A distortion thereupon
got hold of him, whilst a drop of blood was at
the root of each single hair, and he drew his
hair into his head, so that, looked on from
above, his dark-yellow curls seemed as if they
had been shorn with scissors, and taking upon
himself the motion of a millstone he strained
himself until a warrior's foot could could find
room between each pair of ribs.
His natural resources and fiery
vigor returned to him, and he then heaved the
house aloft, and set it so that it reached its
former level. Thereafter the consumption of the
feast was pleasant to them, with the kings and
the chieftains on the one side round about
Conchobar the illustrious, the noble high-king of
Again it was their hap to quarrel
about the Champion's Portion. Conchobar with the
nobles of Ulster interposed with the view of
judging between the heros. "Go to Cu Roi mac
Dairi, the man who will undertake to
intervene," said Conchobar.
"I accept that," said
"I agree," said
"Let us go then," said
Conall the Victorious.
"Let horses be brought and
thy chariot yoked ,O Conall," said Cu
"Woe is me!" cried
"Every one," said Cu
Chulainn, "knows the clumsiness of thy
horses and the unsteadiness of thy going and thy
turnout; thy chariot's movement is most heavy;
each of the two wheels raises turf every way thy
big chariot careers, so that for the space of a
year there is a well-marked track easily
recognized by the warriors of Ulster."
"Dost thou hear that,
Loegaire?" said Conall.
"Woe is me!" said
Loegaire. "But I am not to blame or
reproach. I am nimble at crossing fords, and
more, to breast the storm of spears,
out-stripping the warriors of Ulster. Put not on
me the pretense of kings and champions against
single chariots in strait and difficult places,
in woods and on confines until the champion of a
single chariot tries not to career before
Thereupon Loegaire had his
chariot yoked and he leaped into it. He drove
over the Plain-of -The-Two-Forks, of the Gap-of
-the-Watch, over the Ford of Carpat Fergus, over
the Ford of the Morrigu, to the Rowan Meadow of
the Two Oxen in the Fens of Armagh, by the
Meeting of the Four Ways past Dundalk, across Mag
Silcech, westwards to the slope of Breg. A dim,
dark, heavy mist overtook him, confusing him in
such a way that it was impossible for him to fare
farther. "Let us stay here," said
Loegaire to his charioteer, ":until the mist
clears up." Loegaire alighted from his
chariot, and his gille put the horses into the
meadow that was near at hand.
While there, the gillie saw a
huge giant approaching him. Not beautiful his
appearance: broad of shoulder and fat of mouth,
with sack eyes and a bristly face; ugly,
wrinkled, with bushy eyebrows; hideous and
horrible and strong; stubborn and violent and
haughty; fat and puffing; with big sinews and
strong forearms;bold, audacious, and uncouth. A
shorn black patch of hair on him, a dun covering
about him, a tunic over it to the ball of his
rump; on his feet old tattered brogues, on his
back a ponderous club like the wheel-shaft of a
"Whose horses are these,
gillie?" he asked, as he gazed furiously at
"The horses of Loegaire the
"Yes! A fine fellow is
he!" And as he thus spoke he brought down
his club on the gillie and gave him a blow from
top to toe.
The gillie gave a cry, whereupon
Loegaire came up. "What is this you are
doing to the lad?" asked Loegaire.
"It is by way of penalty for
damage to the meadow," said the giant.
"I will come myself,
then," said Loegaire; and they struggled
together until Loegaire fled to Emain leaving his
horses and gillie and arms.
Not long thereafter Conall the
Victorious took the same way and arrived at the
plain where the druidical mist overtook Loegaire.
The like hideous black, dark cloud overtook
Conall the Victorious, so that he was unable to
see either heaven or earth. Conall thereupon
leapt out and the gillie unharnessed the horses
in the same meadow. Not long thereafter he saw
the same giant coming towards him. He asked him
whose servant he was.
"I am the servant of Conal
the victorious," he said.
"A good man he!" said
the giant, and he raised his hands and gave the
gillie a blow from top to toe. The fellow yelled.
Then came Conall. He and the giant came to close
quarters. Stronger were the wrestling turns of
the giant, and Conall fled, as Loegaire had done,
having left behind his charioteer and his horses,
and came to Emain.
Cu Chulainn then went by the same
way till he came to the same place. The like dark
mist overtook him as fell upon the two
proceeding. Cu Chulainn sprang down, and Loeg
brought the horses into the meadow. He had not
long to wait until he saw the same man coming
towards him. The giant asked him whose servant he
"Servant to Cu
"A good man he!" said
the giant, plying him with the club.
Lowg yelled. Then Cu Chulainn
arrived. He said the giant came to close quarters
and either rained blows upon the other. The giant
was worsted. He forfeited horses and charioteer,
and Cu Chulainn brought along with him his
fellow's horses, charioteers, and accouterments,
till he reached Emain in triumph.
"Thine is the Champion's
Portion", said Bricriu to Cu Chulainn, and
to the others, "well I know from your deeds
that you are in no way on a par with Cu
"Not true, Bricriu,"
said they, "for we know it is one of his
friends from the fairy world that came to him to
play us mischief and coerce us with regard to the
championship. We shall not forgoe our claim on
The men of Ulster, with Conchobar
and Fergus, failed to effect a settlement. And
the conclusion the nobles in Conchobar's
following arrived at was, to accompany the heros
and have the difficulty adjudged at the abode of
Ailill mac Mattach and of Medb of Cruchan Ai with
reference to the Champion's Portion and the
mutual rivalry of the women. Fine and lovely and
majestic the march of the Ulstermen to Cruchan.
Cu Chulainn, however, remained behind the host
entertaining the Ulster ladies, performing nine
feats with apples and nine with knives, in such
wise that one did not interfere with the other.
Loeg mac Riangabra then went to
speak to him in the featstead and said:"You
sorry simpleton, your valor and bravery have
passed away, the Champion's Portion has gone from
you; the Ulstermen have reached Cruchan long
"Indeed we had not at al
perceived it, my Loeg. Yoke us the chariot,
then," said Cu Chulainn. Loeg accordingly
yoked it and off they started . By that time the
Ulstermen had reached Mag Breg, Cu Chulainn,
having been incited by his charioteer, traveled
with such speed from Dun Rudraige, the Grey of
Macha and the Black Sainglenn racing with his
chariot across the whole province of Conchobar,
across Sliab Fuait, and across Mag Breg, that the
third chariot arrived first in Cruchan.
In virtue then of the swiftness
and impetuous speed with which all the valiant
Ulstermen reached Cruchan under the lead of
Conchobar and the body of chiefs, a great shaking
seized Cruchan, till the war-arms fell from the
walls to the ground, seizing likewise the entire
host of the stronghold,. Till the men in the
royal keep were like rushes in a stream. Medb
thereupon spoke:" Since the day I took up
home in Cruchan I have never heard thunder, there
being no clouds." Thereupon Finnabair,
daughter of Ailill and Medb, went to the balcony
over the high porch of the stronghold.
"Mother dear," said she, "I see a
chariot coming along the plain."
"Describe it," said
Medg, "its form, appearance, and style; the
color of the horses; how the hero looks, and how
the chariot courses."
(Here follows a
conventional description in highly embroidered
rhetoric of the chariots and personal appearance
of Loegaire and Conall. This, as well as the
description of Cu Chulainn's chariot, is omitted.
The narrative is resumed with the description of
Cu Chulainn himself, long famous with Gaelic
literary men and professional story tellers.)
" In the chariot a dark,
melancholy man comeliest of the men of Erin.
Around him a soft crimson pleasing tunic fastened
across the breast, where it stands open, with a
salmon-brooch of inlaid gold, against which his
bosom heaves, beating in full strokes. A
long-sleeved linen kirtle with a white hood,
embroidered red with flaming gold. Set in each of
his eyes eight red dragon gem-stones. His two
cheeks blue-white and blood-red. He emits sparks
of fire and burning breath, with a ray of love in
his look. A shower of pearls, it seems, has
fallen into his mouth. Each of his two eyebrows
as black as the side of a black spit. ON his two
thighs rests a golden-hilted sword and fastened
to the copper frame of the chariot is a blood-red
spear with a sharp mettlesome blade on a shaft of
wood well fitted to his hand. Over both his
shoulders a crimson shield with a rim of silver,
chased with figures of animals in gold. He leaps
the hero's salmon-leap into the air and does many
like swift feats besides. Such is the chief of a
chariot-royal. Before him in that chariot is a
charioteer, a very slender, tall, much freckled
man. On his head very curled bright-red hair
,with a fillet of bronze upon his brow which
prevents the hair from falling over his face. On
both sides of his head patins of gold confine the
hair. A shoulder-mantle about him with sleeves
opening at the two elbows, and in his hand a goad
of red gold with which he guides the horses.
it is a drop before a shower; we
recognize the man from his
fury, a whale that rages, a fragment of
flame and fire;
majestic, a grandly moving billow,
A beast in
crash of glorious battle
the hostile foe he leaps,
the fury of doom;
bear, he is death to the heard of cattle:
feat, head upon head he piles.
the hearty one he who is completely
malt is ground in the mill shall we be
ground by Cu Chulainn.
"By the god of my
people," said Medb, "I swear if it be
in fury Cu Chulainn comes to us, like as a mill
of ten spokes grinds very hard malt, so he alone
will grind us into mould and gravel, should the
whole province attend on us in Cruchan, unless
his fury and violence are subdued."
"How do they come this
time"" said Medb.
wrist and palm to palm,
tunic they advance,
shield and frame to frame.
wood and ear to ear,
are all, fond mother,
when crashing on the roof,
the chargers dash,
seas which storms are shaking,
in turn they pound;
vibrates as they strike
strength and weight are like an like.
meet them, and many half naked,
and bare and beautiful, numerous:
of cold water where wanting, beds ready
bring forth, and not scanty but
and sound and well malted, warriors'
gates of the stronghold be set open, open
battalion that is rushing on won't kill
us, I hope.
Thereupon Medb went out by the
high door of the palace into the court, thrice
fifty maidens in her train, with three vats of
cold water for the three valiant heros in front
of the hosts, in order to alleviate their heat.
Choice was straightaway give n them so as to
ascertain whether a house apiece should be
allotted them or one house among the three.
"To each a house apart," said Cu
Chulainn. Thereafter such as they preferred of
the thrice fifty girls were brought into the
house, fitted up with beds of surprising
magnificence. Finnabair in preference to any
other was brought by Cu Chulainn into the
apartment where he himself was. On the arrival of
the Ulstermen, Ailill and Medb with their whole
household went and bade them welcome. "We
are pleased," said Sencha son of Ailill,
Thereupon the Ulstermen came into
the stronghold , and the palace is left to them
as recounted, viz, seven circles and seven
compartments from fire to partition, with bronze
frontings and carvings of red yew. Three stripes
of bronze in the arching of the house, which was
of oak, with a covering of shingles. It had
twelve windows with glass in the openings. The
couch of Ailill and Medb in the center of the
house, with silver frontings and stripes of
bronze round it, with a silver wand by the
partition facing Ailill, that would reach the mid
hips of the house so as to check the inmates
unceasingly. The Ulster heros went round from one
door of the palace to the other, and the
musicians played while the guests were being
prepared for. Such was the spaciousness of the
house that it had room for the hosts of valiant
heros of the whole province in the retinue of
Conchobar. Moreover, Conchobar and Fergous mac
Roig were in Ailill's apartment with nine valiant
Ulster heros besides. Great feasts were then
prepared for them and they were there until the
end of three days and three nights.
Thereafter Ailill inquired of
Conchobar with his Ulster retinue what was the
purpose of the visit. Sencha related the matter
on account of which they had come, vix, the three
hero's rivalry as to the Champion's Portion, and
the lady's rivalry as to precedence at
feasts--" they could not stand being judged
anywhere else than here by thee." At that
Ailill was silent and was not in a happy mood.
"Indeed," said he, "it is not to
me this decision should be given as to the
Champion's Portion, unless it be done from
"There is really no better
judge," said Sencha.
"Well," said Ailill,
"I require time to consider. For that then
thee days and three nights suffice for me,"
"That would not forfeit
friendship," answered Sencha.
The Ulstermen straightway bade
farewell; being satisfied, they left their
blessing with Ailill and Medb and their curse
with Bricriu for it was he who had incited them
into strife. They then departed from the
territory of Medb, having left Loegaire and
Conall and Cu Chulainn to be judged by Ailill.
The like supper as before was given to each on
the heroes every night.
One night as their portion was
assigned to them , three cats from the cave of
Crucan were let loose to attack them ,that is,
three beasts of magic. Conall and Loegaire made
for the rafters, leaving their food with the
beasts. In that wise they slept until the morrow.
Cu Chulainn fled not from the beast which was
attacking him. When it stretched its neck out for
eating, Cu Chulainn gave a blow with his sword on
the beast's head, but the blade glided off as it
were from stone. Then the cat set itself down.
Under the circumstances Cu Chulainn neither ate
nor slept, but he kept his place. As soon as it
was early morning the cats were gone. In such
condition were the three heros seen on the
"Does not that trial suffice
for adjudging you?" asked Ailill.
"By no means,"[ said
Conall and Loegaire, "it is not against
beasts we are striving but against men."
Ailill, having gone to his
chamber, set his back against the wall. He was
disquieted in mind, for he took the difficulty
that faced him to be fraught with danger. He
neither ate nor slept till the end of three days
and three nights. "Coward!" Medbh then
called him; "if you do not decide, I
"Difficult for me to judge
them," Ailill said; "it is a misfortune
for one to have to do it"
"There is no
difficulty," said Medb, "for Loegaire
and Conall Cernach are as different as bronze and
white bronze; and Conall Cernach are Cu Chulainn
are as different as white bronze and red
It was then, after she had
pondered her advice, that Loegaire the Triumphant
was summoned to Medb. "Welcome O Loegaire
the Triumphant," said she; it is meet to
give thee the Champion's Portion. We assign to
the sovereignty of the heros of Erin from this
time forth, and the Champion's Portion, and a cup
of bronze with a bird chased in silver on its
bottom. In preference to every one else, take it
with the as a token of award. No one else is to
see it until, at the day's end, thou hast come to
the Red Branch of Conchobar. ON the Champion's
Portion being exhibited among you, then shalt
thou bring forth thy cup in the presence of all
the Ulster nobles. Moreover, the Champion's
portion is therein. None of the valiant Ulster
Heros will dispute it further with thee. For the
thing thou art to take away with thee shall be a
token of genuineness in the estimation of all the
Ulstermen." Thereupon the cup with its full
of luscious wine was given to Loegaire the
Triumphant. On the floor of the palace he
swallowed the contents at a draught. "Now
you have the feast of a champion," said
Medb; I wish you may enjoy it a hundred years at
the head of all Ulster."
Loegaire thereupon bade farewell.
Then Conall Cernach was likewise summoned to the
royal presence. "Welcome," said Medb,
"O Conall Cernach; proper it is to give thee
the Champion's Portion, with a cup of white
bronze besides, having a bird on the bottom of it
chased in gold." Thereafter the cup was
given to Conall with its full of luscious wine.
Conall bade farewell. A herald
was then sent to fetch Cu Chulainn. "Come to
speak with the king and queen" said the
messenger. Cu Chulainn at the time was busy
playing chess with Loeg mac Riangabra, his own
charioteer. "No mocking!" he
said;"you might try your lies on some other
fool." He hurled one of the chessmen, and it
pierced the center of the herald's brain. He got
his eat blow therefrom, and fell between Ailill
"Woe is me ," said
Medb; "sorely doth Cu Chulainn work on us
his fury when his fit of rage is upon him."
Whereupon Medb got up and came to Cu c and put
her two arms round his neck.
"Try a lie upon
another," said Cu Chulainn.
"Glorious son of the
Ulstermen and flame of the heros of Erin, it is
no lie that is to our liking where thou art
concerned. Were all Erin's heroes to come, to
thee by preference would we grant the quest, for,
in regard to fame, bravery, and valor,
distinction, youth, and glory, the men of Erin
acknowledge thy superiority."
Cu Chulainn got up. He
accompanied Medb into the palace, and Ailill bade
him a warm welcome. A cup of gold was given him
full of luscious wine, and having on the bottom
of it birds chased in precious stone. With it, in
preference to every one else their was given him
a lump as big as his two eyes, of dragonstone.
"Now you have the feast of a champion,"
said Medb. " I wish you may enjoy it a
hundred years at the head of all the Ulster
heros." "Moreover, it is our
verdict," said Ailill and Medb,
"inasmuch as thou art not to be compared
with the Ulster warriors, neither is thy wife to
be compared with their women. Nor is it too much
,we think, that she should always precede all the
Ulster ladies when entering the Meade Hall. At
that Cu Chulainn drank at one draught the full of
the cup, and then bade farewell to the king,
queen and the whole household.
Thereafter he followed his
charioteer. "My plan." Said Medb to
Ailill, "is to keep those three heros with
us again to-night, and to test them
"Do as thou deemest
right," said Ailill. The men were then
detained and brought to Cruchan and their horses
Their choice of food was given
them for their horses. Conall and Loegarire told
them to give oats two years old to theirs. But Cu
Chulainn chose barley grains for his. They slept
there that night. The women were apportioned
among them. Finnabair, with a train of fifty
damsels, was brought to the place of Cu Chulainn.
Sadb the Elequent, another daughter of Ailill and
Medb, with fifty maids in attendance was ushered
into the presence of Conall Cernach. Concend,
daughter of Cet mac Matach, with fifty damsels
along with her, was brought into the presence of
Logaire the Triumphant. Moreover, Medb herself
was accustomed to visit the couch of Cu Chulainn.
They slept there that night.
On the morrow they arose early in
the morning and went to the house where the
youths were performing the wheel-feat. Then
Loegaire seized the wheel until it reached half
up the sidewall. Upon that the youths laughed and
cheered him. It was in reality a jeer, but it
seemed to Loegaire as shout of applause. Conall
then took the wheel. It was on the ground. He
tossed it as high as the ridge-pole of the all.
The youths raised a shout at that. It seemed to
Conall that it was a shout of applause and
victory. To the youths it was a shout of scorn.
Then Cu Chulainn took the wheel- it was in
mid-air he caught it. He hurled it aloft till it
cast the ridge-pole from off the hall; the wheel
went a man's cubit into the ground in the outside
enclosure. The youths raised a shout of applause
and triumph in Cu Chulainn's ease. It seemed to
Cu Chulainn, however, it was a laugh of scorn and
ridicule they then gave vent to.
Cu Chulainn then sought out the
womenfolk and took thrice fifty needles from
them. These he tossed up one after the other.
Each needle went into the eye of another, till in
that wise they were joined together. He returned
to the women, and gave each her own needle into
her own hand. The young warriors praised Cu
Chulainn. Whereapon they bade farewell to the
king, the queen, and the household as well.
On the arrival of Loegaire,
Conall, and Cu Chulainn at Emain Macha, the heros
of Ulster ceased their discussions and their
babblings and fell to eating and enjoying
themselves. It was Sualtam mac Roig, father of Cu
Chulainn himself, who that night attended upon
the Ulstermen. Moreover, Conchobar's ladder-vat
was filled for them. Their portion having been
brought into their presence, the waiters began to
serve, but at the outset they withheld the
Champion's portion from distribution. "Why
not give the Champion's Portion." Said
Dubtrach Chafertongue, "to some one of the
heros; those three have not returned from the
King of Cruchan, bringing no sure token with
them, whereby the Champion's Portion may be
assigned to one of them."
Thereupon Loegaire the Triumphant
got up and lifted on high the bronze cup having
the silver bird chased on the bottom. "The
Champion's Portion is mine," said he,
"and none may contest it with me."
"It is not," said
Conall Cernach. "Not alike are the tokens we
brought off with us. Yours is a cup of bronze,
whereas mine is a cup of white bronze. From the
difference between them the Champion's Portion
clearly belongs to me."
" it belongs to neither of
you,"said Cu Chulainn as he got up and
spoke. "You have brought me no token that
procures you the Champion's Portion. Yet the king
and the queen whom you visited were loath in the
thick of distress to intensify the strife. But no
less than your deserts have you received at their
The Champion's Portion remains
with me, seeing I have brought a token
distinguished above the rest."
He then lifted on high a cup of
red gold having a bird chased on the bottom of it
in precious dragon-stone, the size of his two
eyes. All the Ulster nobles in the train of
Conchobar mac Nessa saw it. "There fore it
is I," he said, "who deserve the
Champion's Portion, provided I have fair
"To thee we all award
it," said Conchobar and Fergus and the
Ulster nobles as well. "By he verdict of
Ailill and Mebh the Champion's Portion is
point there is introduced a short episode in
which the three competitors go to be tested by a
strange personage called Ereol. The scene then
shifts to the banqueting hall of Conchobar.)
"I swear by my people'
s god," said Loegaire the
Triumphant and Conall the Victorious, "that
the cup you have brought is purchased. Of the
jewels and the treasures in your possession you
have given to Ailill and Medb for it in order
that a defeat might not be on record against you,
and that the Champion's Portion might be given to
no one else by preference. By my people's god,
that judgment shall not stand; the Champion's
Portion shall not be yours."
They then sprang up one after the
other, their swords drawn. Straightway Conchobar
and Fergus entered, whereupon they let down their
hands and sheathed their swords.
"Hold!" said Sencha,
" do as I bid."
"We will," they said
(The heroes are
then sent to Budi mac m-Bain (Yellow son of
Fair),and by him to Uath mac Imomain (Terror son
of Great Fear). The episode of Uath consists of a
short version of the beheading incident which is
recited in more detail later in the part called
The Champions Covenant)
The Ulstermen advised them to go
to Cu Roi for judgment. To that too they agreed.
On the morning of the morrow the
three heros-Cu Chulainn, Conall, and Loegaire-set
of to Cu Roi's stronghold,(Cathair Con Roi). They
unyoked their chariots at the gate of the hold,
then entered the court. Whereupon Blathnat,
Minn's daughter, wife of Cu Roi mac Dairi, bade
them a warm welcome. That night on their arrival
Cu Roi was not at home, but knowing they would
come, he counseled his wife regarding the heros
until he should return from his Eastern
expedition into Scythia. From the age of seven
years, when he took up arms, until his death, Cu
Roi had not reddened his sword in Erin ,nor ever
had the food of Erin passed his lips. Nor could
Erin retain him for his haughtiness, renown, and
rank, overbearing fury, strength, and gallantry.
His wife acted according to his wish in the
matter of bathing and washing, providing them
with refreshing drinks and beds most excellent.
And they liked it well.
When bedtime was come, she told
them that each was to take his night watching the
fort until Cu Roi should return. "And,
moreover, thus said Cu Roi, that you take your
turn watching according to seniority." In
whatsoever quarter of the globe Cu Roi should
happen to be, every night be chanted a spell over
his stronghold, so that the fort revolved as
swiftly as a mill-stone. The entrance was never
to be found after sunset.
The first night, Loegaire the
Triumphant took the watch, inasmuch as he was the
eldest of the three. As he kept watch into the
later part of the night, he saw a giant
approaching him as far as his eyes could see from
the sea westwards. Exceedingly huge and ugly and
horrible Loegaire thought him, for in height, it
seemed to him, he reached the sky, and the
reflection of the sea was visible between his
legs. Thus did he come, his hands full of
stripped oaks, each of which would form a burden
for a wagon team of six, at whose root not a
stroke had been repeated after a single
sword-stroke. One of the stakes he cast at
Loegaire, who let it pass him. Twice or thrice he
repeated it, but the stroke reached neither the
skin nor the shield of Loegaire. Then Loegaire
hurled a spear at him but it did not hit him.
The giant stretched his hand
toward Loegaire. Such was its length that it
reached across the three ridges that were between
them as they were throwing at each other, and
thus in his grasp the giant seized him. Though
Logaire was big and imposing, he fitted like a
year-old child into the clutch of his opponent,
who then ground him between his two palms as a
chessman is turned in a groove. In that state,
half dead, the giant tossed him out over the
fort, so that he fell into the more of the ditch
at the gate. The fort had no opening there, and
the other men and inmates of the hold though
Loegaire had leapt outside over the fort, as a
challenge for the other men to do likewise.
There they were until the day's
end. When the night-watch began, Conall went out
as sentry, for he was older than Cu Chulainn.
Everything occurred as it did to Logaire the
The third night Cu Chulainn went
out on watch. That night the three Greys of
Sescind Uarbell, the three Ox-feeders of Breg,
and the three sons of Big-fist the Siren met by
appointment to plunder the stronghold. This too
was the night of which it was foretold that the
Spirit of the Lake by the fort would devour the
whole population of the hold, man and beast.
Cu Chulainn, while watching
through the night, and many uneasy forebodings.
When midnight came he heard a terrific noise
drawing near to him. "Holloa,holloa,"
Cu Chulain shouted,"who is there? If friends
they be, let them not stir; if foes, let them
flee." Then they raised a terrific shout at
him. Whereupon Cu Chulainn sprang upon them, so
that the nine of them fell dead to the earth. He
heaped their heads in disorder into the seat of
watching and resumed his post. Another nine
shouted at him in like manner he killed three
nines, making one cairn of them, heads and
While he was there far on into
the night, tired and sad and weary, he heard the
rising of the lake on high as If it were the
booming of a very heavy sea. However deep his
dejection he could not resist going to see what
caused the great noise he heard. He then
perceived the upheaving monster, and it seemed to
him to be thirty cubits in curvature above the
loch. It raised itself on high into the air and
sprang towards the fort, opening its mouth so
that one of the halls could go into its gullet.
Then Cu Chulainn called to mind
his swooping feat, sprang on high and was as
swift as a winnowing riddle right round the
monster. He entwined his two arms about its neck,
stretched his hand into its gullet, tore out the
monster's heart, and cast it from him on the
ground. Then the beast fell from the air and
rested on the earth, after having sustained a
blow on the shoulder. Cu Chulainn then plied it
with his sword hacked it to bits, and took the
head with him into the sentry-seat along with the
other heap of skulls.
While there, depressed and
miserable in the morning dawn, he saw the giant
approaching him westwards from the sea. "Bad
night," says he.
"It will be worse for thee,
thou oaf," said Cu Chulainn. Then the giant
cast one of the branches at Cu Chulainn, who let
it pass him. He repeated it twice or thrice, but
it reached neither the skin nor the shield of Cu
Chulainn. Cu Chulainn then hurled his spear at
the giant, but it did not reach him. Whereupon
the giant stretched out his hand towards Cu
Chulainn to grip him as he had the others. Cu
Chulainn leapt the hero's salmon-leap and called
to mind his swooping feat with the sword drawn
over the giant's head. As swift as a hare he was,
and in mid-air circling round the giant, until he
made a water-wheel of him.
"Life for life, O Cu
Chulainn," he said
"Give me my three
wishes," said Cu Chulainn.
"Thou shalt have them as
they come at a breath," he said.
The sovereignty of Erin's heroes
be henceforth mine,
The Champion's Portion without
The precedence to my wife over
the Ulster ladies forever.
"It shall be thine," he
said at once. Then he who had been talking with
Cu Chulainn vanished, he knew not whither.
Then Cu Chulainn mused to himself
as to the leap of his fellows had lept over the
fort, for their leap was big and broad and high.
Moreover, it seemed to him that it was by leaping
that the valiant heroes had gone over it. He
tried it twice and failed. "Alas!" said
Cu Chulainn, "my exertions for the
Champion's Portion have exhausted me, and now I
loose it through not being able to take the leap
the others took." As thus he mused, he
assayed the following feats: he would spring
backwards in mid-air a shot's distance from the
fort, and then he would rebound from there until
his forehead struck the fort. Then he would
spring on high until all that was within the fort
was visible to him, and again he would sink up to
his knees in the earth owing to the pressure of
his vehemence and violence. At another time he
would not take the dew from off the tip of the
grass by reason of his buoyancy of mood,
vehemence of nature, and heroic valor. What with
the fit and fury that raged upon him he stepped
over the fort outside and alighted at the door of
the hall. His two foot prints are in the flag on
the floor of the hold at the spot where the royal
entrance was. Thereafter he entered the house and
heaved a sigh.
Then Minn's daughter, Blathnat,
wife of Cu Roi, spoke:"Truly not the sigh of
one dishonored, but a victor's sigh of
triumph." The daughter of the king of the
Isle of he Men of Falga (ie. Blathnat) new full
well of Cu Chulainn's evil plight that night.
They were not long there when they beheld Cu Roi
coming towards them carrying into the house the
standard of the three nines slain by Cu Chulainn,
along with their heads and that of the monster.
He put the heads from off his breast onto the
floor of the stead and spoke:" The gillie
whose one night's trophies are these is a fit lad
to watch the king's stronghold forever. The
Champion's Portion, over which you have fallen
out with the gallant youths of Erin, truly
belongs to Cu Chulainn. The bravest of them, were
he here, could not match him in number of
Cu Roi's verdict upon them was:
The Champion's Portion to be Cu
With the sovereignty of valor
over all the gael,
And to his wife the precedence on
entering the Mead Hall before all the ladies of
And the value of seven
bond-maidens in gold and silver Cu Roi gave to Cu
Chulainn in reward for his one night's
performance. The tree heroes of Ulster
straightway bade Cu Roi farewell and kept on
until they were seated in Emain Macha before the
day closed. When the waiters came to deal and
divide, they took the Champion's Portion with its
share of ale out of the distribution that they
might have it apart. "Indeed, sure are
we,"said Dubtach Chafertongue, "you
think not tonight of contending for the
Champion's Portion. Perhaps the man you sought
out has undertaken to pass judgment.."
Whereupon said the other folk to
Cu Chulainn, "The Champion's Portion was not
assigned to one of you in preference to the
other. As to Cu Roi's judgment upon these three,
not a whit did he concede to Cu Chulainn upon
their arriving at Emain." Cu Chulainn then
declared that he by no means coveted the winning
of it; for the loss thence resulting to the
winner would be on a par with the profit got from
it. The championship was therefore not fully
assigned until the advent of the Champion's
Covenant in Emain which follows.
One day as the Ulstermen were in
Emain Macha, fatigued after the gathering and the
games, Conchobar and Fergus mac Roig, with the
Ulster nobles as well, proceeded from the playing
field outside and seated themselves in the Red
Branch of Conchobar. Neither Cu Chulainn nor
Conall the Victorious nor Loegaire the Triumphant
were there that night. But the hosts of Ulster's
heros were there. As they were seated , it being
eventide, and the day drawing toward the close,
they saw a big uncouth fellow of exceeding
ugliness drawing nigh them into the hall. To them
it seemed as if none of the Ulstermen would reach
half his height. Horrible and ugly was the
carle's disguise. Next his skin he wore an old
hide with a dark dun mantle around him, and over
him a great spreading club-tree branch the size
of a winter-shed under which thirty bullocks
could find shelter. Ravenous yellow eyes he had,
protruding from his head, each of the twain the
size of an ox-vat. Each finger was as thick as a
person's wrist. In his left hand he carried a
stock, a burden for twenty yoke of oxen. In his
right hand was an axe weighing thrice fifty
glowing molten masses of metal. Its handle would
require a yoke of six to move it. Its sharpness
such that it would lop off hairs, the wind
blowing them against its edge.
In that guise he went and stood
by the fork-beam beside the fire. "Is the
hall lacking in room for you," said Dubtach
Chafertongue to the uncouth clodhopper
(bachlach), "that ye find no other place
than by the fork-beam, unless ye wish to be an
illumination to the house?- only sooner will a
blaze be to the house than brightness to the
"Whatever property may be
mine, you will agree that no matter how big I am
the household will be lighted, while the hall
will not be burned. That, however, is not my sole
function; I have others as well. But neither in
Erin nor in Alba nor in Europe nor in Africa nor
in Asia, including Greece, Scythia, the Isles of
Gades, the Pillars of Hercules, and Bregon's
Tower have I accomplished the quest on which I
have come, nor a man to do me fair play regarding
it. Since ye Ulstermen have excelled all the
peoples of those lands in strength, powness and
valor; in rank, magnanimity, and dignity; in
truth, generosity, and worth, get one among you
to rant the boon I ask."
"In truth it is not just
that the honor of a province be carried
off," said Fergus mac Roig," because of
one man who fails in keeping his word of honor.
Death certainly is not a whit nearer to him than
"It is not I that shun
"Make thy quest known to us,
then," said Fergus.
"Only if fair play is
offered me will I tell it."
"It is right to give fair
play," said Sencha son of Ailill,"for
it is not seemly for a great people to break a
mutual covenant over an unknown individual. It
seems to us, furthermore, that if you at last
find a person such as you seek, you will find him
"Conchobar I put
aside," said he, "for the sake of his
sovereignty, and Fergus mac Roig also on account
of his like privilege. These two excepted, come
whosoever of you that may dare, that I may cut
off his head tonight, he mine tomorrow
"Sure then there is no
warrior here," said Dubtach, "after
"By my troth there will be
at this moment," cried Munremur mac Gerrcind
as he sprung on to the floor of the hall. The
strength of Munremur was as the strength of a
hundred warriors, each arm having the might of a
hundred "centaurs." "Bend down,
bachlach," said Munremur,"that I may
cut off thy head tonight, thou to cut off mine
"Were that the object of my
quest I could get it anywhere." Said the
bachlach; "let us act according to our
covenant-I to cut off your head tonight, you to
avenge it tomorrow night."
"By my people's gods,"
said Dubtach Chafertongue, "death is thus
for thee no pleasant prospect, should the man
killed tonight attack thee on the morrow. It is
given to thee alone if thou hast the power, being
killed night after night, and to avenge it the
"Truly I will carry out what
you all as a body agree upon by way of counsel,
strange as it may seem to you," said the
bachlach. He then pledged the other to keep his
troth in the contention as to fulfilling his
tryst on the morrow.
With that Munremur took the axe
from the ballach's hand. Seve feet apart were its
two angles. Then the bachlach put his neck across
the block. Munremur dealt a blow across it with
the axe until it stood in the block beneath,
cutting off the head so that it lay by the base
of the fork-beam, the house being filled with
Straightway the bachlach rose,
recovered himself, clasped his head, block, and
axe to his breast, and mad his exit from the hall
with the blood streaming from his neck. It filled
the Red Branch on every side. Great was the
people/s horror, wondering at the marvel that had
appeared to them. "By my people's
gods," said Dubtach c, "if the
bachlach, having been killed tonight, come back
tomorrow, he will not leave a man alive in
The following night he returned,
and Munremur shirked him. Then the bachlach began
to urge his pact with Munremur. "Truly it is
not right for Munremur not to fulfill his
covenant with me." That night, however
Loegaire the Triumphant was present. "Who of
the warriors that contest Ulster's Champion's
Portion will carry out a covenant with me
tonight? Where is Loegaire the Triumphant?"
"Here," said Loegaire.
He pledged him, too, yet Loegaire did not keep
his agreement. The bachlach returned on the
morrow and similarly pledged Conall Cernach, who
came not as he had sworn.
The fourth night the bachlach
returned, and fierce and furious was he. All the
ladies of Ulster came that night to see the
strange marvel that had come to the Red Branch.
That night Cu Chulainn was there also. Then the
bachlach began to upbraid them. "Ye men of
Ulster, your valor and your prowess are gone.
Your warriors greatly covet the Champion's
portion, yet are unable to contest it. Where is
the mad fellow called Cu Chulainn? I would like
to know whether his word is better than the
"No covenant do I desire
with you," said Cu Chulainn.
"Likely is that, thou
wretched fly; greatly dost thou fear to
die." Whreupon Cu Chulainn sprang towards
him and dealt him a blow with the axe, hurling
his head to the top rafter of the Red Branch
until the whole hall shook. Cu Chulainn then
again caught up the head and gave it a blow with
the axe and smashed it. Thereafter the bachlach
On the morrow the Ulstermen were
watching Cu Chulainn to see whether he would
shirk the bachlach as the other heros had done.
As Cu Chulainn was awaiting the bachlach, they
saw that great dejection seized him. It would
have been fitting had they sung his dirge. They
felt sure that his life would last only until the
bachlach came. Then said Cu Chulainn with shame
to Conchobar, "Thou shalt not go until my
pledge to the bachlach is fulfilled; for dealt
awaits me, and I would rather have death with
They were there as the day was
closing and they saw the bachlach approaching.
"Where is Cu Chulainn"" said he.
"Here I am," he
"Thou art dull of speech
tonight, unhappy one; greatly you fear to die.
Yet, though great your fear, death you have not
Thereafter Cu Chulainn stretched
his neck across the block which was of such size
that his neck reached but half way. "Stretch
out thy neck, thou wretch," cried the
"Thou art keeping me in
torment," said Cu Chulainn, "dispatch
me quickly. Last night, by my troth, I tormented
thee not. Verily I swear that if thou torment me
I will make myself as long as a crane above
"I cannot slay thee,"
said the bachlach," what with the shortness
of your neck and your side and the size of the
Then Cu Chulainn stretched out
his neck so that a warrior's foot would have
fitted between any two of his ribs; his neck he
stretched until his head reached the other side
of the block. The bachlach raised his axe until
it reached the roof-tree of he house. The
creaking of the old hide that was about him and
the crashing of the axe-both his arms being
raised aloft with all his might- were as the loud
noise of a wood tempest-tossed in a night of
storm. Down it came then on his neck- its blunt
side below, all the nobles of Ulster gazing upon
Henderson, Fled Bricrend (ITS II)
Lebor na hUidre: Book of the Dun Cow, ed R.I Best
and Osbern Bergin (Dublin, 1929), pp.246-277.
Best,Ricahard I., Bibliography of Irish Philogy,
I (Dublin, 1913, II (1942),I 90-91; II, 75-76
Cross,Tom Peete and Clark Harris Slover,Ancient
Irish Tales, Barnes and Noble,,1969.