The Cattle-Raid of Cualnge (Tain Bo Cualnge) : An Old Irish Prose-Epic eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 157 pages of information about The Cattle-Raid of Cualnge (Tain Bo Cualnge) .

In the present version, I have collated LU, as far as it goes, with YBL, adding from the latter the concluding parts of the story, from the Fight with Fer Diad to the end.  After the Fight with Fer Diad, YBL breaks off abruptly, leaving nearly a page blank; then follow several pages containing lists, alternative versions of some episodes given in LU (Rochad’s Woman-fight, the Warning to Conchobar), and one or two episodes which are narrated in LL.  I omit about one page, where the narrative is broken and confused.

The pages which follow the Healing of the Morrigan in LU are altogether different in style from the rest of the story as told in LU, and are out of keeping with its simplicity.  This whole portion is in the later manner of LL, with which, for the most part, it is in verbal agreement.  Further, it is in part repetition of material already given (i.e. the coming of the boy-host of Ulster, and Cuchulainn’s displaying himself to the Connaught troops).


A German translation of the Leinster text of the Tain Bo Cuailnge will soon be accessible to all in Dr. Windisch’s promised edition of the text.  It is therefore unnecessary to compare the two versions in detail.  Some of the main differences may be pointed out, however.

Of our three copies none is the direct ancestor of any other.  LU and YBL are from a common source, though the latter MS. is from an older copy; LL is independent.  The two types differ entirely in aim and method.  The writers of LU and YBL aimed at accuracy; the Leinster man, at presenting an intelligible version.  Hence, where the two former reproduce obscurities and corruptions, the latter omits, paraphrases, or expands.  The unfortunate result is that LL rarely, if ever, helps to clear up textual obscurities in the older copy.

On the other hand, it offers explanations of certain episodes not clearly stated in LU.  Thus, for example, where LU, in the story of the sons of Nechta Scene, simply mentions ’the withe that was on the pillar,’ LL explains that the withe had been placed there by the sons of Nechta Scene (as Cuchulainn placed a similar with in the path of the Connaught host), with an ogam inscription forbidding any to pass without combat; hence its removal was an insult and a breach of geis.  Again, the various embassies to Cuchulainn, and the terms made with him (that he should not harass the host if he were supplied daily with food, and with a champion to meet him in single combat), are more clearly described in LL.

Some of the episodes given in LU are not told in the Leinster version.  Of the boyish deeds of Cuchulainn, LL tells only three:  his first appearance at Emain (told by Fergus), Culann’s feast (by Cormac), and the feats following Cuchulainn’s taking of arms (by Fiacha).  In the main narrative, the chief episodes omitted in LL are the fight with Fraech, the Fergus and Medb episode, and the meeting of Findabair and Cuchulainn.  The meeting with the Morrigan is missing, owing to the loss of a leaf.  Other episodes are differently placed in LL:  e.g. the Rochad story (an entirely different account), the fight of Amairgen and Curoi with stones, and the warning to Conchobar, all follow the fight with Fer Diad.

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The Cattle-Raid of Cualnge (Tain Bo Cualnge) : An Old Irish Prose-Epic from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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