cattle raid of cualnge

The Death of Fraech

They are there till next morning; then Fraech is summoned to them. 'Help us, O Fraech,' said Medb. 'Remove from us the strait that is on us. Go before Cuchulainn for us, if perchance you shall fight with him.'

He set out early in the morning with nine men, till he reached Ath Fuait. He saw the warrior bathing in the river.

'Wait here,' said Fraech to his retinue, 'till I come to the man yonder; not good is the water,' said he.

He took off his clothes, and goes into the water to him.

'Do not come to me,' said Cuchulainn. 'You will die from it, and I should be sorry to kill you.'

'I shall come indeed,' said Fraech, 'that we may meet in the water; and let your play with me be fair.'

'Settle it as you like,' said Cuchulainn.

'The hand of each of us round the other,' said Fraech.

They set to wrestling for a long time on the water, and Fraech was submerged. Cuchulainn lifted him up again.

'This time,' said Cuchulainn, 'will you yield and accept your life?'1

'I will not suffer it,' said Fraech.

Cuchulainn put him under it again, until Fraech was killed. He comes to land; his retinue carry his body to the camp. Ath Fraich, that was the name of that ford for ever. All the host lamented Fraech. They saw a troop of women in green tunics2 on the body of Fraech Mac Idaid; they drew him from them into the mound. Sid Fraich was the name of that mound afterwards.

Fergus springs over the oak in his chariot. They go till they reach Ath Taiten; Cuchulainn destroys six of them there: that is, the six Dungals of Irress.

Then they go on to Fornocht. Medb had a whelp named Baiscne. Cuchulainn throws a cast at him, and took his head off. Druim was the name of that place henceforth.

'Great is the mockery to you,' said Medb, 'not to hunt the deer of misfortune yonder that is killing you.'

Then they start hunting him, till they broke the shafts of their chariots thereat.

The Death of Orlam

They go forth then over Iraird Culend in the morning. Cuchulainn went forward; he overtook the charioteer of Orlam, son of Ailill and Medb, in Tamlacht Orlaim, a little to the north of Disert Lochait, cutting wood there. (According to another version, it is The shaft of Cuchulainn's chariot that had broken, and it is to cut a shaft that he had gone when he met Orlam's charioteer. It is the charioteer who cut the shafts according to this version.)

'It is over-bold what the Ulstermen are doing, if it is they who are yonder,' said Cuchulainn, 'while the host is behind them.' He goes to the charioteer to reprove him; he thought that he was of Ulster, and he saw the man cutting wood, that is the chariot shaft.

'What are you doing here?' said Cuchulainn.

'Cutting chariot-shafts,' said the charioteer. 'We have broken our chariots hunting the wild deer Cuchulainn yonder. Help me,' said the charioteer. 'Look only whether you are to select the shafts, or to strip them.'

'It will be to strip them indeed,' said Cuchulainn.

Then Cuchulainn stripped the shafts through his fingers in the presence of the other, so that he cleared them both of bark and knots.

'This cannot be your proper work that I put on you,' said the charioteer; he was greatly afraid.

'Whence are you?' said Cuchulainn.

'The charioteer of Orlam, son of Ailill and Medb,' said he. 'And you?' said the charioteer.

'My name is Cuchulainn,' said he.

'Alas!' said the charioteer.

'Fear nothing,' said Cuchulainn. 'Where is your master?' said he.

'He is in the trench yonder,' said the charioteer.

'Go forth then with me,' said Cuchulainn, 'for I do not kill charioteers at all.'

Cuchulainn goes to Orlam, kills him, cuts his head off, and shakes his head before the host. Then he puts the head on the charioteer's back, and said to him:

'Take that with you,' said Cuchulainn, 'and go to the camp thus. If you do not go thus, a stone will come to you from my sling.'

When he got near the camp, he took the head from his back, and told his adventures to Ailill and Medb.

'This is not like taking birds,' said she.

And he said, 'Unless I brought it on my back to the camp, he would break my head with a stone.'

The Death of the Meic Garach

Then the Meic Garach waited on their ford. These are their names: Lon and Ualu and Diliu; and Mes-Ler, and Mes-Laech, and Mes-Lethan were their three charioteers. They thought it too much what Cuchulainn had done: to slay two foster-sons of the king, and his son, and to shake the head before the host. They would slay Cuchulainn in return for him, and would themselves remove this annoyance from the host. They cut three aspen wands for their charioteers, that the six of them should pursue combat against him. He killed them all then, because they had broken fair-play towards him.

Orlam's charioteer was then between Ailill and Medb. Cuchulainn hurled a stone at him,3 so that his head broke, and his brains came over his ears; Fertedil was his name. (Thus it is not true that Cuchulainn did not kill charioteers; howbeit, he did not kill them without fault.)

The Death of the Squirrel

Cuchulainn threatened in Methe, that wherever he should see Ailill or Medb afterwards he would throw a stone from his sling at them. He did this then: he threw a stone from his sling, so that he killed the squirrel that was on Medb's shoulder south of the ford: hence is Methe Togmaill. And he killed the bird that was on Ailill's shoulder north of the ford: hence is Methe n-Eoin. (Or it is on Medb's shoulder that both squirrel and bird were together, and it is their heads that were struck from them by the casts.)

Reoin was drowned in his lake. Hence is Loch Reoin.

'That other is not far from you,' said Ailill to the Manes.

They arose and looked round. When they sat down again, Cuchulainn struck one of them, so that his head broke.

'It was well that you went for that: your boasting was not fitting,' said Maenen the fool. 'I would have taken his head off.'

Cuchulainn threw a stone at him, so that his head broke. It is thus then that these were killed: Orlam in the first place on his hill; the Meic Garach on their ford; Fertedil in his ---; Maenan in his hill.

'I swear by the god by whom my people swear,' said Ailill, 'that man who shall make a mock of Cuchulainn here, I will make two halves of him.'

'Go forth for us both day and night,' said Ailill, 'till we reach Cualnge. That man will kill two-thirds of the host in this way.' It is there that the harpers of the Cainbili4 from Ossory came to them to amuse them. They thought it was from the Ulstermen to spy on them. They set to hunting them, till they went before them in the forms of deer into the stones at Liac Mor on the north. For they were wizards with great cunning.

The Death of Lethan

Lethan came on to his ford on the Nith (?) in Conaille. He waited himself to meet Cuchulainn. It vexed him what Cuchulainn had done. Cuchulainn cuts off his head and left it, hence it is Ath Lethan on the Nith. And their chariots broke in the battle on the ford by him; hence it is Ath Carpat. Mulcha, Lethan's charioteer, fell on the shoulder of the hill that is between them; hence is Gulo Mulchai. While the hosts were going over Mag Breg, he struck(?) their ---- still.5

Yet that was the Morrigan in the form of a bird on the pillar in Temair Cuailnge; and she spoke to the Bull:

'Does the Black know,'6 etc.

Then the Bull went, and fifty heifers with him, to Sliab Culind; and his keeper, Forgemen by name, went after him. He threw off the three fifties of boys who used always to play on him, and he killed two-thirds of his boys, and dug a trench in Tir Marcceni in Cualnge before he went.

The Death of Lochu

Cuchulainn killed no one from the Saile ind Orthi (?) in the Conaille territory, until they reached Cualnge. Cuchulainn was then in Cuince; he threatened then that when he saw Medb he would throw a stone at her head. This was not easy to him, for it is thus that Medb went and half the host about her, with their shelter of shields over her head.

Then a waiting-woman of Medb's, Lochu by name, went to get water, and a great troop of women with her. Cuchulainn thought it was Medb. He threw two stones from Cuince, so that he slew her in her plain(?). Hence is Ath Rede Locha in Cualnge.

From Findabair Cuailnge the hosts divided, and they set the country on fire. They collect all there were of women, and boys, and maidens; and cattle, in Cualnge together, so that they were all in Findabair.

'You have not gone well,' said Medb; 'I do not see the Bull with you.'

'He is not in the province at all,' said every one.

Lothar the cowherd is summoned to Medb.

'Where is the Bull?' said she. 'Have you an idea?'

'I have great fear to tell it,' said the herd. 'The night,' said he, 'when the Ulstermen went into their weakness, he went with three twenties of heifers with him, so that he is at the Black Corrie of Glenn Gatt.'

'Go,' said Medb, 'and carry a withe7 between each two of you.'

They do this: hence this glen is called Glenn Gatt. Then they bring the Bull to Findabair. The place where he saw the herd, Lothar, he attacked him, so that he brought his entrails out on his horns; and he attacked the camp with his three fifties of heifers, so that fifty warriors were killed. And that is the death of Lothar on the Foray.

Then the Bull went from them out of the camp, and they knew not where he had gone from them; and they were ashamed. Medb asked the herd if he had an idea where the Bull was.

'I think he would be in the secret places of Sliab Culind.'

When they returned thus after ravaging Cualnge, and did not find the Bull there. The river Cronn rose against them to the tops of the trees; and they spent the night by it. And Medb told part of her following to go across.

A wonderful warrior went next day, Ualu his name. He took a great stone on his back to go across the water; the stream drove him backwards with the stone on his back. His grave and his stone are on the road at the stream: Lia Ualand is its name.

They went round the river Cronn to the source, and they would have gone between the source and the mountain, only that they could not get leave from Medb; she preferred to go across the mountain, that their track might remain there for ever, for an insult to the Ulstermen. They waited there three days and three nights, till they dug the earth in front of them, the Bernas Bo Cuailnge.

It is there that Cuchulainn killed Crond and Coemdele8 and ----. A hundred warriors9 ---- died with Roan and Roae, the two historians of the Foray. A hundred and forty-four, kings died by him at the same stream. They came then over the Bernas Bo Cuailnge with the cattle and stock of Cualnge, and spent the night in Glenn Dail Imda in Cualnge. Botha is the name of this place, because they made huts over them there. They come next day to Colptha. They try to cross it through heedlessness. It rose against them then, and it carries a hundred charioteers of them to the sea; this is the name of the land in which they were drowned, Cluain Carptech.

They go round Colptha then to its source, to Belat Alioin, and spent the night at Liasa Liac; that is the name of this place, because they made sheds over their calves there between Cualnge and Conaille. They came over Glenn Gatlaig, and Glass Gatlaig rose against them. Sechaire was its name before; Glass Gatlaig thenceforth, because it was in withes they brought their calves; and they slept at Druim Fene in Conaille. (Those then are the wanderings from Cualnge to Machaire according to this version.)

This is the Harrying of Cualnge

(Other authors and books make it that another way was taken on their journeyings from Findabair to Conaille, as follows:

Medb said after every one had come with their booty, so that they were all in Findabair Cuailnge: 'Let the host be divided,' said Medb; 'it will be impossible to bring this expedition by one way. Let Ailill go with half the expedition by Midluachair; Fergus and I will go by Bernas Ulad.'10

'It is not fine,' said Fergus, 'the half of the expedition that has fallen to us. It will be impossible to bring the cattle over the mountain without dividing it.'

That was done then, so that it is from that there is Bernas Bo n-Ulad.)

It is there then that Ailill said to his charioteer Cuillius: 'Find out for me to-day Medb and Fergus. I know not what has brought them to this union. I shall be pleased that a token should come to me by you.'

Cuillius came when they were in Cluichre. The pair remained behind, and the warriors went on. Cuillius came to them, and they heard not the spy. Fergus' sword happened to be beside him. Cuillius drew it out of its sheath, and left the sheath empty. Cuillius came to Ailill.

'So?' said Ailill.

'So indeed,' said Cuillius; 'there is a token for you.'

'It is well,' said Ailill.

Each of them smiles at the other.

'As you thought,' said Cuillius, 'it is thus that I found them, in one another's arms.'

'It is right for her,' said Ailill; 'it is for help on the Foray that she has done it. See that the sword is kept in good condition,' said Ailill. 'Put it under your seat in the chariot, and a cloth of linen around it.'

Fergus got up for his sword after that.

'Alas!' said he.

'What is the matter with you?' said Medb.

'An ill deed have I done to Ailill,' said he. 'Wait here, while I go into the wood,' said Fergus; 'and do not wonder though it be long till I come.'

It happened that Medb knew not the loss of the sword. He goes thence, and takes the sword of his charioteer with him in his hand. He makes a wooden sword in the wood. Hence there is Fid Mor Drualle in Ulster.

'Let us go on after our comrades,' said Fergus. All their hosts meet in the plain. They pitch their tents. Fergus is summoned to Ailill to play chess. When Fergus went to the tent, Ailill began to laugh at him.11

Cuchulainn came so that he was at Ath Cruinn before them.

'O friend Loeg,' said he to his charioteer, 'the hosts are at hand to us.'

'I swear by the gods,' said the charioteer, 'I will do a mighty feat before warriors ... on slender steeds with yokes of silver, with golden wheels ...'

'Take heed, O Loeg,' said Cuchulainn; 'hold the reins for great victory of Macha ... I beseech,' said Cuchulainn, 'the waters to help me. I beseech heaven and earth, and the Cronn in particular.'

The (river) Cronn takes to fighting against them; it will not let them into Murthemne until the work of heroes be finished in Sliab Tuath Ochaine.

Therewith the water rose up till it was in the tops of the trees.

Mane, son of Ailill and Medb, went before the rest. Cuchulainn smites them on the ford, and thirty horsemen of Mane's retinue were drowned in the water. Cuchulainn overthrew two sixteens of warriors of them again by the water.

They pitch their tents at that ford. Lugaid Mac Nois, descendant of Lomarc Allchomach, came to speak to Cuchulainn, with thirty horsemen.

'Welcome, O Lugaid,' said Cuchulainn. 'If a flock of birds graze upon Mag Murthemne, you shall have a duck with half of another; if fish come to the estuaries, you shall have a salmon with half of another. You shall have the three sprigs, the sprig of watercress, and the sprig of marshwort, and the sprig of seaweed. You shall have a man in the ford in your place.'12

'I believe it,' said Lugaid. 'Excellence of people to the boy whom I desire.'

'Your hosts are fine,' said Cuchulainn.

It would not be sad for you alone before them,' said Lugaid.

'Fair-play and valour will support me,' said Cuchulainn. 'O friend Lugaid, do the hosts fear me?'

'I swear by God,' said Lugaid, 'one man nor two dare not go out of the camp, unless it be in twenties or thirties.'

'It will be something extra for them,' said Cuchulainn, 'if I take to throwing from the sling. Fitting for you will be this fellow-vassal, O Lugaid, that you have among the Ulstermen, if there come to me the force of every man. Say what you would have,' said Cuchulainn.

'That I may have a truce with you towards my host.'

'You shall have it, provided there be a token on it. And tell my friend Fergus that there be a token on his host. Tell the physicians, let there be a token on their host. And let them swear preservation of life to me, and let there come to me provision every night from them.'

Then Lugaid goes from him. Fergus happened to be in the tent with Ailill. Lugaid called him out, and told him this. Something was heard, namely Ailill.13 ...

'I swear by God I cannot do it,' said Lugaid, 'unless I ask the boy Again.'

'Help me,14 O Lugaid, go to him to see whether Ailill may come with a cantred into my troop. Take an ox with bacon to him and a jar of wine.'

He goes to Cuchulainn then and tells him this.

'I do not mind though he go,' said Cuchulainn.

Then their two troops join. They are there till night. Cuchulainn kills thirty men of them with the sling. (Or they would be twenty nights there, as some books say.)

'Your journeyings are bad,' said Fergus. 'The Ulstermen will come to you out of their weakness, and they will grind you to earth and gravel. "The corner of battle" in which we are is bad.'

He goes thence to Cul Airthir. It happened that Cuchulainn had gone that night to speak to the Ulstermen15

'Have you news?' said Conchobar.

'Women are captured,' said Cuchulainn, 'cattle are driven away, men are slain.'

'Who carries them off? who drives them away? who kills them?'

'... Ailill Mac Matae carries them off, and Fergus Mac Roich very bold 16...'

'It is not great profit to you,' said Conchobar, 'to-day, our smiting has come to us all the same.'

Cuchulainn goes thence from them; he saw the hosts going forth.

'Alas,' said Ailill, 'I see chariots' ..., etc17

Cuchulainn kills thirty men of them on Ath Duirn. They could not reach Cul Airthir then till night. He slays thirty of them there, and they pitch their tents there. Ailill's charioteer, Cuillius, was washing the chariot tyres18 in the ford in the morning; Cuchulainn struck him with a stone and killed him. Hence is Ath Cuillne in Cul Airthir. They reach Druim Feine in Conaille and spent the night there, as we have said before.

Cuchulainn attacked them there; he slays a hundred men of them every night of the three nights that they were there; he took a sling to them from Ochaine near them.

'Our host will be short-lived through Cuchulainn in this way,' said Ailill. 'Let an agreement be carried from us to him: that he shall have the equal of Mag Murthemne from Mag Ai, and the best chariot that is in Ai, and the equipment of twelve men. Offer, if it pleases him better, the plain in which he was brought up, and three sevens of cumals19 ; and everything that has been destroyed of his household (?) and cattle shall be made good, and he shall have full compensation (?), and let him go into my service; it is better for him than the service of a sub king.'

'Who shall go for that?'

'Mac Roth yonder.'

Mac Roth, the messenger of Ailill and Medb, went on that errand to Delga: it is he who encircles Ireland in one day. It is there that Fergus thought that Cuchulainn was, in Delga.

'I see a man coming towards us,' said Loeg to Cuchulainn. 'He has a yellow head of hair, and a linen emblem round it; a club of fury(?) in his hand, an ivory-hilted sword at his waist; a hooded tunic with red ornamentation on him.'

'Which of the warriors of the king is that?' said Cuchulainn.

Mac Roth asked Loeg whose man he was.

'Vassal to the man down yonder,' said Loeg.

Cuchulainn was there in the snow up to his two thighs, without anything at all on him, examining his shirt.

Then Mac Roth asked Cuchulainn whose man he was.

'Vassal of Conchobar Mac Nessa,' said Cuchulainn.

'Is there no clearer description?'

'That is enough,' said Cuchulainn.

'Where then is Cuchulainn?' said Mac Roth.

'What would you say to him?' said Cuchulainn.

Mac Roth tells him then all the message, as we have told it.

'Though Cuchulainn were near, he would not do this; he will not barter the brother of his mother for another king.'

He came to him again, and it was said to Cuchulainn that there should be given over to him the noblest of the women and the cows that were without milk, on condition that he should not ply his sling on them at night, even if he should kill them by day.

'I will not do it,' said Cuchulainn; 'if our slavewomen are taken from us, our noble women will be at the querns; and we shall be without milk if our milch-cows are taken from us.'

He came to him again, and he was told that he should have the slave-women and the milch-cows.

'I will not do it,' said Cuchulainn; 'the Ulstermen will take their slave-women to their beds, and there will be born to them a servile offspring, and they will use their milch-cows for meat in the winter.'

'Is there anything else then?' said the messenger.

'There is,' said Cuchulainn; 'and I will not tell it you. It shall be agreed to, if any one tell it you.'

'I know it,' said Fergus; 'I know what the man tried to suggest; and it is no advantage to you. And this is the agreement,' said Fergus: 'that the ford on which takes place (?) his battle and combat with one man, the cattle shall not be taken thence a day and a night; if perchance there come to him the help of the Ulstermen. And it is a marvel to me,' said Fergus, 'that it is so long till they come out of their sufferings.'

'It is indeed easier for us,' said Ailill, 'a man every day than a hundred every night.'



1: Lit. 'will you acknowledge your saving?' back

2: Fraech was descended from the people of the Sid, his mother Bebind being a fairy woman. Her sister was Boinn (the river Boyne).: back

3: Apparently because the charioteer had not carried Orlam's head into the camp on his back. Or an alternative version. back

4: Reference obscure. They were wizards of some sort. back

5: Something apparently missing here. The passage in LL is as follows: 'It is the same day that the Morrigan, daughter of Ernmas, came from the Sid, so that she was on the pillar in Temair Cuailnge, taking a warning to the Dun of Cualnge before the men of Ireland, and she began to speak to him, and "Good, O wretched one, O Dun of Cualnge," said the Morrigan, "keep watch, for the men of Ireland have reached thee, and they will take thee to their camp unless thou keepest watch"; and she began to take a warning to him thus, and uttered her words on high.' (The Rhetoric follows as in LU.) back

6: A Rhetoric. back

7: Ir. gatt, a withe. back

8: Obscure. back

9: Obscure. back

10: YBL. Bernas Bo n-Ulad. back

11: Here follows about two columns of rhetoric, consisting of a taunting dialogue between Ailill, Fergus and Medb. back

12: This and the following speech are apparently forms of greeting. Cuchulainn offers Lugaid such hospitality as lies in his power. See a similar speech later to Fergus. back

13: Rhetoric, six lines, the substance of which is, apparently, that Ailill asks protection also. back

14: Spoken by Fergus? back

15: In LL and Y BL this incident occurs later, and the messenger is Sualtaim, not Cuchulainn. LU is clearly wrong here. back

16: Rhetoric. back

17: Rhetoric, five lines. back

18: See previous note on the word fonnod; the word used here is fonnod. back

19: The cumal (bondmaid) was a standard of value. back